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Genocide: Case Study Of Bosnia And Rwanda

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“Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of an individual?”- Raphael Lemkin. Throughout history, humans have killed each other for an array of reasons; differences in religion, culture, ethnicity, or just simply because one believes they are superior and wishes to marginalize or decimate the other. It’s hard to pinpoint when specifically mass-killings of a race began and became so common in our world’s history, but perhaps could be coined back all the way to the Third Punic War. The term Genocide was introduced by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer deeply affected by the Holocaust whose research helped create a fundamental, legal basis for the Nuremberg Trials.

Genocide’s strives to destroy a people, and is accomplished through total annihilation as well as strategies that eliminate key components of the groups basic existence like language, infrastructure, and culture. It was not recognized as an international crime until 1948, but we have seen it much earlier than that, such as the French conquest of Algeria or even arguably our decimation of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Genocide vastly affects countries economy, dichotomizes them politically, and significantly changes the social structure of a country. One of the biggest ramifications of genocide is the bilateral psychological effects, which can only be remedied through notable government expenditure towards healthcare, something that is not always possible in developing countries. Picking up the pieces of a torn country is laborious, but we’ve seen some country’s pull themselves from the thicket of bloodshed and push forward amidst the terrible atrocities committed around them. Bosnia, Cambodia, and Rwanda are examples of horrible genocide that occurred in the 20th century who saw many of their people killed under the pretense of cleansing, warfare, and improvement of their country’s.

1992 changed Europe forever. The Cold War had just ended, and the UN and the nations they represented began to reevaluate their roles in a world without competition between two major powers. Little did Europe know that it would be involved in another conflict only a few months later that would displace and kill thousands. The government of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia, but the boundaries drawn did not match the ethnic groups in each region, and left people feeling angry. The Serbians and Croatians fought to unite portions of the Republic they inhabited with Serbia and Croatia. They engaged in the Ethnic cleansing of the Bosniaks, a major part of the population of Bosnia who made up around 44% of the population. This included murder, torture, rape, and deliberate military attacks in order to ensure that areas were ethnically homogenous. The Serbians were able to make their dream a reality by creating a continuous area of Serb domination, but at a disastrous price that cost tens of thousands of lives. The conflict finally ended with the Dayton agreements, but was controversial as the Serbians were given control of 50% of the land. It resulted in a creation of a federalized Bosnia divided between a Croatian-Bosnian Federation and Serbian Republic. Even though the genocide lasted a short period, its effects are felt today. Since the Bosniaks made up almost half of the population, the mass killings resulted in the ethnicity of Bosnia moving from primarily Muslim to Serbian.

Every facet of Bosnia had been decimated by the war, most industries that were present before the war occurred were rendered useless due to the need for spare parts elsewhere in Bosnia. One of the biggest consequences was that many areas had to be rebuilt, such as the political structure. The United States and its Western allies determined what form the government would take, and gave political guidance. By making the assumption that Bosnia would become a secular, democratic state like their own, the U.S. ventured into the creation of a multiethnic, secular, and capitalist state, disregarding the country’s culture, and past. Country’s can thrive under communist rule, but the Bosnians were unable to decide their own political structure for themselves when the U.S. took control. Notwithstanding international intervention, Bosnia has also struggled to remain afloat economically. Government bureaucracy absorbs 50% of the GDP, and the country has a 58% youth unemployment rate. Despite the Dayton Accords ending the war, the creation of two autonomous regions within Bosnia, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian Serb republic created a large public sector, with more than 160 government ministers. With the abundance of public sector officials, it impedes growth since most of the money is allotted to those jobs. Starting up businesses is virtually unheard of in Bosnia, since social costs for employees are brutal; more than 40% of gross wages go to social security, health care and taxes. Even today, some people still deny that it ever occurred, stating only military-age men were targeted, but this genocide affected every Bosniak man, woman, and child, regardless of their age, and regardless of who they were.

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Unlike the Bosnian genocide, the Rwandan genocide was a vicious conflict that saw thousands killed bilaterally. The Hutus and Tutsis are ethnic groups that speak the same language, have similar beliefs, and practice similar social customs, yet differ in terms of their professions, and tensions had been bubbling over the decades. Hutus were traditionally farmers who made up the majority of the population of Rwanda. When the Hutus gained power after Rwanda became independent from Belgium, they committed mass murder against the Tutsis. Many Tutsis fled to neighboring countries such as the Congo,amassing their forces and organizing counter attacks; eventually invading Rwanda which sparked the beginning of a brutal 3 year war. After the assumed assassinations of the Rwandan and Burundi presidents who were both Hutus, the Hutus retaliated by launching a genocide campaign which killed over 1,000,000, an estimated 70% of the Tutsi population. Once the Rwandan Patriotic Front overthrew the Rwandan government, many Hutus poured over Rwanda’s western border over the Congo, like the Tutsis had in the beginning of the war. The Hutus overthrew the Congo’s president, and this event was ultimately the precipice of the First Congo War, one of the major consequences of the Rwandan Genocide. Once a safe-haven for the exiled Hutus, the refugee camps in Congo became de facto army bases as many military personnel had fled, and ended up terrorizing the people in Congo.

The Rwandan Genocide is not black and white like Bosnia or Cambodia, both sides murdered each other and committed terrible crimes against humanity. One of the major consequences that we did not see in the Bosnian Genocide that occurred in Rwanda was the wake of child soldiers. In 1994, it was estimated that 5,000 people under 18 were members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army. Forced to join in lieu of death, many children did not have a choice and were often brainwashed, or plied with drugs and alcohol to be compliant. Rwanda has been successful in remedying their child soldier problem nowadays, demobilizing around 3,000 kids in the last few years, yet M23, the Congolese rebel group is still at large. Former child soldiers are traumatized, and were given little opportunity for psychological help after the genocide, with most of the money allotted to rebuilding infrastructure and reinstating political framework. Surprisingly, this conflict actually does have a silver-lining. Since so many men were killed, women stepped up to the plate and starting taking on jobs. Many males fled to bordering nations, which left 70% of Rwanda’s population female. This was not unlike World War 1 where women began taking on jobs traditionally given to men. In 2003, a new constitution was passed which decreed that 30% of parliamentary seats would be reserved for women. Their government also pledged that girls’ education would become more of a priority, and that women would be given leadership roles in key institutions. Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa where women are given equal representation, and today, 64% of the parliament seats are held by women. Unlike other countries ripped apart from genocide, Rwanda has actually prospered. Life expectancy has doubled, and they’ve managed to establish a universal health care system. Women have the ability to own property, and pursue jobs that other women in countries around them would not dream of having. Their major steps towards equality were brought upon by unfortunate circumstances, yet has allowed Rwanda to move from a barely surviving country to a thriving one.

Comparable only to the reign of Mao, the Cambodian genocide was unlike any other. The government took complete control and annihilated its people under the pretense of saving the country from evil. The communist party of Kampuchea took power in 1975 after overthrowing the Khmer Republic, and a sea of red fell over the country of Cambodia, now Kampuchea. Creating a socialist agrarian republic, society was classified into either peasant base people or urban new people by its marxist leader, Pol Pot. Anyone considered an intellectual of any sort was immediately killed, and most of the urban population were sent to prison or killed in the famous ‘Killing Fields.’ Pol Pot was inspired by the tribes located in Northeast Cambodia who were self sufficient and lived on the goods they produced through farming, and he believed that money, wealth, and religion had spoiled that in the rest of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge was autocratic, xenophobic, and repressive. The government decided that the country would be reverted back to Year Zero, and nothing would be privatized; money, private property, education, and religion were abolished, and the schools and churches turned into prisons and re-education camps. Meetings with families were frowned upon, public and private transportation abolished, and foreign influence was completely blocked. If people became sick, they had to rely on themselves to find remedies, or use their own supply of medicine, which resulted in a lot of death from treatable diseases. Not only did the Khmer Rouge strip everyone of their rights, but under their Four Year Plan, Cambodians were expected to produce three tons of rice per hectare throughout the country which meant people had to grow and harvest rice all year, and work over 12 hour days with little food or rest. Most estimates say between 1.4 million and 2.2 million people were killed. When Khmer Rouge cadres who had killed people for the government fell foul of their own regime, they were killed too. No one was safe under the paranoid rule of the CPK. After four years of brainwashing and constant death, Cambodians were freed of their binds by the Vietnamese, who removed the Communist Party of Kampuchea from power.. By allowing international food aid to mitigate the terrible famine that had swept the nation, the Cambodian genocide had finally started to wind down. But it wasn’t until 1989 when the country was given its sovereignty and renamed the State of Cambodia. Nowadays, the Khmer Rouge is responsible for many adults not being educated. The country was left with no doctors, teachers, engineers, or professionals. Lack of healthcare professionals in the country meant that many cases of PTSD went undiagnosed. Once a country that had prospects and was doing well for itself, Cambodia was reeling with the death of ¼ of its population, and the economic halt the agrarian society had imposed. Since all means of production were the collective property of the state, and workers were given their pay in the form of food rations, there was no economic growth whatsoever. Still to this day, Cambodia struggles with keeping its people above the poverty line. The CPK planted landmines all throughout Cambodia which have still not all been dismantled, leaving many people at risk of losing limbs or their loved ones. It’s been 40 years since the genocide occurred, but Cambodia has still not been given the justice their people deserve. Since 1975, only three people have been sentenced, with Pol Pot dying early in his trial. Many of the ex-cadres were able to get away with their crimes, something Cambodians are still angry with. Why is it that we forbode genocide, yet condone the people who committed it?

Genocide has deeply affected many countries in the world. In the shadow of the Holocaust, the UN was able to create the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, yet this was only after millions of people were killed under Stalin and Hitler. However, we have still seen terrible crimes against humanity in the 20th century that have seemed to bypass this group specifically targeted for preventing it. Not only does it completely destroy a people such as the Bosniaks, the Tutsis, or the urban people of Cambodia, but it depletes infrastructure, divides nations, and ruins a country’s GDP. Although we have seen anomalies such as Rwanda making light of their dark situation by allowing more women to take power despite war raging around them, it is obvious that Genocide is the worst thing that could happen to a country. Preventing it remains a challenge that nations and individuals continue to face.

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Genocide: Case Study Of Bosnia And Rwanda. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Genocide: Case Study Of Bosnia And Rwanda.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
Genocide: Case Study Of Bosnia And Rwanda. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Sept. 2023].
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