Rwanda and Genocide of the 20th Century

The destruction that happens in the aftermath of a genocide affects everyone in and out of the situation. It’s an argument of destruction of people versus the prevention by our society.  Genocide in our history has shown a light on mankind and some of the dark things that have happened in the 20th century. By definition, it is the mass killing of a race. Sometimes it can go more in depth with religion, and ones beliefs. Genocide is highlighted more on race than anything else. It is a devised plan against a race; to wipe them out based on their looks and/or their beliefs. One example is that one race might think another isn’t good enough or that they are superior. Things like this lead to the horrifying events that have shocked our country even today. How did the genocides of the 20th century really start and how does this affect the world? It is hard for us as humans in this world to able to even understand why this happens and how it can be prevented. Despite the small group of Hutu extremists and lack of political power, the Rwanda genocide was the most faced paced and one of the most horrific genocides in the 20th century. It started with the view of power and privilege and ended with one the highest death toll. It is seen as the most brutal genocides, next to the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide.

Rwanda is similar and also different than other genocides in many ways than one. It was a mass killing of a specific group of people. The death toll of this genocide was significantly one the highest killings than most of the genocides in the twentieth century. Even though the Hutu’s lacked power they managed to kill off the majority of the Tusti. It was motivated by envy and the privilege to have power. The power and privilege the Hutu wanted was given to them by Rwanda government. (Valentino, 2004) They had the power to rule and was privileged to rule over the minority. The Tutsi were always favored and were left with the power the majority of the time. The Hutu were angry at the fact that they were chosen out of favoritism. This was an ongoing conflict starting in the 1990’s that was the Rwandan Civil War. (Valentino, 2004) The president of Rwanda was killed in a plane crash. (Valentino, 2004) The Hutu were convinced that the Tutsi were the culprits of the death of the president which sparked the genocide between the two. The motivation was different than most especially compared to the Holocaust. It is the focus of wanting to get rid of race because one race is “better” than another versus envy and jealously on top of lack of power. These are just comparisons (and examples) of the ways these genocides and others have and can start. Rwanda is just one unique example that can be analyzed for answers about genocide and how it can begin. One of more recent genocides that has made history in many different areas and has caused devastation for many. So how was the Rwanda genocide different and similar to others? How was it unique from others? The killings of the genocide was an all-time high. It was a brutal genocide which involved mainly machetes and guns. The genocide derived from power and envy. The Tutsi power that was wanted by the Hutu was a significant starter of the mass murder. Unlike other genocides Rwanda was not started by race, religion and beliefs.

All the genocides from the twentieth century were gruesome and horrific events. The next three paragraph will analyze three genocides and how they relate to each other. It will go over the correlation to Rwanda and how it comes out on top. The three genocides are the Rwanda genocide, The Holocaust, and Ukrainian genocide. All three genocides were devastating but they each have unique things about them and how the genocides started.

In 1994 the Tutsi and Hutu of Rwanda fought over power over Rwanda. The Tutsi were favored and gained power over the Hutu even though the Hutu made up most of the population. The Hutu made up about 85% of the population while the Tutsi made up the rest with 15% (Chapman, 2013). While the Tutsi were in power and control the Hutu decided they were going to take out the Tutsi out of jealousy for power. The Rwanda president was assassinated and the Hutu blamed the Tutsi. This made a reason for war and murder in their minds. They began killing thousands of Tutsi which ended in devastation. Their main weapon of use was machetes and guns. They highest estimate recorded killings was 1 million Tutsi, which was a good percentage of their population (Chapman, 2013). This operation lasted from April 1994 to July 1994 (Chapman, 2013). What was left was traumatized survivors and destroyed civilizations. In comparison to the Holocaust and the Ukrainian genocide, Rwanda had a unique reason behind the mass killings. It also had one of the highest and most gruesome killings in the 20th century.

In 1933 over six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust and more people of other races were killed as well (Valentino, 2004). The Nazis brutally murdered these people and showed no mercy for they believed they’re Aryan race was superior to the Jews. They experimented and gave them little to no food. The millions of Jews that walked the concentration camps were viewed as the walking dead because of the starvation that made them all bone. Babies were immediately thrown into the fire alive and the elderly were shot on the spot (Valentino, 2004). This is of the most famous genocides of the twentieth century. In relation to Rwanda and the Ukrainian genocide. The holocaust had the most killings of the Jewish race. It also started because one man thought his race was better than another. This led to the biggest and most gruesome genocide we’ve seen in the twentieth century.

It began with new economic policies made by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. He introduced a plan targeted towards the agricultural society (Valentino, 2004). Which made up most of the Soviet Union. Millions were being forced into labor camps and forced into exile. He specifically targeted the people known as the Kulaks. He seized all land and property from farmer owners which resulted in famine across the Union (Valentino, 2004). Stalin ordered soldiers to kill farmers and reduce the food to Ukraine (Valentino, 2004). This plan resulted in millions of Ukrainians to die of famine. This was a mass killing brought on by starvation. Stalin is known for his purge and the famine of the Ukrainian people. In relation to the Rwanda genocide and the Holocaust, this genocide was also high in killings but brought on in a different way. Stalin killed farmers and starved the people of Ukraine. It wasn’t a target towards another race, Stalin killed millions of his own people.

How does Rwanda come out on top? Rwanda was considered one the most horrific genocides of its time. It became a campaign of killing the Tutsi. It was even being advertised that the Tutsi needed to be killed. This genocide started because of power and also blame. Rwanda was the most fast paced and one of the most horrific genocides. The start of the killings is what makes Rwanda unique in its own.

One topic brought up is race and racism. Racism takes a huge part in genocide. The start of a genocide starts with racism and judgment of different people. For example the holocaust started because of one man’s view on a race of people. In the case of Rwanda, the Hutus took majority in Rwanda and slaughtered the Tutsi based on accusations of assassination of the former President. They’re racism that was there many years before took a turning point and they wiped out more than 800,000 Tutsi people (Chapman, 2013). This event was sparked by the fact that they were the minority.

Another issue that arises is terror. The Rwanda Genocide was a long standing war of two groups fighting for majority rule and power. It is the war on racism, genocide and the murder of millions of innocent people. Is a terror that has happened one too many times. We still struggle with these terrors. The events and murders that happened throughout these genocides is subjected to terror.



This is a picture that resembles the horrific events that occurred during the slaughter of the Tutsis during the Rwanda genocide. They were killed mainly by gunshots and machetes (Chapman, 2013). The slashes on this man’s face are the gashes that healed from a machete ripping into his face. These people were hit many times over again by the machetes until they died. This is just one example of the horrors that occurred in 1994.


A recent article was brought up about about a woman who survived the mass genocide in Rwanda. Her legs severely beaten in the war to the point where she now cannot walk. Her entire family was killed including her children and husband. The effects of the genocide caused them to create a home for the elderly that had no family and suffered from the incident. Rwanda is still suffering from the mass killings. It also is still rebuilding from the destruction of the town. Most of the surviving woman were widowed and left with no children. The woman band together because they have nothing left but they live the rest of their lives without family and only with each other as survivors. (Strochlic, 2014) This is a great recent example of how genocides (Rwanda is particular) has effected the world. Its brutality brought this upon the survivors which correlates with how the Rwanda genocide was the most brutal deriving from power.

To really look into the Rwanda genocide we have to think about why genocides occur in the first place. How did Rwanda become what it did in 1994? This contributes to the multiple reasons of how genocide starts. Whether it be race related or by the unique way Rwanda started. In the book “Final Solutions; Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century” the author talks about the reasons why genocide happens. He explains his research in the dissection of genocide and how it is started. Some of the factors that play in are religion, beliefs, nations, culture, forms of government and ethnicity. Over 150 million people have been victims of genocide in the 20th century (Valentino, 2004). The author explains that most of these genocides happen in a society where the two groups are the same in either nationality, religion or class. He poses the question “why do some human conflicts result in the intentional killing of massive numbers of unarmed civilians?” (Valentino, 2004).  The question asks why do the conflicts of other result in such horrific killings of innocent victims? He answers in turn that he believes that mass killings begin with goals and strategies of leaders. It doesn’t necessarily start with social or political factors. He explains that religion and nationality don’t actually have that big of an impact on the start of genocide, it is actually not the majority of undemocratic governments and crisis that starts genocide, which suggests other important causes (Valentino, 2004). Society cannot be blamed for the actions of this violence. It plays a smaller role, it is the small groups of political leaders that begin it. From our history if we look back there is a trend of tyrants that spark the notion of genocide and the racism that comes along with it. In his research he has discovered strategic perspective which suggests that “mass killings is most accurately viewed as an instrumental policy – a brutal strategy designed to accomplish leaders’ most important ideological or political objectives and counter what they see as their most dangerous threats”(Valentino, 2004). How has genocide effected us in our lifetime? What are the significant effects of mass genocide and it’s there any justice? The effects on us as human being are is something we can’t even begin to explain. We can’t imagine how someone can us power to do such a horrific thing. The effects on the people who have survived genocide change them for the rest of their lives. In certain cases there has been justice but sometimes there never is justice for such an act. He then gives three scenarios that account for the greatest number of mass killings in the 20th century and as well as the greatest number of victims.

“First, mass killing can be strategic for regimes wanted communization of their societies. Second, regimes seeking to implement policies of large scale ethnic cleansing also face significant incentives to consider mass killing. Third, regimes seeking to defend major guerrilla insurgencies can want strategies of mass killing.”(Valentino, 2014)

As regards to the Rwanda Genocide it talks about the reasons the massacre happened and why. It says that the Hutu used propaganda to portray the Tutsi as a threat to the Hutus. Small killings of the Tutsi have happened before the genocide started. The Hutu extremists obeyed the authority and killed the Tutsi for political power. The author states that “Participation in the Rwanda genocide was extensive in comparison to most other cases of mass killing, but it was far from universal.”(Valentino, 2004) The military was mostly at fault in this situation giving there were 200,000 participants in the killings (Valentino, 2014). Civilians may have not participated in the killings themselves but they manned roadblocks and identified Tutsi victims (Valentino, 2014). They also provided weapons, logistical and administrative support.  He then moves on to how the violence impacted the world as a whole. He states that “few dared to imagine the apocalyptic possibility of genocide. Genocide is not simply a low probability form of violence that ranks at the bottom of any list of violent alternatives. It resides outside the realm of human imagination. Since threats of violence are far more common than mass killing, it is easy to dismiss them as mere buster.”(Valentino, 2004). Since the Belgian Colonial Administration of Rwanda heavily favored the Tutsi for control in political command, that lead to the Hutu wanting to regain power. It relates more power and privilege rather than race. Both groups spoke the same languages and adhered to the same religion. The Hutu were able to gain control because of their numbers in people. They took up 90 percent while the Tutsi took up 10 percent, making it easy to kill and take command (Valentino, 2004). Just like the holocaust if anyone went against the one in command even one of their own would be killed.

The article “Why Is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?” hits on some main points of how these genocides start and the behind look on them. The relevance to Rwanda is that it talks about the processes that occur in genocide and how all genocides of the Twentieth Century relate. The main argument in this article is why genocide occurs and the processes that happen inside a genocide. His main points consist of that most genocides have happened in the twentieth century. The author argues that genocide is not a product of destruction of people but the ability of international society and law to prevent it (Levene pg. 305). He argues in multiple points that it is not the prevention of it that is more crucial than anything. He uses the word “barbarism” in which describes the behavior that leads to the massacres (Levene pg.305). He also point directly to the holocaust and states that it represented clearly “irrational outflow of the not yet fully eradicated residues of pre-modern barbarity”(Levene pg.305). It was “a product of planned, scientifically, informed, coordinated, and technically resourced society like our own”(Levene pg.306). Genocide is prone to revolution, war and internal conflicts (Levene pg.306). It is also the result of ethnic division and stratification (Levene pg.306). He also argues that we cannot, in our society, really define what genocide is.

It states a couple other scholars and their definitions and explanations of genocide.  One scholar stated that “we presently lack even a coherent and viable description of the processes and circumstances implied by the term genocide”(Levene, pg.310). Basically what he is saying is that there is no way that we as humans can really comprehend and understand genocide. A couple of questions that he asks is what is genocide and why does it occur? It is a dysfunction that we try to decipher but cannot comprehend in its entirety. Another scholar, R.J. Rimmel, said that “avoidance of genocide in western societies lies in the strength of their civic institutions, separation of executive and legislative branches and above all, in their democratic, liberal traditions”(Levene, pg.316). They are saying that societies which have compromised institutions have genocides. In these statements they argue a few different things, how genocide occurs and why. There are different theories that hold valuable points and reasoning of why genocide occurs. Other theories that were said was the three types of warfare that lead to genocide. The first type of warfare is between sovereign states within the states. The second type of warfare between two states in which one has more power over the other. The third type of warfare generally leads to genocide which turn is called “a crime against humanity”(Hinton pg.316).

The graph below shows the relationship between different genocides and races. It shows the annual democide rate and total killed in millions. They referred this as megamurders.


This second graph shows the population in numbers how it decreased because of the Rwanda Genocide.


One example of a primary source that ties in with the subject of Rwanda is the colonization of South Africa by the British between 1870’s and 1900 (Destexhe, 1995). This is the conflict that dates back way further than the 1994 incident in Rwanda. It shows differences and similarities from the genocide. Africa was faced with a lot of colonization with many different European countries. First the Dutch came in 1564 and colonized Africa, making them weak to fight back (Destexhe, 1995). They tried to assimilate the Africans rather than killing them in a genocide. There were wars between the European countries such as Britain. The British took advantage of the weakened natives due to the fact of the Dutch. The wars with natives went on until Britain and the Dutch decided to merge their territories (Destexhe, 1995). This merge was then known as the Union of South Africa. Britain then pulled out of this agreement in 1934 (Destexhe, 1995). They eventually pulled out of South Africa all together and let it govern itself. There were three things that motivated the colonization, economic, political and social. The only thing that Africans did to fight back was guerrilla warfare and direct military involvement (Destexhe, 1995). The French also were involved in assimilation of South Africa. Their goals was to life the backwards ideology that they established and create new education to evolve and civilize the Africans (Destexhe, 1995). They tried to teach them to speak French and forced education among them. Other powers that colonized Africa was Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Portugal (Destexhe, 1995). It was more imperialism and ideological rather than serious political objects (Destexhe, 1995) . Instead of genocide, European countries sought out assimilation and colonialism to create people they wanted the Africans to be. This was a lighter tactic than killing them. The Rwanda incident doesn’t tie so much with genocide because it was sparked by revenge and envy but it still reflects the nature of genocides in the twentieth century.

An example of a primary source is the “Diary of Anne Frank” because it is another perceptive on a different genocide that I mention in the paper. It ties in similar and different events that happen in the Rwanda genocide. This diary serves as incite to how the Holocaust and Rwanda were similar and different in many ways. Both genocides were brutal and massive but their unique in their own and relate on certain levels of the writing in the diary. It also provides analysis of both genocides side by side. Anne Frank’s diary is a reference to the way genocides work and how one individual experienced genocide first hand.

The author of the diary I am using as my source is Anne Frank. She was in teenage years when the holocaust started and she had a first account with genocide itself. It was created in 1942 to 1944 in Amsterdam when the Nazis invaded Poland (Frank, 1993). It was intended for her imaginary friend Kitty.  The purpose of the source was to explain the brutality of genocide. It gives a more detailed look at an individual’s take on what was happening during a genocide. The holocaust was taking place and the search for Jewish race was happening as Anne hid for her life. The writing can be completely from the people she is writing about because she is a Jewish girl writing about the people who are killing her race. Some unspoken assumptions were that even though she was not in physical pain in a concentration camp for the first part of her diary she was still in the situation suffering through the horrors of genocide and living day to day wondering if she will be next (Frank, 1993). So was Hitler solely responsible for the Holocaust? Why were the Jews singled out for extermination? This all goes back to power. Hitler was in reign and had the attention of his country. Any who crossed him was executed. This power made everyone involved responsible. The Jews were singled out by Hitler because of their looks and beliefs. This is a popular example of reasons for genocides and how they occur.


This picture is of three Rwanda soldier who piled up the skulls of those killed in the genocide. This picture resembles just a slight fraction of how many were actually killed in the 100 days of slaughter (Valentino, 2004). It shows the extremists in the act of the killings and how brutal it became because of the high amount of skulls piled up. This is just one of the horrifying pictures of the many that were killed brutally. Each person was killed either by machetes to the head and body or shots (Valentino, 2004). These actions were taken out on the Tutsi without any reason or explanation before their death. They would kill them on the spot without any warning. This picture acts as a primary source because of the soldiers in the picture, they witnessed and even participated in the act. They saw firsthand how the killings happened and the effects that happened after. It has significance because it shows in just one picture the brutality used in the mass killing and how the Rwanda genocide came to be.


Works Cited

Chapman, Arthur, et al. “The Holocaust and Other Genocides.” Teaching History no. 153 (December 2013): 2. Historical Abstracts, EBSCOhost. Accessed November 16, 2014.

Destexhe, A. (1995). Rwanda and genocide in the twentieth century. New York: New York University Press. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl. Trans. B.M. Mooyaart. New York: Bantam, 1993.

“French Court Releases Rwanda Genocide Suspect”. Sept 13, 2013.

Levene, Mark . “Why Is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?.” Journal of World History 11, no. 2 (2000): 305-336. (accessed October 5, 2014).

Rimmel, R.J. “The Holocaust in Perspective” 2002.

Rwanda Genocide.

Strochlic, Nina The Daily Beast, 31 August 2014,

Turkovich, Marilyn. Rwanda, The poetry of Genocide.                                                    genocide

Valentino, Benjamin A. “Final Solutions; Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century” 2004.