Rwandan Genocide Essay: Thesis Statement

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Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld presents opposing perspectives from the killers as they express their thoughts, actions, and motives for turning their friends and neighbors into foes during the Rwandan Genocide. The novel relives the stirring animosity that built up during the mid-20th century between the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutus and Tutsis, the preface and the events that occurred during the genocide, and the consequences that the killers were obliged to face due to their anomalous behavior. From the perspectives of the killers, Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak provides various accounts of the Rwandan Genocide through illustrations of the historical setting and the timeframe of the novel, which led to the aberrant behavior and crime that the killers exhibited during the bloodiest 100 days in Rwandan history.

During the 1950s and up till the end of the genocide, Hatzfeld, through countless memoirs, recollects the recurring tension and the deeply rooted hatred amongst the Tutsis and the Hutus between the 1950s and up to the 1990s. Prior to 1959, the Tutsi minority dominated the country based on government even though they were only 10% of the population. However, in 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi majority government, forming mass havoc and a hostile historical setting throughout this epoch and forcing many frightened Tutsis to flee to neighboring countries. After 1959, the dichotomy between the Hutus and Tutsis grew larger. During this time, “a Hutu could certainly choose a Tutsi friend, hang out and drink with him, but he could never trust him” (Hatzfeld 216). Due to the inequality between the two main groups before 1959, many Hutus felt betrayed and mistreated. Therefore, after 1959, for a Hutu, a Tutsi seemed like a deceiver. They became natural targets of suspicion. To add on, the enormous population played a role in the unconscious segregation. The dense population of Rwanda sprouted hatred as it “flourished in the fields because the plots of land were not large enough for two ethnic groups” (Hatzfeld 217). This lack of land acted as a catalyst for what the future would hold and added to the multitude of reasons the Hutus despised the Tutsis: government, money, and now land. As described by one of the killers, “the Hutu [heard] grown-ups repeating that Tutsis take up too many plots of land, that we cannot fight poverty in this situation, that those are too in the way” (Hatzfeld 218). This indirect propaganda planted seeds in the minds of children, paving the way for insensate hatred towards the Tutsis during the genocide that would later come.

After fleeing to various countries after the Hutus overthrew the government, the Tutsi exiles created a rebel group called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990 in an attempt to restore power for the Tutsis. This violent invasion created what is now known as the Rwandan Civil War. The farmer as well as the future murderer Alphonse Hitiyaremye aggregated it best: “‘War is a dreadful disorder in which the culprits of genocide can plot incognito’” (Hatzfeld 55). This war, as well as all the other complications, provided the perfect excuse for the Hutus to change their lifestyle. Finally, to catapult ideas into action, on the night of April 6th, 1994, a plane carrying then-President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was struck down, killing him and some others. Believing it was the RPF that killed the president, the Hutu extremists immediately started a well-organized campaign of slaughter. This historical setting, stemming from constant and deep hatred amongst the two ethnic groups, fostered the perfect theater for genocide; a playground that created what is now known as one of the most gruesome and preternatural mass killings in the history of the world.

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The book Machete Season encapsulates the journey from the roots of hostility to the aftermath and the rehabilitation among Rwandans who currently reside in the country. However, what makes the Rwandan Genocide so peculiar is their use of weaponry. Titled Machete Season for a reason, guns were not used to kill nor were concentration camps or gas chambers. When the genocide occurred in 1994, technology had evolved a lot; however, instead of guns, the machete was used. The raw essence of a machete instigated the community of abnormalities that were prevalent. In addition, unlike other wars, neighbors turned into enemies. One killer explains that “the killers did not have to pick out their victims: they knew them personally. Everyone [knew] everything in a village (Hatzfeld 66). Friends became foes. Teammates became opponents. Brotherhood became incompatible. Compared to previous wars, in which armies battled in trenches or through the thought of mutually assured destruction, the Rwandan Genocide took place inside homes, in the fields, on soccer fields, and in grocery stores.

Compared to the Holocaust, what was so interesting about the Rwandan Genocide was the preparation, or lack of, that went into it. The Holocaust is portrayed as an expansive, secretive, and carefully considered operation. However, the Rwandan Genocide was the complete opposite, which makes it hard to understand how this genocide generated so many deaths. Elie, a killer in the genocide, explains that after the death of the president, Hutus came out of their homes and started hacking Tutsis with machetes as “army newspapers [singled] out the Tutsi as the Hutu’s natural enemy who [had] to be definitively destroyed... written in big letters on page one” (Hatzfeld 179). The organization behind the complete burial of a whole population was no confidential matter as it previously was when the Wannsee Conference took place and the ‘final solution’ was proposed. This abnormal behavior of slashing with machetes but without formal permission and its lack of preparation adds to the obscurity of how this mass killing, in only 100 days, was so successful.

Crime flooded the streets as the Hutus constantly hacked the necks, arms, and legs of innocent Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. Hutus became the butchers and the Tutsis became the meat waiting to be cut into pieces. The killings were irrational but, to the Hutus, it slowly became rational. Everyone was vulnerable, even the youngest of the youngest: babies. Saving the babies was not practical. Their job was to kill, not to save. Babies “were whacked against walls and trees or they were cut right away”; in some cases, the Hutus also “burned children with gasoline” (Hatzfeld 131). During this systematic mass killing, no one was safe. Babies that did not even know they were Tutsi were punished for something they had no control over. This aberrant crime translated to the women as well. Women were raped, beaten, held in sexual slavery, sexually mutilated, and eventually killed. Although many events differed from the Holocaust, the Rwandans did institute some of the techniques of the Nazis. A killer named Ignace recollects “the memory of the mine shaft where the Tutsis were smoked alive” and constantly killed fire (Hatzfeld 158). As shown, the use of the machete was only one part of the big plan. The mines used to kill Rwandans in bunches expose the immorality of the operation. No longer did the Hutus see a human being who shared similar thoughts and feelings when viewing a Tutsi. Everything about the slaughter was heteroclite and unconventional; the hunt, the hunters, the prey. Greed and savagery had corrupted the minds of the Hutus.

During the Rwandan Genocide, the cliche ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer’ became an unfortunate reality. In analogy, the Rwandan table that was once together in one piece had been broken into two as the Hutus felt that the Tutsis were unnecessarily taking up too much space. The genocidal massacre of over 800,000 innocent people in Rwanda more than 25 years ago may be fading in history, but the killers are still alive and with us, and so is the ethical predicament of trying to understand how such perfectly normal people could have committed such abnormal crimes.

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Rwandan Genocide Essay: Thesis Statement. (2023, December 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/rwandan-genocide-essay-thesis-statement/
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