Friday, October 3, 2008

The Role of Belgian Colonization

After WWI, the Treaty of Versailles was signed and it affected Germany in many ways. One way was the colony of Rwanda-Urundi was taken away from Germany and made a League of Nations protectorate that was put under Belgian rule. The Belgians reinforced the class system that the Germans had imposed, further separating the Tutsies and the Hutus. The Belgians favored the Tutsies (even though they only made up 14% of Rwanda, whereas the Hutus made up 85% of the country. The Tutsies were given many privileges that the Hutu were not fortunate enough to receive, including western-style education and political power. The Belgians used the Tutsi to rule the country, having these people enforce what the Belgians believed and what the Belgians wanted done. Therefore the Tutsies were essentially puppets and the Belgians were the puppet masters. The Belgians insisted that Rwanda start to grow coffee, the corvee was introduced (this is form of labor in which each worker is whipped eight times before work each morning). The onerous corvee was not popular and many people fled to Uganda. I would have left Rwanda if I was a slave because being beaten before I started my day would make me not want to work and it would enrage me everyday. The Belgians began to focus more and more on race and they did studies that proved, in there eyes, that the Tutsies were superior. Scientists were brought into the country to measure skulls sizes (to see which group of people had a bigger skull and therefore a bigger brain-now we know that brain size is irrelevant to intelligence). Tutsies were also taller and lighter skinned so the Belgians believed they were of Caucasian decent, therefore making them "better" than the Hutus. Racial identification cards were also distributed which identified if the citizens of Rwanda were Hutu or Tutsi.

As time went on, the idea that the Tutsies were superior to the Hutu became so ingrained in the minds of the Tutsies that they started to believe this idea and exploited their power over the Hutu. Resentment, anger, and confusion flooded the hearts and minds of the Hutu. These emotions started to build up over time and as the people entered the 1990's, these emotions were about to explode.



(Picture: The country of Belgium is highlighted but you can also see Germany, the former colonial power in Rwanda, to the right).

Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rwanda/etc /cron.html
http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ad24
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Rwanda
http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/images/europe/belgium.jpg

3 comments:

Hannah said...

I might be wrong, but it sounds like Belgians were anxious to prove Tutsies superiority over Hutus with absurd evidences. Do you know why they chose Tutsies to run the country? Why did Belgians chose Tutsies to be superior than indigenous Hutus?

jandubbers. said...

Sources say that they displayed more Caucasian-like features, like lighter skin, taller build, etc. In addition, the were, in a way, Rwanda's de facto leaders (the were wealthier by the ubuhake system)

Norman Scurlock said...

The post doesn't mention the murder of hundreds of thousand of the Indigenous people.