WHYTE MAN MADE US DO IT
If I asked you to tell me the worst thing that ever happened in post-colonial Africa, chances are the responses that I would get would overwhelmingly be this:
You would be right.
The Rwandan genocides are the worst thing that has happened in post-colonial Africa. I use genocides in the plural because the infamous 1994 genocide was only the worst one. The fallout from the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis also triggered what has been called Africa’s World War that resulted in the death of 6 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Rwandan genocides have STIFF COMPETITION. There have been countless military coups, dictators, plagues, famines and civil wars in post-colonial Africa. The civil wars with cross dressing, cannibal generals and their drug addicted child soldiers in Liberia and Sierra Leone were particularly savage. The genocide in Zanzibar was horrific. None of it ever approached the scale of the horror in Rwanda and Burundi where a million people were hacked to death with machetes, sticks and spiked clubs.
This isn’t just a Rwandan story. It is also a Burundi story. The two countries were once joined together in the same colony administered by Belgium through a UN mandate:
The story of Rwanda and Burundi begins much like the story of Uganda.
Rwanda, Burundi, Buganda, Bunyoro & co. were all African Great Lakes kingdoms which were untouched by Europeans until the late 19th century. None of these African kingdoms were sources of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. They all made first contact with Europeans in a very different phase of their history. The biggest difference though between Buganda/Bunyoro and Rwanda/Burundi was that the Germans and the Belgians were the colonizing power, not the British.
COUNT GUSTAV ADOLF VON GÖTZEN
The first Europeans explorers to arrive in the Great Lakes Region were the British explorers Richard Burton and John Speke in 1858. They were struck by the racial differences on display in Rwanda and Burundi. Speke in particular noted that the Batwa pygmies, Hutu farmers and Tutsi cattle herders were different races. He was the first to speculate that the Tutsis were a Nilo-Saharan people from Ethiopia who had migrated south from their homeland and conquered the Hutus.
The German explorers Oscar Baumann and Count Gustav Adolf von Götzen were the first Europeans to actually enter Rwanda. They arrived in 1892 and 1894 respectively by which time Rwanda and Burundi were German protectorates on paper. Both of these preexisting African kingdoms were absorbed into German East Africa. Götzen became its first governor and the Germans emulated the British in Uganda by co-opting the local power structure to govern their colonies through indirect rule. There were only a few thousand German soldiers in German East Africa at the time and most of them were stationed in what is now Tanzania. Life continued as it had before in Rwanda and Burundi.
The British and Germans didn’t create these racial divisions. In Rwanda and Burundi, the Tutsi had arrived centuries before and conquered the Hutus. In Uganda, the colony was similarly divided between Bantus in the south and warlike Nilo-Saharan tribes in the north, although in Uganda those tribes weren’t a dominant aristocracy. Whereas Uganda and Tanzania were artificial creations, Rwanda and Burundi were preexisting African kingdoms with their own long established social structures. In Uganda, the Buganda were appointed HNIC of the colony by the British which was resented by other tribes.
As a result of World War I, German East Africa was partitioned. The British came away with Tanzania. Belgium came away with Rwanda and Burundi. The Belgians administered the colony through a League of Nations and later a United Nations mandate. They preserved the Tutsi aristocracy which they had inherited from the Belgians. They continued to take an interest in the ethnography of Rwanda and Burundi. The Tutsis, Hutus and Batwa were assigned identity cards and later this was used to argue that Europeans had created the Tutsi vs. Hutu divide and that these divisions were a “social construct.”
Razib Khan has spent a lot of time debunking that politically correct myth and showing that the Tutsis genetically cluster with East Africans and that the common sense induction from phenotype was accurate. This is only controversial because it has been a source of so much pain and misery in Rwanda and Burundi. The truth though is that Africans were bouncing around all over the continent in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some groups that originated in East Africa wound up in West Africa. Similarly, some groups that originated in East Africa migrated south into Central Africa.
It is true that 1.) the Tutsis migrated into the Great Lakes region and subjected the Hutu agriculturalists who had done the same to the Pygmies and 2.) that East Africans have significant Caucasian ancestry. This is why the lighter, taller East Africans look so different from West Africans. The Hamitic Myth has some basis in an ancient migration of Eurasians into the Horn of Africa. The Tutsi obviously didn’t originate in Central Africa because they are so much more lactose tolerant.
Rwanda and Burundi became independent in 1962. The former ended up dominated by the Hutu. The latter ended up dominated by the Tutsi. In both cases, the Hutu are about 85% of the population and the Tutsi are about 15% of the population. I will just abbreviate the genocides.
In the Rwandan Revolution from 1959 to 1961, 20,000 to 100,000 Tutsi are killed and 336,000 Tutsi are driven out of Rwanda into exile neighboring countries when the Hutu seize power in Rwanda. The Hutu Power ideology is formulated by Grégoire Kayibanda who became Rwanda’s president. It was depicted in Africa Addio. Tutsi guerrillas who plague Rwanda come to be known as “inyenzi” or cockroaches. The Hutus go on to dominate Rwanda from independence until 1994.
In 1972, the Hutu launch an attack against the Tutsi in Burundi who are determined to prevent another Rwanda. They kill about 1,000 Tutsi who respond by killing 80,000 to 210,000 Hutu. Hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees flee Burundi and go into exile in neighboring countries.
Ugandan Civil War
Many of the Tutsi who fled Rwanda ended up in Uganda where they fought for Yoweri Museveni in the Ugandan Bush War against Milton Obote. Anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 people died in that war. It hardens the Tutsi who remain determined to retake power in Rwanda.
Rwandan Civil War
The Tutsi rebels (Rwandan Patriotic Front) invade Rwanda from Uganda. The war drags on from 1990 until 1993 and leaves thousands dead. It ends in a stalemate and a ceasefire. This is massively resented by the Hutus who start planning to exterminate the Tutsi cockroaches once and for all.
In 1993, Burundi’s first democratically elected Hutu president was assassinated by a Tutsi, and the Hutus responded by killing 50,000 to 100,000 Tutsi.
Burundi Civil War
The Second Burundi Genocide kicks off the Burundi Civil War which lasts from 1993 to 2006. It is estimated that 300,000 people died in the conflict.
In April 1994, Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira are shot down and killed when their plane is about to land in Rwanda’s capitol. This is the event which triggers the Rwandan genocide which had been planned for years in advance.
INTERAHAMWE (HUTU MILITIA)
The Rwandan Genocide
The event known as the Rwandan Genocide was the fourth genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis and took place in the context of the Tutsi invasion of Hutu-dominated Rwanda. It occurred in the backdrop of the Ugandan Civil War and the Burundi Civil War which was then raging.
This isn’t something I want to dwell on here: the Hutu Interahamwe militia, Rwandan military forces and ordinary Hutus exterminated 800,000 of the Tutsi cockroaches with machetes, spiked clubs and pointed sticks. The goal was to wipe them out once and for all. The bodies were dumped in rivers so that the Tutsis would float back to Ethiopia where they came from. As a rule, Tutsi women were gang raped. More Tutsis were murdered seeking refuge in churches and hospitals than anywhere else in Rwanda. Pastors killed their flocks. Doctors killed their patients. Hutus killed their own Tutsi family members and neighbors. Parents killed their children out of mercy. Everyone participated in the African Holocaust.
Tens of thousands of Tutsi corpses floated downstream into Lake Victoria. It only came to an end when Paul Kagame and the RPF conquered Rwanda. Hundreds of thousands of Hutu génocidaires fled from the Tutsi cockroaches into Tanzania and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
It was stomach churning.
The war ranged on for another decade in Burundi. The domino effect continued to cascade across Central Africa. Hutus genocided the Tutsis in Rwanda. Tutsis genocided the Hutus in Burundi. Tutsis participated in the bloody Ugandan Bush War. Tutsis invaded Rwanda. Hutus genocided Tutsis in Burundi. The Rwandan genocide happened … which drove the Hutus into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Hutu génocidaires regrouped in refugee camps subsidized with humanitarian assistance by the international community. Rwanda and Uganda then spearheaded a rebellion in the eastern Congo, invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo and overthrew the Mobutu government. The RPF hunted down the Hutu génocidaires through the Congolese rain forest chasing them across Africa. When their puppet government in Kinshasa turned on their Rwandan handlers, they attempted to overthrow the government again.
The second invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo didn’t work out as well as the overthrow of Mobutu. Angola and Zimbabwe entered the war. At one point, Chad, Sudan, Namibia, Central African Republic and Libya in addition to Uganda and Rwanda were involved in the Second Congo War. By the time Africa’s World War was over, 6 million more people were dead in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The world barely even noticed the staggering death toll.
Romeo Dallaire, the UN commander whose character is portrayed by Nick Nolte in Hotel Rwanda, blamed the Rwandan genocide on the West in Shake Hands With The Devil. The West did come to feel guilty about it which is why another Rwanda hasn’t been allowed to happen to Africa. Britain intervened in Sierra Leone. France intervened in Ivory Coast, Mali and Central African Republic. The United States intervened in Liberia and Libya. The UN has intervened in Sudan in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop the fighting there. Rwanda is the source of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine.
DON CHEADLE IN HOTEL RWANDA
Central Africa is a graveyard because of Africans.
In Tanzania, Africans exterminated Arabs in Zanzibar. In Rwanda and Burundi, Tutsi and Hutus have slaughtered each other in multiple genocides. In Equatorial Guinea, a mentally ill dictator exterminated all intellectuals and people who wear glasses. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mobutu’s decaying state imploded and other African countries came to feast on its carcass. In Uganda and South Sudan, it has been tribal warfare. In Central African Republic, it was Emperor Bokassa and religious warfare. The only three states in the region that have escaped this are Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo. The “legacy of slavery” and “legacy of colonialism” has nothing to do with it.
The West used to be blamed for colonizing and imposing white supremacy on Black Africa. Now, it is indicted for being indifferent to the suffering of Black Africa. If Central Africa had remained colonized and peaceful and had continued to make strides like it did in the early 20th century under colonialism, there is no telling where it would be today, but it certainly wouldn’t have ended up this bad.