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Stone Parker

UWRT 1104

Macy Dunklin

November 19, 2018

Strength After Death: Surviving Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan Genocide, which is also be known as the genocide against the Tutsi people,

was an extremely tragic period in African history that should never be forgotten. The genocide

was a mass slaughter of the Tutsi people that took place in Rwanda. It occurred during the

Rwandan Civil War, which began in 1990. The genocide itself didn’t begin until the 7th of April

1994 and it lasted for up to one hundred days. During this 100-day period, there was an

estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 deaths that took place in Rwanda.

There has been bad blood between the Tutsis and the Hutu tribes over many decades. The

conflict between the two tribes seems to stem from an evolving class warfare that caused two

tribes who are generally and historically similar in almost every way to have elevated one, the

Tutsis to a place of greater social status and ultimately wealth. Some scholars think that it was

the European colonizers of the Rwandan territory who instigated the notion that Tutsis were

always to be considered superior to the Hutu people. This tension created a groundswell of

conflict over time that ultimately led to this genocide. The notion that Tutsis were viewed as

better than Hutus was, some say, supported by the fact that they were physically taller and

slimmer, and therefore in better shape than Hutu people. Some say that the Tutsi’s origin is

Ethiopia. stated, “During the genocide, the bodies of Tutsis were thrown into rivers,

with their killers saying they were being sent back to Ethiopia,” (History Of Violence) which

could be considered dark humor. It just doesn’t seem possible that someone can hate a certain

kind of people so much to where they believe the solution to a problem is to cause a killing spree
Stone Parker

UWRT 1104

Macy Dunklin

November 19, 2018

inspiring the extermination of an entire ethnic group of people. Over 70 percent of the Tutsi

population was slaughtered at the hands of the Hutu military. It was believed by some that the

precipitating factor the Hutu people had for wanting to kill all of the Tutsi people was because,

the president of Rwanda’s plane was shot down by those the Hutu thought to be a Tutsi group.

The Hutu military’s main goal after this was to wipe the Tutsis population off of the face of the

earth. And if the cease-fire didn’t happen when it did they might’ve succeeded. On the

international stage there was very little initial reaction to the Rwandan Genocide, governments

all over the world were aware of what was going on but they chose not to take any action. The

difference between life and death for the Rwandans were their Identity Cards. If it said “Hutu,”

you were safe, but Tutsis were killed or captured for torture. Women were kept as sex slaves

prior to being killed weeks later. Some Hutu with Tutsi friends would let them hide in their

houses. But it was risky due to the fact that if they were found then the risk was that all of them

would be killed. Many Hutu militias did not want to participate in the killings, but military

personnel forced them to. As a result of the genocide the resulting population was mostly

children. Many children around the age of nine-years-old had to run their households.

After you take a look at some of the history between the Hutu and Tutsi people that

resided in Rwanda, one can see why the Hutu might’ve developed a hate for Tutsis, but it doesn’t

justify the genocide. My thoughts on the Rwandan genocide go on for miles and miles, but just

sitting and asking myself “why?” will not solve anything. I must say that it breaks my heart that

people of African descent were motivated to turn in on themselves in such a savage manner.

There is no justifiable reason for the Hutu people to have done these things. I hate to put all of
Stone Parker

UWRT 1104

Macy Dunklin

November 19, 2018

the Hutu people in one big category, because it wasn’t all of them that were going around killing

Tutsis, but Hutus turned in national hate on their “brothers”, in a classic Cain and Abel

relationship. I don’t get it and I don’t want to get stuck asking myself unanswerable questions. It

is best then to focus on the post-genocide and the rebuilding of Rwanda. The main focus of my

essay is “What are some of the negative and positive effects of the Rwandan genocide, when it

comes to the healing and rebuilding process?” My best angle is to attack it from the after the fact

period. It happened, so, what’s next? Exploration for ideas of how Rwanda could at least try to

protect itself from another genocide occurring is one of the reasons for this essay.

The women who survived the Rwandan genocide, overcame the odds and some of them

even stepped into leadership roles and ran for government positions. These women gave their

nation a new status. The rebuilding of Rwanda needed a spark and that spark came from women

stepping into political roles and social and civic power. You have to believe that these women

taking charge really encouraged younger kids and girls in particular. Women in the government

highlighted the education system, because they felt as if they weren’t taken seriously enough

before the genocide period. “Women were more often targeted for sexual assault than male

survivors, yet because women were kept alive to be sexual slaves for the militia, more of them

survived the genocide than the men. The population in 1995, immediately after the genocide,

was estimated to be 60 to 70 percent female with 90,000 men in prison (Paxton & Hughes

2007).” The women during the genocide period dealt with much physical and sexual violence.

Given the many dreadful and unbearable experiences of the women who survived this awful

atrocity, it is even more miraculous that so many women would go on to overcome it and then
Stone Parker

UWRT 1104

Macy Dunklin

November 19, 2018

transition into roles of significant community leadership and have a new say in their local laws.

“In Rwanda, there is a history of women participating in decision making at all levels and

women members of Parliament are by no means token leaders, having come through the

leadership ranks at village, cell, regional and national levels (Randell & Herndon).” Today it is

estimated that Rwanda leads the world with its share of women in national legislature. Could this

be a positive result of the genocide? I think so…

As I have said, the population of Rwanda was mainly made up of children after the

genocide. This left a lot of the kids lost and seeking other children for help. Their childhood was

not something to remember. This lingering pain and agony left a lot of the children and young

adults with mental issues and disabilities. Most of the people suffering from these mental

problems were all resulting from the same traumatic event. Being so young, the genocide

affected many of the children and it will scar them for the rest of their lives. This type of PTSD,

or posttraumatic stress disorder is not one that will just go away. “In May 1997, a young

Rwandan girl came to a clinic in Kigali reporting nausea and the feeling of insects crawling on

her face. She complained of the strong smell of feces and grew increasingly agitated and fearful,

describing vivid images of people trying to kill her at that moment. For months she had vomited

at the sight of avocados, and for three years she had been unable to tolerate the sight of rice

(Hagengimana & Wulsin).” It will always be in their minds. The PTSD that many of the people

and children dealt with and are still dealing with is one of the negative effects that the genocide

had on the Rwandan population. Part of the rebuilding process for Rwanda was to get their
Stone Parker

UWRT 1104

Macy Dunklin

November 19, 2018

children emotional help. Unfortunately, so many kids were dealing with it that there wasn’t

enough medical staff to go around to help them all.

In conclusion, the study of post-genocide is important if you plan to successfully rebuild

and maintain national stability. Even though it is hard to look back on such tragic times, it is

necessary for you to move forward and not repeat the past. The Rwandan genocide had many

negative effects on the population, but it also had some positive effects. The positives don’t

exactly out-weigh the negatives, but it is a starting point. The women in leadership positions and

children who developed PTSD are both effects of the genocide. The evaluation of these two key

points while sobering, help us to see how they both differ and also result from the same

significantly tragic historic event.

Stone Parker

UWRT 1104

Macy Dunklin

November 19, 2018

Works Cited “Rwanda: How the Genocide Happened.” BBC News, BBC, 17 May 2011,

Gerise Herndon, & Shirley Randell. (n.d.). Surviving Genocide, Thriving in Politics: Rwandan

Women’s Power. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary


Yanagizawa-Drott, D. Propaganda and Conflict: Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide, August

21, 2014. “The Rwandan Genocide.”, A&E Television Networks, 13 Nov. 2009,

Athanase Hagengimana, MD, & Lawson R. Wulsin, MD. “PTSD in Survivors of Rwanda's 1994

War” Modern Medicine Network, Psychiatric Times, April 1, 1998