What has a Man with a 'Genocidal Machete' Got to do with a Belgian Military Officer?: Commonalities and Differences between the Hutu Genocide in Burundi (1972) and Tutsi Genocide in Rwanda (1994)

Dr. Jeanine Ntihirageza

Survivor, Professor of Linguistics

Thursday, February 15, 2024, 5:30 PM EDT
Krannert Auditorium, Purdue University

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Imagine that when you’re 11 years old, your father, brother and other close male relatives are murdered. There are no bodies to bury. Shortly after, other schoolmates call you ‘enemy of the nation’. That is how I found that I was Hutu, that my father was killed because he was Hutu and that my mother was Tutsi. Between May and August 1972, a massacre of more than 200,000 Hutu elites -- businessmen, teachers, students, army officers, government personnel and members of the clergy -- was methodically carried out by the Tutsi-dominated government. After the massacres, it imposed heavy silence on the survivors. In Rwanda, between April and July 1994, the genocide against Tutsi killed over 800,000 people.

Reflecting on my own experience led me to analyze the deeply painful chapters in the histories of Burundi and Rwanda. In both cases, the division of the Hutu and Tutsi by the Belgian colonial administration played a crucial role in the genocide of one group against the other. In Rwanda, as opposed to Burundi, the state has promoted and supported public and collective memorialization.

In this presentation, I will contrast the structural mechanisms of silence and impunity orchestrated by state actors and analyze the political, legal, and socio-psychological factors that sustain such conditions. I underscore the urgency of breaking the cycle of silence to foster healing, reconciliation, and a viable path toward truth and accountability.

Jeanine Ntihirageza Jeanine Ntihirageza has a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago. While on a Fulbright scholarship, she obtained an MA in Applied Linguistics from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her research interests are in Linguistics, language teaching, Refugee Studies, Genocide and Human Rights in Africa. Jeanine Ntihirageza has published a number of refereed book chapters and journal articles and has presented research and advocacy papers at numerous professional conferences and community events and co-edited an anthology, Critical Perspectives on African Genocide: Memory, Silence, and Anti-Black Political Violence (Rowan and Littlefield International, February 2021). Since 2013, she has been serving as Chair of the Genocide and Human Rights Research Group, an interdisciplinary team, at NEIU, which has been organizing symposia on the subject for the last seven years. In 2020, she became the founding Director of the Center for Genocide and Human Rights Research in Africa and the Diaspora. Jeanine Ntihirageza is also Professor and coordinator of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She is a survivor of the 1972 genocide in Burundi.



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The goals of the Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Committee, initiated by Rabbi Gedalyah Engel and the Mayors of Lafayette and West Lafayette in 1981, are to continue awareness of the Nazis' War against the Jews from 1933-1945, to honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and to promote individual, community, and media responsibility for combating the forces of prejudice, hatred, and discrimination today.

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