the role of geography in rwandan genocide 1

In 1994 (not that long ago), close to 1 million Rwandans were killed by their own people in a little less than 3 months. This number is outrageous no matter the comparison, BUT when you consider the total population of this tiny country (about 11 million people) it’s astounding….10% of a population gone in 3 months.

It’s impossible to fully comprehend genocide—we can put together sentences that seek to explain why such things occur, but we have to remember when putting those sentences together, understanding this tragedy is far beyond comprehension for most of us.

I’ve included a population density map of Africa below….find Rwanda on the map before beginning this investigation. Knowing where it is and knowing its population scenario is a good entry way into the readings you will be doing to complete your final assignment for this course.

You will be doing two readings to complete this assignment. One is actually a work of fiction (link below), but based on true events, another is an article from a recent issue from National Geographic magazine (link below). Read the National Geographic article first, to get some context for the events in the story. Once you’ve read both readings, put together a 2-3-page (double-spaced) narrative that addresses the following questions:



  • How does the article help to explain the map of population density included above?
  • Most traditional explanations of the Rwandan genocide attribute it to long-standing ethnic hatred between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Explain where this hostility between the two tribes originated.
  • However, as stated in the National Geographic article, the genocide was about much more than ethnic hostility. How did it in many ways prove Thomas Malthus’ ideas about population vs. food true? (Malthus is discussed in the National Geographic article).
  • Finally, see the map below that shows political boundaries in Africa (established by colonial rulers) as compared to ethnic/tribal boundaries. This map is often used to help explain lack of political cohesion in modern-day Africa. It’s relatively easy to look at maps like that and provide succinct unfeeling explanations for various geographic phenomena. Spend some time reflecting on how Akpan’s short story brings to life this event in a way that no map or National Geographic article ever could do (make it clear you’ve read the story!).
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