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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A brief history of genocide
Author:Mamdani, MahmoodISNI
Periodical:Transition: An International Review
Geographic term:Rwanda
Subjects:colonial history
External link:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/transition/v010/10.3mamdani.html
Abstract:This article reflects on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in the context of the history of colonialism on the African continent. It argues that the extermination of the Herero (Namibia) in 1904 was the first genocide of the 20th century. The Herero genocide is seen as an extreme instance of the general tendencies of European colonialism with its massacres, forced marches, conscript labour and expulsions. From the beginning, colonialism presented itself as a civilizing mission. Under direct colonial rule, the law distinguished a civilized minority from a not-yet-civilized majority, giving rights to the minority while disenfranchising the majority. Colonial Rwanda was a halfway house between direct and indirect rule, but the native authorities in charge of the Hutu majority were Tutsi rather than Hutu. The colonized population was split in two, with the majority, the Hutu, opposed to both Belgians and Tutsi. In the 1950s, as the struggle for decolonization raged across the African continent, Rwandan society began to splinter. The revolution of 1959 brought a new Hutu elite to power and, in 1960, Rwanda achieved independence. However, the promise of 1959 quickly turned sour: the Hutu State had repudiated inegalitarian colonial rule without changing the institutional identities that underpinned it. The dilemma of postgenocide Rwanda lies in the chasm that divides the Hutu majority from the Tutsi minority. A process of reconciliation can only begin when both groups relinquish claims to victimhood, embracing their identity as survivors.