U of C prof reminisces about time in Rwanda

By Laura Bardsley

Although the state of affairs in Rwanda have quieted down since 1994, its violent past will not be soon forgotten. At Big Rock University, the brewery hosts a lecture every month on a different issue. This month’s speech was about the Rwandan genocide.

The featured speaker, University of Calgary sociology professor Dr. Augustine Brannigan, discussed his studies and experience in Rwanda.

He focused on the Rwandan genocide, when Hutus killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsis.

Brannigan explained that the sporadic violence resulted from a large number of Tutsi refugees coming to Rwanda and its surrounding nations in 1990. The Rwandan Civil War vastly increased ethnic tensions in the country after the Rwandan Patriotic Front, comprised mainly of Tutsis, invaded Rwanda from Uganda.

France helped the Hutus gain power, Brannigan said. He argued that without French aid, the genocide would have had fewer casualties.

However, the French were not to have the brunt of the blame.

In 1994, the killings were carried out by two Hutu militias– the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi ­– who were associated with political parties. Directing the genocide was the Hutu group known as the Akazu.

“You are far more likely to die at the hands of the state than to die at the hands of a mass murderer,” said Brannigan.

When the killings were over and the trials and insights started, the lack of remorse by the perpetrators wasn’t completely astonishing, said Brannigan. He explained that when an individual is asked by their state to do something, then prosecuted for it, the individual doesn’t see it as their fault because they just did what they were told to.

Because of the number of illiterate people in Rwanda, the radio was used to transmit news from the government. When the only two radio stations, Radio Rwanda and Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines, started to advocate violence towards the Tutsis, the population responded. It was clear, Brannigan said after touring the trials, that the displacement of blame onto the state wasn’t surprising.

“If it’s not lost, hopefully it won’t be repeated,” he said, after presenting slides of countless death sites.

Leave a comment