The Rwandan genocide was the largest mass murder to occur in modern African history, between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days (Prunier, 1999). This atrocity is largely credited as the result of both over- and underlying tensions between the two ethnic groups; Hutus, and Tutsis. The sheer speed of the massacre and how the international community failed to intervene left people disconcerted. The origins of this genocide are much debated, as well as possible preventative measures which could have been set in place to stop the event from commencing. This paper will present the different causes that led to the Rwandan genocide and discuss if it could have been prevented.
Pre-colonial Rwanda was an agricultural society with little or no ethnic
division (Luis, 2004), but it did have a social divide between its inhabitants: There was the Hutus, who acted as the basic farmers that prepared soil, planted seeds and gathered crops, and the Tutsis, who owned and managed cattle (Chrétien, 2003). The Kingdom of Rwanda were the first to implement this divide in administrative legislation with the introduction of Ubuhake, this reform affirmed the Tutsi privilege of cattle managing while relegating hard labour to the Hutus. However, this divide did not invoke problematic tensions until the arrival of entirely new entities.
The Berlin Conference of 1884 asserted that Germany were to implement Rwanda into its empire (Appiah and Gates, 2010), and the Germans chose to rule this new territory through the Tutsi monarchy that was already in place. The Germans favoured the Tutsis in front of the Hutus, they believed the Tutsis had emigrated from Ethiopia to Rwanda, therefore being more Caucasian and in turn, racially superior (Chrétien, 2003). This distinction led to Tutsis being delegated with colonial managing responsibilities, as opposed to the Hutus who continued to be reserved for hard labour.
Belgian military forces seized Rwanda from Germany during World War I, and later in 1919, gained formal control of the colony through a League of Nations mandate (Prunier, 1999). The Belgians continued the German style of governing the territory, but in a more oppressive and abusive manner, primarily at the expense of the Hutus. The new colonists continued to favour the Tutsis, strengthening their position by implementing Belgian Congo-style chieftaincy, which concentrated power to the Tutsis. The Hutus were on the other and subjected to forced labour and unfairly confiscation of farmland by their new colonial masters. Belgian rulers implemented in 1935 identity cards, these cards stated the race of its holder, and therefore made any class
movement between Tutsis and Hutus impossible (Prunier, 1999). These years of colonial imperialism laid the foundation of the ethnic conflict between the two groups that eventually would lead to the genocide.
Following World War II, a resentment for colonial rule and Tutsi elitism grew...