“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King, Jr

Monday, March 2, 2009

Genocide In Rwanda Part 3

Politics in Rwanda were dominated by the Tutsi which was just 17% of the population and virtually all the rest of the population was Hutu with 1% aboriginal Twa. Starting in 1959 during the transition to independence the Tutsi were abandoned by their Belgian colonial sponsors, which allowed the Hutu to seize control, setting in motion the idea of throwing off hundreds of years of Tutsi oppression.

The new Hutu rulers targeted former Tutsi officials and their supporters for retaliation forcing several thousand Tutsi to flee the country. The first refugees left Rwanda in 1959 for neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire. Sometime in 1969 some of these Tutsi refugees started calling themselves inyenzi ("cockroach" to signify their persistance) and attempted to return to power in Rwanda and reinstall the Tutsi mwami or king. Attacks were launched from bases in Uganda and Burundi which in turn caused Rwanda's hard line Hutu nationalist government to retaliate by escalating oppression of, and attacks against, Tutsi within the country.

The most successful attacks occurred in 1963 when Tutsi from Burundi came within ten miles of the Rwandan capital, Kiqaali. This then triggered the most intense outburst of reprisal killing against Tutsi in Rwanda. Though horrific, this proved effective in reducing the inyenzi attacks, which stopped in 1967. All told from 1959 to 1967, 20,000 Tutsi were killed and 200,000 were driven from the country as refugees. The Tutsi population now dropped from 17% to 9%. After the inyenzi invasions the remaining Tutsi of Rwanda were spared major outbursts of violence for over two decades, with the exception of one minor occurrence in 1973 when the failing regime of Rwanda's first president tried to win popular Hutu support by scapegoating the Tutsi. This was quickly cut off by the overthrow of the regime in July of that year by a Hutu army officer from northwestern Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana.

Once Habyarimana seized power, Hutu from his northwestern region came to dominate Rwanda garnering resentment from both the Tutsi and other Hutu. The Tutsi were also given quotas for education and other government benefits as part of an affirmative action program on behalf of the historically deprived Hutu. Habyarimana also blocked the return of Tutsi refugees which he saw as a potential threat to his power. In the absence of any further invasions by Tutsi refugees, the Rwandan Tutsi were spared any organized violence for 17 years.

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