I attended a talk held at Wits University Origins Centre yesterday evening titled “From Nuremberg to Kigali - seeking justice in Africa” presented by Tali Nates. This talk focused on three specific cases of justice applied following atrocities and genocide, as well as the feelings from survivors how they viewed the justice process.
The three justice processes presented were the Nuremberg Trials following the defeat of Germany in World War 2, the Truth and Reconciliation process following the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa as well as the justice processes following the Rwanda Genocide of 1994.
The talk really opened my mind to how genocide happens and I started looking at the Rwanda Genocide to try see parallels with our own country. The Rwanda Genocide occurred in 1994 and was the systematic mass murder of an estimated 800,000. This occurred over the course of approximately 100 days (from the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6 through mid-July).
Hutu people were armed with pangas, assegais and even AK-47s by Hutu government officials and encouraged to form death squads and wipe out the entire Tutsi population. The Rwandan military and Hutu militia groups systematically set out to murder all the Tutsis they could reach, regardless of age or sex, as well as the political moderates among the Hutu.
They incited Hutu civilians to participate in the killings or be shot in turn; using radio broadcasts to tell them to kill their Tutsi neighbours. The question is why? We need to look at the history as well as the differences between Hutu and Tutsi people.
Tutsi people are seen as being from outside of Rwanda with speculation they originated from Ethiopia. They are the minority. They are generally taller, lighter skinned and have finer facial features than the majority Hutu people. The word Tutsi means those "rich in cattle" and the word Hutu means "servant" or "subject".
The Belgium colonial power recognised the cultural differences between the two and issued separate identification documentation to them. Rwanda is a small country with the highest population density in Africa, 8 million people live in a country roughly between Swaziland and Lesotho in size.
When Belgian rule ended in the 1950’s, most of the land and power were in the hands of Tutsi while the Hutu were relegated to positions of forced labourers. Through the 1960’s-1980’s, a period of one party rule was seen to re-address the previous imbalances and allowed greater control to the Hutu people.
Responding to public pressure for political reform, President Habyarimana announced in July 1990 his intention to transform Rwanda's one-party state into a multi-party democracy. It was his assassination in 1994 which sparked the genocide.
So what we have are two distinct groups. They are identifiable by the cultural as well as physical differences. The majority group has political control whilst the majority of the wealth remains with the other group, the minority group. This causes resentment and a simmering hate, which explodes with the assassination of the ruler of the majority group. This group blame the minority group who then band together to wipe out the minority group. Do you see the parallels developing in South Africa?
Now we look at the second genocide event discussed in Tali Nates talk – the Nazi extermination of the Jews in Germany and Poland. Tali is the daughter of a concentration camp survivor and thus has first-hand experience of how that genocide affected her own family. In Germany in the 1920’s, economic hardship following their defeat in World War 1.
The people were bitter and this led to a rise in feelings of nationalism. Out of this economic chaos rose a man to prominence, based primarily on his oratory skills. Adolf Hitler. He mobilised the people against a scapegoat, the Jews, blaming them for the hardships the people were experiencing.
He made promises to the people of wealth and prosperity and embarked on an aggressive campaign of redistributing the Jews wealth to people in his inner circle. This bought their loyalty and he became the supreme ruler in Germany until 1945, and it took another world war to remove him from power. His hate campaign against Jews (and including other minority groups too) resulted in 6 million souls been systematically murdered.
We have a young man in South Africa who has the ability to raise national feelings against a perceived scapegoat, raising feelings of hate against a single minority group, blaming them for the economic hardship being experienced by the people.
Julius Malema is building a group of powerful backers who are eyeing the wealth of the white people as their reward for supporting him. He has already been calling for the death of the farmers and to date over 3000 have been killed. He is now calling for a revolution in the mining industry and taking control of the assets of the mines for the people.
Are we entering into the next African Genocide?