Today, 25 years ago saw the beginning of a terrible human tragedy in a small landlocked country in East Central Africa called Rwanda.

It is a tragedy that lasted 100 days and saw at least one million lives lost. Men, women and children were slaughtered and crushed in a hate-filled frenzy. Ethnic identity (reflected on identity cards and appearance) was the basis of death by guns, machetes and farming implements by neighbour on neighbour, youth militias and gendarmerie. Moderate Hutus and Twas were collateral damage in a hate-filled campaign to rid the country of Tutsis.

Much has been written about genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, and many in this room are painfully aware of its effects because no single family was spared the trauma of the massacre. The purpose of my paper is not to present a history lesson, on the contrary, many in this room can teach us so much of what went so badly wrong. However, it is useful to remind ourselves that ethnic tensions in Rwanda precede the 1994 genocide, with some historians tracing tensions to about 1700 when eight kingdoms dominated the territory. These tensions escalated during and after the Berlin Conference in 1884, which some refer to as the scramble for Africa, where European colonial powers had divided Africa up amongst themselves, and both Rwanda and Burundi were handed over, first  to the Germans and then the Belgians, who in turn consolidated the hand of the Tutsi people by using them as proxies to administer colonial rule. Historic resentments grew and festered over decades.

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Speech on the 25th Commemoration of Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre
By Ms Zohra Dawood, Director, Centre for Unity in Diversity