The Rwandan genocide started with ethnic clashes and disputes but culminated into the death of millions of Tutsis and Hutus thought to be moderate (Mamdani 27). The fighting started soon after the assassination of the Rwandan president by shooting down a plane carrying him and Burundian president on their way from Tanzania. The assassination, which many researchers link to the Hutu extremists, was meant to play the role of retaliations against the minority Tutsis. Various studies have attempted to investigate and determine the causes and implications of the genocide. However, problems in political and socioeconomic leadership seem to be the most important cause of the event because they triggered ethic clashes that eventually become genocide. Arguably, institutional and international leaders are to blame for the violence that led to the death of millions of Rwandese innocent people. This paper supports this thesis, arguing that frameworks of leadership prompted the Rwandan genocide, although it could have been prevented.
One of the most important leadership behaviors is the creation of servant-leadership paradigm in an institution, society or country. This leadership behavior is an extension of transformational leadership theory. It mainly focuses on the social responsibilities of leaders. According to Cooper, Scandura and Schriesheim (476), leaders can and emerge from all races, communities, races, ages and genders. In addition, quality leaders are not rated according to their backgrounds. They are rated according to their actions and decision-making capabilities and qualities. In the Rwandan case, the political leadership style was ineffective. Cooper, Scandura and Schriesheim (478) argue that leaders who fail to empower others to become leaders offer limiting leadership skills while those who empower others offer leadership skills without limits. Based on the actions of the Hutus during the genocide, the extremists were only following ideologies of other influential leaders without gaining any leadership qualities.
In Rwanda, the presidency, especially during the 21-year reign of President Juvenal Habyarimana, failed to exercise servant leadership behavior since the decisions to exclude Tutsis from active projects were both selfish and biased. In servant leadership, leaders must identify the needs of other people and serve them before fulfilling personal goals. The Rwandan president was not a servant leader since he compromised the nation’s security by offering support to the Hutu extremists. Some of the features of servant leadership include humility, love, concern, altruism and empowerment. Rather than ensuring equal distribution of power and government positions among the citizens, the government concentrated power on Hutu factions, creating social and political instability at the local and national levels.
Institutional leadership also failed significantly. One of the most important institutions that failed terribly to employ effective and unbiased leadership skills is the government’s ministry of information. Instead of using media to promote peace and unity, the ministry allowed some media stations to use media platforms to spread ethnic hatred (Mamdani 67). Some Hutu scholars also participated in forming manifestos against the Tutsis under the name Bahutu Manifesto. The manifesto was the first document that illustrated the ethnic, economic, social and physical differences between the two communities and started advocating for the superiority of the Hutus.
In conclusion, it is evident that the participation of the government and other key extremist Hutus is a reflection of poor leadership in the country. It also demonstrates the failure of the government and other institutions to advocate for quality leadership in order to form a national government structure (Shaw 129).
Cooper, Cecily, Terri Scandura and Chester Schriesheim. “Looking forward but learning from our past: Potential challenges to developing authentic leadership theory and authentic leaders.” The Leadership Quarterly 16.3 (2005): 475-493. Print.
Mamdani, Mahmood. When victims become killers: Colonialism, nativism, and the genocide in Rwanda. Princeton University Press, 2001. Print.
Shaw, Martin. War and genocide: Organized killing in modern society. Polity Press, 2003. Print.