A Postcolonial Reflection on the Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsi and Statement of Solidarity with Its Survivors

Published date01 October 2021
Date01 October 2021
Subject MatterResearch Note/Commentary
A Postcolonial Reflection
on the Rwandan
Genocide Against the
Tutsi and Statement
of Solidarity with
Its Survivors
Noam Schimmel1
African affairs, human rights, justice, law and legal, participation, politics of France,
rehabilitation, victim protection, victimization
Belgian Colonization of Rwanda: Racism, Division
and Exploitation
In commemorating the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi, we affirm the
integrity of Rwanda and the Rwandan people. They were torn asunder by the
German and Belgian governments and the Belgian White Fathers for whom a
morally perverted form of religion and destructive colonialism went hand in hand.
They worked together in arrogance and wilful ignorance of Rwandan culture and
civilization—with their bigoted, racist ideologies—when they forced themselves
upon Rwanda during colonization.
The Belgian government ruled Rwanda particularly catastrophically and
ruthlessly. They built upon Germany’s racist policies in Rwanda, and, by
cultivating division and hate in Rwandan society; employing a divide and
conquer strategy of invasion, conquest, discrimination and persecution, helped
lay the groundwork for mass murder and genocide.2 They destroyed Rwanda’s
physical and spiritual integrity, freedom and independence—politically,
1 International and Area Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.
2 M. MaMdani, When VictiMs BecoMe Killers: colonialisM, natiVisM and the Genocide in rWanda
(Princeton University Press, 2001); J. seMuJanGa, oriGins of rWandan Genocide (Humanity Books,
Research Note/Commentary
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
4(2) 179–196, 2021
2022 Rajiv Gandhi National
University of Law
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/25166069221084855
Corresponding author:
Noam Schimmel, International and Area Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
E-mail: noams@berkeley.edu
* Please note that four paragraphs of this essay have appeared in an earlier publication of mine, as
referenced later in the article in footnote 26. Portions of this essay have been posted online by several
human rights organizations, but not formally published.
180 Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 4(2)
religiously, culturally and socially. They exploited Rwandans to fight in their
wars only to betray Rwandans following their ultimate sacrifice with ingratitude
and malice.
They destroyed an indigenous culture and form of governance that integrated
Hutus and Tutsis into diverse clans.3 Instead, they cultivated artificial and foreign
notions of essentialized and racialized Hutus and Tutsis. Rwandans know the
horrific consequences of this coercive and racist Belgian reconstruction of
Rwandan social and political identities in the service of dividing Rwandans and
alienating them from one another to advance Belgian colonization and its
pernicious aims. Rwanda neither asked for nor needed Europeans to meddle in its
affairs and offer false promises. But the Germans and Belgians did not ask—they
felt entitled—they invaded, attacked and plundered. Rwanda lives with the
murderous consequences of their colonization and racism and the mass resentment,
jealousy and violence it begot every day.
The Belgian government—with its relentless history of colonization not only
in Rwanda but also in Burundi and Congo and Belgian racism against Rwandans—
both Hutus and Tutsis, and since 1959, directed against Tutsis—owes an infinite
debt to the Rwandan people and particularly to Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. The
Belgian government conveniently and narcissistically imagined the Congolese,
Burundians and Rwandans as savages—projecting its own brutality, immorality
and utter ignorance and the evil of its racist theories onto the peoples Belgium
oppressed and subjugated. Belgium has yet to acknowledge its moral and legal
responsibility for its unconscionable crimes in Africa in any meaningful and
significant way that will address its legacies of harm, violence, death and attacks
on African democratic self-rule and on the human rights of Africans. Its racist
legacy still powerfully informs Belgian law, government and society today.4
To the colonial Belgians who thought they arrived in a dark continent laden with
jungle and any who sympathize with them we say, never and never and never again
shall you bring your moral darkness and your racism to dominate, discriminate,
dehumanize, devalue and divide—not in Congo, not in Burundi, not in Rwanda and
not anywhere in Africa. Better for Belgium to develop its as yet unmastered skill of
effectively self-governing a population divided between the Flemish and Walloons,
with little love lost between them. Belgium’s reckless and arrogant sense of
entitlement brought violence and destruction on a scale and scope that Rwanda,
Burundi and Congo never experienced prior to the arrival of Europeans. Whatever
heart of darkness Belgium’s colonizers thought they encountered in Africa was their
own and remains their own as many still celebrate and honour the Belgium’s sadist
king, Leopold, who killed and tortured over one million Congolese.5
3 Id.
4 J. Rankin, Belgium Forced to Reckon with Leopold’s Legacy and its Colonial Past, the Guardian,
12 June 2020, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/12/belgium-forced-to-
reckon-with-leopolds-legacy-and-its-colonial-past; D. Boffey. Cecile Djunga: It Hurts—So We Must
Talk About Racism in Belgium, the Guardian, 9 September 2018, available at https://www.theguard-
5 a. hochschild, KinG leopolds Ghost: a story of Greed, terror and heroisM in colonial
africa (Mariner Books, 1999); S. Islam, Europe Can Only Fix Its Relationship with Colonial

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