Continued from last Sunday
“And now, to come back to your question of why the Hutu wanted to exterminate the Tutsi, the genesis of it all began with the Belgians, or the White Fathers to be exact. It was during the reign of Musinga, King Yuhi IV...
“The Germans, who first colonized Rwanda, before losing their colonies following their World War I defeat, had found a country where Umwami enjoyed absolute powers over his subjects, the land, and the cattle, in a hierarchical society where just a few Tutsi families held commanding positions. In exchange for his recognition of the German administration, they supported his authority (Umwami Musinga Yuhi IV), leaving intact his existing local administration system, avoiding any form of interference in his existing social rapports with his people.
However, the Belgian administration that took over from them exploited to the fullest the complicity between colonialism and evangelization, through the Roman Catholic missionaries, also known as the White Fathers.
“These, unlike the Germans never took into account the specific unity of the Hutu and the Tutsi people, their common pride which made them Rwandans, nor the fact that ninety percent of the Tutsi belonged to the masses of poor peasants.
They shifted alliances between the Hutu and the Tutsi as a strategy to gain influence and protect their interests.
What they did in the first years, is to systematically support the Hutu in their relationship with the traditional authority, establishing a new center of power in the country, and displeasing the German authority that favored respect for the tradition.
You must remember that King Yuhi IV had stubbornly and ferociously resisted their civilization, especially Christianity. So, they deposed and expelled him first to Kamembe, Cyangugu, and later to Moba in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they set about taking their revenge on the Tutsi. How?
“They reigned without scruples, constantly discouraging the Tutsi whom they strongly hated; they incited the people to no longer obey them and took unfair positions against the chiefs in all matters concerning members of their mission.
Through their so-called evangelization drive, they interfered and intervened independently without regard to the traditional authorities and the Umwami on all matters and on many other issues that did not concern them . . .
Basically, the new converted Christians 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 ‘Hutu Church in a Hutu State,’ and that way of taking sides on all matters and acting in favor of their members could not help but provoke conflicts with the indigenous people . . .
“Then later on, on the scene came a new Catholic Bishop, Monsignor Leon Classe. As you will see, events were cyclical. 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, and the exclusion from power of others, leading to instances of horror and despair.
“When Bishop Leon Classe arrived in Rwanda, aware of the anti-Tutsi feeling within the clergy, 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 mission would rally itself around the Tutsi.
“By this, it is evident that he convinced the Belgian authorities that the country’s administration should be run by the Tutsi who were, in his eyes, superior to the Hutu.
(The Mortehan Reform of 1926-1931 saw a policy of recruitment of administrators solely from the Tutsi), thus constructing a rigid social barrier among the people.
This position had far-reaching implications in generating feelings of resentment and hatred within the Hutu population, who saw themselves, excluded from the participation in the country’s affairs.
“Unfortunately, the Belgian administration went along with the Catholic Church’s position without questioning it, convinced that concentrating power in the hands of the Tutsi would serve both the colonial and Church interests.
As a result, the Tutsi benefited from educational, political, administrative, and economic favours at the expense of the Hutu majority and the Tutsi of modest origin, who lost many of the advantages they held before colonialism. However, the option remained for the Hutu to be trained for the clergy.
“Ironically, the Hutu elite, who later carried the torch under the banner of the Hutu Social Revolution, came from church schools (minor and major seminaries), the only educational institutions that accepted commoners.
“Then, 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 ethnic definition (such as introducing the mention of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa on individual identity cards.)
This is what would later bring disastrous and genocidal consequences, beginning with the 1959 revolution of the Hutu, which they engineered and wholeheartedly supported.