Post-colonial politics in Rwandan were characterized by zero sum contests for power, fought along polarized racial lines. Mamdani saw the polarization and politicization of Hutu and Tutsi identities as a necessary condition for the catastrophic dehumanization [2] in which the genocide occurred. In this winner-take-all political environment, losing groups [3] had little recourse but to flee their country and take refuge in neighbouring states. Those members of the losing groups who fled to neighbouring countries became refugees who struggled in vain to assimilate in their adopted society.

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Post-colonial politics in Rwandan were characterized by zero sum contests for power, fought along polarized racial lines. Mamdani saw the polarization and politicization of Hutu and Tutsi identities as a necessary condition for the catastrophic dehumanization [2] in which the genocide occurred. In this winner-take-all political environment, losing groups [3] had little recourse but to flee their country and take refuge in neighbouring states.

Those members of the losing groups who fled to neighbouring countries became refugees who struggled in vain to assimilate in their adopted society. Members of the losing group who stayed were physically vulnerable due to their low status within the society. Mamdani refers to the effects of such alienation of large collectively defined groups within Rwanda, and the entire region, as a citizenship crisis.

This narrow view of citizenship helped precipitate crisis after crisis in the region in the post-colonial era including the Rwandan genocide. Mamdani used a regional approach to explain how events in neighbouring countries influenced Rwandan politics and how events in Rwanda in turn influenced neighbouring countries.

The porous nature of borders in the post-colonial Great Lakes District became especially problematic during times of political instability in one or more states. Instability in one state had a tendency to migrate across borders affecting neighbouring states.

In the post-colonial era there were a number of periods of instability within Rwanda that precipitated large-scale outward migration of refugees. Conversely, many refugees poured into Rwanda from neighbouring countries, most often from Burundi, at various times throughout the post-colonial period, including in the immediate period before the genocide.

The flood of refugees in and out of Rwanda over the past fifty years has created permanent diaspora communities in Rwandan and neighbouring states.

In the post-colonial period the majority of refugees fleeing Rwanda were Tutsi. Rather then finding life in their new countries to their liking most of the Tutsi refugees were confined to refugee camps. Those that were able to get out of the camps were still cast as permanent outsiders in their adopted countries and were not extending citizenship, except on the rarest of occasions Those who were extended citizenship still lived fearfully under the uncertainty of changing political winds.

European colonists generally ruled their colonial possessions in Africa either directly or indirectly. In a direct rule colony, such as South Africa, the entire indigenous population was racially constructed as one homogenous entity.

Alternatively, indirect rule introduced a stratified social order among the natives. Different groups of natives [5] were defined as belonging to different ethnicities and an ethnic hierarchy was introduced. Indirect rule added the marker of ethnicity between indigenous groups Importantly though, all ethnic groups were considered to belong to the same race. As under direct rule the prerogative of the white settler was enshrined as their race was thought to be superior to the entire indigenous population Rwanda and also neighbouring Burundi were governed differently then most other colonies in Africa.

Landlocked and ruggedly mountainous, the so-called Alps of Africa: Rwanda offered little of material value to the European colonialists. The roots and the ideological background of the unconventional colonial governance style in Rwanda were as follows: Following the Berlin Conference and the subsequent occupation of Rwanda, colonial administrators inherited a society already highly stratified along ethnic and class lines.

Pre-colonial Rwandan society was stratified in a caste system similar to how European society had been organized during the Middle Ages. The noble class of Tutsi pastoralists extracted rents from the servile Hutu class who tended to the land. European settlers were highly impressed by the preexisting state of social organization in Rwanda 79 but were unwilling to credit the indigenous population for achieving what they considered a relatively high degree of civilization.

First Arab then European and American slave traders used this account from the bible to justify African slavery. By the end of the 19th century race scientists, who considered Hamites a subgroup of the Caucasian Race and more advanced than the Negroid populations of Sub —Saharan Africa, thought the Tutsi of Sub Saharan Africa descended from Ham. Though later day historians have ascertained that the absolute control over the state and economy held by the Tutsi over the Hutu in Rwanda was a relatively recent phenomenon in pre-colonial African history that arose out of the absolutist policies of the last pre-colonial Rwandan King Mwami Rwabugiri Colonialism highlighted the differences between the Hutu and Tutsi and the Hamitic myth of a racially inferior subjugated race of Hutu and a racially alien race of Hamitic overlords was used to justify Tutsi privilege.

In Colonial Rwanda, the Tutsi minority, though cast as racially inferior to the white settler race, were set apart as being both non-indigenous to the region and racially superior to the majority Hutu and the Twa minority The racialization of indigeneity and political identity during colonialism presupposed a radical separation between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority.

The hard social fact of racial polarization would have profound and sorrowful consequences for Rwandans in the post-colonial era. Rwandan colonial authorities further intensified the perception of innate difference between the Tutsi and the Hutu with their introduction of a racial census As a result of the census, those determined to be Hutu and those to be Tutsi and Twa—a small ethnic minority in Rwanda who, like the Hutu, were also considered racially inferior—were differentiated by a permanent mark on their national identification cards.

The racially stamped identification card was maintained in to the post-colonial era and acted to hasten the genocide in During the late s and 50s, a nascent class of literate Hutu were systemically excluded from career opportunities within the colonial state and the modern private sector Following the Revolution all Rwandans were given civic rights that were accessible solely on an individual basis Branded an alien race, the Tutsi were granted civic rights in post colonial Rwanda but not group rights, which were the exclusive domain of the Hutu majority.

The result was systematic discrimination. The Tutsi minority was branded racial strangers in their own land. In the turbulent early years of independence, border raids by Tutsi exiles provoked reprisal justice in Rwanda by the Hutu majority. In , in neighbouring Burundi, the Tutsi elite used the army to carry out genocide against Hutu schoolchildren and intellectuals.

The Habyarimana government faced its own considerable difficulties in the years the genocide. A steep decline in economic growth in the latter half of the s was accompanied by a large accumulation of foreign debt.

The large debt load forced the Rwandan government to accept structural adjustment programs from the International Financial Organizations, the lenders of last resort, in order to obtain loans.

However; this money was rarely used productively. Mamdani devotes a chapter to historicizing the genesis of the invasion by the Rwandan Patriotic Front who had been Tutsi refugees who had received training and military experience fighting in a long civil conflict in Uganda. The RPF was composed largely of second and third generation Banyarwanda Tutsi refugees, most of whom had fled Rwanda in the early s during the Revolutionary period Many of them had spent the greater majority their time in Uganda idling in refugee camps.

During the s the Banyarwanda, or Rwandans in Uganda, advocated for and fought alongside Museveni and the National Revolutionary Army. The displaced Banyarwanda Tutsi hoped that in the aftermath of the civil war they would be given jobs and entitled to citizenship in Uganda. In , a debate over the rights of Ranchers and pastoralists to land in a Southern Ugandan province reopened the question of citizenship and entitlements.

Museveni, going against the desire of many in the government sided with preserving the rights of the indigenous ranchers over the non-indigenous Tutsi This unexpected turn showed the Tutsi just how tenous their hold on citizenship was in their adopted homeland and thus many turned their attentions back to Rwanda. The invasion of Rwanda by the Rwandan Patriotic Front plunged the country in to civil war. The civil war quickly delegitimized the ineffectual Rwandan army and the centrist Habyarimana government.

In failing to defend the country from the RPF invasion the Rwandan army had brought shame upon itself. The incident also claimed the lives of the head of the Rwandan military and the President of Burundi. The assassination of the President meant the vital centre in Hutu dominated Rwandan politics had been removed.

Once the centre had eroded the proponents of Hutu Power held sway in Rwanda and were able to introduce their radical policies. The Rwandan genocide, according to Mamdani was sparked by many factors, economic collapse, democratic opening, the armed repatriation of the Tutsi Banyarwandan from Uganda, and the resurgent appeal of Hutu Power.

But for Mamdani the essential item underlying the genocide was the historic failure of the Hutu dominated post-colonial Rwandan state to address the citizenship crisis. The Habyarimana government had re-indigenized the Tutsi minority by giving them rights in the civic sphere.

Therefore, the fate of individuals within Rwandan society is inextricably tied to their politically enforced and culturally recognized identity as either Hutu or Tutsi It appeared to me that his concept presupposed a lack of agency of individuals within society to resist the hegemonic forces of group identity. However, upon reading the book and seeing how central group identity is in the reproduction of Rwandan society my views on the theory changed dramatically.

These scholars would see a partition of Rwanda into separate Hutu and Tutsi states as the only solution to the conflict. He acknowledges the historical grievances on either side as an obstacle to rapprochement but denies the deterministic claim their can never be an equitable peace, that equally favours both Tutsi and Hutu.

According to him, these catastrophes, though massively problematic on their own, are symptomatic of an even greater malady. Understating his conclusion is that singular events or crisis in contemporary Rwanda and the region cannot be studied and understood on their own independent of the political crisis from which they, and other crisis, emerged. Mamdani alludes to the citizenship crisis that plagues each country in the region as underpinning the emergence of crisis after crisis in the region.

After reading the book I feel that the deeper crisis of which these phenomena emerge is the deep embeddedness of colonial constructs in the collective consciousness, institutions, laws, and the culture of these countries. Colonial logic is employed time and time again to allocate privilege to one or some groups at the expense of others. Furthermore when modern African politicians craft policy with the conscious intent to turn the tables on past victors they show how thoroughly they have internalized the colonial mindset.

In such a way the grievances of the non-empowered and thus endangered group are exacerbated and continuously reinforced until a time comes when they can reverse their luck and turn the tables on their oppressors. It is a vicious cycle in which morality and justice become perversely intertwined with and are encompassed by the desire for retribution Through exhaustive historical detail Mamdani deconstructs the myth of the essential difference between Tutsi and Hutu.

Throughout history the essential difference between Hutu and Tutsi has been enshrined in law and reproduced through institutions that always favoured one group over the other. Thus an important part of building a future sustainable peace in Rwanda and the region as a whole is to re-conceptualize the idea of citizenship in Rwanda. This will require astute political leadership and the backing of the international community to radically reformat the concept of citizenship in Rwanda, and the region in general, from one emphasizing the difference between various socially constructed ethnic groups to one that is fair, equitable, and above all — inclusive.

Work Cited Homer-Dixon, Thomas. Uni Nature vs. University of Toronto: University College. Homer-Dixon, Thomas. Uni Language. Mamdani, Mahmood. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Steans, Jill. Gender and International Relations. Cambridge: Polity Press, You cannot partake of both. The bifurcation of society in to two or more opposing groups when compounded by difference levels of socioeconomic privilege between groups can, under certain conditions, create a powder keg of grievance which can lead to conflict between those groups.

The course was taught by Thomas Homer-Dixon, who is noted for, among topics, his work on ethnic conflict. After independence and the installment a Hutu leadership in Rwanda the political and military power of the Tutsi was minimized. As a result the entire Tutsi minority in Rwanda was rendered vulnerable.


When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda

Mar 22, Mia rated it really liked it An interesting and in-depth analysis of Rwanda, the Hutu and theTutsi, although very academic and so not an easy read. Mar 17, Darbee Hagerty rated it it was amazing The introduction to Mamdanis book made me cry. Several times. Without surprise, the text is arguably most powerful when it utilizes quotes by those who lived through the genocide, such as Mectildes story in Chapter Seven. Mamdani aims to make the Rwandan genocide thinkable. He helps the reader see that while many assume the genocide must be the outcome of processes that unfolded within the state boundary of Rwanda, this assumption ignores the regional processes that were simultaneously occurring; processes that must be taken into account if we are to stand any chance of seriously comprehending the genocide.


Mahmood Mamdani

Underlying his statement is the realization that, though ordered by a minority of state functionaries, the slaughter was performed by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, including even judges, human rights activists, and doctors, nurses, priests, friends, and spouses of the victims. Indeed, it is its very popularity that makes the Rwandan genocide so unthinkable. He coaxes to the surface the historical, geographical, and political forces that made it possible for so many Hutu to turn so brutally on their neighbors. He finds answers in the nature of political identities generated during colonialism, in the failures of the nationalist revolution to transcend these identities, and in regional demographic and political currents that reach well beyond Rwanda. There have been few attempts to explain the Rwandan horror, and none has succeeded so well as this one. His analysis of Hutu and Tutsi as historically grounded and incessantly changing political identities not only clarifies struggles of the s in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Congo but also helps identify ways of preventing future bloodshed.

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Book Review: When Victims Become Killers

He was born in Mumbai and grew up in Kampala. Both his parents were born in the neighbouring Tanganyika Territory present day Tanzania. The scholarships were part of the independence gift that the new nation had received. He was jailed during the march and was allowed to make a phone call. Mamdani called the Ugandan Ambassador in Washington, D. The ambassador asked him why he was "interfering in the internal affairs of a foreign country", to which he responded by saying that this was not an internal affair but a freedom struggle and that they too had gotten their freedom only last year.


When victims become killers : colonialism, nativism, and the genocide in Rwanda


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