FR | EN

Denied Victimhood and Contested Narratives: The Case of Hutu Diaspora

Nov 10th, 2016 at 20:47 | By | Category: Opinion, Top news

Being Hutu has become more and more politicized. The Rwandan government has created a well-scripted story that distinguishes the ‘real’ victims from the perpetrators. That story was promoted and politically implemented through laws such as the National Identity Policy and the Punishment of Crime of Genocide Ideology. Called Negative Diaspora, today’s Hutu communities in Diaspora are caught in between their love for their country of origin and over twenty years of an unacknowledged sense of victimhood.

Rwandan community in Belgium

Rwandan community in Belgium

Seen as supporters of the previous Hutu government and consequently, enemies of the current government, Hutus in diaspora have been double labeled and stigmatized. The first label is a vestige of the narratives of the 1994 genocide. Through generations, the idea of a bad seed or evil actor has stopped new generations from being actively involved in community issues for fear of facing the narrative of perpetration. The second label is imposed onto them by the current policy that suppressed the ethnic identity to promote political labeling. Yet these new political categories are still founded on ethnic divisions. Therefore, the Hutu diaspora communities have created their own narratives of survival. They have done so through the construction of competing narratives that enabled them to deal with their own trauma. Still, being in diaspora is a constant reminder of the tragic past they are still facing.

Dealing with the Hutu identity

Through the study of trans-generational identity shifts, I have explored how Hutus see themselves in relations to their community, their homeland (Rwanda), their host-country (Belgium), and most importantly, how they have been able to deal with their trauma. This article is based on two-months of research conducted in Belgium. Guided by concepts such as identity formation, trauma, diasporic consciousness, and coping mechanisms, I intended to understand what it means to be Hutu in today’s diasporic society as well as how the new generations understand and deal with their family’s tragic past.

It has been very difficult, especially for the new generations, to call themselves Hutus. Many have decided to reject or ignore that part of who they are. “I don’t see myself as more Rwandan than Dutch or Belgian. I know I am because of my parents, but it does not define me,” said one young lady. In reaction to the social pressure that is often imposed onto a community, the younger generations have created radical responses to the narrative of Hutu perpetrators and decided to break from it.

Others have decided to embrace this painful past and find ways to deal with it. For them, accepting their Rwandan and Hutu identities has become a way to acknowledge their family’s suffering and more importantly, it has allowed them to talk about their victimhood. “Among my numerous identities, the Rwandan is the strongest; sadly, I cannot embrace it… yet my Hutu identity has influenced my life in particular ways.” Being a Hutu is more than belonging to a group, it is accepting the tragic past, fighting for recognition, and hoping for a bright future.

These two ways to dealing with traumatic identity transformation show the complexity of the Hutu diasporic consciousness. Living in Belgium has not been easy for many. As Diaspora, their assimilation process has not fully succeeded.

Because I am black, people always ask me where I am from. I usually just say Rwanda, but then the famous questions are always asked. ‘Are you Hutu or Tutsi?’ And ‘Aren’t the Hutus the bad people who one day decided to kill their neighbors?’ Without even wanting it, I am labeled and classified by ‘other.’’

They have experienced social categorization by the official narrative of the genocide and historical stigma that say that every Hutu is guilty of genocide due to group homogeneity. Consequently, the idea of belonging somewhere is complicated by their identity struggle. Many do not feel completely integrated and accepted in Belgium but being a Hutu in Rwanda is often not seen as a good alternative. They are caught in between two societies that have judged and labeled them as the ‘other.’ In Belgium, they are too dark skinned to belong and in Rwanda, they are seen as genocidaires, genocide sympathizers, and/or dangerous to the country’s stability.

Caught in-between

Despite all of this, home still holds an important place in the diaspora communities. As a mother explained, “20 years ago, I lost my home. Now, I have a normal life here in Belgium, a family and a good job, but yet, I still feel empty inside because there is nothing better than home.” Having a place to call home is a basic need for many. For Hutus, the notion of home and/or homeland, this magical place where one feels safe, has a challenging, paradoxical connotation. Their Rwanda, once known and loved, has changed, and left a sour taste for many families. Now, their country is promoting reconciliation at a price: the denial of their victimhood and acceptance of a guilty verdict. As a father mentioned:

Home, where is home? Rwanda has taken away our pride, our heritage, and our loved ones. President Kagame has rebuilt the country on the blood of innocent Hutus, so how can I call Rwanda my home? Yet, it seems like I am [a] thorn. It is in my heart; it is who I am. My Rwanda might be not the same as before, but Rwanda is still the place [where] my parents taught me my values, and principles. Rwanda is the heritage I want to leave for my children.’’

Although Rwanda is a source of pain, it still is part of who they are. That is where many have learned the meaning of life, love, and family. That is where they call home and where their love and lost ones rest.

Within this tension that surrounds the notion of home, the idea of victimhood has crystalized the division. The question here is, ‘If the real and only victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are Tutsi, why have so many Hutus have lost family members?’ By not recognizing the Hutu suffering, the single-sided narrative of the genocide has reinforced the pain and trauma many still experience. In order words, many have lost loved ones and struggle with their lack of recognition. “What about my loved ones who were murdered? Because I am not Tutsi, I cannot be called a victim,” said a young woman. These normative narratives of victim and perpetrator, combined with the idea that all Hutus are guilty, have shaped how the new generations see themselves and how they understand their community.

Therefore, the current Hutu diaspora community in Belgium is trying to make sense of its own sense of self and narratives, and fighting against what they see as unjust stigmatizations imposed on them by President Kagame’s regime. Alienated by the official narratives and policy of the current Rwandan government, many have decided to find ways to assimilate into Belgian society and forget about their pain. Yet, an increasing number of Hutus, seen and treated as the wrong kind of diaspora by Kagame’s regime, have created an identity that is in opposition to the current government. In addition, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, they created counter-narratives that are, for many of them, rightly founded. Being and accepting their ‘Hutuness’ has in itself been a political act. They aimed to show that they know who they are and won’t allow anyone to define and rewrite their history, identity, and future.

Article written by Claudine Kuradusenge

Submitted to Jambonews.net

 

Claudine Kuradusenge is a PhD student at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, studying Trauma as a form of identity formation, competing narratives, and Diasporic consciousness. This is a reflection on the work conducted in Belgium. For more a more detailed analysis, please read: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp/vol10/iss2/7/

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

4 Comments to “Denied Victimhood and Contested Narratives: The Case of Hutu Diaspora”

  1. Being a Hutu, a Tutsi, a Twa is a fact, being a Rwandan is an aspirations; a dream. There are no conditions to being a Rwandan. One must accept it on one’s terms. History is stubborn and does not accomodate people’s aspirations. Ferdinand Nahimana wrote a whole PhD with similar intent as this article. He is in jail for being one of the architects of Genocide against the Tutsi. Genocide perpetrators weren’t hutus, they were killers. Becoming a killers is a personal decision, which has nothing to do with one’s ethnic affiliation. Just like identifying with a killer instead of the victim is also a personal choice. One that once made must define one’s ideology – the genocide ideology. Were there hutus who died? No one has contested that fact, altough people enjoy inflating figures to somewhat float a double genocide theory. Was there an ‘intent to eradicate in part of in full’ the Hutu ethnic group? NO. Now beyond the definitions, one’s pain is as equal to the others. Most of Hutu who died, died on the road to exile in the DRC, because they had been told that the RPF would conduct revenge once in Rwanda. Just like today Hutu children are denied education and opportunities by their fathers who hold them hosted in DRC jungles. Are those too going to be blamed on Kagame? Deciding to stay in belgium and assimilate is a choice – like many others. The genocide was planned, perpetrated against the Tutsi by a group of killers. Whether the killers had family ties with one or the other person, does not incriminate the said person of anything, and I would be the first to fight for the rights of this person. If Bagosora’s nephew can decide to come home and go about his business, any one can.

       3 likes

  2. NZA says:

    THE ARTICLE WAS VERY SUCCINCT IN ITS ENTIRETY AND VERACITY.
    I’VE NEVER FAILED TO EMBRACE WHO I’AM ,MY PEOPLE’S UNFORTUNATE PAST AND THEIR PAINSTAKING STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM AND DIGNITY. I’M A YOUNG HUTU AND VERY MUCH PROUD TO BE REGARDLESS OF PROPAGANDA AND NEGATIVE CAMPAIGN IMBUED WITH POLITICAL RHETORIC AND EXTREMIST VIEWS PERTINENT TO THE CURRENT REGIME IN RWANDA AND RPF RESPECTIVELY IN ORDER TO VILIFY , DISPARAGE ,DEMONIZE , DISCREDIT AND EVISCERATE OUR HUTU CHERISHED HISTORY PRE-1994..SO MUCH NEGATIVITY HAS BEEN SAID AND SO MUCH HAS TARNISHED OUR IDENTITY.THEREFORE , IT’S UP TO US TO REBUILD IT OR CONTINUE TO KEEP IT UNDER THE GUTTER OR THE COSH!.
    I WOULD SUGGEST TO INITIATE AN AWARENESS CAMPAIGN DEEMED “NDI UMUHUTU” JUST FOR CONSCIOUSNESS PURPOSES

       0 likes

  3. Morris says:

    Striking to read this article. No one has denied those who want to see themselves in the mirror of Hutu, Tutsi or Twa. However for those of us who are disgusted of our terrible past should also allowed to choose who they want to be. I am a Rwandan and proud to be. We are a people/Nation that shares one homogenious language, history and culture. For those of you who know quiet well our history, this ethnic thing was an artificial construction by colonialists. Umuhinzi became Umuhutu, Umutunzi became umututsi and abatwa became Twa. Kwihutura or Kwitutsura dissapeard in our social economic class and hence shifting from both class has been on holt since then. Ubundi washoboraga kuba umutunzi cyagwa umukyene ukitwa umuhinzi…Think about it!!

       0 likes

  4. Simba says:

    I would first thank Kuradusenge Claudine for this impressive and very touching study.
    In my humble opinion, hutu-tutsi hatred, RPF, tutsi genocide, hutu identity and so fourth and so forth, are more than what we might figure out.
    The most embarrassing thing with rwandan issues, is that every single aspect of anything: concept, history, culture, belief, practice, behavior, reality….related to Rwanda and rwandans is stubbonly intertwined with all many other aspects in a way that you cannot really pretend to isolate any single one, study and fully understand it in total disregard of the others! Nope!
    For example:
    – You will never ever understand RPF and the rationale of its evil deeds if you are not willing to first understand tutsi historic monarchy and Tutsi supremacy myths which resulted from.
    – You cannot understand hutu demonization propaganda spread all over the globe without understanding hutus themselves as ethnic group, their behaviors and their beliefs; without scratching deep about tutsi tyranical domination over hutus through tyranical kingdomship for 4 centuries and all sorts impacts hutus got from it.
    – You cannot understand rwandans blind submissive behaviour towards current authorities without going deep into all aspects of 1990-1994 “liberation” war!
    – You cannot undersand tutsi genocide neither hutu genocide without having understood well the origin of hutu-tutsi hatred, killings of hutu kings (abahinza)by tutsis centuries agone, 1959 hutu revolution, etc.
    – In short there are so many rwandan aspects and realities that you would never get the meaing if you don’t really take time to search and understand any single others related.

    So coming back to the point of hutu victimhood denied, I think it is a fruit of RPF propaganda that successifully managed to preach hutu demonization and that really managed reach all corners of the world thanks to a strong help of its lobbyists

       1 likes

Leave a Comment