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Teaching Genocide: Lessons From Rwanda
Transcript of Teaching Genocide: Lessons From Rwanda
The World's "Humanities" Classroom
The roots of the Rwandan genocide stretch far back from that horrible day in April 1994, when Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down over Kigali and the country's armed forces and Interahamwe militia launched a systematic campaign, driven by hateful Hutu Power propaganda, to exterminate the country's Tutsis and anyone who dared to sympathize. One hundred days, over 800,000 deaths, and the history of a country, the fabric of a society, the lives of families, divided into "before" and "after."
"To make the effort to understand what happened in Rwanda is a painful task that we have no right to shirk - it is part of being a moral adult." Susan Sontag in, Machete Season
In all cultures it is important that all voices remain intact, but when an event like genocide rips through, it is imperative that voices are restored.
The history of Rwanda began long before the genocide or even the Berlin Conference. According to historical oral narratives, the birth of Rwanda dates back 6 generations before the first of the "Historical Kings", Ruganzu Bwimba who ruled around mid 15th century.
At this time the country was only 1/10th the size that it is today
It is told that Bwimba began a policy of conquest that continued into the 19th century, expanding Rwanda beyond the borders it bears today.
Rwandan history, is fraught with all of the intrigue and betrayal natural to human history all over the world.
The nineteenth century finds Rwanda at its peak and brings with it the first European expeditions. The European influx of Germans followed by Belgians started under the reign of Rwabugiri and intensified until mid 20th century.
In 1894, Count Von Gotzen was the first European to be received at the Royal court of Rwabugiri.
The following year Rwabugiri was overthrown by the clan of the queen mother, and replaced by his son Yuhi V Musinga. Musinga was strongly opposed to the presence of Europeans in his territory, which eventually led to his dethronement in 1931.
The 1957 Hutu Manifesto is a document produced on the eve of independence demanding democracy and freedom from rule by the Tutsi aristocracy. Referring to Tutsi rule as "colonialism," an idea derived from the erroneous belief (rooted in the Hamtic hypothesis) that the Tutsi population migrated or invaded Rwanda from Ethiopia, this document reveals the internalization of the false history and its characterization of Hutu and Tutsi identities.
In 1931 Belgian authorities deported Musinga and installed his more agreeable son, Rudahigwa
Ruahigwa, having been groomed by the Belgians for just such a time, was more conciliatory to Europeans.
12 years later, Rudahigwa is baptised in the Catholic religion and begins a strong alliance with the church.
Unfortunately for the Belgians, Rudahigwa travelled extensively throughout Europe and educated himself in the contemporary administration of a country.
In the 1950's a political movement started amoung the elite who supported Rudahigwas initiatives.
These initiatives introduced political, economic, and social reforms much needed to modernize Rwanda.
Seeing the foreshadowing of independance, colonial powers began courting the Hutu leaders who were forming their own political and social agenda.
A history of Violence against the Tutsi
July 1959, king Rudahigwa was believed by Rwandan Tutsis to have been assassinated when he died following a routine vaccination by a Flemish physician in Bujumbura. His younger half-brother then became the next Tutsi monarch, Mwami (King) Kigeli V
From this day forward attacks against Tutsi were organized.
Some years were worse than others. . .
In November 1959, two well known Hutu politicians were attacked, and rumours of their death set off a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as "the wind of destruction."
An estimated 20,000 to 100,000 Tutsis were killed and many thousands more, including the Mwami, fled to neighboring Uganda before Belgian commandos arrived to quell the violence.
Several Belgians were subsequently accused by Tutsi leaders of abetting the Hutus in the violence. The report of a United Nations special commission reported racism reminiscent of "Nazism against the Tutsi minorities" that had been engineered by the government and Belgian authorities.
Between 1961 and 1962, Tutsi guerrilla groups staged attacks into Rwanda from neighboring countries. Rwandan Hutu-based troops responded and thousands more were killed in the clashes.
In 1963, a Tutsi guerrilla invasion into Rwanda from Burundi unleashed another anti-Tutsi backlash by the Hutu government in Rwanda, and an estimated 14,000 people were killed.
July 5 1973 the army commander, General Juvenal Habyarimana, seized power in a bloodless coup and proclaimed Rwanda's "Second Republic"
According to survivors, the regime change brought with it an "intellectual exile" of Tutsis and thousands more were killed or exiled.
From the 70's to the 90's many attempts were made by Rwandan refugees to return home but all were prevented.
Each time the RPF attacked Tutsi civilians were killed in response.
"We . . . say to the Inyenzi [cockroaches] that if they lift up their heads again, it will no longer be necessary to go fight the enemy in the bush. We will. . . start by eliminating the internal enemy. . . they will disappear." Hassan Ngeze, Kangura, January 1994
Seven hundred thousand Tutsi were exiled between 1959 and 1973 in neighbouring countries. These refugees had children who were educated in English and fully integrated into Ugandan society. Many joined Musevini's rebel army to fight tyranny in Uganda hoping that when the battle was finished attention could be turned to Rwanda.
In 1987 these soldiers formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)
October 1990, the RPF invaded Northern Rwanda resulting in a civil war and the displacement of 300,000 people.
Every Tutsi civilian was branded a member of the RPF's "5th Column" and public condemnation strengthened the racial divide.
Massacres of Tutsis were carried out regularly from October 1990 to February 1994. None of these were spontaneous outbreaks of violence, no one was ever brought to account for them.
Propaganda in all media became an important tool in conditioning the Hutu majority to see the Tutsi minority as "other" than human.
page 83 "The Men Who Killed Me"
Preparing for Genocide: read excerpt of Elie in "Machete Season"
Surveying the Damage
"When the former RPF overthrew the genocidal regime on July 4th 1994, the new leaders inherited a lifeless nation. More than three quarters of the population had fled the country, and corpses were littered all over the streets being feasted on by vultures and dogs. Amputated orphans and widows were crying day in, day out. Members of the genocidal government had emptied the the national coffers, schools and hospitals had utterly been robbed and destroyed, and worst of all, the social fabric was torn appart. The nation was smelling death and no one would ever imagine that recovery was even possible."
-James Munyaneza in Rwanda Dispatch
Into this emptiness the new regime in Kigali marched slowly and cautiously. The first decisions were about how to govern the country. Although Kagame had every right to name himself President, he clearly understood that after decades of propaganda, Rwandan Hutu were not ready to accept a Tutsi leader, especially one that had taken the country by force.
The RPF decide to follow the plans laid out at the failed peace talks in Arusha. Each political party was given the posts assigned to it in the Arusha accords, although the former governing party was excluded. The new President was one of the most prominent Hutu in the RPF Pasteur Bizimungo. Another Hutu who was not a RPF member, Faustin Twagiramungu, became Prime Minister. Most cabinet ministers were also Hutu. Kagame himself became minister of defense and Vice President.
Paul Kagame page 187 "A Thousand Hills"
The Turquoise Zone
By mid 1994 the RPF had captured the central town of Gitarama, and was beseiging Ruhengeri in the North. Fighting around Kigali intesified to such a degree that the genocidal government fled and re-established itself in Gisenyi, located on the Zaire border.Huge masses of Hutu - two million at one count- were on the roads fleeing the advance of the RPF.
It was at about this time that France sent in a 3000 strong force of paratroopers, elite marine, special operations, and legion units equipped with helicopters, four fighter bombers, one hundred armoured vehicles, and a battery of 120mm machine guns.
They established a self proclaimed Turquoise Zone along the Western border with Zaire and Burundi which covered about one fifth of the country.
Under the guise of humanitarian work, the French were able to intervene in Rwanda and allow the genocidaires a safe zone within their own borders.
Over the next several weeks one and a half million people flooded into the Turquoise zone. Most were Hutus who had actively or passively participated in the genocide. Many came with their weapons which the French allowed them to keep.
Unfortunately, no signs openly indicated the Turquoise Zone as a safe haven for genocidaires and survivors seeing military uniforms sought safety as well.
Hiyacintha Nirere: page 121 "The Men Who Killed Me"
No Time To Rest
French troops withdrew from the Turquoise zone in mid August, but as they did another threat to peace was growing rapidly. The defeated genocidal army was receiving planeloads of weaponry from Bulgaria, Israel, and South Africa. RTLM, the radio that spouted hatred toward Tutsis 24 hours a day before and during the genocide, was back on the air from a studio near Goma.
UN investigators took an active role in sharing information with Rwandas new government about the plans of genocidaires to invade. Unfortunately any real preventitive action by the UN at this point was blocked by the United States.
While the new government faced this growing threat just across the border, it also had to deal with an angry and resentful population within the borders. Some of the returning RPF soldiers broke from their groups and upon finding families slaughtered, sought out and killed those they believed were responsible. Although this type of revenge killing may be understandable, it did not help an already difficult and distrustful situation. Many believe that Kagame did nothing to prevent these attacks.
The first year after the genocide was marked by power stuggles, cross border attacks from Zaire, and thousands of arrests.
Late in 1995 the government convened a series of conferences at which legal experts and human rights advocats from more than a dozen countries, along with Rwandan officials, tried to come up with a solution to the justice dilema.
As many as 2 million people are believed to have participated in the genocides, even if Rwanda had a functioning legal system (and it had nothing of the kind since all judges and lawyers had either fled or been killed), it would have been impossible to try all of the suspects within a reasonable period.
Slowly the outline of a new and highly unorthodox legal sytem began to take shape. For the relatively small number of people who had organized and directed the genocide, there would be conventional trials. The rest, those who took up arms against friends and neighbors or encouraged others to do so, would be tried by community based courts in the places where the crimes were committed.
The Security Council of the United Nations moving just as quickly, voted to create an International Tribunal for Rwanda to be based in Arusha, Tanzania
Although the killing in Rwanda was over, the presence of Hutu militias in DR Congo has led to years of conflict there, causing up to five million deaths.
Rwanda's now Tutsi-led government has twice invaded its much larger neighbour, saying it wants to wipe out the Hutu forces.
And a Congolese Tutsi rebel group remains active, refusing to lay down arms, saying otherwise its community would be at risk of genocide.
The world's largest peacekeeping force has been unable to end the fighting.
One of the most haunting things about living in Rwanda after the genocide is that killers walk amoung survivors.
A large number of victims had been torn appart from their families and did not know whether family members were alive or dead. Some were the only survivors of their immediate family, and did not know if more distant relatives were still alive.
Children had lost their parents.
Parents separated from their children presumed they were dead, but hoped otherwise.
The genocidaires had intended to kill the whole Tutsi population. They failed.
After the genocide, it is estimated that Rwanda had around 100,000 widows and widowers of the genocide. Five years after the genocide, over one third of all survivor households in the country were still headed by a female, with no male adult in it.
Hundreds of thousands of children were orphaned. Many survivors offered to take orphans into their homes on the grounds that they would want someone to do the same for their children had they been orphaned.
Rwanda's genocide law recognizes rape and sexual torture as acts of genocide and as crimes against humanity, punishable by a maximum term of life imprisonment. Along with crimes committed by the planners and supervisors of the genocide, rape and sexual torture are recognized as category one crimes, or crimes deemed to be the most severe and the highest priority for prosecution. Under an ammended genocide law of 2008, the Gacaca courts began to try the perpetrators of rapes committed during the 1994 genocide. Trials involving sexual violence are required to proceed in closed session to protect survivors identities and the law also states that trauma counsellors must be available for survivors of sexual violence.
Gacaca and Rape Trials
Criticism of Gacaca
One of the ongoing criticisms of Gacaca is the open nature of the trial. Killings of survivors, while not necessarily common, are not unheard of. "Between 1995 and 2008 about 167 genocide survivors were murdered. Witnesses, judges and members of Gacaca courts have also been targeted. Accordingly many survivors express fear of attending Gacaca because of the threats of intimidation and/or death at the hands of those related to the accused genocidaires. Many also point out that the Gacaca does not provide them with a sense of justice; many rapists receive short sentences and are already being released into the community in exchange for their confessions.
Survivors of Sexual Violence
The consequences of conflict continue long after hostilities have ended. In the case of Rwanda, the effects of the sexual violence inflicted on women and girls has been particularly severe. With so many of their loved ones dead, many of these women face the future alone. Their communities, and often the remaining members of their family, have shunned them because of the stigma associated with rape and HIV. Survivors face not only isolation but abject poverty, as well as continuing physical and psychological trauma from the brutality they sufferred and witnessed.
While compensation might help to address survivors needs, it is virtually impossible to obtain this remedy in Rwanda. National courts have awarded monetary claims to victims, but since offenders did not have the means to pay, they have simply avoided it. The Fund For Assistance For Genocide Survivors (FARG), funded by the Rwandan government, has also been unable to meet the needs of survivors. The funds main contributions have been in the areas of education, health and housing; assistance to women and girls who survived sexual violence during the genocide is not a high priority. Furthermore, community service, a form of reparation requiring genocidaires to work on community reconstruction projects, is applicable to category 2 crimes only.
Support for Gacaca
Rwanda's current Minister of Justice feels Gacaca has kept people from committing revenge killings. They have held over 1 million trials to date leaving only 34,000 people in prison and reintegrating the rest into the community to do work. Reintegration is aided by reintegration training and residences where offenders can safely meet victims, survivors, and community members. This process has helped them reconstruct a country.
"Life is back in Rwanda because of Gacaca. There is safety like nowhere in east Africa. When the Gacaca closes at the end of this year all major cases will have been tried!"
-Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama.
Honouring the Dead
The cost of exhumation, identification and reburial was impossible for most poor survivors who were living well below subsistance levels. A decade after the genocide mass graves are still being discovered daily. It is strongly believed that up to one quarter of the victims will never be found, as the dead were rarely collected, and being very often left in unimaginable places.
Category 1 Killers - Planners and oraganizers - Tried mostly in Arusha but some tried in Rwandan courts
Category 2 Killers - Participants and those who encouraged - Tried in Gacaca and sentenced mostly to time served and community service except in severe cases
Category 3 - Property destroyers - released with old and infirm
One must be perfectly clear and honest in their assessment of how far Rwanda has come
There are still a few cases of murder of genocide survivors
However Rwanda is possibly the safest community in the Great Lakes Region of Africa
The countries borders are secure
Rwanda's embassy in DR Congo has been reopened.
All Rwandans enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms not previously held.
Political enemies of Kagame still disappear on occasion.
Rwanda has made education a major focus of its path forward.
Racial tensions still exist, and are still being passed from parent to child all over the country.
Teachers from Rwanda together with educators from all over the world are persuing educational answers and remedies for racial tension aggressively.
Kagame's vision of Rwanda as a trade hub for Eastern Africa is a very real possibility for the future.
Some Final thoughts. . .
Eight Stages of Genocide
Othering is a way of defining and securing one’s own positive identity through the stigmatization of an "other." Whatever the markers of social differentiation that shape the meaning of "us" and "them," whether they are racial, geographic, ethnic, economic or ideological, there is always the danger that they will become the basis for a self-affirmation that depends upon the denigration of the other group.
Is othering simply a given? Is it a built in part of human nature and human behavior? Can society exist without someone(s) being strong and someone(s) being weak? Can there be a world without oppositions? And if so, what steps would we have to take in order to make this so?
Denying people their stories as individuals as people further dehumanizes them by removing their voices from the songs of humanity. Stories and narratives allow you to know other humans in a more real and intimate manner. You’re far less likely to scream your point at someone if you know them.
"We began with massive arrests across the country. Now the question is how do we apply justice with no police, prosecutors or courthouses?" Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama.
"People received a 6 month crash course in law to be judges and prosecutors. Trials began in December of 1996. The first cases were all guilty but I could not imagine if there had been a finding of innocent, not with the tension that existed." - Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama.
Whenever one group of people accumulates more power than
another group, the more powerful group creates an environment
that places its members at the cultural center and other groups at
the margins. People in the more powerful group (the “in-group”)
are accepted as the norm, so if you are in that group it can be very
hard for you to see the benefits you receive.
Everyone else is the other
The effects on young people of an adult culture of power are
similar to the effects on people of color of a white culture of power
or the effects on women of a male culture of power.
I felt I was under scrutiny. I had to change my behavior—how I
dressed (“pull up your pants”, “tuck in your shirt”), how I spoke
(“speak up”, “don’t mumble”), even my posture (“sit up, don’t
slouch”, “look me in the eye when I’m talking to you”)—so that I
would be accepted and heard. I couldn’t be as smart as I was or I’d
be considered a smart aleck. I had to learn the adults’ code, talk
about what they wanted to talk about, and find allies among
them—adults who would speak up for my needs in my absence.
Sometimes I had to cover up my family background and religion in
order to be less at risk from adult disapproval. And if there was any
disagreement or problem between an adult and myself, I had little
credibility. The adult’s word was almost always believed over
Culture of Power
Inqiring Minds Can change the World
My Friend Speciose
Why Teach about the Holocaust?
Because the objective of teaching any subject is to engage the intellectual curiosity of the student in order to inspire critical thought and personal growth.
Before deciding what and how to teach, we recommend that you contemplate why you are teaching this history. Here are three key questions to consider:
•Why should students learn this history?
•What are the most significant lessons students should learn from a study of Genocide?
•Why is a particular reading, image, document, or film an appropriate medium for conveying the topics that you wish to teach?
Why Teach about the Holocaust?
The Holocaust provides one of the most effective subjects for an examination of basic moral issues. A structured inquiry into this history yields critical lessons for an investigation of human behavior. Study of the event also addresses one of the central mandates of education in the Saskatoon Public School Board, which is to examine what it means to be a responsible citizen. Through a study of these topics, students come to realize that:
•Democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained, but need to be appreciated, nurtured, and protected;
•Silence and indifference to the suffering of others, or to the infringement of civil rights in any society can—however unintentionally—perpetuate the problems; and
•The Holocaust was not an accident in history—it occurred because individuals, organizations, and governments made choices that not only legalized discrimination but also allowed prejudice, hatred, and ultimately mass murder to occur.
Guidelines for Teaching About Genocide
Investigate the context and dynamics that have led to genocide
Be wary of simplistic parallels to other genocides
Analyze Canadian and world response
Illustrate positive actions taken by individuals and nations in the face of genocide
Where do I start?
The Armenian Genocide Resource Library For Teachers
-One of the most complete Genocide Resources online.
University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
-Also a good resource for teachers
Christiane Amanpour's "Scream Bloody Murder"
Questions for Reflection:
As a teacher of Social Sciences what is my belief system about global issues:
1.As an individual, can I influence change in the world through my day-to-day actions? If yes in what ways?
2.Is it an aspect of my role as a teacher of Social Sciences to empower students and guide them into positive actions towards humanitarian work and social justice?
3.As a Social Science teacher do I provide connections to current global issues such as citizenship, democracy and social justice?
Pockets Of Hope
Need a contemporary Example?
Journey to Rwanda