Information Zone Home
War - What is it good for?
Causes of war
Impacts of war
Injury or death
War breaks up families
Painful memories
Child soldiers
A shattered land
Weapons vs welfare
Stages of conflict
Case study: Rwanda - Part 1

Information Zone

Case Study: Rwanda - Part 1
The three Stages of Conflict can be illustrated using examples from the Rwanda conflict.

Click here for a more detailed history of events related to the Rwanda conflict.

Phase 1 - Separation - focus on difference
The Hutu and Tutsi make up the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda. They appear to have co-existed relatively peacefully until the Belgian colonists arrived in 1916. The colonists chose to ignore the similarities of a common language and traditions between the Hutu and Tutsi. Instead they focused on differences, particularly of economic status, and produced identity cards classifying people according to their ethnic group. The Belgians considered the Tutsis superior to the Hutus. Not surprisingly, the Tutsis welcomed this idea. For the next 20 years they enjoyed better jobs and educational opportunities than their neighbours, aggravating the differences between the two groups.

This favouring of the Tutsi led to increasing resentment among the Hutus culminating in a series of violent riots in 1959 demanding equal rights. More than
20 000 Tutsis were killed, and many more fled to the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.

When Belgium relinquished power and granted Rwanda independence in 1962, the Hutus took their place. Over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were portrayed as a danger and the scapegoats for every crisis.

Phase 2 - Divergence - focus on position
Leopold, a 32 year old Hutu man, describes how the Hutu position was presented as propaganda and eventually led to genocide.

'The previous government started mobilising us in 1992, holding meetings, training groups of young men like me to kill when the time came. They called us the Interahamwe (which means those who attack together). But the most important thing was that they planted fear and hatred in our hearts. Ever since I was a small boy, they had told us on the radio, even at school, that the Tutsis weren't real Rwandans, that they had come originally from Ethiopia and we Hutus were the real Rwandans, the superior people.

They told us we were under attack. That the RPF cockroaches were coming to kill us all, that we must fight and push them back, or die. And that we must finish them all off, every last Tutsi, because they were devils and if we did not wipe them out, the threat would always remain.

On 10 April 1994, they told us the time had finally come. The enemy was attacking. They reminded us that all Tutsis were our enemies, all now were cockroaches, including our neighbours - which was the message we had been hearing more and more in previous months on the government radio. There were about 400 of us at the meeting, all young and strong. From the meeting, we went to our homes, collected our pangas (machetes), regrouped and then we set out and started cutting people.'

Source: 'Could you share a pint with a man who killed your family?' by John Carlin
New Statesman, Sept 15 2003.

Phase 3 - Destruction - focus on damage
The 1994 genocide was planned and executed by the then Government of Rwanda. The goal was to exterminate all Tutsis and any Hutus or foreigners who opposed this goal. Everyone killed in the Rwandan genocide was on a list. Under orders from central Government in Kigali, the local authorities in each village and town, had gone through birth certificates and other official papers to create a census of the people condemned to die - meaning every Tutsi in the country. The planning was meticulous. Part of it was to denounce as collaborators - and therefore also to condemn to death - those Hutus unwilling to participate in the slaughter.

Marcelin, a Hutu man, married to a Tutsi woman, tells part of his story demonstrating the collapse of normal values during this time.

'The killers arrived at my home on 14 April, about a week after the genocide stared. There were about 60 of them, all armed with pangas (machetes) or clubs. They surrounded the house so there was no possibility of escape. We had been expecting them. My wife was on a list. Her family was a big Tutsi family in this part. They were all on the list.

They grabbed my wife and hit her over the head, they cut her with a panga. But she was still standing. She was still okay. The leader of the group told me I had to finish her off. I had to kill my own wife. I resisted. I said I could not. She had just given birth to a baby. The baby was two days old.They would not listen. They became enraged. The leader said, 'Take this panga. Kill her or we will kill you.' I took the panga. I gripped it hard, but I dropped it. It fell to the floor.

They said that if I did not kill my wife they would kill all my children and destroy my home, before killing me. A group began to chase after the children, who my eldest daughter was leading to a spot behind some banana trees where they could not see the house My wife looked at me, desperate. She pleaded, 'Kill me! Please kill me now!' I picked up a hoe. I was like a blind man. I could not see. I hit her, and then I hit her again, in the back of the head. Until she died.'

Source: 'Kill or be killed' by John Carlin, Herald, August 30-31, 2003, B18.

Rwanda Case Study - Part 2.