Nicole properly comments on my entry “Preventing Another Rwanda” that
“It seems interesting to me that the links provided here chronicle Hutu on Tutsi genocide, but ignore the reverse. In 1972, in Burundi, the Tutsi run government exterminated thousands of Hutus, yet you rarely hear of it when genocide in Africa is discussed.”
This was not a deliberate taking of sides or ignoring of the past on my part, with the topic being a book on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and it is not representative of Philip Gourevitch’s seemingly quite even-handed treatment in “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families.” While I again must state my limited knowledge of African history, below are some select quotes from Gourevitch’s book that offer more of his perspective.
On the historic similarities of Hutus and Tutsis, groups that fought together, shared a language and religion, and that could become one or the other through intermarriage:
“Because of all this mixing, ethnographers and historians have lately come to agree that Hutus and Tutsis cannot properly be called distinct ethnic groups” [pp. 47-48].
“[T]he next time you hear a story like the one that ran on the front page of The New York Times in October of 1997, reporting on ‘the age-old animosity between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups,’ remember that until [the beating and errant rumored death of an administrative sub-chief and Hutu activist by Tutsi activists] in 1959 there had never been systematic political violence recorded between Hutus and Tutsis – anywhere” [p. 59].
On Burundi, which he considers to have a separate, though influential history on Rwanda (see note, p.53), referring to the 1972 genocide:
…the political landscape appeared very much like Rwanda’s through a bloody looking glass: in Burundi, a Tutsi military regime held power and Hutus feared for their lives. In the spring of 1972 some Burundian Hutus had attempted a rebellion, which was quickly put down. Then, in the name of restoring “peace and order,” the army conducted a nationwide campaign of extermination against educated Hutus, in which a lot of unschooled Hutus were murdered as well. The genocidal frenzy in Burundi exceeded anything that had preceded it in Rwanda. At least a hundred thousand Burundian Hutus were killed in the spring of 1972, and at least two hundred thousand fled as refugees – many of them to Rwanda. [p. 67].
Gourevitch seems highly critical of Western powers before, during and after for the ethnic tensions and ultimately (and actively), in his view, the perpetuation of the Rwandan genocide. Not only official government entities (and the UN), but also NGOs come under substantial criticism. Likewise, he is not above observations that, while sympathetic in the scope of things, are nonetheless not always flattering to members of the Rwandan government after the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) took control (this was a Tutsi-led anti-”Hutu Power” group).
While I again need to learn more before I can speak with greater understanding about this issue, I did not want to let stand the impression that this might be (consciously or not) pro-Tutsi or anti-Hutu. I think it is safe to say a great many (particularly non-combatants) in this genocide, both Tutsi and Hutu, were murdered in the most heinous and criminally callous of ways.