GEOG 128
Geography of International Affairs



In this lesson, we turn our attention to the topic of humanitarian crisis. Through examination of the case study of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, we will build from prior lessons that interrogate the historical legacies of colonialism in creating the conditions for contemporary clashes and divides. The case of the Rwandan genocide shows that this particular humanitarian crisis was not simply a civil war between two ethnic groups (the Hutus and Tutsis). Rather the violent tensions between Hutus and Tutsis stemmed from and were exacerbated by, a social order and hierarchy normalized by colonial rule. The social order imposed during colonial rule did not dissolve once Rwanda gained independence in 1962. This lesson discusses not only how these historical events led to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, but it also prompts us to think about the response (or lack thereof) of the global community to intervene in Rwanda’s humanitarian crisis. The film The Ghosts of Rwanda, as well as the articles by Samantha Powers, provide us with a great deal of information to contemplate.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • explain how colonialism impacted Rwanda’s social and economic order;
  • examine the historical legacies of colonialism in Rwanda;
  • describe the general timeline of events that led to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide;
  • describe the ways in which Hutus and Tutsis were differently treated by the colonial powers;
  • discuss the response of the international community to the Rwandan Genocide; and
  • discuss the response by the United States to the Rwandan Genocide.

Required Readings and Assignments

Lesson 10 Assignments
Assignment Directions
Readings Read/watch all of the content for Lesson 10 on this website.
Geopolitical Analysis Discussion 4B See this lesson's module in Canvas for assignment instructions and due dates.
DVPM Rough Draft Critique See this lesson's module in Canvas for assignment instructions and due dates.


If you have any general course questions, please post them to our Course Questions Discussion located in the General Information Module in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum regularly to respond as appropriate. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses and comments if you are able to help out a classmate.