congo genocide

7th of April 1994: The Rwandan genocide begins. 

In the early hours of the Morning of April the 7th, the Rwandan army, Police and Hutu militia forces began their genocidal purge of the Tutsi minority residing in Rwanda. The Genocide was to last until the 15th of July but during that time it is estimated between 500,000 and 1 million tutsi and moderate hutu had been systematically murdered

To give some context to why this atrocity happened. Rwanda has two types of people. Hutu and tutsi. The Tutsi Minority had ruled the country as a monarchy until 1884 when the German empire colonised it. The German settlers made a great distinction between the two classes, favouring the tutsi because of their lighter skin, natural tallness and their willingness to accept christianity. The Hutu where treated as a lower people, after ww1 Germany lost control of the colony and it was granted to Belgium, who continued the pro tutsi policy. The Belgians introduced identity cards to label the citizens of rwanda tutsi or hutu. Or a very small minority who made up 1% of the country called Twa. 

After ww2 Rwanda saw its transition from a belgian colony with a tutsi monarchy to a hutu controlled republic. Extremist Hutu began killing tutsi and the Twa where marginalised. Many fled to neighbouring countries. Tutsi’s from fought back from other countries, which in turn made the hutu government opress the tutsi’s still living in Rwanda. Juvénal Habyarimana took power in Rwanda in a coup in 1971, through use of propaganda the government made the hutu remember the past years of tutsi opression. The Hutu hated the tutsi. 

The Rwandan patriotic front (RPF) was a rebel group made up of tutsi refugees who invaded Rwanda in 1990 iniating a civil war. On the 6th of April 1994 president Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. The government blamed the RPF however evidence suggests extreme hutu’s shot the plane down to spark a genocide. 

The Killing began next morning. The police and the army killed and raped and burned tutsi settlements. Any moderate hutu’s were killed. The government encouraged the hutu majority to arm themselves with clubs, pitch forks, machetes and bats. Neighbours killed neighbours. The UN dispatched a peacekeeping force and France set up refugee camps and safe zones for displaced tutsi’s. However the French army had orignially backed the hutu government and helped train hutu militia. 

Despite the ongoing genocide the RPF won the war and set up a tutsi majority government lead by paul kagame. This caused 2 million hutus to flee into the democratic republic of Congo, which in turn started the congo wars. Reffered to as the “African world war”. 

Picture take in Congo Free State: I have seen this picture being reblogged by so many people on the site without people knowing his name or what happened to him and his family. His name was Nsala from Wala in the Nsongo District. Congo Free State, what we now cal Democratic Republic of Congo was owned by King Leopold of Belgium, it was given to him at the Berlin Conference. The whole country was essentially turned into a slave plantation and one of the things people had to do was mine for rubber. If a person didn’t meet the rubber quota, them and their family would be severely punished and one of the punishments was mutilation… A Catholic priest quote a man called Tswambe, speaking of the hated state official Léon Fiévez “Rubber causes these torments; that’s why we no longer want to hear its name spoken. Soldiers made young men kill or rape their own mothers and sisters…The European officer in command ‘ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades … and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross.” Nsala didn’t meet the rubber quota so as, punishment his wife, daughter and son were killed, cut up into pieces and boiled and only the remaining foot and hand of his five year old daughter was returned to him (according to accounts)

From 1885 to 1908 Belgians estimated that half of Congo’s population had halved and over 10 million people died (statistics vary from 12-22 million) the Belgians were not the only ones who contributed to this death toll and torture. Omani Arab and Swahili people (Waswahili) from Zanzibar were also responsible for the Congolese genocide. 

In the 23 years King Leopold owned the Congo over 10 million people were massacred. Leopold’s men would cut off the hands and genitals of the Congolese. They would be starved to death, boiled alive and over half the population were forced into labour. Villages would be burnt to the ground and men would be forced to rape their grandmothers, mothers, sisters and daughters. Belgium may refuse to recognise the Congo Free State genocide but we must never let them forget