Mahmood Mamdani - "When Victims Become Killers" - A discussion on identity in Rwanda

Essay by LaurenKUniversity, Bachelor's May 2006

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The Rwandan genocide should serve as a prime example of the power of propaganda and the result of pitting one group against another. When each of these groups was clearly categorized, it was as though the colonizers re-wrote history and force-fed it to them in order to have a strong hold on the entire population. It was this class segregation that directly led to the nationalist movement between the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda between 1959 and the genocide of 1994.

Mahmood Mamdani uses the term 'ethnic identity' to explain how there exists two groups with the same religion, similar culture and identical language. The Hutu and the Tutsi were peacefully living together before the invasion of the colonizers. The Tutsi were said to be herders, while the Hutu were agriculturists. With the arrival of the Germans and then followed by the direct colonial rule of the Belgians, the Hutu and Tutsi became two distinct groups in the eyes of the political world.

The Belgians told tales of the Hamitic myth, creating a unifying common historical trait among all Tutsi, thus placing the minority at the top of the political triangle. The colonizers eradicated the idea of having a single ruling king, and instead placed several Tutsi chiefs in positions of power, allowing them to rule the majority of Hutu. The racialization of the Tutsi created a certain common link between them, allowing them to come together and join forces. This aspect becomes of particular importance when the diaspora of Tutsi begin to regroup outside of Rwanda, namely in Uganda.

When the Tutsi held the power, pre-1959, the Hutu were slowly growing discontent at their present situation in their own country. The Belgians did not like the way in which the Tutsi were running and country, and helped the...