Human rights essay


Human rights can be defined as entitlement to rights and freedom which all humans enjoy irrespective of colour and geographical location. This include civil and political rights such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, equality before the law, and social ,cultural and economic rights, envisaging the right to food, work, culture and education.

Human rights law is a system of laws both international and domestic intended to promote human rights. It includes treaties intended to discipline some violations of human rights such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. International courts which have been mandate to try violations of human rights include international criminal court and European court of human rights. (Ralph, Paul and Paul, 2007)

The Rwandan Genocide was the organized murder of the Rwanda’s Tutsi minority and the moderates of its Hutu majority in 1994.The year 1994 is considered to be the bloodiest period of the Rwandan civil war and one of the worst genocides of the 1990s.The implementation of the Arusha Accords saw the Tutsi rebels and the Hutu regime agree to a cease fire and further negotiation was defined. Diplomatic intervention to end the conflict seemed to bear some fruits but with time certain Hutus extremists were against the agreement of cooperation between the Hutu regime and the rebels to end economic and ethnic dilemmas. Within a period of 100 days at least 800,000 Tutsis and thousands of Hutus were killed in the genocide .United Nations considered the Rwanda’s conflict to be hard and volatile to handle. Ultimately the Tutsi rebels succeeded in bringing the country under their control and overthrew the Hutu regime. This led to thousands of Hutu refugees to flee across the borders mainly to the west of Democratic Republic of Congo. (Howard and Astri, 1999)


In the 15th century the Tutsi were the rulers of most of present day Rwanda with some Hutus among the aristocracy. Tutsi were herders and minority of population while Hutus were croppers and represented majority in the population. The kings known as Mwamis began to centralize their administrations by distributing land among individuals rather than allowing it to be held by the hereditary chieftains who were mainly Hutus. Most of the chiefs appointed by Mwamis were Tutsi. The redistribution of land between 1860 and 1895 under Mwami Rwabugiri led to Tutsi chiefs demanding manual labour in return for the right of Hutus to occupy their property. This tradeoff left Hutus to be seen as slaves working under their masters, the Tutsi.  Rwanda came on extensionist state under the throne of Mwami Rwabugiri.The rulers did not bother to take a critical look on the ethnic identities of conquered people under their sway simply labeling them all Hutu. The Hutu identity eventually was to be a trans- ethnic. With time the Hutus and Tutsi were observed to be economic distinction rather than being ethnic. This created a phenomenal social mobility on the basis of hierachial status.

In the 1886 Berlin Conference Rwanda and Burundi were occupied by the Germans with this state of affairs in effect until the treaty of Versailles when they were relinquished to Belgium. Hence they sought an explanation for the complex monarch and the trivial distinction of Hutu and Tutsi on the basis of race rather than class. They did bring identification cards to every Rwandan with privileged treatment to Tutsi for places in politics, education and business.

The social revolution of 1959 led by the nationalist party was the basis of a Hutu led republic. Essentially it was the initial of the Rwandan Civil War with the deaths of some 20,000 Tutsi. In 1961 Rwanda got its independence from Belgium. From the social revolution until the time of the genocide, intermittent killings of Tutsi citizens emerged. The years between 1963 and 1964 saw the killings of roughly 14,000 Tutsi in an organized government after the Kaybanda regime squashed an invasion by Tutsi guerillas. Following the political tumult after 1973 in the neighbouring Burundi which led to the arrival of Hutus into Rwanda, the president Gregoire Kayibanda and his army chief Juvenal Habbyarimana organized committees of public safety which led to several hundreds deaths and an exodus of over hundred thousand Tutsi from the country.(Howard and Astri,1999)

Civil war

By the late 1980s, the Tutsi refugee diaspora was a coherent political and military outfit. Big number of Tutsi refugees in Uganda joined the triumphant rebel National Resistance Movement (NRM) during the Uganda Bush war and made themselves a separate movement. It was similar to the NRM, with two parts, the Political Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and the military Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA). This movement was known as the RPF in the international level.  In 1990 the RPF began their invasion of Rwanda to restore themselves within the nation.

In 1993 the rebels and the Rwanda government signed the Arusha accords to end the civil war the accords stripped a lot of powers from President Juvenal Habyaramana who had been all powerful and it vested on Transitional Broad Based Government. It was to govern until proper elections could be held.  However the Hutu extremist Coalition for the Defence of the Republic controlled by President was strongly opposed to sharing power with the RPF.  (Howard and Astri, 1999)


Leaders of Government were in contact with population figures to form and arm militias. The killing was well organized and by the time it started, the militia in Rwanda was 30,000 strong, one militia member for every ten families with representatives in every neighbourhood. The militia members were able to access AK-47 assault rifles and other forms such as grenades.

The ruling party of Rwanda from 1975 to 1994, under President Juvenile Habyariman had been implicated in organized aspects of genocide. Hutu and military groups began encircling and killing all Tutsi they could arrest. Opposition members were also murdered. The killing was swiftly executed throughout the country. The first to organize on the scale characterizing genocide was the mayor of the northwestern town of Gisenyi. He called a meeting on an evening to distribute arms and send out militias to kill Tutsi. Though killing occurred in other towns after the Habyarimana assassination, it took several days for them to be organized on the scale of Gisenyi. Majority of the victims were killed in their villages and towns frequently by their neihgbours and associate villagers. The Hutus massacred their victims in churches and school buildings. Ordinary citizens were called on by local officials and government sponsored radio to kill their neighbours and those who refused to kill were often killed themselves. (Samuel, William and Israel, 2004)


On average two million Hutus, participants in the genocide and the bystanders with anticipation of Tutsi retaliation fled from Rwanda to Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and most part of Democratic Republic of Congo. Thousands of them died of epidemic related diseases prevalent in refugee camps such as dysentery and cholera.

In 1996 a rebellion by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in eastern Republic of Congo marked the onset of the 1st Congo war. This led to a return of more than 600,000 to Rwanda. On the return of the refugees the government began the long awaited genocide trials which had an uncertain start at the end of 1996 and advanced a step in 1997. In 2001 the government of Rwanda began implementing a participatory justice system to address the enormous cases.

UN set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda currently based in Arusha, Tanzania. The tribunal has powers to prosecute high level members of the government and armed forces, while Rwanda government has jurisdiction over lower level leaders and local people.

The country still continues to struggle in promoting investment and agricultural output and to foster reconciliation though substantial international assistance and political reforms have been undertaken.


The genocide in Rwanda is distinct in that the involved perpetrators aimed to mobilize masses to participate the murder. They vividly publicized their motive of eliminating the Tutsi citizens of Rwanda in chanting and songs via the press and over the radio. They lured Hutu to join the killing crusade stressing that it concerned everyone. They left the dead in full view for they carried their massacres in a broad day light. Through imposing fear and hatred on the Tutsi they intended to form solidarity among Hutu. Generally they aimed at creating united front for genocide. They were ordered to fire simultaneously so that none will bear individual responsibility for the action. The ruthless murder of political opponents was meant to cause fear and to intimidate the remaining nonconformists. Anyway they never succeeded in their objective of total extermination. Several Hutus who lacked the courage to oppose them devised passive ways of withdrawing from political and community life and others working within the system to restrain its excesses.

Therefore accurate accounts of the genocide need to be established to analyze the roles of the leaders, the followers and the rebels within Rwanda as well as the parts played by various international actors. This is important in that it will fairly assess the behaviour of individuals and will create avenue for future strategies.  Human life has to be protected at all cost and those countries threatening it should face the full force of international criminal court. Human rights international bodies should also act as watch dogs to make sure that citizens are not denied their rights to life, freedom of speech and other basic principles vital for existence.




Samuel, T., William, S., Israel. (2004).Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness.Newyork: Routledge

Ralph,H.,Paul,C.,Paul,B(2007).The Criminal Law of Genocide:International,Comparative and Contextual Aspects.Newyork:Ashgate Publishing Ltd

Howard, A., Astri, S (1999).The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire.Newyork: Transaction Publishers