The unique nature of Rwanda’s Genocide
By calling the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda a unique one, we are not ignorant about the world’s futile discussions on this subject.
Discussions on whether there has existed any unique genocide on earth have been debated. However, this can be likened to disagreements over religious matters that have never reached any settlement.
There have been long debates for example; on whether the holocaust is unique or not. Any genocide that has happened in the world has been unique in its own way.
That is why many have settled for Dr. Samuel’s (a historian who has written much about world genocides) assertion that:
“Each case is specific as a threshold phenomenon, while each also adds its unique memory as signposts along an incremental continuum of horror.”
Rwandans killed fellow country men and women, and that is precisely why the extermination campaign astounded many around the world.
Basing on the artificial, but deeply created dichotomy between the Tutsi and Hutu, the perpetrators mobilised and indoctrinated peasants militias and soldiers, who carried out massacres against the Tutsi, unabated.
Therefore, before the genocide begun, the ‘THEM’ or the Tutsi had already been dehumanised as mentioned previously. People who had lived with each other, and intermarried started believing that the Tutsi had turned into insects and animals with long ears and tails.
“My age mates started calling me cockroach; but because I didn’t understand what they meant, I naively asked them if they have never seen a real cockroach,” said 22 year-old Claude Gasana, a survivour who was only 6 years old during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
A section of Rwandans were indoctrinated to dehumanise the Tutsi. This was enough reason to justify the genocide ideology. The perpetrators of the genocide claimed they were purifying the society of the vermin, and this overcame the normal human revulsion against murder.
Kenneth Musinguzi, one of the soldiers of RPF/A who were involved in stopping the genocide said that he cannot never erase from his memory the ugly scenarios of the Tutsi genocide.
“I saw mothers kill their own children in broad day light …mothers killed children because their husbands were Tutsi, while fathers killed their children because their wives were Tutsi. My sister told me that a woman, who was married to a Tutsi man, smashed her daughter on a rock. These were our neighbours,” he said.
The religious aspect
According to John Samuel Mbiti, Africa was once a continent where the people lived well, initially, a continent that created a tradition of wholeness, where African Traditional Religions (ATRs) embraced all aspects of life, the spiritual, the political, the social where music and art communicated with the Sacred.
Mbiti, a theologian, author, teacher and pastor, believed to be the father of contemporary African theology correctly states:
“Perhaps if we had turned back to ATRs after colonization ended most of our present problems could have been avoided. I thus far do not have sufficient evidence to back this up, but I have noticed that where African communities live according to African tradition, things are generally peaceful.”
“But when African communities are living within a State structure which imitates the European model, together with its accompanying paraphernalia, we have continuous strife,” he said.
Rwandans like other Africans are traditionally religious. This made it easy for the missionaries to slot in their European religion and led Africans to abandon their core beliefs and traditions as they adopted a new religious dimension.
Monsignor Lavigerie the founder of the White Fathers Order, thus successfully promoted the idea of implanting Christianity in Rwanda.
The principle that ‘evangelization should focus on chiefs’ profoundly affected the nature of the Catholic missionary project in Rwanda and has had far reaching consequences both for the Catholic Church and generally for the Rwandan society.
Unfortunately, Rwandans’ strong religious beliefs was their undoing; the perpetrators of the genocide including some clergy men, capitalized on people’s religious beliefs to lure them into death camps. In Rwanda Churches were turned into slaughter houses.
“The Tutsi were chased from their homes, gathered in churches, lured for their protection, and then methodically murdered, first with grenades and guns, then with machetes and other traditional weapons,” Julian Mukarushema, a survivor living in Nyamata said.
It is only in Rwanda, where the clergy turned churches into slaughter houses for their followers during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Rape as a weapon of genocide
The Genocide against the Tutsi being one of the most recent coincided with the escalating issue of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The perpetrators of the genocide employed the spread of the HIV virus through rape as a unique weapon that was at their exposal, to exterminate the Tutsi.
“In Rwanda, rape was a weapon of genocide and it was as brutal as the machete. Tens of thousands of women were gang-raped by Hutu soldiers or members of the Interahamwe militias,” said Eugide Mugabo a sociologist student at ULK and a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Egide Mugabo said that HIV/AIDS is already claiming the lives of women, who thought they had survived the genocide.
“There are thousands of children who have lost their fathers to the machete and their mothers to Aids,” Mugabo said.
The usage of HIV/AIDS as an extermination weapon was characteristic of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The above factors in unison qualify the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as unique from the rest of the world genocides.
It must be noted that the uniqueness of Rwanda’s genocide doesn’t deem it superior to any other genocide as some scholars would like to put it.
Genocide in any form is about horror, gruesome scenarios and massacres; genocide is wholly regarded as extreme evil against humanity.