National Geographic : 2011 Nov
pressures, since the killings were clearly instigated by the decisions of power-hungry politicians. But several scholars, including French historian Gérard Prunier, are convinced that a scarcity of land set the stage for the mass killing. In short, the genocide gave landless Hutu the cover they needed to initiate class warfare. "At least part of the reason why it was carried out so thoroughly by the ordinary rank-and- le peasants...was the feeling that there were too many people on too little land," Prunier observed in e Rwanda Cri- sis, "and that with a reduction in their numbers, there would be more for the survivors." e eastern Congo village of Shasha has become a grim crossroads between major destinations in North Kivu for armed groups seeking land, minerals, and revenge. Mines holding eastern Congo's abundant tin, coltan, and gold are almost exclusively under the con- trol of these roving bands---Hutu and Tutsi paramilitaries, Mai-Mai militias, army sol- diers---each descending on Shasha in a macabre rotation, one a er another, month a er month, in a wave of mayhem. A woman named Faida weeps quietly as she recalls what happened to her a year ago. She is petite, with fatigued eyes and a voice just above a whisper. In her hands is a letter from her hus- band, demanding that she leave their house because he feared she might have contracted HIV from the men who raped her. On that fateful day Faida was on the same road she always took after working in the groups.) ese identity cards, o cially codify- ing a caste system that separated one people into two, would be used during the Rwanda genocide to single out who would live and who would be murdered. By the time the colonizers granted the countries independence in the early 1960s, ethnic hostilities between Tutsi and Hutu had already led to waves of killings and retaliatory murders. Today tensions between these two groups continue to play out in the Congo. But clearly the Rwanda genocide was the result of more than Hutu-Tutsi ethnic hatred. e latter years of the 20th century had brought a sobering recognition that there was in fact not enough for everyone in the Albertine Ri ---and with that, catastrophe. An alarming rise in population coin- cided with a slump in co ee and tea prices in the 1980s, leading to great deprivation; poverty led to an even greater strain on the land. Although it's true that a country like the Netherlands had a population density as high as Rwanda did at this time, it also bene ted from mechanized, high- yield agriculture. Rwanda's dependence on tra- ditional subsistence farming meant that the only way to grow more food was to move onto ever more marginal land. By the mid-1980s every acre of arable land outside the parks was being farmed. Sons were inheriting increasingly smaller plots of land, if any at all. Soils were depleted. Tensions were high. Belgian economists Catherine André and Jean-Philippe Platteau conducted a study of land disputes in one region in Rwanda before the genocide and found that more and more households were struggling to feed themselves on little land. Interviewing residents a er the genocide, the researchers found it was not un- common to hear Rwandans argue that "war is necessary to wipe out an excess of population and to bring numbers into line with the avail- able land resources." omas Malthus, the famed English economist who posited that population growth would outstrip the planet's ability to sus- tain it unless kept in check by starvation, disease, or war, couldn't have put it more succinctly. André and Platteau do not suggest that the genocide was an inevitable outcome of population RWANDA'S GENOCIDE WAS INSTIGATED BY THE DECISIONS OF POWER HUNGRY POLITICIANS. BUT A SCARCITY OF LAND SET THE STAGE FOR THE MASS KILLING. IN SHORT, THE GENOCIDE GAVE LANDLESS HUTU THE COVER THEY NEEDED TO INITIATE CLASS WARFARE.