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(en) ucl-saguenay, Collectif Emma Goldman: Rwanda and Burundi, 1894-1990: the colonialist origins of genocide (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 3 Aug 2019 11:04:18 +0300

Translation by us of an article by Tony Sullivan published on Libcom.org: A history of Rwanda and Burundi, two African countries ruled by the Western imperialist powers until independence in 1961. Burundi has for its part become an independent state in 1962. ---- The genocide in Rwanda in 1994, in which militias of the Hutu majority murdered 500,000 to 1 million people of the Tutsi minority, is well known. The complicity and even help given to the Hutu government by the United Nations and the French government are, however, less well known. ---- Knowledge of the antecedents of Western imperialist intervention that led to the events that culminated in genocide is essential to understanding how they occurred. ---- Hutus and Tutsis: a tribal war? ---- The 1994 genocide targeted mainly the Tutsi population, a minority in Rwanda. Its perpetrators came from the Hutu majority. In the Western media, the massacres were presented as hostilities between tribes.

But Tutsis and Hutus are not "tribes". They belong to the same Banyarwanda people. They share the same languages, religions and clan and kinship systems.

Prior to white colonial rule, Tutsis were simply a privileged social stratum, accounting for about 15 percent of the population who controlled livestock and weapons. Hutus were farmers. Most of the land was under the control of a Tutsi king, although some Hutu areas were independent.

The Legacy of European Domination

The Germans arrived in what would become Rwanda in 1894 and, like other Western imperialists, began by intensifying local divisions to reinforce their own stranglehold. They led through the Tutsi king and made the previously independent Hutu areas under the control of the central administration.

The northern and western borders of Rwanda were essentially decided between the colonial powers in 1910. The borders with Tanzania and Burundi began as internal administrative divisions in East German Africa. Colony whose territory included the three current countries].

Before their departure in 1916, the Germans had crushed a rebellion and established coffee as the great commercial crop of the colony.

After the First World War, Rwanda fell under Belgian control. The Belgians continued to rule through the Tutsi king, although in the 1920s they overthrew a king who had obstructed their plans and chose their own candidate to replace him, ignoring the lineage of succession.

The Belgian colonial regime was explicitly racist. Early in its mandate, the Belgian government declared: "The government should seek to maintain and consolidate the traditional frameworks of the Tutsi ruling class because of its important qualities, its undeniable intellectual superiority and its potential for domination." Belgians only educated Tutsi men. ( Frank Smyth, The Australian 10.6.94 )

In the 1930s, Belgium introduced a system of identity cards similar to that of the Apartheid system. in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia)], which identified its bearers and bearers as Tutsi, Hutu or Twa (Pygmy). Their efforts to establish a racial basis for dividing Tutsis and Hutus through physical characteristics such as skin color, nose and head size have led to nothing; instead, they established the division of economic reality and defined Tutsis as owners of more than 10 cattle. Nevertheless, the division was now rigorously applied: it was no longer possible for Hutus and Tutsis to change their status.

After the Second World War, the Belgians continued to lead the economy to their advantage. The goods were exported via the Belgian colonies on the Atlantic coast, although the route to the ports of the Indian Ocean was far shorter and made much more sense in terms of future economic development. But neither Belgium nor the other Western powers have planned to develop Rwanda.

Repression and revolt

The Hutu resistance was brutally crushed. Amputations and other mutilations were common punishments ordered by the Belgian authorities and administered by Tutsis. Until the 1940s, thousands of Hutu fled to Uganda. But in the 1950s, a powerful Hutu opposition movement developed from an agrarian crisis, caused mainly by the scale of coffee monocultures as a cash crop and by the King's cancellation of the custom of the exchange of labor for land - a custom that gave Hutus a small chance to acquire land.

The Belgian authorities were at the time concerned by the rise of radical nationalist sentiments among the middle class urban Tutsi.

A rebellion of Hutu agricultural workers broke out in the late 1950s. The colonialists decided to reach an agreement with the latter by granting independence in 1961 and allowing free elections.

At the same time, with astonishing hypocrisy, the colonialists encouraged the development of an atmosphere of anti-Tutsi violence to deflect Hutu rage towards them.

The elections were won by the Hutu Emancipation Movement Party, also known as Parmehutu. He immediately began to persecute the Tutsi.

Burundi separated from Rwanda in 1962 and remained under the control of Tutsis. The following year, Tutsi refugees in Burundi invaded Rwanda and attempted to take over its capital, Kigali.

In response, the Parmehutu government crushed their movement and unleashed a wave of deadly reprisals against Tutsi civilians in Rwanda, described by philosopher Bertrand Russell as "the most horrific and systematic massacre we have seen since extermination of Jews and Jews by the Nazis. ( Smyth, The Australian 10.6.94)

In 1973, General Juvenal Habyarimana took power and became president. He established a highly centralized authoritarian regime. He formed the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND), which became the only legal political party in Rwanda. He created groups of campaign co-operatives led by MRND loyalists. He co-opted the Catholic Church and ironically controlled the small labor movement in the country.

At the same time, racist policies of the past were intensified: Tutsis were banned from the armed forces and marriage between Tutsis and Hutus was prohibited.

Despite these policies, a growing number of Hutus opposed the regime.

Free market paralyzes Rwanda

The proportion of Rwandan workers involved in agriculture was the highest in the world. In 1994, agriculture employed 93% of the workforce (compared to 94% in 1965). Industry contributed only 20% of the gross domestic product and this was largely limited to the processing of agricultural products.

The dependence on inefficient agriculture left Rwanda praying in drought in 1989. Environmental damage was also one of the causes. Formerly well wooded, Rwanda has only 3% of its territory covered with forest. Erosion is endemic and destroys both natural vegetation and food and cash crops, despite tree planting programs. Under these conditions, disease and famine spread.

Thanks to its colonial heritage, 60 to 85% of Rwanda's external income depended on coffee exports.

The consequence of this was an external debt of $ 90 per person, in a country where the total wealth per person was only $ 320. The average calorie consumption of the population was only 81% of the required intake. Less than 10% of children reached high school and one in five babies was dying before the age of one.

In 1990, in a gesture of desperation, the Habyarimana government adopted the Structural Adjustment Program of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for credit and foreign aid. Massive cuts in the already meager public investments followed.

The regime has prepared for resistance by intensifying the repression of political opponents, whether they be Hutus or Tutsis. But he has also started a new campaign to overthrow Tutsis accusing them of being responsible for the economic crisis. Government radio was relentlessly propagating hate propaganda and, in the context, the regime began to organize death squad militias.

It is in this context of economic crisis that the genocide of Tutsis took place.

Tony Sullivan
Anarchist Collective Blog Emma Goldman

Other sources not cited throughout the text:
Economist Intelligence Unit, Zaire / Rwanda / Burundi, 1991-2; Europa Year Book 1993; Socialist Worker 10 June 1994; Rwanda, Randall Fegley; Socialist Review 178, September 1994

Collectif Emma Goldman

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