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The Rwandan genocide and Resistance

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Rwanda is a small country in East Africa. This country saw extreme bloodshed in the year 1994 due to the mass murder of almost 800, 000 people of the Tutsi minority. The Rwandan civil war, which had been started by the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front, had rocked the country since 1990. The Hutu population was the majority in Rwanda, and the Tutsis were the minority. Despite being the minority, the Tutsis had held power for a long time. So, it was the ideology among the Hutus that the Tutsis had to be shown their place in order for them to not enslave the Hutus. However, a ceasefire was arranged in 1993, to stop the Civil War, under the Hutu led Habyarimana's government.

However, all was not well for long. The assassination of the Juvenal Habyarimana created a violent reaction that made the Hutu population resort to mass killings. The Hutu extremists wanted to kill all the Tutsi, who had been accused of assassinating the President. In three months, between April 1994 and July 1994, nearly a million people, who were Tutsis and "Hutu traitors?, were exterminated mostly with machetes.

Many studies have been conducted on the mass murders, or the genocide. Some of the questions that have been raised after the research are: Who started the genocide? and, how can this outburst of violence be explained? After looking at the extensive research carried out on the genocide, one thing comes to light. There has not been much research conducted on the people who were the "rescuers" in this massacre. What is the definition of "rescuing"?

As outlined by J Semelin, a rescue can be defined as a process that uses legal or illegal practices to conceal the identity of wanted people, either legally or physically, and organizes their escape to a place where they will be safe. In a small country like Rwanda, each person knows the identity of his neighbor. A large proportion of the population live in villages, where it would be so difficult to react when the killings hit fast. Despite situations like these, there exist a few testimonials from people who managed to save the Tutsis. Tired of the mass murders, the Tutsis started their offensive, and seized control of the country, after defeating the Hutu army.

In this document, we will study about the acts of rescue, which have been categorized as resistances. This is because the rescue acts contradict the dominant policy of the Hutus during the genocide. Based on the testimonies that were recounted, some questions that arise are: What motivated the rescuers? Is there a "Rwandan specificity" in the rescue of victims? Are there similar rescuers who have rescued Hutus during the war in Rwanda?

Historians ask: to what extent can we speak of "righteous"? Should we flatten a moral category of such acts? Then it is better to study the acts of rescue to capture the diversity, complexity, and above all ambiguity. One of the ideas that should guide this study is the restructuring in times of crisis interactions between individuals and institutions that come together in the "normal" life: how do actors react during a genocide?

Tags: Rwandan specificity, Habyarimana, Rwandan Patriotic Front

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