How Did the Rwandan Genocide Happen? | The History of Hate


*looks down at video title*
*sigh* This can’t be good for my mental health, but this subject was a Patreon Stretch
Goal, and the numbers say you like the sad videos, so let’s talk about one of the darkest
events of the 20th century. And that’s a lot because have you seen the
20th century? I know this feels like a glib way to start
a serious video, and it’s because I am working myself up to a pretty damn dark subject, and
this is about all the levity you’re going to get. I guess, all of this is to say this is a massive
content warning. If the title didn’t give it away, we’re
going to some dark places, and if you’re feeling vulnerable or have children watching with
you, you might want to give this one a pass. It’s been 24 years since a horrific genocide
occurred in the African nation of Rwanda. Estimates vary, but over a 100 day period,
between 500,000 and 2,000,000 people were massacred. I want that to really sink in. Even by conservative estimates, that’s a
reasonably sized city murdered. Those who committed this genocide targeted
an ethnic minority in the country known as the Tutsi people and belonged to the Hutu
majority. The genocide itself killed as many as 70%
of the Tutsi population, as well as about 30% of the Pygmy Batwa people. And you’d think the world would have intervened
in such a situation, but it only ended once a Tutsi backed paramilitary group took over
the government. How did these people get there? The story of the Rwandan genocide takes us
all the way back to the 19th century, and Rwanda still lives with the scars of these
100 days today. Let’s explore what happened, what caused
it, and maybe, just maybe, come to an idea of how to never let something like this happen
again. Let’s start at the beginning of the division
between these groups. It’s a bit older than colonisation, but
this is when it began in earnest. Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi fell into
the hands of the Germans after the Berlin Conference of 1884. When it came to colonial administration, the
divisions sprung up right away. The colonists preferred working with the Tutsis
over the Hutu because they believed them to be racially superior. This continued after the Belgians conquered
Rwanda during the First World War. The Belgians even used pseudoscience like
Phrenology to determine why they benefitted one group over another. Racists, they’re always measuring bones! Later, in 1935, the Belgians also implemented
ID cards which labelled everyone in the country as either Tutsi, Hutu, Twa or Naturalized. Because European race science makes these
categories irreducible, this had a massive impact on Rwandan society. Before, a wealthy Hutu might become an honourary
Tutsi, but now with strict racial categories and friggin’ ID cards, this became a rigid
caste system. If you wanna learn more about the concept
of race “science”, you can watch this video here. A Hutu emancipation movement began to grow
after the Second World War. Their power base grew from increasing resentment
towards the social order and support from the Catholic church. The divisions established by class and colonisation
turned into a racial category, and violence between the groups increased year on year. Eventually, the Belgian administrators gave
the Hutu power to maintain order. Rwanda got independence in 1962. In this new republic. Already we saw what are referred to as Tutsi
purges. Those who left became refugees, primarily
in countries like Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire which is now the Democratic Republic
of Congo. In Rwanda, the government was openly hostile
towards any Tutsis who remained, slowing down only a bit in the 1970s. Rwanda also exploded in population as it modernised;
becoming one of Africa’s most densely populated countries by the late 80s. In an agricultural society, many began to
have anxiety over the competition for land. In 1990, this tension exploded into a civil
war between the Hutu led government, and a militia consisting mainly of Tutsi refugees. The war lasted until 1993 when international
pressure put it to an end with a sort of power-sharing agreement. Many conservative Hutus hated this agreement,
seeing it as a concession to the enemy. A Hutu power movement began to take hold,
and it portrayed Tutsis as alien non-Christians who wanted to enslave the Hutus and rule with
a Tutsi king. With all this tension, a small spark could
set off mass violence. That came on April 6 of 1994, when a plane
carrying the presidents of both Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, killing everyone and
ending the peace process. The killings began the next day. I think though if I told the story just like
this, you would think this was just some spontaneous breakout of violence; another example of the
horrors of human nature. I want to point out this genocide was a plan
looking for an excuse to go into action. Many members of the political elite in Rwanda
were planning this genocide. Soldiers, police officers, and government-backed
militia members murdered key Tutsi leaders, as well as moderate Hutus who might take power
after the death of the president and end the plan prematurely. They set up checkpoints and looked over those
ID cards to identify and massacre any Tutsis they could find. These murderers brought in machetes, clubs,
and other weapons to encourage regular people to kill, maim, and rape their neighbours and
feel free to take their property. Over the next three months, between 500,000
and 2,000,000 people were slaughtered. At the same time, a Tutsi-led militia called
the Rwandan Patriotic Front renewed its offensive; reigniting the civil war. In this carnage, I think we should talk specifically
about two things which made the massacre even worse. First, the church. Many of the Tutsis fleeing the genocide took
refuge in churches. However, as I mentioned earlier, the Catholic
churches in Rwanda leaned heavier on supporting the Hutus, so many turned overcrowded churches
filled with hundreds or thousands of fleeing people over to their butchers. There’s a youtube video of a journalist
visiting one of these churches more than 20 years later and goes through the horrors which
occurred in these places. I will link it in the cards and description,
but yeah, not something to watch as a pick me up. The other thing we need to talk about is the
radio. During the genocide, radio stations blasted
the airwaves with messages targeting specific Tutsis and justified the genocide. They tried to frame it as a slave rebellion
and dehumanise the Tutsis calling them cockroaches. They roused to anger and tried to encourage
the Hutus to murder their Tutsi neighbours. And what do you know, giving a platform to
hate speech had a measured effect. A study published in 2014 found these broadcasts
had a significant impact on participation in these mass killings. The broadcasts motivated about 51,000 perpetrators,
in total representing approximately 10% of the overall violence. It not only influenced those with radio reception
but spread it to their neighbouring villages. This spillover shows evidence it caused more
destruction than those directly inspired by the radio broadcasts. Exposure and social interactions brought about
by mass media can have a considerable role in participation in violence. Something to remember when someone complains
universities don’t platform Nazis. What also comes out as a glaring tragedy of
the Rwandan genocide is the international community by and large did nothing. The United Nations Security Council in 1994
pulled peacekeepers out of Rwanda the month the killing began. Eventually, the UN voted to send in 5,000
peacekeeper troops, but by the time they got there, the genocide was over. In 2014, a Canadian Lt. General Romeo Dellaire
who headed the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda, claimed the genocide could have been
prevented if the UN hadn’t pulled out of the region. The French attempted intervention in June,
which likely saved a lot of Tutsi lives, but recent reports show they also helped some
of the genocide’s plotters to escape as the Rwandan government in power was a French
ally. The genocide officially ended when the RPF
took over Rwanda in July; 3 months after the beginning of the killing. The use of rape as a weapon of war caused
a spike in HIV infections. Many homes were now run by orphaned children,
or by widows. The genocide also led to a massive depopulation
of Rwanda. It caused a massive economic downturn which
Rwanda has spent decades trying to bring itself back from. The new Tutsi led government prompted many
Hutus to leave the country. They were the bulk of an estimated 2 million
people who fled Rwanda after the genocide. This new government, claiming a need to stop
further genocides also invaded Zaire in 1996, and 1998, known as the first and second Congo
Wars. To this day a proxy war between Rwanda and
the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to smoulder. Today, Tutsis still live in Rwanda, often
close to those who perpetrated the killing or their families. There have been some remarkable breakthroughs
in reconciliation, but there’s still a lot of mistrust and anxiety. How do these groups of people come to terms
with what happened and constructively face this atrocity? There’ve been some attempts to bring in
some form of justice for this crime against humanity. In October of 1994, the International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda was established as an extension for a similar body for former Yugoslavia. Some high ranking people were tried for their
roles in the Rwandan Genocide, but in the chaos, many of them have escaped justice. The trials themselves lasted more than 15
years. More recently, in 2008 three Rwandan defence
officials were convicted of organising the genocide. But how do we find an answer at the level
of streets? How does one move forward from this? Rwanda has tried to go through a process of
apologies, atonement, and trying to look towards a brighter future. Rwanda today is a different place than in
1994, but deep scars still remain. What can we take away from this horror as
a lesson to make sure something like this never occurs again? Today, the fires of rampant hate speech, dehumanisation,
and us vs them thinking are rekindling around the world. Maybe if we looked just a little closer at
what this leads to, we wouldn’t be so eager to move down this path once again. I want to let you know that the meetup I did
with Thoughtslime and Mexie back in May went so well, we’re going to do it again! The meetup is going to happen on September
8th at 7PM at the bar Disgraceland on Bloor Street in Toronto. I look forward to seeing a lot of you out
there! If this is your first time here, I make all
sorts of videos about the past, and if you subscribe now, you’ll get more history every
week. There’s a big backlog to check out too. I want to thank 12tone for the Step Back theme
song, as well as a special thanks for all the fantastic patrons who made this video
possible. I especially want to thank Don and Kerry Johnson,
Kolbeinn Mani, Garrick Kwan, Michael Kirschner, Scott Smith, and James McNeice. Come back next time for more Step Back.

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