Who Are the Hutu and Tutsi?
The Hutu and Tutsi are two peoples who share a common past. When Rwanda was first settled, the people who lived there raised cattle. Soon, the people who owned the most cattle were called “Tutsi” and everyone else was called “Hutu.” At this time, a person could easily change categories through marriage or cattle acquisition. It wasn’t until Europeans came to colonize the area that the terms “Tutsi” and “Hutu” took on a racial role. The Germans were the first to colonize Rwanda in 1894. They looked at the Rwandan people and thought the Tutsi had more European characteristics, such as lighter skin and a taller build. Thus they put Tutsis in roles of responsibility. When the Germans lost their colonies following World War I, the Belgians took control over Rwanda. In 1933, the Belgians solidified the categories of “Tutsi” and “Hutu” by mandating that every person was to have an identity card that labeled them either Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. (Twa are a very small group of hunter-gatherers who also live in Rwanda.) Although the Tutsi constituted only about ten percent of Rwanda’s population and the Hutu nearly 90 percent, the Belgians gave the Tutsi all the leadership positions. This upset the Hutu. When Rwanda struggled for independence from Belgium, the Belgians switched the status of the two groups. Facing a revolution instigated by the Hutu, the Belgians let the Hutus, who constituted the majority of Rwanda’s population, be in charge of the new government. This upset the Tutsi.The animosity between the two groups continued for decades.
Slaughter Inside Churches, Hospitals, and Schools
Thousands of Tutsis tried to escape the slaughter by hiding in churches, hospitals, schools, and government offices. These places, which historically have been places of refuge, were turned into places of mass murder during the Rwanda Genocide. One of the worst massacres of the Rwanda genocide took place on April 15-16, 1994 at the Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church, located about 60 miles east of Kigali. Here, the mayor of the town, a Hutu, encouraged Tutsis to seek sanctuary inside the church by assuring them they would be safe there. Then the mayor betrayed them to the Hutu extremists. The killing began with grenades and guns, but soon changed to machetes and clubs. Killing by hand was tiresome, so the killers took shifts. It took two days to kill the thousands of Tutsi who were inside. Similar massacres took place around Rwanda, with many of the worst ones occurring between April 11 and the beginning of May.
To further degrade the Tutsi, Hutu extremists would not allow the Tutsi dead to be buried. Their bodies were left where they were slaughtered, exposed to the elements, eaten by rats and dogs. Many Tutsi bodies were thrown into rivers, lakes, and streams in order to send the Tutsis “back to Ethiopia” – a reference to the myth that the Tutsi were foreigners and originally came from Ethiopia.
Media Played a Huge Role in the Genocide
For years, the Kangura newspaper, controlled by Hutu extremists, had been spouting hate. As early as December 1990, the paper published “The Ten Commandments for the Hutu.” The commandments declared that any Hutu who married a Tutsi was a traitor. Also, any Hutu who did business with a Tutsi was a traitor. The commandments also insisted that all strategic positions and the entire military must be Hutu. In order to isolate the Tutsis even further, the commandments also told the Hutu to stand by other Hutu and to stop pitying the Tutsi.* When RTLM (Radio Télévison des Milles Collines) began broadcasting on July 8, 1993, it also spread hate. However, this time it was packaged to appeal to the masses by offering popular music and broadcasts conducted in a very informal, conversational tones.
Once the killings started, RTLM went beyond just espousing hate; they took an active role in the slaughter. The RTLM called for the Tutsi to “cut down the tall trees,” a code phrase which meant for the Hutu to start killing the Tutsi. During broadcasts, RTLM often used the terminyenzi (“cockroach”) when referring to Tutsis and then told Hutu to “crush the cockroaches.” Many RTLM broadcasts announced names of specific individuals who should be killed; RTLM even included information about where to find them, such as home and work addresses or known hangouts. Once these individuals had been killed, RTLM then announced their murders over the radio.
The RTLM was used to incite the average Hutu to kill. However, if a Hutu refused to participate in the slaughter, then members of the Interahamwe would give them a choice — either kill or be killed.
The World Stood By and Just Watched
Following World War II and the Holocaust, the United Nations adopted a resolution on December 9, 1948, which stated that “The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.” Clearly, the massacres in Rwanda constituted genocide, so why didn’t the world step in to stop it? There has been a lot of research on this exact question. Some people have said that since Hutu moderates were killed in the early stages then some countries believed the conflict to be more of a civil war rather than a genocide. Other research has shown that the world powers realized it was a genocide but that they didn’t want to pay for the needed supplies and personnel to stop it.No matter what the reason, the world should have stepped in. They should have stopped the slaughter.
The Rwanda Genocide Ends
The Rwanda Genocide ended only when the RPF took over the country. The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) were a trained military group consisting of Tutsis who had been exiled in earlier years, many of whom lived in Uganda. The RPF were able to enter Rwanda and slowly take over the country. In mid July 1994, when the RPF had full control, did the genocide stop. * “The Ten Commandments of the Hutu” is quoted in Josias Semujanga, Origins of the Rwandan Genocide (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2003) 196-197.http://history1900s.about.com/od/rwandangenocide/a/Rwanda-Genocide.htm.
As I read this bit of history my mind wandered to my homeland Jamaica, I think of the many young men there some of whom are responsible for dozens of homicide, yet they pay no price for their crimes. One twenty year old brags about the over one dozen lives he snuffed out (mek duppy), no one knows how many lives he will take before he is brought to justice, or justice is brought to him. Even as I ponder this, I am forced to contemplate whether any form of justice is enough for these demons.
I am not equating Jamaica with Rwanda, but if you familiarize yourselves with the two scenarios, you cannot help coming away feeling that with all the serial murderers walking around in Jamaica there are some similarities.
Jamaica’s criminal courts are bursting at the seams with cases which will never be heard, these are serious cases of murder, including cop-killings, serious cases of aggravated assaults, Rapes, and other crimes. The ones that do get resolved generally does nothing for deterrence, the country’s Police Commissioner came out stridently against this recently.https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=536306386432681&id=177006552362668.
As bad as that is , it gets worse. Lack of faith in the justice system has caused innumerable harm to the country, flight of talent, the murder of Thousands of Jamaicans, mob-killings,police corruption to name a few. The year 2005 saw the chances of getting murdered in Jamaica 58 per,100.000 residents. Jamaica’s murder numbers far exceeds countries which have active civil wars raging.
Then PNP Prime Minister Percival James Patterson labeled the situation a crisis of monumental proportion , yet for a decade under his watch, not a single detective was trained by the police department. This helped to exacerbate the crime situation. People are deterred from committing crime when they see others going to prison for inordinate lengths of time, not from police walking around with long guns.
The present leadership of the country is a mystery. One can see if the problems facing the country are identified, we may have a discussion about the effectiveness of the policies being employed. In my humble opinion there seem to be no recognition by the Administration that crime is literally killing the country, much less to have a strategy to combat it.
We saw the bodies in Rwanda, but are we pretending not to see the bodies in Jamaica?