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Violentization and the Rwandan Genocide

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The Rwandan Genocide

        An estimate of 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus were slaughtered in over 100 days, the quickest killing spree in history. This genocide was between the Tutsi minority and Hutsu majority. The genocide began when an airplane, which Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was in, was shot down outside of the capital. It was said that after the crash “the U.S deputy Assistance Secretary of State warned of ‘the strong likelihood that widespread violence could break out’” (Endgenocide, 13). After the president’s death, the Hutu rebels took over all the streets of Kigali. “Within a day, the Hutus had successfully eliminated Rwanda’s moderate leadership. As the weeks progressed, Tutsis and anyone suspected of having any ties to a Tutsi, were killed” (Endgenocide, 16).

        The Tutsi recreated a rebel group called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to fight back against the Hutus. This grew the violence and created more war and genocide. Women were specifically killed mainly by rape. The Hutus believed this was considered “another way to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group, through both the emotional pain (so the woman could “die of sadness”), and through the health problems that would be a result” (Endgenocide, 39). There was approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women who were raped. In one case, “women who were held at Omarska were routinely called out of their rooms at night and raped. One witness testified that she was taken out five times and rape and after each rape was beaten” (Winton 373). Sexual abuse was common during this genocide. One witness said that she would hear the cries of other girls around the age 12 and 13 while she was being raped. The girls and women “were subsequently killed, either brought to the river and killed there, after having returned to their houses, or kill at the bureau communal” (Winton 373). The witness also told a story of a young girl named Chantal who was forced to march around naked in front of a group of people. This group of people were laughing and happy with what they were doing. She also mentioned about one Tutsi woman who married a Hutu man being killed by having been penetrated by a long piece of wood into her sexual organs.

        This genocide was a disgusting one because they were fighting against their own people. They were killing each others neighbors. Who were friends one day fought to kill each other the next. Lonnie Athens worked for years trying to understand how some can become violent while others don’t. This process is called “violentization.” Violentization is when one believes the system will not protect them so fights against the system by “brutalize others or be brutalized themselves, and finally, through the performance of such brutalization they become violent perpetrators themselves” (Csudh, 18). Violentization has four stages: brutalization stage, defiance stage, violent dominance engagement stage, and virulency.

        The first stage, brutalization stage, is the starting point of violent behavior. This is the first stage when the subject begins to learn violent behavior. During this stage, one will slowly grow a violent attitude preparing them to become a violent person. They will be taught that they must kill to defend themself from the enemy. “This begins to set up the “kill or be killed” script that becomes incorporated into the phantom community” (Winton 369). The subject will often be influenced or forced by a member of a group to commit a violent act. Athens breaks down this stage in three kinds of experiences: violent subjugation, personal horrification, and violent coaching. The subject could be “ assaulted, threatened, observe others being threatened, and coached on how to carry out violent behavior” (Winton, 365). The subject grows to become more alarmed to not be attacked like what they witnessed.

The second stage, defiance stage, the subject begins to give themself the option to be violent at certain situations that they believes is harmful. In short, this stage can be phrased as “using violence to stop violence” (Winton 370). The individual or group that is influencing the subject will give the subject reasons and methods to convince that violence is justified. The influencer will pressure the subject that violence is the only answer to protect themself. This way, the subject believes that violence is the answer for protection and survival.

The third stage, violent dominance engagement, is when the subject commits to their violent attitude and puts it to action. “The perpetrators present a violent supportive belief system that encourages the use of violence toward others” (Winton 365). The brutalization and defiance stages allowed the perpetrators to justify their violent behaviors and demand that violence is carried out” (Winton 371). The subject could even be punished if they did not behave violently as told by their influencer. The subject then begin to test their violent behaviors on their subordinates. The subject can even be rewarded “for behaving violently with positive comments from peers, celebrations from the community, material possessions, sex, and the reduced risk of being a victim of violence” (Winton 365).

The last stage, virulency, is when one feels no guilt, instead feels impressed with their own action and strives to commit more violent acts. They completed their image of having a violent self-image instilling fear to others. “They use violence to gain control of others, obtain respect, instill fear, and make others feel powerless, shamed, and humiliated” (Winton 366). In doing so, the subject can avoid these feelings. The subject believes their acts are justified and necessary.

There was a fifth stage that Athens added “account for aggression involving torture, mutilation, and other behaviors associated with extreme violence” (Winton 373). These behaviors are extreme and go beyond the “virulent type in intensity, severity, and scope and may be used to account for extreme group violence” (Winton 373). Actions such as rape lay in this category.

        The Violentization theory can be applied with the behaviors with the Hutus and Tutis. When the violentization theory is applied to the Hutus and Tutis behavior, it makes sense how people can become violent in a matter of days. The Rwandan genocide “was probably planned years in advance” (Winton 369). The Hutus were reminded that “the Tutsi had tried to eradicate them in Burundi in 1972” (Winton 369). The political party Mouvement Revolutionnaire National pour le Development (MRND) planned this genocide using brutalization by creating a group called the “Interahamwe”. In which they convinced, forced, and pressured the group to attack the Tutsi. On April 13, 1994, the Interahamwe and militiamen attacked against refugees in a church. The refugees defended themselves by pushing the attackers and threw a grenade causing many deaths. This can also be an example of the defiance stage. The people felt threatened and harmed towards each other and act based on their survival instinct. At that point, they were blinded by brutality and killed whoever made them feel attacked.



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