The international situation in July was unexpectedly frequent. In the midst of many bloodshed and conflicts, on July 6, local time, two African countries, Rwanda and Congo (DRC), finally chose to sit down and talk with the mediation of the third country, Angola, to ease the problems in the DRC. Tensions caused by the military activities launched by the anti-government “M23 movement”.
Although “sit down and talk” does not mean that we can really shake hands and make peace, two countries that have been bloodied because of racial conflicts are willing to make this attempt, even if it is small, it can be regarded as giving the turbulent international community a little “seek” common development” confidence.
Most people’s impression of “Rwanda” still comes from the 2004 movie “Rwanda Hotel”, which was adapted from real events. Rwanda in the film, mired in the killings of racism, is almost forgotten by the world.
How did this tragedy happen? What does Rwanda look like today?
On April 6, 1994, the Hutu-born Rwandan President Habyarimana and the Burundian President participated in a regional meeting on resolving tribal conflicts when they were on their way back to the country when they encountered a plane crash – the plane was destroyed by an unknown missile, and the President and all on board were killed.
The deceased president became the fuse and completely ignited the ethnic conflicts in Rwanda. In the 100 days that followed, horrific killings took place in Rwanda.
People who lived on the same land and got along day and night, why did they pick up butcher knives to kill each other?
In fact, without any external intrusion, according to Rwanda’s unique national traditions, indiscriminate ethnic cleansing and mass killings might not have occurred.
Historically, Rwanda’s population has been dominated by three ethnic groups: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Among the three, Hutu and Tutsi account for 99% of the country’s population, of which Hutu is the largest, accounting for about 84%.
However, these two ethnic groups in the Rwandan tradition are not clearly differentiated ethnic groups, but they do not distinguish between you and me, and are completely indistinguishable from the external appearance and details of life. This aspect stems from the frequent intermarriage and intimate common life between the two ethnic groups in history, as well as the original way of distinguishing between the two ethnic groups: not based on blood, but based on occupation.
In Rwandan culture, “Tusi” means “herder” and “Hutu” means “countryman”.
“Rwanda Hotel” stills
Former Rwandan President Habyarimana killed in plane crash
In Rwandan culture, “Tusi” means “herder” and “Hutu” means “countryman”. From this meaning, it can be seen that the so-called two ethnic groups in the Rwandan tradition are more like two classes: if they have enough wealth and livestock, they can be called “herders” and become Tutsi; if they lose wealth , will become a “countryman” and change back to the Hutu people.
Ethnic identities are fluid, which makes harmony possible: a Hutu who wants to go to the top and become a Tutsi has to work hard to accumulate wealth. The worst thing is to launch an uprising, the bottom Hutu can overthrow the upper Tutsi rule and become the new “Tutsi”. This kind of class confrontation, which occurs frequently in all countries of the world, is only the exchange and competition of resources within the country. “Emperors take turns to do it”, and it is far from the point of indiscriminate killing.
If Rwanda continues to develop along its own national traditions, it may find its own destiny and direction even if it is noisy internally.
However, the colonists knocked on the door to create opposition.
Colonists’ “ID Cards”
Since the Berlin Conference in 1884, Rwanda has ceased to be itself, but moved among countries such as Germany and Belgium, and began to accept their colonization.
People flee from fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels in Kibuba, Congo, on May 24, 2022
In addition to suffering from the usual colonial methods, these European powers also brought racial discrimination to Rwanda – after all, there is no better way to divide the face of the indigenous peoples with strong social ties than to artificially create barriers.
Colonists brought color discrimination to Rwanda during the German era. Although they are all blacks, the Tutsi, who own more means of production and do less manual labor, look more “white” and are recognized by Germany as “natural rulers and superior people”; while the Hutu people have more daily manual labor. Many, looking more “black”, are considered “natural servants”.
Contradictions and estrangements have gradually emerged among the ethnic groups that have flowed freely in the past. After World War I, Germany was defeated and Rwanda was taken over by Belgium. The way of national differentiation in Belgium is even better: strictly based on appearance, skin color and personal assets, the Hutu and Tutsi are completely separated, and the national identity is completely fixed.
The Belgians measure the height of all Rwandans, measure the size of the forehead, the distance between the eyebrows and the eyes, and distinguish which ones are “closer to white people”; then check the family assets, and those with more than ten cattle are the more noble Tutsi. After a long period of intermarriage and life, the two ethnic groups have no obvious distinction in fact. Belgium’s forced distinction has resulted in many absurd situations: brothers in the same family, the elder brother has ten cows, and the younger brother has nine cows. So the elder brother became a noble Tutsi, and the younger brother became a lowly Hutu; because of the hairline, the density of the eyebrows, the natural skin color and other reasons, the Tutsi who were living a good life can become Hutu at once. .
In order to completely separate the two ethnic groups, the Belgians used an identity card system. The national affiliation obtained after absurd distinction will be clearly marked on the ID card and cannot be changed forever. No matter how hard individuals try, the class cannot flow, and the Hutu people can only be slaves from generation to generation.
Such is the contradiction. When the colonizers are over, they have ulterior motives to bring the Hutu people to a dominant position, and revenge and reckoning are imminent.
Belgians measure the height of all Rwandans, measure the size of the forehead, the distance between the eyebrows and the eyes, and distinguish which ones are “more white”.
The president’s air crash became an excuse for incitement, and countless Hutu people took up butcher knives and killed any Tutsi they saw, burning down their houses and looting property. Even public shelters such as churches, hospitals, and schools cannot escape the fate of being bloodbathed. The extreme Hutu people even specially selected people suffering from infectious diseases to rape nearly 200,000 Tutsi women, and cut open the stomachs of Tutsi pregnant women, in order to “clean up” and remove the roots.
And the European powers who made all this lost their voices. Belgium withdrew its peacekeeping force in Rwanda, the United States refused to send troops, and France did not arrive until the end of the killing, saving only a few hundred people. The indiscriminate ethnic cleansing that can be quelled by a single elite peacekeeping force soldier “was recklessly wielding butcher knives under the indifference of the international community, and seized one fresh life after another, which should have lived on an equal footing in the sunshine.
“Light of Africa”
The killings subsided until the Patriotic Front, organized by Tutsi Paul Kagame, invaded Rwanda and formed a new government.
At that time, the national economic level of Rwanda was seriously regressed, the inflation rate soared to 10 times, the infrastructure was completely paralyzed, the number of young and middle-aged laborers dropped sharply, and countless children were orphaned… The contradiction between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups was still raging. It is possible to take up arms again at any time.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame of Hutu origin
Kagame supported a moderate Hutu to serve as president, and he represented the Tutsi as vice president and defense minister to balance the ruling power of the two ethnic groups. Judge the culprits in the killing. Because almost all of the Hutu civilians who actually participated in the killing were instigated, in the end, only about 300 murder planners were arrested, and other civilians were forgiven by the local people—this kind of self-judgment by the people also eased the killing belt in time Pain and conflict.
On July 20, 1994, the Kagame government officially announced the abolition of the ethnic identity card brought by Belgium. Since then, the Tutsi and Hutu people have become history, and “Rwandans” are the common name of everyone. In 2003, Kagame’s government also criminalized “attempting to distinguish race” into the constitution.
After alleviating ethnic conflicts, Rwanda vigorously developed its industry and gradually “counterattacked” by relying on tourism revenue, refreshing its national image. In 2017, Rwanda won the title of “One of the Top 10 Safest Countries in the World” and Africa’s first “UN Habitat Award”. Rwanda is also featured in CNN’s list of the best travel destinations for its professionalism and discernment.
Despite the heaviness of the past, Rwanda, known as the “land of a thousand mountains”, is actually extremely beautiful. Volcanoes, tropical rainforests, hills and grasslands are overcrowded, and a rich variety of wildlife can be found in Rwanda. Tracking the precious mountain gorillas is the trump card of tourism in Rwanda. In a national park in one of only two countries in the world where mountain gorillas can be safely observed up close (Rwanda), visitors can be guided through forests, visit family of mountain gorillas, and see them up close life.
The Kagame government is well aware of Rwanda’s advantages in developing tourism. In addition to protecting the natural ecology and organisms, the government also directly benchmarks Singapore in terms of national health standards, paying attention to clean roads and orderly traffic. Rwanda is also the first country in Africa to implement the “plastic ban”. Tourists from all over the world who come here often forget that they are in an African country that has experienced massacres in a clean and environmentally friendly atmosphere.
Today, Rwanda is vigorously learning the advanced technologies and governance methods of other countries, and is gradually getting rid of the darkness of the past and becoming the “light of Africa”. Whether it is at the negotiating table with relevant interests or on the complicated international stage, Rwanda has gradually gained the right to speak and has a new expression in the country’s appearance.
Those bloody pasts seem to be a reflection of history. But it will float in the memory in many moments of tension, reminding people to keep in mind the tragic lesson of the worsening racial conflicts, shake hands and walk towards the future together.