The drawing of Nation State boundaries in Sub-Saharan Africa didn’t take tribes, religious or regional groups into account. This consequently led to the mistreatment of some groups by others, which eventually led to the majority of reasons causing civil war and strife. These drastic events stopped economic growth and perpetuated 3rd world poverty. The European powers didn’t start laying claim on Africa until the second half of the nineteenth century, when they nearly laid claim on the whole continent. Because competition was so aggressive amongst the European powers, a conference was held in Berlin in 1884 to divide up Africa.
The major countries that participated were Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and Portugal. When the conference was in progress, a majority of Africa was still under traditional African rule. Eventually (after 1900) the colonial powers managed to gain control of all areas of Africa. In his article on colonialism in Rwanda, Troy Riemer states “A new kind of racism was brought to Rwanda upon the arrival of Europeans in the 20th century. Colonists assumed their own superiority and valued those physically and geographically close to themselves” (Riemer 2011).
Before the European powers colonized Rwanda the elite group was the Tutsi cattle herders. The majority of the colony was made up of peasant farmers, known as the Hutu’s. In pre-colonial times, the division between Hutu and Tutsi was sometimes blurred. Some Hutu bought cattle and were accepted into the upper classes, while some Tutsis became poor peasants. Rwanda was first colonized and governed by Germany, but was later taken over and newly ruled by Belgium. Belgium was quick to discriminate between the Hutu’s and Tutsis. “In 1933 Belgian rulers introduced ethnic ID cards and favored the Tutsis.
Later they quickly switched sides and effortlessly supported the Hutu majority” (Riemer 2011). “Vengeful Hutu elements murdered about 15,000 Tutsis between 1959 and 1962, and more than 100,000 Tutsis fled to neighbouring countries” (Jones 2002). This favoritism that before colonization was not really recognized or argued with was becoming an issue between the Hutus and Tutsis. Little did anyone know, this new since of entitlement brought about by the Belgian government would cause massive amount of turmoil, hatred, heartbreak, and war in the years to come.
After the Tutsi king’s passing in 1959, Rwanda has gone through a series of heartbreaking civil wars that eventually lead up to the genocide in 1994. “According to Gerard Prunier, “Because of the chaotic nature of the genocide and the events leading up to it, the total number of people killed has never been systematically assessed, but most experts believe the total was around 800,000 people. This includes about 750,000 Tutsis and approximately 50,000 politically moderate Hutus who did not support the genocide.
Only about 130,000 Tutsis survived the massacres” (Jones 2002). Rwanda today is still continuing to rebuild economically and heal as a whole, slowly but surely. It has taken this country years after the last genocide to even consider being called ‘back on their feet’. An article was written in 2010 by the New York Times on the genocide’s 16th anniversary, discussing Rwanda’s progress since all the violence. “This country has certainly come farther in the past 16 years than even the most optimistic observers would have predicted.
All of this development is important to recognize because it has been the government’s express policy to deliver basic services and economic growth to its people in order to mitigate genocide ideology” (Ruxin 2010). “Five years ago, traveling anywhere in the country was bound to be a bumpy ride, if the way was even passable. Today, east-to-west and north-to-south, the road infrastructure is impressive and continues to expand. Five years ago, the country struggled to get tourists in for $375 permits to visit Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. Today, during high season, there are not enough $500 tickets to meet the demand.
Five years ago, there were no supermarkets or ATMs, and the cheapest cell phones cost $50. Today there are multiple supermarkets, over a dozen international ATMs, and cell phones that cost $14 are plentiful” (Ruxin 2010). “Against this impressive backdrop, crushing poverty still affects about 40% of the population. Millions live on tiny plots of land scarcely capable of producing adequate food for families in which the average woman gives birth to six children. It’s this latter issue –raging population growth – that continues to perplex the policy and development wonks in Rwanda” (Ruxin 2010).