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Saturday , 28 May 2022

Editorial: The government media played a huge role in the genocide in Rwanda

The Rwanda genocide was an atrocious event that caused severe violence against Tutsi people, led by the Hutu tribe in 1994. However, as we know the responsibility for this crime against humanity cannot be held accountable by one country. International communities could have intervened and ended the genocide before the majority of the Tutsi population was killed, but chose not to.

The United Nations and the United States had the ability and power to intervene, but did nothing. Therefore, the Rwandan government and the international community discriminated against Tutsis that led to the injustice that unfolded in Rwanda. I believe the International communities’ reaction to the information that the genocide had occurred illustrates their bias attitudes towards the Tutsi
people. The Hutus enforced violent behaviors upon Tutsi people because of their discriminatory perceptions which was enforced by the media.

When something like this occurs, I believe at all costs, international leaders must have the political will to commit troops to save nations who are in need regardless of ones perceptions. If genocide prevention continues to be neglected by the international community many more people will be left in the dark like the Tutsis, who were slaughtered by their own citizens.

Role of Media in the Rwandan Genocide

Mass media plays a major role in communicating information to the public. The Hutu people owned the radio station and had access to distributing information to the rest of the world during the genocide.

Through the use of radio and other means of mass communication, the extremist Hutu leadership defined the Tutsi as subhuman ‘cockroaches’ that threatened the existence of Hutus and needed to be wiped out. And the Hutu people believed this message because the government owned media told them so.

This shows how prejudice the Hutu people were against the Tutsi people. Hutus had bitter resentment towards the Tutsi for many years. Mass media played a critical role in the genocide because it ridiculed the Tutsi people over the radio to increase the participation of Hutu people in the murder of 800,000 Tutsis. When the plane that was carrying the Rwandan president was attacked, the Hutus used this as a way to blame the Tutsi regardless of the truth. I am led to the conclusion through my research that the Hutus were planning this genocide for many months.

Prior to the genocide, radio stations and newspapers were carefully used by the conspirators to dehumanize the potential victims, Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. During the genocide, radio was used by the Hutu extremist conspirators to mobilize the Hutu majority, to coordinate the killings and to ensure that the plans for extermination were faithfully executed.

While a series of terrible massacres of Tutsi were carried out and as the signs of ever-increasing violence grew, Rwanda was totally ignored by the international media. When the genocide came, the erratic media coverage largely conveyed the false notion of two ‘tribes’ of African ‘savages’ mindlessly slaughtering each other as they had done from time immemorial. As a result, there was little public pressure in the West for governments to intervene.

Tutsis were innocent bystanders who were killed because of the racist attitudes, and resentment that the Hutu people had against them which was included by the media. This added to a society that was already divided. Rwanda at the time was a pluralistic society. Pluralism meaning divided societies. Normally communally fragmented societies, multiethnic or multiple societies, segmented societies and internally colonized societies provide the necessary condition for a domestic genocide.  The concept of free speech and free press in the Rwanda situation could have perverted the foul ends of Rwanda.

When the killings began, in one hand, the Hutu people held their weapon of choice – a machete, a club, or a hatchet – in the other, a radio. Because only about 50 per cent of Rwandans could read, radio’s power was enhanced as a primary means of obtaining political and communal information.

While calling for mass slaughter in the name of democracy, these government paid journalists accused their enemies and discredited them to fit the governments agenda thus brainwashing the Hutu into believing the governments terrible message.

After independence in Rwanda, this country was considered a society thus creating more inequalities between the Hutu and Tutsi people. This independence caused a racial division that made Rwanda vulnerable to violence that eventually led to the genocide. These two tribes
became societies that were divided into two distinct groups that increased violence and civil war.

After the Genocide

Since July 2005, the (RPF) Government began the mass release of 36,000 prisoners. Most of them have confessed to involvement in the 1994 genocide. It is the third phase of releases since 2003 – part of an attempt to ease overcrowding.  Most take part in work camps and then return to their villages where they once terrorized their neighbor’s. At the time, the government said be united, with the introduction of their national policy “Towards Reconciliation, Good Governance and Development,” which focused on re-humanizing people.

The reconciliation process in Rwanda focused on reconstructing the Rwandan identity, as well as balancing justice, truth, peace and security in the country. The Constitution now states that all Rwandans share equal rights. Laws have been passed to fight discrimination and divisive
genocide ideology. This humanization process occurred when the government introduced reconciliation workshops. Together victims and perpetrators learn about healing, forgiveness, and most of all unity and reconciliation. Which I believe is the makings of a solid foundation
towards economic and community development. No response can ever be adequate when your son has been killed by police ordered to shoot at a crowd of children, when you have been dragged out of your home, interrogated, and raped in a wave of “Ethnic Cleansing.”

Therefore, I believe “Reconciliation” is an ambiguous concept.

The RPF government has as its two overreaching priorities the fostering of national reconciliation, as its name attests to (the government of National unity) and poverty reduction.

President Kagame reiterated this latter point in January 2004 at the close of a retreat where cabinet ministers and other top government officials discussed goals for his seven-year term, Kagame described poverty as a matter of grave concern requiring urgent attention and called for the prioritization of poverty reduction in all government programs.

Rwandan people were living in poverty with no economic resource to contribute to the rest of the world. Due to the overpopulated country, Rwandan people suffered poverty that created ethnic tensions that led to violence. These people struggled to live on a daily basis. Rwandan people lived in an agriculture society who lived off the land for means of food and money. When a country experiences this type, of poverty, it places a great amount of stress and economic disparity on its people. This may lead to violent behaviors directed against one another, which happened in Rwanda. The genocide happened for many reasons, but each one contributed significantly to the failure of a countries concern for its own people.

Today Rwanda is seen as a truly amazing success story. Outsiders are surprised to see people who are traumatized beyond comprehension, moving forward and not just putting their gruesome past behind them. But truly restoring their dignity and re-humanizing their enemies of the past. Through this positive change Rwanda may begin to move forward in economic prosperity erasing their unforgettable past.

Final Thoughts

The media did not convince all listeners in Rwanda. But they convinced enough to spew hate towards people they lived their entire lives with. Many Hutus worked alongside Tutsis to prevent intergroup warfare. But the media’s “blame frames” and “hate frames” reinforced the thinking of those who were already inclined toward hardline attitudes and fostered an environment of fear, anger, and hatred. Amid the trying circumstances and virulent messages, within one hundred days, ordinary people who had never before killed rose to collectively slay some eight hundred thousand of their fellow Rwandans. It’s an unbearable chapter of history that unfortunately does not stand alone.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.