Note: I wasn’t allowed into all parts of the museum. I wrote this post myself. (I write all posts myself.)
– James Marshall, Round the World Kid – age 10
The Rwandan Genocide was one of the worst things that happened in the history of the Earth. It is so bad it is only comparable to what happened with Hitler and the Jews and the Genocide in Cambodia. In just twenty minutes 1,000 people were killed. That’s 50 people per minute. In total 1,000,000 people were killed, and 2,000,000 people were misplaced. At that time, there were only 7,000,000 people in the country.
None of this hate was present before the late 1800s. It all stirred up when Rwanda was colonized.
First the Germans came in 1895 and declared Rwanda a German colony. When the Germans lost in World War I, the Belgians came and took it over. There was some good in colonization. The colonists brought technology, education, healthcare, knowledge. But for the most part, colonization was bad.
When the Belgians introduced the Identity Card, they classified everyone as Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. You were classified based on the number of cows you or the oldest male member of your family had. Tutsi people had at least ten cows. The Hutu majority had less than ten cows. According to the Belgians, 1% was Twa, 15% was Tutsi, and 84% was the Hutu majority. The Belgians preferred the Tutsi and used them in controlling the country. The Tutsi were getting the best jobs, educations, and the most power. This made some of the Hutu afraid that they would take their jobs and money and other things away. After time, some of the Hutu’s fear turned into hate, which eventually turned into pure evil. When the Hutus were put into power, some of them separated Tutsis from Hutus at school. Some Hutus started killing Tutsis, though it was small scale. When Rwanda gained independence from Belgium in 1962, they put the Hutu majority in power. In the early 1990s, some of the Hutu started preparing for genocide. They were taught how to use guns. Those who didn’t have guns, which was most people, used a machete.
The U.N. was tipped off. They knew that something terrible would happen. But none of the world, not Japan, not Russia, none of Europe, not even the U.S. interfered. One of the most horribly amazing parts of the story is that many countries had the ability to stop it, but they chose not to. They were not just tipped off like, “hey, we’re getting suspicious”. They knew very specific details. They knew that Rwanda was borrowing money from French banks to buy thousands of machete from China. There were two thousand troops from Western countries inside Rwanda at the time. They just came in and took the white people out.
One day, the Hutu president was in a plane with the president of Burundi when his plane was shot down. There were no survivors. The Hutu people said, “Hey look, the Tutsi have killed our president”. A few hours later, the genocide started. No one knows who shot the plane down. It could have been a Tutsi person, like the Hutu said. It also could have been the Hutu themselves.
Many Tutsi was killed during the genocide. Not all the Hutu were killing the Tutsi. Some Hutu resisted the genocide. Those who did where also killed. Innocent men, women and children were killed. Even young babies were killed. So many young adults were killed that when I go walking around with my parents 20 years later, we almost never see someone my parents’ age.
But there is also a story of hope inside. A mostly Tutsi army came back and stopped the Genocide. No other country helped them fight, not even their neighbors, Uganda, Burundi, Tazania or the D.R.C. They were all alone in fighting. Twenty years later, there are very tall skyscrapers in Kigali. It is very organized. People even stop at red lights and crosswalks! This might seem casual to you, but no one did this in Uganda or Kenya! Now they are making a huge effort to forgive and move forward. It sounds very hard to forgive, but it is even harder to forget. Imagine being a survivor of the Genocide and your family members have been killed. How hard is it to forgive and not seek revenge?
The impact of the story on me is like running into a brick wall. It just amazed me that Rwanda was like that 20 years ago. Rwanda is just so clean and organized today that it is hard to image that people were being killed in mass 20 years ago. In fact, Kigali looks like this!