By: Dan Ugwu
This year 2019 is exactly 25 years since the event of the Rwandan genocide (April 7, to mid-July, 1994) took place. That was when the country became one big sepulchre, as hell enlarged itself, and people just streamed into it.
Indeed, Rwanda will never forget the weeks and months when the fields of Kigali, its capital, where brought to ruins and bloody wreckage. The waters turned crimson, and the rivers became rivers of blood, blood of human beings, not animals. Heaps upon heaps of corpses littered Rwanda, not in hundreds, not in thousands, but in hundreds of thousands.
The Rwandan genocide was a morbid attack involving two racial groups in Rwanda: The minority Tutsis, which had dominated the country’s leadership for a long time, and the majority Hutu who later came to power. The Hutu and Tutsi are two tribes who share a common past.
When Rwanda was first settled, the people who lived there raised cattle. Soon, the people who owned the most cattle were called “Tutsi” and everyone else was called “Hutu.” At this time, a person could easily change category through marriage or cattle acquisition. It wasn’t until Europeans came to colonize the area that the terms “Tutsi” and “Hutu” took on a racial role.
The Germans were the first to colonize Rwanda in 1894. Just like the Nigerian Fulani hegemony and oligarchy structure, the Germans looked at the Rwandan people and thought the Tutsi had more European characteristics, such as lighter skin and a taller build. Thus, they put Tutsis in roles of responsibility. When the Germans lost their colonies following World War I, the Belgians took control over Rwanda.
In 1933, the Belgians solidified the categories of “Tutsi” and “Hutu” by mandating that every person was to have an identity card that labelled them Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. (Twa are a very small group of hunter-gatherers who also live in Rwanda).
The event that sparked the genocide took place at 8:30 p.m. on April 6, 1994. On this day, the Hutu – led president Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda was returning from a summit in Tanzania when a surface-to-air missile shot his plane out of the sky over Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali.
All on board were killed in the attack including Habyarimana. To this, the Hutus said it was not ordinary death, that the Tutsis caused it by shooting down the plane; then entered the carnage.
As it is going now, all the variables that sparked the genocide 25 years ago in Rwanda are replete in Nigeria. Talk of hate; we have it in prodigious quantity among the ethnic nationalities. What of malice? We are not mean in that area at all. “Suspicion” is the middle name of Nigeria; religious intolerance and insularity is the water some Nigerians drink daily, they even bathe in it.
Unfortunately, the warlords in the guerrilla warfare use religion as a cloak to achieve their sinister motives. Here in Nigeria, due to the theatre of the absurd created by the incompatibility of professed tenets and the gruesome activities of religious fanatics, religion has been given a bad name by some people.
Religious and ethnic identities create strong passion and as such are susceptible to exploitation to advance selfish and egocentric interests. There are those who adduce sociological and psychological reasons to account for all that happen in Nigeria in the name of religion.
They try to interpret the sad phenomenon as a by-product of mass discontentment and frustration among the jobless and hopeless hordes of people that roam about Nigerian streets in hunger.
For some, there is strong underhand fanatical arrangement and determination to convert or wipe out infidels from Nigeria. In this process, bigotry takes the place of religious tolerance.
I have watched with unease and disquiet how religion and mass hatred are becoming a tool in the hands of some politicians and non-politicians in the build up to the last general elections. If such inclinations are not nipped to the bud, then we are firmly on the road to Rwanda.
If we must avoid the road to Kigali, Rwandan’s capital, then we will need to repent. If they continue to emphasize our fault lines, play on our centrifugal forces like ethnicity, language, clan, religion, all because they want to rule, soon, they’ll find that there’s no country to really rule over again.
If they continue to politicize everything even people’s security, then the debris of the Nigerian explosion will be nothing compared to the Rwandan version of the genocide. The cohesion of the country may have been destroyed badly now, but we still trudge on. We need to embrace peace, become optimistic, express love and hope in our beloved country.
However, if Nigerians continue to talk and behave recklessly by fanning the embers of hatred, intolerance and discord, then the rickety contraption we have will not continue to hold out. Things may fall apart, and the rest of the world will just say of us: truly there was a country called Nigeria.