- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide


Deep Ethnic Hatred

By mdrubel on February 9, 2013

While attempting to write this blog post my coach came and sat across from me to ask me what I was doing.  After explaining what this class entailed, I told him I was trying to come up with a topic to blog about.  He proceeded to ask me about how to define genocide and how I would classify the Rwandan genocide and ultimately wanted to know what caused it.  While trying to explain different aspects of this specific genocide the idea of a “deep ethnic hatred”, also known as an “ancient tribal hatred” popped into my mind.  I quickly recalled Strau’s chapter “Background to the Genocide” and assumed that my coach, like many, had most likely been misinformed about the Rwandan genocide and has been most likely led to believe it was caused by a deep ethnic hatred.  I went on to explain that the genocide did not occur because of a deep ethnic hatred, but rather because of a combination of issues and difference such as regional, gender, religion, and class differences.  Most importantly, I highlighted that it wasn’t that all Hutu hated all Tutsi and all Tutsi hated Hutu, but rather it was extremists from both groups representing and acting as representation for a larger population of bystanders.

According to Straus “the notion that an ancient tribal hatred drove the Rwandan genocide is deeply misleading”.  Struas proceeds to explain that colonial manipulation of ethnicity in Rwanda, the planning and organization of the genocide before it happened, and the responsibility of certain Rwandans instigating the genocide.  The last reason mentioned is one that I believe is often overlooked by many, but is in fact very important to understanding the cause of the genocide.

Throughout this course the idea that the entire Rwandan nation was not supporting or participating in the genocide and that it was certainly not a deep rooted ethnic hatred has been implemented in a majority of the classes.  It was most simply two groups of extremists, mostly positioned in urban areas of the country, expressing and acting on their personal hatred for the other ethnicity, using the voice of some to represent the voice of many.  As Straus explains, Hutus and Tutsi speak the same language, live in the same regions and neighborhoods, practice the same religions, and even intermarry.

People studying and or teaching about the Rwandan genocide have to stop teaching it as a genocide rooted ethnic hatred.  If people generalized the voice of a few as the voice of everyone then people around the world would believe all Americans loved President Bush or that everyone one wearing a turban is a terrorist.  It’s pure ignorance.  We have to debunk such notions because it will not only provide the correct information about the Rwandan genocide and give us a better understanding of why it happened, but might also prevent genocides in the future.


  • ST said:

    Glad you are schooling your coach! And glad you got on the blog.

    What specific structural factors did you tell your coach created the conditions for the 1994 genocide?

    • mdrubel said:

      When speaking to my coach about the structural factors that strongly contributed to the genocide I highlighted the rigid and convoluted social classes. The various social statuses in Rwanda are so extreme- a minority of the population having wealth and political power, and a majority having only resources that allow them to live with near to nothing. One of many issues with this type of social structure is that the minority has the voice of the country, which is often used for the minority’s benefit. Another issue that is created is the idea of kill or be killed. If the poor refused to kill in favor of the rich, they would either be killed or exiled. The only winners are those with wealth and political power, political power that is kept within the small minority. This is clear structural violence.

  • Professor Thomson said:

    Hi again, Miriam. Agree. Clear structural violence indeed.

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