Monday, November 29, 2010

Racial Identification Cards

"The Belgian administration implements a Ten-Year Development Plan to achieve social stability through native participation in government. Under Belgian rule, the class distinctions in Rwandan society have been conflated with the ethnic division, granting the Tutsi minority privileged political, economic and social status. The mechanics of the new plan codify ethnic profiling into a system of identity cards. The Kinyarwanda language has no word for "ethnicity";ubwoko, or "clan", is used instead."

Hutu Propaganda

tutsi cockroaches

(Translation: “What’s happening?” “They killed Habyarimana (Hutu President of Rwanda)” “We ask all our Hutu brothers not to let this crime remain unpunished. Get up. Get to work. Take your tools and eradicate this race of cockroaches. Find them in all the holes…”)

Belgians measuring Noses to Classify Rwandans

Group of Hutu Extremists

A Belgian colony: AD 1914-1962

"When Germany invades Belgium, at the start of World War I, the Belgians retaliate in a smaller way in central Africa. Belgian troops move east from the Belgian Congo to occupy (in 1916) Ruanda-Urundi. After the war the League of Nations confirms the existing state of affairs, granting Belgium in 1924 a mandate to administer the colony.

From 1925 Ruanda-Urundi is linked with the neighbouring Belgian Congo, but colonial rule takes a very different form in the two territories. The administration of the Congo is centred in Brussels, but in Ruanda-Urundi it is left in the hands of the Tutsi aristocracy. Indeed the Belgians, observing the distinction between Tutsi and Hutu, make it the very basis of their colonial system. 

The Hutu are subject to the forced labour which disfigures many European colonies in Africa, but here it is the Tutsi who supervise them at their tasks. From 1933 everyone in Ruanda-Urundi is issued with a racial identity card, defining them as Hutu (85%) or Tutsi (14%). The remaining 1% are the Twa, the remnants of the original Pygmies indigenous in this area.

This Belgian attitude, setting in stone the distinction between the two groups and favouring one of them, prepares the ground for future violence (in earlier times racially based massacres have never occurred between Hutu and Tutsi). The predictable occasion for its outbreak is the rush towards independence in the late 1950s. 

The problem is more immediately evident in Ruanda than in Urundi. In 1957 Hutu leaders in Ruanda publish a Hutu Manifesto, preparing their supporters for a future political conflict to be conducted entirely on ethnic lines. In 1959 the first outbreak of violence is sparked off when a group of Tutsi political activists in Gitirama beat up a Hutu rival, Dominique Mbonyumutwa (he survives the attack but the rumour of his death spreads rapidly in Hutu circles and is still believed today).

The resulting nationwide campaign of Hutu violence against Tutsis becomes known as 'the wind of destruction'. Over the coming months many Tutsis flee from Ruanda, including the 25-year-old hereditary ruler, the Mwami. 

In elections in 1960 Hutu politicians score an overwhelming victory. Grégoire Kayibanda, one of the authors of theHutu Manifesto, leads a provisional government for the interim period to independence.

In Urundi the Tutsi monarchy proves at first more resilient, both in holding on to the reins of power and in attempting a resolution of the Tutsi-Hutu conflict. When elections are held in 1961, they bring a landslide victory for a joint Hutu and Tutsi party. It is led by the popular Prince Rwagasore, the eldest son of the Mwami. He is assassinated a few months later, before independence has been formally achieved. But this disaster does not yet tip Urundi into ethnic violence."