Rwandan Genocide 20th anniversary: A reminder of European colonalism


By katiebarner12

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. The Rwandan Genocide was the cleansing of the Tutsi and moderate Hutus, performed by the Hutu majority.

In 1994, the Tutsis (who made up about 10 percent of the Rwandan population) were in power. The Hutus made up the remaining 90 percent of the population.

The genocide was triggered by the mysterious plane crash that killed Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, who was a member of the Hutu majority. The Hutu majority blamed the crash on the Tutsis.

An estimated 800,000 people were brutally murdered from March to July 1994. The massacre in Rwanda was performed in a one-on-one manner, and the common tool for murder was the machete.

International reaction was basically nonexistent. The U.N. and the United States refused to label the massacres as “genocide,” as this label basically symbolized the absolute necessity for outside intervention.

Ironically, the only intervention that put an end to the massacres was from the Tutsi-run Rwandan Patriotic Front (or RPF).

Keeping the tragedy and lack of action in mind, it is important to consider the effects that colonization and the white flight may have had in this part of Africa.

History Professor Brian Peterson said, “Colonialism had a rather disastrous impact on Africa. But there were some positive legacies of colonial rule, such as education and medicine.

My sense is that Africa would have been much better off if the Europeans had been respectful of African societies and cultures, and operated as trading partners rather than as pure exploiters. Horrible things were done in the name of ‘bringing civilization’ to Africa.  The sudden departure of Europeans in certain post-colonial settings had destabilizing effects.”

Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide, it is hard not to think about what may have happened if colonialism had never reached Africa.

The structure of colonialism influenced the natives to get rid of the settlers. Natives became violent in response to the violence and lack of humanity of the settlers.

The power dynamic between the settlers and the natives created this hostile environment that did not fade even after independence was achieved.

Colonialism dubbed this population indigenous. The clear separation between the “indigenous” and the settlers influenced further divisions over time.

It was during colonialism that the Tutsi population was considered an alien presence in Rwanda.

While it is impossible to predict what may have happened if European colonialism never reached Rwanda, colonialism’s detrimental effects were felt throughout the entirety of the Rwandan Genocide.


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