Reopening the Wounds of Rwanda
Nearly 28 years after the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals has indicted Rwandan businessman Félicien Kabuga for genocide, reopening painful memories of the 100-day conflict for victims—and communities.
Kabuga co-founded the Hutu radio Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) that spread propaganda. RTLM encouraged Hutus to exterminate the Tutsi population using hate jargon, including “Inyenzi”, meaning “cockroach” in Kinyarwanda (the local language), to dehumanise the Tutsi and rationalise cases of beheading, rape, and severing of limbs.
The Rwandan Genocide resulted from conflict between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda; the origin of tensions can be traced back to the 1919 Belgian colonisation of Rwanda. During this period, the Belgian colonists favoured the Tutsi with social and economic advantages, destroying decades of peace between the Tutsi and Hutus.
This conflict escalated after the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, in a plane crash, leading to accusations from both sides for his death. In the capital city Kagali, the government immediately executed plans to exterminate ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus under the pretence of war. The United Nations called the genocide “an appalling humanitarian catastrophe”, with historians estimating around 800,000 Tutsi were killed.
Further detailing Kabuga’s role in the genocide, UN prosecutor Rashid Rashid said, “Kabuga did not need to wield a rifle or a machete at a roadblock. Rather, he supplied weapons in bulk and facilitated the training that prepared the Interahamwe [Hutu militias] to use them”.
With similar ethnic and racial modern-day tensions, the Rwandan Genocide painfully reminds us of how escalations and conflict holds detrimental results for innocents caught in the crossfire. The genocide destroyed homes, displaced families for years to come, and engendered PTSD within 62% of surviving youth who were surveyed, hindering their advances to rebuild Rwanda and clean possibilities genocide again. Ultimately, the Rwandan Genocide serves as a painful reminder of the detrimental effects of divide, be it gender, political, or ethnic, in the contemporary world .
Written by: Claire Lee
Edited by: Peggy Chen