Regionalism and Hutu ethnic
Regionalism like ethnocentrism characterized the genocide regime of dictator Habyarimana. After all other avenues towards the genocide were fully exhausted, political leaders created a caucus of relatives, friends and ‘regionalists’ to stick on power. Regionalism too helped the government by either manipulating laws or the constitution to fit its interests.
This paved way for the control of the government, administration, Economy and Judiciary. During Gregoire Kayibanada’s regime, MDR-Parmehutu from the then Southern and Central parts of Rwanda, and more particularly Gitarama, took the lead.
Gitarama would be regarded as the administrative capital of the southern and central regions. On the other side, was the northern region that produced the canning dictator Habyarimana.
The power in short, pivoted between the southern and northern regions, while parts of eastern region, today’s’ Rwamagana- Ngoma – Nyagatare –Bugesera, etc, where non-issues.
“In this part of the region we could hardly be considered in any thing; be it economic or political- we just lived at the mercy of the southerners and northerners. For example, the Gregoire Kayibanda’s last government had a big percentage of all ministerial portfolios held by individuals mostly from few districts of Gitarama. After Habyarimana’s coup d’état of July 5, 1973, there was a shift in favour of the northerners,” remarks one Murindahabi John, a resident of Rutonde in eastern region.
In regionalism not only the Tutsi were affected, though of course the Tutsi normally got ‘the lion’s share’ of all ills in the society, irrespective of the region in which they stayed.
Easterners (Hutu and Tutsi) never got equal chances of accessing education. There was a school system characterized by partisan and divisive propaganda, instead of forging national unity.
“Let the son of a peasant remain a peasant too. You do not expect me to offer a place of study to a son of a peasant and leave out that one of a Minister, “said a one time Minister of education during Habyarimana’s regime, Aloys Sekarije.
Regionalism never spared the economic affairs of Rwandans either. In employment sector, especially for top positions in the civil service, regionalism was practiced through appointments of Ministers and others of high portfolio.
So when the regime that was later in charge of implementing a long term ‘boiling’ genocide came to limelight in the 1973 coup d’état, Habyarimana used regionalism to consolidate his power.
Army recruitment and career management were based on regional preferences, where the North took the lead and the South followed, with very limited involvement of what we preferred to call the East in this article.- today’s Eastern province anyway.
The candidacy for a political office, appointment to diplomatic positions, promotions in high positions of the civil service, and access to higher education, were vetted by the secret services, which used the supposed loyalty to the regime, as the main criterion for selection.
In most cases, people from the North were automatically deemed more loyal to the regime, followed by the South and often none from the East. The East was said to be dominated by Tutsi or Tutsi influence. It is in the East that we can evidence much ‘genuine’ intermarriages.
“These are not Hutus. They are so called Hutus of today from Kibungo and Mutara. Real Hutus died and others left in fear after committing the Genocide. They used to show real difference in physical appearance- were strong and had very big nose,” remarked one Semiryango Donat in 2000 (jokingly).
The simple and implicit statement of this nature reflects deep divisions that were based on region, which indeed polarized the nation- Rwanda, lacked total cohesion.
The Banyanduga (Gitarama people) were not very happy that their son Gregoire Kayibanda had lost to Umukiga (Northerner) Habyarimana Juvenari.
As we saw before, the Banyabuganza (Easterners) were a non-issue in the social, economic and political affairs of the country. The dichotomy between the Hutu, was therefore, normally drawn between Abanyanduga and Abakiga.
Habyarimana cemented it further because he could not trust the Abanyanduga with their history of political dominance and exclusion.
“Of course a Mukiga could not trust Gregoire Kayibandan’s cohorts. They are the people he overthrew and therefore knew they never liked him- this is simple logic,” observes Mugabo Eugide, a sociologist at ULK University.
As Habyarimana intensified regionalism, he found it imperative to narrow it to a smaller sect of the ‘trusted’ commonly referred to as Akazu.
“The Akazu literary translated as a house in Kinyarwanda, was an informal organisation of Habyarimana and his influential wife Agathe Habyarimana, whose members, among others, are generally understood to be responsible for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The Akazu were Habyarimana’s relatives and others from his region; they held important positions of authority in the regime. The Akazu did not wish to share government with other Hutu, “says Rwasamirira Jean Damascene, a Rwandan historian.
All decisions were centralized at Akazu level and instructions trickled down to the northern, southern and central regions of Rwanda. This organisation explains why some Hutu had to be killed by the genocidal regime.
As a mater of fact, some Hutu never respected the orders from Habyarimana, while others questioned their practicalities as human beings. Human beings are rational by nature, and would like to question certain wrongs.
Akazu of Habyarimana that as a necessity consisted of the northerners and Southerners could not give chance such ‘rational behaviour’.
As a result, therefore a number of Hutu were killed to the dismay of many Rwandans, not familiar with the Rwandan internal politics.
Regionalism in essence thus, was responsible for the deaths of Hutu- those regarded as moderates by our common knowledge.