This interview was conducted by Javier Toro.
René Lemarchand is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and African Studies at the University of Florida. He is the author of The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa.
No other part of the continent has experienced violence on such extensive scale as the three states of former Belgian Africa that make up the Great Lakes region: Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to the International Rescue Committee, the death toll in the DRC between 1998 and 2008 was estimated at 5.4 million. Although the figure has since been drastically revised downward, it is a fairly realistic estimate if one adds the losses in Rwanda and Burundi since their independence in 1962. In Rwanda, at least half a million Tutsi were killed during the 1994 genocide, to which must be added an equal number of Hutu during the post-genocide revenge killings. In Burundi, anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 Hutu were exterminated by the predominantly Tutsi army in 1972, to which must be added as many as half a million Hutu and Tutsi during the 1996-2003 civil war.
Numerical estimates are notoriously open to debate. What seems widely accepted are the population figures for Rwanda and Burundi, respectively estimated at 14 and 13 million. Since Rwanda has officially banned references to Hutu and Tutsi (on the grounds that such colonial inventions were responsible for the genocide), assessing the proportion of Hutu and Tutsi is problematic. An educated guess is that approximately 20 per cent of Rwanda’s population consists of Tutsi and some 80 per cent Hutu. Roughly the same proportion applies to Burundi.
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