The causes of the Rwandan genocide were deeply seeded to the collapse and struggle for dominance within a previously established hierarchy. The roots of ethnic conflicts often find themselves tied to arbitrary guidelines of division between groups. It is this segregation that leads to a fight for power when a hierarchy becomes destabilized.
This is exactly the case with the Rwandan genocide of 1994: the intervention of Belgian colonialism produced strong ethnic stratification that once undermined by the abandonment of Belgian control, lead to mass murder, degradation of peace and longstanding ethnic tensions all in pursuit of wealth and power. Much of the conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic bodies of Rwanda relied on the oppression and eventual uprising of the Hutu people. This oppression was not as evident prior to Belgian influence, which posed the people into a strict economic hierarchy.
The Tutsi people seen as intellectually, socially and economically more proficient upon Belgian occupation were thrust into more fortunate conditions of esteem and prestige. While Tutsi’s were endowed with a greater sense of wealth and power, Hutu people were typically left to situations of forced manual labour. Inequality is known to harbor hostility and resentment, this is exactly the case with the peoples of Rwanda. The suppressed Hutu majority had been subject to mass murdering from a Tutsi controlled government military in addition to government segregation via identification of ethnic groups.
The clashing of biases and categorized opposition of fellow countrymen on an economic basis with Tutsi people superseding Hutu people, was an apparent and established example of ethnic stratification. Ignorance toward a shared identity coupled with arbitrary control created conflict battling over power, wealth and influence. When control of the state was released by Belgian authorities rallies for upheaval were spurred by an oppressed Hutu people. The politically fueled uprising was backed with a contagious and violent attitude of was is known as ethnic cleansing.
The attempt toward dominance was supported mostly by extremists who sought out redemption over their oppression from Tutsi’s and Hutu moderates alike. This civil war claimed what was estimated to be 1 million lives, all initiated by struggle for dominance post destabilization of authority. Once authority collapsed, those who were suppressed rebuttaled with the momentum of a mob. This mob mentality coupled with a previously instated hierarchy allowed for opposing sects to view each other with significant bias, bridging the gap for conflict to be pitted against one another.
This bias can be seen as a result of the Belgian colonial influence, which set groups further apart, creating the stratification necessary for such a conflict. This colonial influence has been labeled a direct precursor to the ethnic conflict that arose. Following the division of a people the battle for political power ensued, prompting murder on a mass scale. Once set in motion the ethnic tension between groups was boiling over. The struggle for control of resources and power was dominated by Hutu leaders taking advantage of media to broadcast the overthrowing of a people.
The Rwandan genocide was heavily influenced by the dissolve of a dominant Belgian controlled hierarchy and the resulting struggle for dominance between two ethnically stratified groups. The role colonialism played was ultimately a catalyst to a civil war and genocide: suppressing a people and distinguishing another. Arbitrary segregation guidelines between groups, supported by inequality and oppression was the right equation for one of the most infamous ethnic conflicts of modern time.