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Rwanadan Genocide

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        Genocide is an act committed with the intent to destroy and completely eliminate in whole or in part, an ethnical, racial or religious group, which was Jean-Paul Akayesu’s vicious goal. Twenty-four years ago, starting on April 7th 1994, over eight hundred thousand Tutsi people were killed by the Hutu people, which would now be known as the Rwandan Genocide. Jean-Paul Akayesu, former mayor in Rwanda, had a major role in this Rwandan Genocide because under his power he allowed Tutsi women to be raped, the Tutsi’s cherished items to be stolen and the killing of numerous women, men and children over an exactly one hundred day span. Not able to put up a fight, the now homeless, defenseless Tutsi’s watched as their population was diminishing by the second. When the United Nations court found Jean-Paul Akayesu guilty of genocide, it was seen as a revolutionary moment in history since it was the first time the law against genocide was ever enforced.

        Jean-Paul Akayesu was born 1953 in a Taba community in Rwanda. Prior to the horrific genocide, Akayesu was a teacher and a well-respected man inside of his community. He then decided to make a change in his life by becoming active in politics, resulting in him becoming a mayor for Rwanada in 1994. The important job of a mayor is to oversee the local economy, control the police, and to administer the law. In the Rwandan culture being the mayor was the most important job any member of society could obtain. The people would see him as an inspiration or someone to go to for any type of an event, if in need of a birth certificate or marriage certificate, and even if you have fights with your spouse or neighbors, he was the people’s first choice to go to for help. Christopher Catherwood and Leslie Alan Horvitz write “As mayor, Akayesu was responsible for maintaining law and public order in his commune, but instead he stood by as at least 2,000 Tutsis were killed in Taba between April 7 and the end of June” (Catherwood and Horvitz). Jean-Paul Akayesu took advantage of his occupation and authority, knowing that all the people looked up to him, and had the power to make the community turn against one another.

Genocide occurs when one group feels superior to the other. In Rwanda’s case it was the Hutus who believed they should have more power over the Tutsis. Rwanda is composed of three main ethnic groups known as the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. It is estimated around 85% of the population identified as Hutu, compared to the Tutsi that only had 14% of the population, leaving the Twa making up only 1%. Belgium was the main influence to why the Hutus felt this superiority. Belgium once had control of Rwanda, and once they received their independence the Hutus made sure to take the power and run the Rwandan government. Author Mahmood Mamdani  wrote, The growing cultural tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsis, worsened by the impositions of colonial rule, effectively set the stage for the genocide that would take place in 1994” (Mamadani). This quote shows that there was always segregation between the two ethnic groups, and unfortunately over time it worsened. The reasoning that the Hutu people had the intent to exterminate the entire Tutsi population was because the president of Rwanda’s plane had gotten shot down after he had signed a major peace treaty and the Hutus automatically blamed the Tutsi people for the death of the president. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of a historical massacre.

        The mastermind behind this genocide, Jean-Paul Akayesu, was enforcing many rules and regulations, making sure that Hutu extremists would remain loyal by killing any Tutsi person that ever crossed their path. The former mayor had made rules such as no Hutu man should have any contact with any Tutsi women, every Hutu must make sure that people know the Tutsi population will never compare to them, and that every part of education must be Hutu, meaning the students cannot be Tutsi nor can the teachers. Having these rules enforced on the Hutu people he was sure his plan of genocide would work, but he did have other tactics to definitely insure that the Hutu’s would get rid of all Tutsi people. The other part of his plan was to help the Hutu’s economically because most if not all of the community was poor, so financially it was hard for the Hutus to reach their goal by making sure there were absolutely no Tutsi people left in the community. Akayesu had met Felicien Kabuga, a Hutu who was wealthy and very willing to help his people at all costs. A New York Times article states, “Felicien Kabuga who is accused of sponsoring the 1994 genocide in Rwanda by supplying machetes and hoes for weapons, has long used his huge bank account and official connections to keep one step ahead of the law, authorities say” (Lacey A7). Akayesu recruited Kabuga to become a sponsor making it easier for the Hutus to kill the Tutsis faster since they had the supplies to make the death toll rise even higher.  Lastly, another tactic he had was to make sure every local radio station was to talk about how the Hutus are making a change for the better, and making the Tutsis intimidated and scared for their lives. Jean-Paul Akayesu took advantage of his job and the Hutu people abused his power, which allowed him to create a devastating disaster.

Jean-Paul Akayesu left himself absolutely no room to be innocent, because he was the person making the main decisions and ignoring that there was an annihilation of the Tutsi population happening.  Under his power he allowed Tutsi women to be raped, the Tutsi’s cherished items to be stolen and the killing of numerous women, men and children. At the time, ID cards had people's ethnic group on them, so when militias set up multiple roadblocks, which is where the Tutsi people were found being slaughtered. The Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide states, “Women were raped and threatened; those who were allowed to live suffered emotional and physical trauma. The killings were so widespread and so flagrant that there is no question of his not being aware of them” (Catherwood and Horvitz). Jean-Paul Akayesu would do everything in his power to make sure that a Tutsi person would never live a good life again. As mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu makes executive decisions for the soldiers and police officers, and he encouraged them to force ordinary citizens to take part in the genocide. In some cases, Hutu civilians did not want to take part in the killing of the Tutsi people, but were forced to murder their Tutsi neighbors and were rewarded by receiving food or even the land of the person that they had killed. Jean-Paul Akayesu can be seen always making terrible choices, devastating a Tutsi person from every age.



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