Identity Shifts

The official ban on racial divisions has led to an identity shift in post-genocidal Rwanda. specifically, subnational divisions are no longer along racial lines, but along linguistic lines.

Rwanda is actually a multilingual society, with many Rwandans speaking both Kinyarwanda (the official language) and a foreign language – Kiswahili, English, or French. The RPF rebel groups organized in neighboring Uganda, where the predominant language is English; many Tutsis, therefore, speak English. On the other hand, French was the national language of the pre-genocide Hutu regime, and was taught at the secondary school level. During the genocide, refugees scattered to neighboring Tanzania, where Kiswahili is spoken (Mbori, 2008: 10).

The menage of different languages, and the association of these languages with subtle cultural differences, has led to linguistic profiling. Kiswahili speakers, for example, are often associated with Islam, a religion “despicable to many Rwandans.” (Mbori, 2008: 40).

This is not to say that racial identities have become less salient. Racial composition of the gacaca courts has been a significant, if implicit, consideration of the process of carrying out justice for former perpetrators of genocide (Hintjens, 2008: 13; also, see violence). Rather, the Anglophone and Francophone distinction has become a proxy for racial identities, allowing Rwandans to talk about race without specifically mentioning race.

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