The hatching of Genocide– A father to son talk
“WHAT the Belgians did in the first years of their colonisation”, the father said, “was to systematically support the Bahutu in their relationship with the traditional authority, establishing a new centre of power in the country, and in so doing, displeasing the German authority which favoured respect for the tradition. You must take note of the fact that King Yuhi V had, right from the start, stubbornly and ferociously resisted the Whiteman’s civilisation, especially Christianity. So, the Belgians, in connivance with the missionaries dethroned and expelled Yuhi, first to Kamembe in Cyangugu and later to a place called Moba in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Then they set about taking their revenge on him, and by extension, on the Batutsi. How?
“They reigned without scruples; constantly demoralising and intimidating the Batutsi whom they strongly hated; they incited the people to no longer obey rules and took unfair positions against the Batutsi chiefs in all matters, the chiefs were flogged in public before their subjects and such like in order to humiliate them.
“Through their so-called evangelisation drive, the missionaries interfered and intervened independently without regard to the traditional authority of the King and other authorities on all affairs of the state, and on many other issues that did not concern them . . . Basically, encouraged by the missionaries, the new Christian converts, mainly the Bahutu would refuse to obey the traditional authority, and the Church would side with them. It was as if the vision of the missionaries was to have a ‘Bahutu Church in a Bahutu State,’ and that way of taking sides on all matters and acting in favour of their members to the detriment of others in society could not help but provoke conflicts with the indigenous people . . .”
SOME TIME in life, events occur in cycles. The past influences the present and shapes the future. The political and the religious became intertwined to generate an endless repetition of empowerment of some people, and the exclusion from power of others, leading to instances of horror and despair. So was the case of the arrival on the Rwandan political scene, of a new Catholic Bishop, Monseigneur Léon Classe.
“…When Bishop Léon Classe arrived in Rwanda,” Gatera’s father told him, “he was immediately aware of the anti-Batutsi feeling within the clergy and so, in order to perhaps show his clout, he worked over time to turn the situation around. He initiated a policy declaration on the part of the Church informing all the missionaries that from then on, the Church would rally itself around the Batutsi. He convinced the Belgian authorities back home that the country’s administration should be run by the Batutsi who were, in his eyes, superior to the Bahutu. And so, the recruitment policy of administrators solely from among the Batutsi was set in motion for a long period and in this way, a rigid social barrier among the people was inexorably set.
“As you may imagine, this position had far-reaching implications in generating feelings of resentment and hatred within the Bahutu population, who saw themselves excluded from the participation in their country’s affairs. Unfortunately, the Belgian administration went along with this Catholic Church’s position without questioning it, convinced that concentrating power in the hands of the Batutsi would serve both the colonial and Church interests.
“The result of this was that the Batutsi benefited from educational, political, administrative, and economic favours at the expense of the Bahutu majority and the Batutsi of modest origin, who saw themselves losing many of the advantages they had before colonialism. However, there was an option open for the Bahutu to be trained for the clergy. Ironically, the Bahutu elite, who later carried the torch under the banner of the Hutu Social Revolution, the source of Rwanda’s ultimate predicament, came from such church schools (Minor and Major Seminaries), the only educational institutions by then, that accepted common people. Then, as time passed, the Belgians steadily increased their administrative control; in particular, they changed the notion of Rwandan ethnicity, and shifted the Hutu-Tutsi distinction from one that had involved ethnicity and class, to a solely and purely ethnic definition, such as introducing the mention of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa on individual identity cards.
“Maybe you can now begin to understand that all this is the root cause, the source of dissent among the Bahutu, and the disastrous and genocidal consequences of their ill-fated revolution, even if it was engineered and wholeheartedly supported by the Belgians themselves, and which later hatched into the frenzy in their hearts to exterminate the Batutsi.”
All this, Gatera was to remember or learn about years later after the horrendous Genocide that took place and devastated Rwanda in 1994. How his own parents together with tens of thousands of Tutsis were forced into exile in Uganda following the ethnic violence in 1959; how in 1962 many Tutsis were forced to leave their country as it became independent with a Hutu, Grégoire Kayibanda, as president; how over 20,000 Tutsis were exterminated in 1963 following an incursion by Tutsi rebels based in Burundi, while attempting to return home by force of arms and how in 1978 Juvenal Habyarimana, having ousted President Grégoire Kayibanda in military coup in 1973, was elected president and went on to perpetuate hatred amongst Rwandans.
He is famously known to have publically declared that all Tutsis, in exile, should remain put wherever they were as the country was as full as a glass of water, with the risk of it overflowing, should anyone of them be allowed back into Rwanda.
What the father was then trying to inculcate in the boy’s mind, and what the present government has been trying to fix in the people’s minds right from its inception, is its stated commitment to national unity. It is the idea which holds that the people of Rwanda, Tutsi, Hutu and Twa had always lived in harmony until European colonialists came and created the artificial divisions that ultimately led to the final genocidal catastrophe. But in the new, post-Genocide Rwanda, the people are trying to live up to that notion. The ethnic classification has disappeared. Rwandans are again what they once were: simply Rwandans.
However, it has become increasingly evident that most factors challenging Rwanda’s peace and security today are purely external.
ESPECIALLY at this trying period of its sad history, Rwanda and Rwandans are aware of the existence of a broad international campaign by Genocidaires and their supporters, to deny the Genocide against the Tutsi. Newspapers and other news media outlets, especially Western ones, carry anti-Rwanda propaganda which, according one commentator, make Rwanda the most misreported nation on earth.
However, vitriolic statements made and lies told by genocide deniers living freely and on handouts in western capitals will do nothing to deter Rwanda’s unwavering mission and priority of unity, reconciliation and development for its people.
Contact email: visathan[at]gmail.com