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They Want Us to Hate Each Other

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mmaculée Ilibagiza was born in Rwanda in 1972. As a teenager, she went to school one day and noticed that her teacher was taking attendance a bit differently than she had done in the past. Starting on this particular day, the teacher began adding a single word after each student’s name. Depending on the student’s ethnicity, that word was either “Hutu” or “Tutsi.”

Immaculée describes this as the moment when she first became aware that there was any such thing as a Hutu or a Tutsi. It was the first time she realized that she was a Tutsi, and that most of her classmates were Hutus. It was also the day she learned that Hutus and Tutsis are supposed to hate each other.

That Incident Did Not Happen by Accident 

It was a very small element of a much larger campaign aimed at dividing the world into an “us” and a “them.” Tragically, that effort eventually achieved its intended purpose.

In 1993, the Hutu-led Rwandan government lent its support to a new broadcast service called RTLM (Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines). The content on RTLM was characterized by a sharply anti-Tutsi slant. Announcers frequently referred to Tutsis as “cockroaches” that needed to be exterminated. They used their platform to cast blame upon Tutsis for the country’s ills, fueling ethnic hatred, often with fabricated stories about Tutsi plots to undermine the Hutu population.

In April of 1994, Immaculée returned from college for the Easter holidays, completely unaware of the terror that was about to unfold.

On April 6th, a plane carrying Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down during its landing approach to Kigali Airport. Everyone on board was killed. That incident served as the catalyst for the genocide that followed, but the foundation had already been laid.

In the ensuing weeks, Immaculée Ilibagiza witnessed unspeakable acts of cruelty. She watched as her own brother was hacked to death with a machete — his skull cut open by his attackers. Immaculée’s entire family was killed, with the sole exception of a brother who happened to be studying abroad at the time.




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