I once got in a heated debate with a Genocide-survivor; I was busy championing their plight when I made a faux pas.
It was a simple statement that I thought was true, and it is in a way. I said that if Rwandans had been better educated and had world exposure via telecoms in 1994, then the genocide wouldn’t have happened.
This is the problem with scholarly debate regarding any genocide, it is to be wise after the event, most PhD’s are given for historical analysis. We must not be wise after the event, it is to say to a survivor that your mother would be alive if only x, y, z was done.
When analysing the Genocide, we must firstly understand that it was planned by individuals, if it ever were to happen again, it would be planned by individuals. The social circumstances become irrelevant, the history becomes irrelevant and personal responsibility will be paramount. No amount of education will ever stop Genocide , Germany in the 1930’s had the most educated population in the world and they committed the worst Genocide. In Rwanda , the masterminds were educated people, for only they had the skills to organise and implement.
Education is a determining factor in what kind of Genocide you have, Germany had an industrial Genocide of Jews using cutting-edge technology, human beings were converted into soap, clothing, leather goods, and used as slaves to death. In Rwanda, it was a low-tech agrarian massacre but at a faster rate. It is not a coincidence that when the Genocide ideology started to creep back into society it was first discovered in schools. Schools are an accurate reflection of society, children pick up concepts which they don’t understand from parents and teachers and spread them.
Education is its own reward, but whereas it cannot fully prevent a nation from destroying itself, it vastly reduces the appetite for destruction. That is why some of the Hutu intellectuals who were independent minded were killed alongside Tutsi in 1994. In Genocide-prevention, there is no silver bullet, or perfect cure, it is a series of measures that collectively will prevent future carnage. Education is key to this, on top of rural development, national security, job creation, communication infrastructure, and even sports. So many things can prevent genocide.
All these measures only reduce the fertile ground, for a genocide to happen. Someone or many people have to sit down and plan it. They might find barren ground for their ideas but it will not be spontaneous. We need scholars who look at our Genocide with a fresh perspective, not to look back and catalogue mistakes, but to solve tomorrow’s problems. I always ask critics of anyone “what would you have done?” in the split-second you have to make a decision, then the answer is that it doesn’t matter because it is past anyway.
On some level, we have to accept that the Genocide against the Tutsi is a lesson for humanity but a lesson we no longer have control over. People like Susan Thomson will feel they own it as well, will feel they know better than we do ourselves, people will be wise after the event and PhD’s in Rwanda would be dished out like candy. It is partly a colonial legacy and our own neglect, we should be more vocal, more scholarly, cloak our language with fuzzy big words, and stand up.
Above all, we must look to the future, history will not be repeated, it will be different and we must be ready.