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The genocide against the Tutsi: the establishment of the genocidal policies since 1959

An article about the content of a presentation held at the workshop on Histories of Genocides in the World, organized by Paris-based organization Memorial de la Shoah in Kigali/Rwanda, on 20-21/12/2022.

Published onJan 04, 2023
The genocide against the Tutsi: the establishment of the genocidal policies since 1959

Contact email: [email protected]

Keywords: genocide, ethnicism, racism, Hamitic ideology, Tutsi, Rwanda, Belgium

This article reproduces the content of a presentation at the workshop on Histories of Genocides in the World, organized by Paris-based organization Memorial de la Shoah in Kigali/Rwanda, on 20-21/12/2022. It is more broadly inspired by my research for my thesis project in African History (Humboldt University/Berlin) entitled: ‘Not all White People Are Bad’: Racialism and Genocide of the West in Rwanda since Colonization.

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The criticism of Hamitic ideology was the greatest milestone in the historiography on Rwanda, but it remains incomplete due to two major shortcomings. The first and most important is the ignorance of the anti-Tutsi hatred common to most of the very first Europeans in Rwanda, long before the triumph of Hamitic ideology and its subsequent exaltation of the Tutsi. This anti-Tutsi racism persisted from German colonial rule until the end of Belgian trusteeship, but in an attenuated form for reasons of colonial opportunism, before resurging with violence at the end of Belgian administration. There are appalling indications that the Belgian colonial administration started the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1959. Many authors have proliferated in the ideological wake of the ‘Rwandan revolution’ to this day, and they made and still make the apology for this genocide. History will simply remember them as criminal scholars. Our research is conducted from an interpretive and decolonial approach.



Existing scholarship has highlighted ethnicism as the main cause of the genocide against the Tutsi and widely demonstrated the 'racialisation' of Rwandan society since the encounter with the Europeans (Nkaka, 2013; Chrétien & Kabanda, 2013). The criticism of Hamitic ideology from Edith R. Sanders (1969) to Jean Pierre Chrétien (1997; 2013) was the greatest milestone and one of the best advances in the historiography on Rwanda (Rutazibwa, 2022). However, it remains incomplete due to two major shortcomings. The first is the ignorance of the existence of racialism and anti-Tutsi hatred common to most of the very first Europeans in Rwanda, long before the triumph of Hamitic ideology and its subsequent exaltation of the Tutsi. In 1899, explorer and future German colonial Resident for Rwanda Richard Kandt wrote: 'Rouanda is a country full of hopes when we could destroy the power of the Watusi’ (Minnaert, 2021). French missionary, White Father Alphonse Brard wrote in 1902: 'today, the Batusi no longer have a future, the appearance of Europeans will ruin their power everywhere...’; 'handsome men with very regular faces', 'many (of whom) have absolutely the Jewish type’; …’they consider themselves far superior to (the Europeans)’. After describing the Tutsi as the ‘great lords of Rwanda’, the missionary could regret that the 'aborigines' - that is to say the Hutu - only lacked a leader 'to make their masters take the road to the north'. Since Europeans confused the Tutsi as a group with the ruling class, - or even future political organizations like UNAR (Union Nationale Rwandaise) of the 1960s or RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) of the 1990s-, the genocide of the Tutsi was in a way programmed but put on hold (Rutazibwa, 2022).

The second shortcoming to the criticism of Himitic ideology is that even the most respected scholars, including the authority on the subject, namely Jean Pierre Chrétien seem to believe in the colonial and Catholic missionary narrative that presents the end of Belgian colonial rule as a situation of injustice and oppression where the monarchy and indigenous leaders lost their legitimacy in the eyes of the population in favour of an emerging ‘Hutu counter – elite’ (Chrétien & Kabanda, 2013). Recent studies and testimonies (CNUR, 2016; Gakwenzire 2017;  Kimenyi 2019; Rutazibwa, 2022b) indicate that the problem of injustice and oppression have been raised to obscure the real issue of the moment, which was the demand for independence; that the monarchy and native authority were still respected and legitimate in the eyes of the people despite the decades spent as auxiliaries to colonization; and that the so-called Hutu counter-elite was initially a marginal player without own agency, among many other collaborators created by the colonizer and the missionaries, with no real influence on the people. The colonizer had to resort to violence and to the propaganda of hatred so that his narrative was finally transformed into reality. And so did his heir regimes. Time had come for Belgian colonial administration and influential missionaries in the Catholic church to ‘destroy the power of the Watusi’ and the Tutsi as a group; and this is by no means a teleological vision of history. 

The genocidal policies in Rwanda were therefore initially articulated around an anti-Tutsi colonial racism and hatred which aimed to destroy the indigenous power identified with all Tutsi and perceived as an obstacle to colonization and evangelization. They were later developed by the Kayibanda (1962-1973), Habyarimana (1973-1994) and Sindikubwabo (1994) regimes, direct heirs and continuators of anti-Tutsi colonial racism. The agency of the latter regimes remained always very relative, as they continued to enjoy massive support of European powers, namely Belgium for the first, and France for the two last. The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has definitely two intertwined dimensions: an ideological one, in the sense that ethnicism as a form of racism is its main mobilizing tool; and a political one, in the sense that securing political power – be it colonial or neo-colonial- is its ultimate objective. A more comprehensive approach would require to address here the genocidal policies against the Tutsi set up by Belgian colonial master on one hand, and Kayibanda and Habyarimana regimes on the other. But this article will be limited to the genocidal policies of Belgian colonization. The topic will seem sensitive and unusual to many; this is why it deserves an individualized and thorough presentation. The genocidal policies of the Belgian colonial administration and influential catholic missionaries against the Tutsi start in the 1950s and take three forms: discrediting native authorities assimilated to the Tutsi on a racist basis, while creating and promoting racist anti-Tutsi organisations until they take power and beyond; creating hatred for the Tutsi and promoting mobilisation for it; and finally, a deliberate violence and policy of uprooting the Tutsi from Rwanda. The research was conducted from an interpretive and decolonial approach.

Belgium worked to discredit Rwandan nationalists on the basis of the Hamitic ideology, and promoted alternative Hutu extremist political organizations

From 1955 to 1959, King Mutara III Rudahigwa and the Conseil Supérieur du Pays (CSP) proposed the instauration of internal autonomy since 1960, and a number of reforms conducting smoothly to that intermediate step before independence. The reforms included: changing the administrative structure that put the King of Rwanda under Belgian Resident's authority; empowering the people to elect their leaders; separating administrative organs (legislative, executive and judicial powers); establishing a constitutional monarchy, a written constitution as well as ministries that help the King lead the country (Kimenyi, 2019; CNUR, 2016).

On King Rudahigwa and CSP demand to elect the members of the councils of the sub-chiefdoms through direct suffrage by the population, officials from the Belgian ministry for the colonies observed:

The CSP proposes to replace the current system by outright election by the population. The agents of the Ministry of the colonies pointed out to the interlocutors that the composition will be turned upside down because the Hutu are more numerous. The argument did not seem to impress the interlocutors. The King of Ruanda expressed clearly that he was not afraid of such an eventuality and that he wished to take into account the real preferences of the inhabitants

(Paulus, 1955, 1956).

Despite this positive testimony of the colonial administration itself praising with surprise the openness of King Rudahigwa to democracy and universal suffrage, the Belgian authorities would soon begin to disfigure and discredit the nationalism of the legitimate institutions representing the Rwandan people, - notably the King, the CSP (and later the UNAR party) - through a racist and cynical trial of intent qualifying the steps taken by the said institutions as 'Batutsi tactics' (Harroy, 1955). Speaking of the Tutsi in June 1959 at the Centre Catholique in Brussels, the soon-to-be Minister for colonies, M. De Shryver could declare:

‘it will be necessary to do democracy in their country, without their involvement, and against them’

(Kimenyi, 2019)

The same colonial administration started raising a Hutu counter-elite as reveals a six-page confidential letter of then Deputy Governor General of Belgian Congo and Governor of Ruanda-Urundi, Jean Paul Harroy, to his superior Léon Pétillon in June 1958. With the seal of secrecy, the letter stated:

… Even the framework of the customary authorities, citadel of the pre-eminence of the Batutsi, will soon admit deputy chiefs, even Bahutu chiefs, whose number will increase in the near future. A very special effort is made to this end, as much by the Bahutu associations as by the administrators of the territory, who systematically collect all the valuable Bahutu candidacies. …The system envisaged for the composition of the indigenous councils was designed with the aim of allowing the rapid and significant accession of the Bahutu to all levels of the pyramid. …]. The proposed formula will in fact establish, in the immediate future, between Bahutu and Batutsi, a balance which will gradually be broken in favor of the latter, as more and more Bahutu will be admitted into customary frameworks. Bahutu’s political education will thus be helped actively, but smoothly…

(Le Vice-Gouverneur et Gouverneur du Ruanda-Urundi, Jean-Paul Harroy, 1958).

The so-called ‘Bahutu’s political education’ mentioned by Deputy Governor Harroy in this confidential correspondence had to be implemented by Hutu extremist political parties APROSOMA and PARMEHUTU. It was nothing but raising awareness of hatred against the Tutsi as an instrument to gain power, because the elections King Rudahigwa and the CSP were advocating for were sufficient to allow Hutu to access administrative positions. APROSOMA (Association pour la promotion de la masse) started as an organization in 1957 and became a political party on 15 February 1959. It was founded by Joseph Habyarimana Gitera. The latter was the first to publish the ‘Hutu Ten Commandments’ aimed at sowing hatred against the Tutsi. He is the one who told the Hutu youth that ‘the one who kills mice does not forgive those about to give birth’. At an APROSOMA rally on 27 September 1959, Gitera said:

‘independence means expelling the White man and restoring slavery, injustice and oppression by the Tutsi’.

In the early days of the organization, however, APROSOMA seemed to be open to the public so much that some Tutsi even thought of joining it following its name which suggested that it was aimed at the welfare of the poor without discrimination. When Gitera went to Europe to be trained by organizations related to the Belgian ‘Parti Social Chrétien’ (PSC), he returned to make APROSOMA an exclusively Hutu party (Kimenyi, 2019: 301). He begun to sign the official documents of the party as follows: ‘Aprosoma – Parti social hutu- ishyaka rya Abahutu, Astrida’ (Aprosoma- the Hutu social party- the party of Abahutu, Astrida) [APROSOMA, Ijwi rya Rubanda rugufi, 27 September 1959].

PARMEHUTU (Parti du Mouvement de l'Emancipation des Bahutu) became a party on 18 October 1959. It was created by the staff of Bishop André Perraudin, a Swiss national from the congregation of the White Fathers, in the Kabgayi archbishopric. These were Grégoire Kayibanda, editor of the catholic newspaper Kinyamateka; Calliope Mulindahabi, secretary to the bishop; and Maximilien Niyonzima who worked at the Kabgayi printery. The White Father Endriatis, however, often claimed to be the founder of PARMEHUTU, along with his colleague Chanoine Ernotte. The latter was later awarded the Medal of Merit by the Habyarimana regime, making him a "national revolutionary officer" (Kimenyi, 2019: 303). PARMEHUTU wanted colonialism to continue! Because it looked at everything in the lenses of ethnicity, here is how it described it in its journal Jya Mbere: ‘The Tutsis want self-rule and independence in 1960-1962, while the Hutus want colonialism to continue for another time’. PARMEHUTU argued that the so-called "Tutsi colonialism" should be abolished in the first place, and pleaded for a separation of Rwanda into a Hutuland and a Tutsiland (PARMEHUTU, Prise de position …, 1960). Earlier in its manifesto of 18 Otober 1959, PARMEHUTU urged the UN to organize a referendum on independence and see if Rwandans really wanted the end of Belgian colonization (Nkundabagenzi, 1961: 121).

The colonial administration and missionaries realized early on that giving independence to Rwanda still ruled by the King and his subordinates would be to leave power to patriotic and nationalist Africans who would jeopardize the interests of Belgium and the Church (Kimenyi, 2019: 307). Therefore, they chose to portray this traditional rule as violent and oppressive towards the population. Although forced labour, taxes, beatings and other atrocities were committed by the colonialists (and the Catholic Church in the case of forced labour), the propaganda of the latter convinced the world that ‘the monarchy, Tutsi chiefs and their subordinates oppressed the people’ yet in reality, they were enforcing the colonial orders. In the media, they have even resorted to lying, attributing to the traditional authorities atrocities they had never committed in order to discredit them (La Libre Belgique, 1956).

The propaganda was successfully instilled to so many people in Belgium and around the world that the fight against the Rwandan traditional rulers striving for independence has become a ‘struggle for democracy and social justice’. Based on the Hamitic ideology that had been created in the early phase of European encounter, the propaganda stated that the traditional leadership in Rwanda did not come from the people. It was rather a small group of foreigners, later immigrants, Tutsis; oppressing the vast Hutu majority, the real people, who came to the country before and created Rwanda, and now had been enslaved. The destruction of that regime portrayed as minority, foreign, and oppressive of the real citizens on one hand; and the persecution, burning of houses, destruction and looting of properties, murder and expulsion of Tutsi assimilated to this evil regime on the other hand, came to be hailed as an act of courage, Christianity, democracy and social justice.

Belgium created and promoted an ideology of hatred against the Tutsi

Colonialists and missionaries artificially propped up the Hutu-Tutsi issue and undertook other strategies aimed at harming the Tutsi in general and the nationalists. King Rudahigwa and the local leadership opposed transparent debate on every arising issue while denouncing divisive tendencies and the complacency with which the colonial administration handled them. They went as far as handing in their collective resignation to allow Belgium to reorganize the local auxiliary administration and put an end to the Tutsi predominance that had been the main pretext to oppose the claims for independence. Belgium refused the collective resignation of local leaders and preferred to pursue the strategy of the Hutu-Tutsi division (Kimenyi, 2019: 284).

Manifeste des Bahutu was one of the colonialists’ and missionaries’ tactics to promote the Hutu-Tutsi issue. Although the CSP had written on 22 February 1957 ‘Une Mise au point’ to the Belgian colonial authorities suggesting politely but firmly reforms leading to autonomy and independence, they did not respond to it. Instead, the so-called ‘Hutu leaders’ somehow answered in the place of Belgium a month later on 24 March 1957, in a document titled ‘Le Manifeste des Bahutu ou Note sur l'aspect social du problème indigène au Rwanda’. While CSP's document criticized the Belgian administration in Rwanda, the ‘Manifeste des Bahutu’ praised the Belgian colonization of Rwanda as ‘the grandiose work that Belgium is carrying out in Rwanda’. The document asserted instead that the main issue is ‘the fundamental Mututsi-Muhutu problem’ stemming from Ubuhake, according to the authors. The ‘Manifeste des Bahutu’ therefore affirmed that ‘the colonization of the “Hamite” (Tutsi) on the Hutu’ is worse than the ‘White colonialism on the Black’ (Nkundabagenzi, 1961: 20-29).

Historians believe that the ‘Manifeste des Bahutu’ was written in the archbishop's office of Bishop André Perraudin in Kabgayi. It was prepared by a group of two white priests, and three former seminarians employed by Perraudin as close collaborators in his administration or other strategic positions in the Catholic Church. These are Chanoine Eugène Ernotte; father Arthur Dejemeppe; Grégoire Kayibanda who was Chief Editor of Kinyamateka then published in Kabgayi; Calliope Mulindahabi who was secretary to Bishop Perraudin; and Aloys Munyangaju who was the Chief Editor of Temps Nouveaux d’Afrique, a weekly of the White Fathers (Kimenyi, 2019: 264-265).  

Along with the creation of the Hutu-Tutsi problem, the colonial power showed itself to be indifferent and complacent to the rise of hate speech against the Tutsi. In its 21st session held from 27 to 28 April 1959, the Conseil Supérieur du Pays (CSP) adopted a document prepared by its political commission, which it handed over to the Belgian ‘Groupe de Travail’ visiting Rwanda from 24 April to 7 May 1959. The document explained that there was a problem of social inequalities, but that some wanted to make it a racial problem. This was ‘due to the declarations of some people who do it on purpose or because of misunderstandings, using the media and other destructive language to sow hatred between ethnic groups’. The CSP document continued: ‘Here the Commission (ndlr: the CSP political commission that had prepared the document) is surprised that the government (ndlr: the Belgian colonial government) watches without doing anything, that program conducted openly to destroy our country. So, because of that attitude, the government seems to support divisions’ (CSP, 1959).

This attitude of apparent indifference on the part of the colonial authority to declarations and writings which sow hatred and division continued and even intensified with the activities of political parties. After UNAR held its first rallies in Kigali (13 September 1959) and Astrida (20 September 1959) with the participation of a large number of people, those on the side of the so-called Hutu parties made efforts to separate Hutu and Tutsi in order to weaken the UNAR party that obviously brought together all Rwandans. The writings of the APROSOMA party that had already self-proclaimed ‘Aprosoma –Parti social hutu- ishyaka rya Abahutu’ are an example of those thoughts sowing hatred that were publicly expressed while the colonial power was watching, apparently in support of them. In different articles of its newspaper Ijwi rya rubanda rugufi of 27 September 1959, APROSOMA could state the following:

Awake, unite, and elect your Hutu rulers ... Here is the election nearby ...Do not vote for them (Tutsi, ndlr); and the Hutu who associates with them is your enemy, get rid of him and do not vote for him.... You are a frightening force; there are about 1.5 million Hutu in Rwanda: so, you understand who the majority are. If you make use of that force, that is, if you unite, who, who can step on it? ... Even if a war was waged by the Tutsi, they would be wiped out, with a number of Hutu equal to theirs; but the Hutu would remain numerous; it is like pulling out one hair on a person’s head. ...   The leaders and the rulers must be ours and chosen from among us, …Tutsi, descendants of Gatutsi, the death you inflicted on the Hutu is the one you are going to die of. Tutsi, descendants of Gatutsi, you have killed the kings of Gahutu, and Gahutu himself, you have stunted him, you killed ... you Gatutsi, go well. …

Tutsi, descendants of Gatutsi, what we want is democracy ... to banish inyangarwanda (haters of Rwanda, ndlr) like you Gatutsi, ... and to enthrone God that you want to banish from Rwanda, you Gatutsi, go well. ... Tutsi, descendants of Gatutsi, you want independence, be independent on your side, the Hutu will be independent on their side, you are communists, people without god –we, the Hutu, we will keep our god, you Gatutsi, go well. Tutsi, descendants of Gatutsi, from now on, we take our own way, take your own way, we are not mixed; we have separated. Be independent on your own, we will be independent on our own; you the Gatutsi, go well. ... The Belgian state and the Church of Rwanda have together strived to liberate the Hutu and the humble people from the bondage of Tutsi slavery. ... Our Rwanda was a good country, its epidemic is tutsiness (hamitism). Tutsiness in Rwanda has become there like a leg ulcer (umufunzo ku kuguru), or a worm in the body (umusundwe mu mubili)  [Aprosoma, 1959].

In these articles of the sole issue of Ijwi rya rubanda rugufi (27/9/1959), there are about 19 sentences accusing the Tutsi of many wrongdoings, always ending with the same slogan ‘Go well’. There are even passages that openly say that Tutsi are going to be killed, that they will be killed for revenge. This shows that the writers were aware of the plot for the ensuing riots in just one month (1/11/1959), resulting in the massacre of many Tutsi and the expulsion of others.

Belgium orchestrated a deliberate genocide as violence and policy of uprooting the Tutsi from Rwanda

King Rudahigwa had died in unclear circumstances on 25 July 1959, and many Rwandans attributed his demise to colonial rulers and Bishop Perraudin (Kagame, 1975: 248-254; CNUR, 2016: 388). The mysterious death of King Rudahigwa deserves to be documented and investigated in the same way as what was done for the death of the first Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Emery Lumumba. The Rwandan who was supposed to lead the transition had already been selected by Deputy Governor Harroy, and the day of the burial of King Rudahigwa at Mwima, he was present, ready and dressed in white (Kimenyi, 2019: 331)! However, the colonial plan to appoint Rudahigwa's successor could not be implemented. The late king's collaborators took the colonial administration by surprise, and announced Kigeli V Jean Baptiste Ndahindurwa as the new king during Mutara III Rudahigwa's funeral on 28 July 1959.

After Kigeli V Ndahindurwa ascended the throne, the colonial authorities ordered him to immediately travel across the country, reaching every chieftaincy and every Catholic mission. The Belgians had hoped that the people would not welcome the new king along the tour, thus making it clear that the monarchy was not supported by the people; reason enough to abolish the institution once and for all (Kimenyi, 2019). Their propaganda and their allies’ had long publicized in various documents and declarations that the monarchy was only supported by the Tutsi; that it oppresses the Hutu; and that it is becoming more and more adherent to the old traditions. Thus, the colonialists made believe that such a regime had to change, affirming that this was the wish of all the Hutu, and even of certain Tutsi they called progressives.

The King's journey lasted a month, but from the start, up to the end of the visit, everywhere he was greeted with praises and acclamations of large crowds of Rwandans expressing their admiration for him. As soon as they heard the sound of the drums accompanying him, people gave up their work; descended or ascended the hills to come and see their young king. Many wanted to greet him, so much so that the security forces failed to stop them and chose to let him go and socialize with the people! During the trip, Kigeli was also accompanied by the Belgian Resident for Rwanda, up to Cyangugu where he was replaced by his deputy. When they concluded the visit, the deputy Resident told the King's secretary: ‘You have won, but do not forget us’. The Rwandans had shown their love and strong support for the monarchy.

However, during the trip, the car carrying the King and the Resident crashed, but they were lucky enough to fall on the bank rather than toppling on the slope. The incident took place near Byumba. It turned out that the steering column of this vehicle had previously been broken in two before being soldered. Surprisingly, the car was new, the odometer indicating that it had driven less than 10,000 kilometres. The colonial government had rented it in a garage in Bujumbura, and had prevented King Kigeli from riding in the convertible vehicle that his late elder brother, King Rudahigwa, used to ride in. The fact that Resident André Preud'homme was about to die with Kigeli in the accident was not surprising, as he already seemed to be put aside from certain secret plans on Rwanda by Deputy Governor General Harroy (Kimenyi, 2019: 333-336).

After Kigeli was enthroned against their will and escaped various traps, colonial authorities planned violence as a new strategy to fight against Rwandan nationalists claiming independence. Before that, however, they needed an army to lean on. At that time in Rwanda and Burundi, there were only three companies consisting of only 600 Congolese forces (Force publique) led by not more than 20 Belgian officers, the chief of which was the military adviser to the Deputy Governor General Jean Paul Harroy. The latter was distrustful of the forces’ capacity and the planning ability of their chief of staff who was his military adviser in Bujumbura. He chose to call on his friend Colonel Guy Logiest, whom they had met in 1947, and who was in command of the Third Grouping of the Congolese colonial Army (Force publique) based in Stanleyville (present-day Kisangani), and of which depended the 600 soldiers of Ruanda-Urundi who acted as a force of gendarmerie (Lefèvre, 2006: 39, 42).

Harroy portrays Logiest as someone who has shown the ability to ‘perform a serious surgery that had to be completed in a short time, with composure, firmness, even callousness’. For Harroy, this operation was ‘a succession of administrative eliminations, quite brutal at times, of numerous chiefs or members of the Mwami's entourage… […] to tear off one by one the key pieces of the UNAR framework’ [… ]. Therefore, Logiest was Harroy's choice because ‘to succeed the almost impossible operation which alone could “desunarize” really in depth the Rwandan politico-administrative executives, it was necessary, I was going to write “a patented warlord of staff” (un chef de guerre breveté d’état major), an offensive strategist, tireless, unflappable, imperturbable that no memory or personal reflex could embarrass if by chance the manoeuvre imperatively required to lay hands on a notable, on the Queen mother, on the Mwami himself. Someone who seemed to meet all of these conditions: Guy Logiest’ (Harroy, 1984. As quoted by Gakwenzire 2017, 45).

Jean Berckmas Kimenyi (2019: 370), the former Secretary of Kings Rudahigwa and Kigeli, confirms that ‘Lucifer had taken up residence in Rwanda’, ever since Rwanda was ruled by ‘a very impulsive man, the very catholic Colonel B.E.M. Guy Logiest. … Few heartless individuals were needed to destroy the customary authority of the country that was fighting colonization. It was a test of moral probity for the colonial power and for the White Fathers’. In a letter dated 1 May 1992, Rwandans living in Kinshasa also compared the interaction of Colonel Guy Logiest, Bishop André Perraudin, and the Deputy Governor General of Ruanda-Urundi Jean Paul Harroy to an association of criminals. Their plans for Rwanda during the so-called Rwandan revolution were portrayed as a ‘satanic plot’ by the authors of the letter (Groupe de Réflexion sur le Rwanda, 1992).

Colonel Logiest therefore arrived in Rwanda and set up what he called ‘plan Troubles Géneralisés’ (generalized disorders plan) on 24 October 1959. The plan consisted of five gradual steps involving reinforcement of the presence of colonial security forces from Congo and Belgium in Rwanda, in case of uprising and depending on its severity (Lefèvre, 2006: 42-43). This means Harroy had already envisioned the outbreak of an uprising, and the question is whether he anticipated or planned it. The actual uprising that developed into massacre and other atrocities began nine days later on 1 November 1959 on the Catholic feast of All Saints' Day, which is why some called it ‘la Toussaint rwandaise’ (Hubert, 1965). The burning of houses, cutting of banana plantations, looting and massacre of Tutsi spread in the Gitarama, Gisenyi and Ruhengeri territories between 2 and 4 November 1959, before spreading across the country except in two territories on the existing nine, Kibungo and Cyangugu (Lefèvre, 2006: 43). The attacks and atrocities were carried out by PARMEHUTU and APROSOMA militant groups, targeting Tutsi in general, chiefs and sub chiefs in particular, but also UNAR members even if they were not Tutsi.

From 2 November 1959, the attacks of the criminals were guided by colonial planes from a neighbouring country. The planes often dropped leaflets inciting violence to extremist Hutu militants before the attacks (Rutazibwa, 2022b). In the evening, the planes returned to their base, and the killers and looters also rested (Kimenyi, 2019: 352). Belgian soldiers themselves claim that ‘the planes were of a key importance’, because ‘they allowed them to see the location of the arson attackers and ended up besieging them and imprisoning them’ (Lefèvre, 2006: 48, 49). However, this is not what Rwandans who were being persecuted at the time say. Often times, the Tutsi who were attacked by surprise immediately joined forces with their Hutu and Twa neighbours, because the perpetrators often carried out their attacks in places where they were unknown. They then pursued the attackers and fought back, and it was when they began to defeat them and kill some of them that the Belgian planes intervened, shooting at those who were in self-defence (Testimony of Ngirumpatse Joseph, 2018). The planes also provided information to Belgian Congolese forces on the ground, allowing them to identify the whereabouts of those organizing to counter the attacks of the criminals. Surprisingly, these people in self-defence were often the ones targeted by the military who dispersed them, otherwise either shot, or imprisoned them; which led to more prisoners at the time (Kimenyi, 2019: 352, 372).

The first phase of the unrest ended on 20 November 1959. A semblance of calm returned, and some of the Congolese troops began to return home in early December. Belgians said the uprising claimed the lives of hundreds of people, burned down eight thousand houses, and made tens of thousands of Tutsi flee the country (Lefèvre, 2006: 48-49). New phases of violence were planned and implemented by the colonial administration. Apart from the Tutsi killed, there was a deliberate will of the Belgian colonial administration to empty Rwanda of Tutsi as shown by the following two indications. The first is that in some cases, the colonial administration availed military lorries to take Tutsi refugees to the border with neighbouring countries (Mugesera, 2015). The second indication is that Belgian colonial officials systematically opposed Tutsi refugees or displaced to recover their lands. On 25 October 1961, a meeting was held in Kigali between the Belgian colonial authorities who ruled Rwanda and the British who ruled Uganda on the issue of Rwandan refugees fleeing to Uganda in large numbers, between 300 and 800 daily. In addition to these refugees, about 40,000 displaced persons were still in catholic missions in Rwanda. Jean-Paul Harroy, then Resident-General of Rwanda-Burundi, said at the meeting: ‘Refugees resettlement will face many challenges in densely populated areas where family heads, due to lack of land, have started cultivating the lands that the refugees have vacated for months, treating them as if the owners had abandoned them’. Harroy's idea was that before the refugees could return to their homes, the authorities would have to ask the people who had taken over their lands if they accepted that the refugees would return (Gakwenzire 2017, 99)! It is on the basis of this reasoning that village assemblies had been constituted through communal councils to decide whether a Tutsi refugee or displaced could return to the village or not (Gakwenzire, 2017:76; Mugesera,2015).

Harroy and Logiest devised other strategies to fight UNAR and the Tutsi, and they were able to win the approval and support of their highest authorities, King Baudouin and minister for colonies De Schryver (Lefèvre, 2006). Between December 1959 and February 1960, Harroy requested and obtained the increase in number of military personnel before crucial political events such as municipal, legislative or referendum elections (Lefèvre, 2006). These forces have always served as a coincidence to supervise and accompany the pre-electoral violence against the Tutsi and the UNAR party to ensure victory for the so-called Hutu parties, the Parmehutu in the lead (Gakwenzire, 2017). Harroy had even requested from his superiors the establishment of native armed forces and according to Belgian military archives, the Rwandan army ‘should be constituted a hundred percent by Hutu, based on the wish of Logiest’. Major Vanderstraeten, who had been appointed by Colonel Guy Logiest to create the Rwandan Armed Forces, described it as follows:

These troops are Hutu, they are not mixed and we do not hide it. We don't want to include any Tutsi, under the pretext of being honest or respectful of democracy. Tutsi who come to register are immediately rejected. We tell them that they are not capable of the military; for reasons of height, size, or any other reason; the important thing is that they feel they are not capable of the military. It may not be justice, but we don't want to, for the sake of trying to accommodate both sides ... to infiltrate in us people who will voluntarily destroy our plans like in the Congo ... (Lefèvre, 2006: 71).

On 25 January 1961, Resident General Harroy granted autonomy powers to the Council and the Provisional Government without informing the United Nations (Nkundabagenzi 1961, 384). On 28 January 1961, the two institutions met in Gitarama, in addition to the bourgmestres and commune councillors, announcing the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a Republic in Rwanda. On 26 October 1961, a new government was established, based on the victory of PARMEHUTU in the parliamentary elections, and Kayibanda Grégoire was elected President. Belgians continued to lead foreign affairs, security and financial affairs in that government. On 27 June 1962, the United Nations adopted Resolution 1746 stating that the Trusteeship Treaty on Ruanda-Urundi of 13 December 1946 should be repealed on 1 July 1962, the date on which Rwanda and Burundi gained independence (CNUR 2016, 408,409).

Conclusion: Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda was first perpetrated by Belgium since 1959

Massacres and atrocities against the Tutsi and UNAR members continued even after the parliamentary and referendum elections. Since the 1960 municipal elections, the severity of these actions increased as the new PARMEHUTU regime created from scratch by the colonial masters had gained momentum. In the beginning of the so-called revolution, the colonialists such as Logiest, other Belgian civil and military rulers and even some catholic priests were most prominent in the persecution and killing of Tutsi and UNAR members (Mugesera, 2015; Kimenyi, 2019; Rutazibwa, 2022b). At present, the new institutions controlled by PARMEHUTU that they had set up had already a strong capacity of nuisance to the point that colonial rulers did no longer need to be directly involved in the violence. In their reports, the colonial authorities could instead praise the criminal acts of PARMEHUTU members in the manner of the supporters in a football match, while showing a very nasty pleasure towards the Tutsi victims of these atrocities. In his weekly report published on 22 December 1960, the then Belgian territorial administrator of Kigali, Julien Nyssens described what the PARMEHUTU members were doing to the Tutsi in Kicukiro just like a bystander, very poorly concealing his approval and personal involvement as the highest administrative authority of the place where the crimes were committed. ‘The Hutu are happy with their victory in the (commune) elections, by attacking Tutsi, raping some of their daughters, beating others, and intimidating some of them’, he wrote.  Colonel Guy Logiest, to whom was the report intended as Special Resident, read it and underlined the words ‘happy with their victory’ and ‘raping some of their daughters’, and wrote on the left side of the report: ‘How happy our friends are!’ (Gakwenzire 2017, 77).

Following the parliamentary and referendum elections of 25 September 1961, Administrator Nyssens made again a terrifying observation in his two-month report, covering the period from 20 August to 20 October 1961. He reveals the desire of the PARMEHUTU to exterminate all the Tutsi in the country, which is a statement of genocide. However, attributing the responsibility of the crime to PARMEHUTU seems a clumsy tactic on the part of this colonial authority whose country still administered Rwanda, and which had created and openly supported PARMEHUTU. ‘The manner in which the unrest has been going on since the election and the behaviour of the PARMEHUTU leaders clearly indicate PARMEHUTU’s willingness to exterminate all Tutsi in the country’, stated Nyssens’ report. […] ‘In general’, it continued, ‘the Tutsi are devastated by their terrible defeat’. As for the Hutu whom Nyssens qualifies as ‘humble people’, ‘their hearts are always very kind, obedient to their bourgmesters, and respectful of the Whites. Now they are working tirelessly, while celebrating their victory in the elections by eating a lot of food made up of meat from Tutsi cows’ (Gakwenzire 2017, 87).

King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa was the first to use the word ‘genocide’ in October 1960 to accuse the Belgians in Rwanda, writing to the UN Secretary-General. Michel Rwagasana, then UNAR Secretary General, also reiterated the word genocide accusing Belgians in Rwanda, in December 1960 before the UN again (Nkundabagenzi, 1961: 322, 356). There are appalling indications that the Belgian colonial administration started the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1959. As rulers of Rwanda at the time, Belgians’ actions against the Tutsi were in line with the definition of genocide in Article 2 of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. They perpetrated against the Tutsi ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such’, by ‘killing members of the group’ or by ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’ (UN Convention, 1948).

This is also the time to ask an ethical question to the many authors who have proliferated in the ideological wake of the ‘Rwandan revolution’ to this day and who have made and still make the apology for this genocide. History will simply remember that they constitute a criminal scholarship.


- Nkaka, Raphaël. 2013. L’emprise d’une logique raciale sur la société rwandaise, 1894-1994. Thèse de doctorat en Histoire, Université Paris I.

- Chrétien,   Jean-Pierre   &   Kabanda,   Marcel. 2013. Rwanda,  racisme   et   génocide :   l'idéologie hamitique. Paris : Belin.

- Rutazibwa Privat, ‘” Not all white people are bad”: Racialism and Genocide of the West in Rwanda since Colonization’. A Presentation at the launch event of ‘New Perspectives on German Colonial Rule – A Scholarship Programme for Cooperative Research’; 17 October 2022 at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. Outline of a doctoral thesis project in African History, Humboldt University.

- Minnaert Stefaan. 2021. Le Rwanda vu par le père Brard (1898-1906). Contribution à l’histoire de l’évangélisation du Rwanda. Ecrits et rapports du fondateur de la mission catholique de Save. Kigali : s.d.

- Commission Nationale pour l'Unité et la Réconciliation (CNUR) [Sous la direction de Déo Byanafashe & Paul Rutayisire]. 2016.  Histoire du Rwanda. Des origines à la fin du xxè siècle. Kigali.

- Gakwenzire, Philibert, 2017. Les politiques de discrimination, persécutions et génocide des Tutsi en commune de Rubungo et de Gikomero (1960-1994). Thèse de doctorat en histoire, Université Libre de Bruxelles.

- Kimenyi, Jean Berckmas (Secrétaire du Roi Rudahigwa). 2019. De la Déconstruction du Rwanda aux massacres des Tutsi en 1959. Témoignage d’un proche collaborateur du Roi Mutara III Rudahigwa. Kigali.

- Rutazibwa Privat, doctoral thesis fieldwork material, Rwanda, November 2022-March 2023.

- Paulus J.P., Note pour le Ministre, 26 Septembre 1955; Première Direction de la Deuxième Direction Générale, Note pour Monsieur le Ministre, 28 avril 1956. As quoted by CNUR 2016, 325.

- Harroy J.P., Lettre au Ministre des colonies, Décembre 1955. As quoted by CNUR, 2016: 326.

- Le Vice-Gouverneur et Gouverneur du Ruanda-Urundi, Jean-Paul Harroy, Lettre à Monsieur le Gouverneur Général à Léopoldville, objet: Organisation et évolution politiques du Ruanda-Urundi, Usumbura, juin 1958, Archives Africaines, RWA 97. As quoted by Gakwenzire, 2017: 41-42).

- Aprosoma – Parti social hutu- ishyaka rya Abahutu, Astrida, Ijwi rya Rubanda rugufi, 27/09/1959.

- PARMEHUTU, Prise de position du Mouvement de l’émancipation Hutu, Gitarama (Ruanda), le 30 janvier 1960; in Supplément à Jya mbere n° 5 du 3 janvier 1960).

- Nkundabagenzi, François. 1961. Rwanda politique. Bruxelles: Les Dossiers du CRISP.

- La Libre Belgique of 2 August 1956, as quoted by Kimenyi, 2019: 158.

- CSP, Rapport de la 21ème session du Conseil Supérieur du Pays, 27-28 avril 1959. Document remis au Groupe de travail par le CSP. As quoted by Kimenyi, 2019 : 290.

- Groupe de Réflexion sur le Rwanda, Lettre à son Excellence l’Ambassadeur des Etats-Unis à Kinshasa, Kinshasa le 1er Mai 1992.  As quoted by Rutazibwa 2017: 77-78).

- Hubert, Jean René. 1965.  La Toussaint rwandaise et sa répression. Bruxelles : ARSOM.

- Lefèvre, Patrick & Lefèvre, Jean Noël. 2006. Les militaires belges et le Rwanda (1916-2006). Bruxelles : Racines.

- Testimony of Ngirumpatse Joseph, a former resident of Kabagari (Nyanza territory), born around 1919. Testimony provided in Masaka on 1 January 2018.

- Mugesera, Antoine. 2015. Imibereho y’Abatutsi mu Rwanda 1959-1990. Itotezwa n’iyicwa bihoraho (2ème édition). Kigali.

- Kagame, Alexis. 1975. Un Abrégé de l’Histoire du Rwanda de 1853 à 1972. (Tome II).  Butare: Editions universitaires.

- United Nations, 1948. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Adopted by the General Assembly, on 9 December 1948.


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