Rwanda: Mamdami's Argument and Suggestion for Reform

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“Hegel once said that how humans are distinguished from animals is the fact that they are willing to give life for a reason higher than life. He should have added that humans, unlike animals, are also willing to take life for a reason they consider higher than life” (Mamdani, 2001, 196).

Why was America under terrorist attack on 9/11? Why was Hitler obeyed? Why did hundreds of thousands of ordinary Hutu kill hundreds of thousands of ordinary Tutsi in an attempted genocide that lasted 100 days? To answer these questions it is important to distinguish between who are the subordinate and superordinate groups involved. In order for an oppressed group to have complete political freedom, the oppressor must be exterminated. Mamdami attempts to explain why the genocide of 1994 occurred by comparing people who identified as either Hutu or Tutsi and how historical, geographical, and political components made these identities.

A colonial term for genocide is “ethnic cleansing”, making the world new again so change can occur (Mamdani 12).


To understand the Rwandan genocide, it is crucial to look at the historical events that lead up to 1994.

The Hutu and Twa were the original inhabitants till the 1300’s when Tutsis’ migrated into Rwanda. By the 1600’s the king of Rwanda was Tutsi. In

1916, Belgian forces occupied Rwanda and Tutsi kings become indirect rulers. By 1957, Hutus’ develop political parties and in 1959 the Hutu’s force the Tutsi king and thousands of other Tutsis out of the country. A Hutu president comes to power in 1962 and in 1963, about 20,000 Tutsis are killed. Tutsi forces invade Rwanda from Uganda in 1990. Hutu Rwandan president attempts a peace treaty signing monitored by the UN in 1993 to share the power. In 1994 the Hutu president is killed by an unknown group and the genocide begins against the Tutsi lasting 100 days. Eight-hundred thousand Tutsis are murdered. (

Of course, this is only a brief historical breakdown written from a eurocentric standpoint, but it does help explain the political identities of the opposing groups within Rwanda. The main motivators that drove Hutu groups to kill their Tutsi neighbors were,

a.) The Hutu who killed were entitled to that Tutsi person’s property and material goods.

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