The Impact of Identity Politics in the Rwandan Genocide

Remso Martinez Comments

On April 7, I joined several hundred Rwandan refugees, diplomats, and friends of the nation as we marched in Washington D.C. to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the April 7- July 3, 1994, massacre that left one million people murdered and more than half the country’s female population raped.

Experts claim every minute of the genocide, six Rwandans were murdered. The UN Peacekeepers who were meant to maintain order in Rwanda retreated, leaving the Hutu majority to murder every Tutsi man, woman, and child they could find. Sadly, the history of the twentieth century shows that mankind has learned very little from our actions and inactions.

Specifically, the weaponization of identity politics to turn human beings into objects, literally anything less than a living, breathing person.

State-owned radio stations put out 24/7 propaganda stating that the Tutsis, the ethnic minority in Rwanda were “cockroaches” and “vermin.”

One of the survivors who spoke about her testimony told the crowd of diplomats and spectators when she was nine-years-old, her Hutu teacher told the students to divide the room based on the student’s ethnic identity. The nine-year-old at the time had no clue who she was, so she went home to ask her parents whether she was Hutu or Tutsi.

They replied, “You are a child of God, it doesn’t matter what else you are.” Sadly, friends and neighbors turned on her when the Hutu-controlled government issued a proclamation to purge Rwanda of all Tutsis. She is thankful to have survived, but of the nine members of her family, only she and two younger sisters lived.

Rwanda today is a beacon of economic growth and social liberalization, with more than half of the elected political seats in their government held by women – more so than any other country in the world. Leaders such as Tutsi and current president Paul Kagame and his liberation army were able to end the genocide – but instead of falling into a vengeful bloodlust –  they chose to focus on unification and non-violence instead of destroying what little they had left of their nation.

As we remember the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian genocide, and the Holocaust, free people must never forget that the largest minority on earth is the individual and that the collectivist scourge of identity politics is meant to divide and enslave through means of coercion, force, and violence.

The best way to remember those who died and those who still live is to reflect on history, and carry those lessons into our day to day lives.

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