Reconciliation in Rwanda: The Art of the Possible
by David Brubaker
Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: "Reconciliation in Rwanda: The Art of the Possible." Conflict Resolution Notes. Vol. 12, No. 3. January, 1995. Pp. 25-27.
The conflict in Rwanda started with the killing of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi when their plane was shot down on April 6, 1994. Hutus blamed Tutsi rebels for this action. Nearly 500,000 Tutsis were killed in "an orgy of revenge" which started the Civil War (p. 25). The Civil War was at its peak from April through June, 1994. Almost 2 million Hutus left the country. In four months, the country lost one-third of its population. On July 4 Tutsi rebels of the "Rwandan Patriotic Front" entered Kigali and forced the government to flee.
The war did not start on empty ground: tensions between the two tribes originated some 500 years ago. At that time the Batutsis (Tutsi people) came into the region which is now the territory of Rwanda, which was already occupied by the Bahutu (Hutu people). The Hutu people worked on the land, while the Tutsis raised cattle. The Tutsis were taller and were a warlike tribe. Even though they constituted only 10% of the population (Hutus were 90%), they imposed their rule over the Hutu people. They strengthened their domination by introducing a mythology of being chosen by God to rule over the Hutus. This ideology existed during the European colonization that lasted from 1894 until the 1960s. After gaining independence, Hutus as a majority were able to elect their own president in 1962. According to Hutus, the history of oppression played a major role in the recent events. It made them feel threatened by Tutsis, especially when the Tutsi army invaded the country from Uganda at the beginning of the war.
The author of the article spent three weeks in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, meeting with refugees from Rwanda to examine the possibilities for reconciliation. He was able to fully comprehend the horrors of what has happened to those people after listening to the stories of those who were in the country during the Civil War. One Canadian Red Cross worker told a story about how he was almost killed by a government soldier when he refused to empty the truck full of wounded civilians he was driving. Another story was told by a Hutu pastor who was asked by the members of the Hutu youth militia group to kill a young Tutsi man. The pastor refused in spite of a threat of being killed. The group then left to look for another executioner.
After hearing stories like this, the author realized that reconciliation between these people would not be easy to achieve and it would take a considerable amount of time for the wounds of war to heal. With such understanding, he and his colleagues decided to start from the pastors and church members. He and his colleagues conducted two workshops on healing and reconciliation. The pastors from refugee camps expressed their willingness to meet with the church leaders in Rwanda. In Rwanda the author met with church leaders and found out that some of them had already thought of organizing such a meeting. After a few days of negotiations, a week-long meeting in Tanzania between 25 pastors inside and outside of Rwanda was scheduled.
The author sees church leaders playing a major role in bringing two parties together and helping the Hutu become reintegrated into a "now Tutsi-dominated society" (p. 27). He also perceives reconciliation to be the first step on the way to this goal and a long-lasting process.