Learning From The Remote And Immediate Causes Of Rwanda’s Genocidal War

Relics Of Rwanda War
Relics Of Rwanda War

If there is any quotable quote that fittingly expressed the danger that is inherent in not learning from history, it is unarguably the one authored by George Santayana that says, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat itself”.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is quite unfortunate that Nigerians are not learning from history, and the pitiable situation has since in the recent weeks been buttressed as not few Nigerians are by each passing day beating the drum of war. The reason why Nigerians, particularly secondary school students, are not learning from history is that, in 2007 history as a subject was removed from the teaching curriculum by the Federal Government. Prior to its removal, history was not a core subject but instead it was buried amongst social studies lessons. Regrettably, between 2007 and 2021 (14 years) history had been largely absent from schools; well over a decade.

Seen from the foregoing perspective, it is not surprising that many people do not know about the events that played out in Rwanda before the gory genocidal war that was fought between April and June 1994, and which left an estimated 800,000 people killed in the space of 100 days.

At this juncture, the question “Why is history important and how can it benefit some Nigerians that are war mongers?” The question cannot be farfetched as history is a subject that many find boring to study or see as a waste of time. But there is more to studying history than meets the eye.

To this writer, history is the foundation of understanding life in order to move forward; it precedes development and self-understanding. Against the foregoing backdrop, the reason why the subject was expunged from the teaching curriculum is difficult to grasp.

Despite the fact that Rwanda history is not included in our own Syllabus which is majorly West African history, there is a strong conjecture that most Nigerians are not motivated to read about the history of other lands for them to be cautious in their resort to beating war drums at every slightest provocation.

For instance not many people know that the way and manner the issue of Fulani Herdsmen and people in the Southern part of the country is been reacted to in the last few weeks is not different from the way the deep-seated hatred or rather differences formed part of the remote causes that led to the genocidal war in Rwanda. Simply put, Nigerians; both the leaders and followers are responding the issue the same way Rwandan leaders and followers then responded to that of the Hutus and Tutsis.

For instance, warmongers, prior to the genocide used philosophy to bring Hutu to fear and hate Tutsi. They went ahead with campaign of calumny, and then used the institutions of the state to transform the fear and hate into the myriad acts of hunting, raping and killing that made up the genocide. To make the ideology deadly, the leaders resorted to giving orders, and ensure that such orders were executed as they were in control of the military, the administration, and the political parties. They used the radio, too, to disseminate propaganda, but without the other channels of command, the radio itself would not have sufficed. If I may ask today, are our own political leaders that are in power calling their kinsmen to order?

Among the false ideas drawn on by political leaders and propagandists backing Juvénal Habyarimana, who was the second President of Rwanda, from 1973 until 1994, and whose death was attributed to be the immediate cause of the genocidal war, there were campaigns of calumny targeted against the Tutsi that they were foreigners to Rwanda and had no right to live there.

Despite the 1959 revolution, Tutsi continued to enjoy higher status and greater wealth than Hutu and were in some way responsible for continuing Hutu poverty.

Tutsi posed a danger to Hutu, who were always the victims, whether of Tutsi military power or of Tutsi cunning (use of their women to seduce Hutu, use of their money to buy Hutu), and so Hutu had a right and a duty to defend themselves.

From 1990 through the 1994 genocide, propagandists used the media to disseminate these ideas that were hostile to the Tutsi. It was particularly the last idea, that Hutu were threatened and had to defend themselves. But this proved most successful in mobilizing attacks on Tutsi from 1990 through the 1994 genocide.

This idea may have been influenced by a study of propaganda methods. Among documents found by Human Rights Watch researchers in a government office soon after the genocide was a set of mimeographed notes summarizing methods of propaganda as analysed by a French professor, Roger Mucchielli, in a book entitled Psychologie de la publicité et de la propagande. One of the methods described is persuading people that the opponent intends to use terror against them; if this is done successfully, “honest people” will take whatever measures they think necessary for legitimate self-defense.

In December 1990, when the first RPF attack had been defeated and its troops driven from Rwanda, a newly-established propaganda newspaper, Kangura, published an article warning that the RPF had prepared a war that “would leave no survivors.” At the end of December 1990, the vice-rector and a professor at the national university proposed that all adult men be prepared to fight as a self-defense force to “assure security” within the country if the army were occupied in combat at the frontiers. The force, they said, should be trained by soldiers to fight with “traditional weapons” because they were cheaper than firearms. Two months later, in February 1991, a national official and leader from the northwest published a pamphlet claiming that the RPF planned “a genocide, the extermination of the Hutu majority.”

In as much as this writer would want every right thinking Nigeria to always speak peace to the present situation, it should not be forgotten that Bertrand Russell said, “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”

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Articles by Isaac Asabor