How did the Belgians issue ID cards with ethnicity to women in Ruanda-Urundi?

How did the Belgians issue ID cards with ethnicity to women in Ruanda-Urundi?

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I've read about how the Belgians issued ID cards to the inhabitants of their colony Ruanda-Urundi (later independent under the names of Rwanda and Burundi):

Indeed, the Belgian colonists classified a person as Tutsi if they had a long nose (or ten cows).

  • Caselli/Coleman: On the theory of ethnic conflict, 2012, page 28

However, I was not able to find any information on whether these were applied to men and women alike or whether different means of distinction were used for women.

Were phenotypical features and wealth also distinctive for women, or were women categorized along other means, e.g. their husband's / father's categorization?

Genocide: The Lasting Effects of Gender Stratification in Rwanda

April 7, 1994 changed the lives of every Rwandan. That spring, the ethnic tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi had escalated over the duration of the spring. The whole country was about to be embroiled in conflict and, ethnic tensions having built to this point for centuries, there was no stopping it. However, for some women of Rwanda, the political unrest was distant they simply wanted peace for their families. The Tutsis had oppressed their people and families, and they had supported the Belgian imperialist takeover. On that day in 1994, all Rwandan women found themselves divided by an ethnic war and were left with impossible choices to make: kill or be killed see their children slaughtered or slaughter other women’s children and be raped or stand aside while other women got raped.

Many women have the same story as Violette Mutegwamaso, a Tutsi. She was the mother of two children, whom she had to defend after her husband was brutally murdered by Hutus. She and her children fled to a local church to seek shelter, but what they found was the opposite: Violette was forced to smear blood on her face and the faces of her children and pretend to be dead. They crouched down between pews and hid for hours as people were murdered and the number of corpses grew around them. “There was shooting going on, and people were falling and dying everywhere,” Violette said as she recounted her experience for “Women for Women International,” a nonprofit organization helping women from suffering nations create businesses for themselves through sponsorship.[1] Although she and her family were lucky to have made it through the genocide alive, because of so much death, Violette took in another orphan whose parents were lost in the war. The child was representative of an entire generation orphaned because of the genocide. Violette’s story, however, has a happy ending. Her farming business grew and became profitable and she and her family began the process of reconstructing their life.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko’s story offers a different perspective. A prominent Hutu leader in the Rwandan government at the time of the genocide, she was born into a poor family. Despite her limited resources, she was very bright, becoming the Family Affairs and Women’s Development minister in the Rwandan Parliament. Nyiramasuhuko ordered the massacres in Butare, a town in which the most extensive slaughter of the genocide occurred. When the governor of that region refused to follow her orders, she had him removed from office and killed militias from Kigali then carried out genocide. After the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) took control of Butare in July 1994, Nyiramasuhuko fled to refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ORC). Prior to taking flight, she told the BBC “I couldn’t even kill a chicken. If there is a person who says that a woman, a mother, could have killed, I’ll tell you truly then I am ready to confront that person.”[2] At the end of the genocide she was made to stand trial, along with her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali. Presiding Judge William Sekule said that scores of ethnic Tutsis were killed after taking refuge in a local government office: “Hoping to find safety and security, they instead found themselves subject to abductions, rapes, and murder. The evidence… paints a clear picture of unfathomable depravity and sadism.”[3]


Women played a significant role in the Rwandan genocide, both committing and becoming the victims of atrocities characterized by violence and sex crimes. Eight hundred thousand people were killed in just three months. Many children were left without parents. Because women became the majority of the population in most cities, Rwandan society underwent substantial changes, the culmination of those changes being that more women currently serve in the Parliament of Rwanda than any other Western nation. In pre-genocide Rwanda, however, society was primarily paternalistic.[4] Women were absent from the political scene in Rwanda, though several women—Agathe Kanziga, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, and Agnes Ntamabyaliro— played key roles in Rwandan politics and were later charged with inciting rebellion by the International Court of Justice.

The major questions this paper seeks to answer are why the Rwandan Genocide happened and why the role of women in the genocide historically significant. What cultural elements existed to contribute to the perfect storm of the Rwandan Genocide? What were the claims of the Hutus against the Tutsis? What is Rwanda doing to rebuild after the genocide? Is the role of women different than before the genocide? Are there solutions to the ethnic and regional animosities that sparked the genocide and continue to this day?

To answer these questions, the events of Rwanda’s history must be analyzed. Within this history contains an example of what can happen when a foreign power intervenes with no prior understanding of the culture or foresight into the implications of their actions. They created ethnic differences that did not exist before their arrival but continued into the next century. With flare-ups of ethnic strife throughout the history, no time was tenser than the nineteen-fifties and sixties, when most of Africa was in one conflict or another. Finally, in 1994, tensions boiled over and one of the worst atrocities of our time occurred. This paper explores what was learned from the genocide in an attempt to prevent a disaster of this scale from happening again.


The roots of the Rwandan genocide lie in the nation’s history. Long before 1994, numerous but often overlooked factors, including European players must be considered. However, the three main inhabitants of Rwanda, the Twa, the Hutu, and the Tutsi, crossed paths when the Tutsi migrated into Hutu and Twa lands in the twelfth century. The three ethnic groups coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years but during the fifteenth century, the Tutsi King Ruganzu Ndori took control of innermost Rwanda. By the end of the seventeenth century, Tutsi King Kigeri Rwabugiri had declared a unified state reinforced by a centralized military. The area remained under African control and the Tutsi, Twa, and Hutu tribes remained [cooperative/peaceful] until European intervention in 1890, when Rwanda became part of German East Africa.

A turning point came in 1919 when Belgium began its occupation of Rwanda in 1919. The Belgians governed Ruanda-Urundi (Rwanda) through the Tutsi kings. Embracing the Tutsis as the ruling class because they appeared more regal, were lighter skinned, and had more Caucasian features. These features may be attributed to the fact that the Tutsis were a pastoral people who tended cattle and were thus taller and stronger. As their pastoral lifestyle suggests, the Tutsis were a migratory people. They eventually settled in Rwanda but did not originate there, leading the Belgians to believe that the Tutsis were the sons of Ham, the son of Noah who is said to have populated Africa, according to the bible. Consequently the Tutsi were believed to be a lost tribe of Israel, not Rwandan. As a result, the Tutsis and the Belgians found common ground: neither the Belgians nor the Tutsis were African the Hamitic hypothesis. The Hutus, on the other hand, were an agricultural people and thus viewed as African. The Tutsis had been the ruling class prior to the arrival of the Belgians however, there was relative peace between the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa peoples. When the Belgians decided to rule indirectly through the Tutsis in 1919, they instilled more power in the Tutsis and created a divide that was not previously there. The Belgians instilled a sense of superiority in the Tutsis and required that they live in separate areas and attend different schools. Both Hutus and Tutsis were brought up to believe that the Tutsi were not Africans. The rift between the two groups further widened when the Belgians became confused by the intermarrying and mixed ethnicity children resulting Tutsi-Hutu unions maintaining a divide between the two ethnic groups became problematic as their distinguishing features blended. In response, the Belgians outlawed intermarrying and required that Tutsis live in gated communities. To avoid confusion, the Belgians also required that each individual carry an identification card with them at all times that labeled the respective individual as Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa. Doing so deepened the divide and intensified segregation in Rwanda.

In the late 1950s, there was a shift in power. The Hutus had grown tired of oppression and demanded their voice be heard. In 1959, the Hutus came to power after a rebellion that killed nearly 50,000 Tutsis. The Tutsi King Kigeli V and thousands of other Tutsis were forced into neighboring Uganda as exiles. Because both Hutus and Tutsis had maintained that Tutsis were not Rwandan, the Hutus had no trouble pushing them out—after all, both ethnicities had been brought up to believe that Rwanda was not the Tutsis’ home. In 1961, Rwanda declared itself a republic and Hutu Grégoire Kayibanda was elected its first president. Naturally, many more Tutsis left the country.

In 1978, Juvénal Habyarimana became the third president of Rwanda and a new constitution was ratified. Rwandan society became more unstable over the course of Habyarimana’s presidency, especially at the start of the 1990s when Tutsi rebel forces from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda from Uganda. Although the RPF and Rwanda attempted to create a multi-party constitution and various agreements for peace were in the works in 1991, the Hutu community was not interested in peace. They wanted control over and revenge against the Tutsi. The Hutu had the upper hand and were uninterested in relinquishing it to their ethnic rival. Politicians knew that in order for Rwanda to remain a stable republic peace had to be maintained, but the majority could not be suppressed. In 1993, President Habyarimana signed a power-sharing agreement with the Tutsis in Arusha, a small town in Tanzani where the Tutsis had been operating. This power-sharing agreement, known as the Arusha Peace Accords, was meant to bring peace to Rwanda and end the civil war, but it had the opposite effect.


The bloodiest four months in Rwandan history began on April 6, 1994 when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down near the capital of Kigali and lasted until July: “an estimated 5-10 per cent of Rwanda’s population was then killed ‘between the second week of April and the third week of May’ 1994” [5] . It is believed that Hutu radicals were to blame because the power-sharing agreement with the Tutsis that was signed in 1993, known as the Arusha Peace Accords, was to be implemented soon. The Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and Hutu militia, also known as the Interahamwe, were the two primary participants in the mass killings. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda was not allowed to intervene and thus stood by as systematic killings of Tutsis and Hutus alike took place. On April 8 the RPF attempted to pull its troops out of Kigali. From that point on, all other rescue missions were conducted only to evacuate European or Western citizens stranded in Rwanda. No international intervention attempt was made on behalf of Rwandans.

On April 21 the U.N. Security Council voted to withdraw most of the UNAMIR troops. The force was cut from 2,500 to 270 soldiers. Nine days later, on the 30 th , the U.N. released a statement condemning the killings however, they were not legally obligated to do anything about it because they did not classify the killings as genocide. Hundreds of thousands of people continued to flee to neighboring countries. It is estimated that as many as 250,000 Rwandans crossed the border into Tanzania in one day. By mid-May, approximately 500,000 Rwandans had been killed. On June 22, Operation Turquoise began in which French forces entered South-west Rwanda in order to create a safe area. By mid-July, RPF forces captured the capital of Kigali the Hutu government fled, followed by thousands of refugees and the French forces were replaced by Ethiopian U.N. troops. The RPF set up an interim government in Kigali and 800,000 Rwandans had been killed within the first hundred days of genocide.


How did things escalate so quickly and why was there no one to help? When change began to arise, the Tutsis looked to the Belgians for help, but they were nowhere to be found. The Belgians realized that they no longer needed Rwanda. The colonial scramble for Africa having ended, Rwanda had nothing to offer them it had become more of a burden to the Belgians than anything else. Involving themselves in Rwandan politics would only complicate their already tenuous situation, so Belgium abandoned the country without reassembling it. The Tutsis suddenly found themselves with no protection in an ethnically hostile environment. Unable to suppress the Hutus, the Tutsi reign in Rwanda was over and their only remaining option was exile. With a divided government, Hutus and Tutsis alike had been going in and out of exile in the neighboring countries of Burundi and Uganda and things were bound to reach a critical point and when that happened, it was going to be bloody:

The genocide evolved out of a past history of conflict and violence. A long history of dominance by the minority Tutsis (about 14% of the population) over the majority Hutus (about 85%) greatly intensified under the colonial rule of the Belgians. The Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda live next to each other and share the same language and religion, primarily Catholic. They may have been originally different ethnic groups, but the primary differences over time became those of occupation, class, power, and social identities. [6]

Rwanda was steered inevitably toward a bloody civil war and genocide when Belgium began occupation of Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa territory. As with the Belgium-Tutsi relationship, “ethnic identities are often magnified, if not manufactured, by occupying forces or national elites during the colonial period. Once independence has been obtained, ethnic identities are often internally enhanced for the political purposes of the new ruling regime.” [7] Other than being the ruling class, there were no intrinsic differences between the Tutsis and the Hutus and Twas over whom they ruled. No physical distinctions had been made between them until the Belgians instilled in each ethnic group the idea that the Tutsis were more regal and looked more similar to Europeans than the other Africans did.

By leaving Rwanda and ruling instead through the Tutsis, the Belgians destabilized the country’s political environment. The conditions created by the Belgians contribute to the instability felt throughout postcolonial environments. The new regimes monopolize existing resources, leaving subordinate populations in socioeconomic conditions analogous to (or worse than) those characterizing colonial rule. Widespread inequities of access to social, political, and economic capital are perpetuated by these new social arrangements. The histories of postcolonial states frequently degenerate into civil wars or other internecine conflicts that undermine the fragile forms of social organization built out of the anomic social rubble of colonial decampment. In the most extreme cases, such as Rwanda, genocides arise. [8]

While it is plausible that by fleeing Rwanda the Tutsi could have saved themselves from slaughter, nothing portended genocide to convince them to leave their homeland. The 1960s were a dangerous period in Rwandan history, but eighteen years had passed with relatively peaceful relations between the Hutus and the Tutsis:

Covert actions were an important dimension of the Rwandan regime’s close political control and were especially effective in a highly stratified society, where power differentials had long been taken for granted…when the genocide actually started it took most outsiders, and many Rwandans, by complete surprise. Bald statements of intent were rare and rumors which circulated of planned genocide simply served to further disarm the Tutsi population, by appearing to ‘cry wolf’” [9]

Because of this relative confusion, there was no real reason to be suspicious or to suspect that a full blown genocide would take place.

Another reason that the genocide was allowed to go on for so long was because of the global policing forces’ reluctance to use the term “genocide.” Genocide is defined as “acts committed with the intent to destroy in part or in whole a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such” [10] . The U.N. never declared the killings in Rwanda as genocide. If the U.N. had done so, they would have been obligated to intervene. Since this was not the case, the killings were allowed to go on without international resistance. The U.S. could have also taken steps to stop the genocide, but the Clinton administration “produced an inventive new reading of the Genocide Convention. Instead of obliging signatory states to prevent genocide, the White House determined, the Convention merely ‘enables’ such preventive action…by neutering the word ‘genocide’ the new spin allowed American officials to use it without anxiety.” [11]

Rwanda was essentially a perfect storm of factors in which genocide was the outcome. Political instability, the centralization of power, difficult living conditions, ethnic conflict, devaluation and past-victimization of a certain group of people, are all major instigators of genocide. All of these issues were present in Rwanda.

Rwandan Women’s Participation in the Genocide

Empowered women are important to the economic prosperity of any country. The coffee industry, one of Rwanda’s chief sources of capital, was severely damaged during the genocide, because of damage sustained to coffee plantations. Women have assumed a prominent role in rebuilding those plantations and leaning new ways of growing coffee. According to Agnes Matilda Kalibata, [Rwanda’s] Minister of State in Charge of Agriculture:

Rwanda’s economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the backs of our women. Bringing women out of the home and fields has been essential to our rebuilding. In that process, Rwanda has changed forever. . . . We are becoming a nation that understands that there are huge financial benefits to equality. [12]

With that being said is it difficult for some people to believe that women could have had a significant role in the genocide, positive, negative, or otherwise. One of the few people charged by the International Court of Justice for the genocide was a woman, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who was charged with inciting genocide. Beyond that, there is still speculation regarding how involved women actually were in carrying out the genocide. Some claimed that women didn’t even play a role: “No women were involved in the killings… they were mad people no women were involved. All women were in their homes,” claimed a female genocide suspect from Miyove prison. [13] However, others claim that women played a more insidious role. Women may not have been directly involved in the physical violence of the genocide but they did play a subversive role by informing Hutu extremists where Tutsi families were located or hiding.

Rwanda’s stratified society during and leading up to the genocide applied not only to ethnicity but also to regional background and gender. Northerners perceived themselves to be superior to southerners and vice versa. Gender has always played a more specific role in importance of an individual and place in society, however closer to the genocide, race began to transcend even gender It is possible that gender differences would have lessened over time and all women would have found equality, however, the evidence shows that even though women were the target of horrible sexual violence and mutilation, their standing in society was furthered by the genocide.

In Post- Genocide Rwanda, Rwandan women are more empowered than they have ever been before. They have leadership positions within the Parliament. They are the facilitators of economic expansion. They are creating and owning businesses. Because the genocide reduced men to a mere 20% of the population, [14] women have had to assume the roles that men can no longer fill.

Rwandan Women Pre-genocide

There has long been a gender divide in Rwandan culture. Women have historically been subordinate to men in Rwanda: “A woman’s value and status depended first on her fertility and second on her cooperativeness, initiative, and ability to work. A man was judged in terms of his courage and even capacity for aggression, his ability with words, and his physical prowess.”[15] A woman was made to cook for the men, clean, raise the children, and keep herself occupied among the other women of the community. While this has been the status quo for most societies, limited not just to Africa but to the world, the complexity of Rwanda’s social structure is unique:

ruling class of herding Tutsi dominated a lower class of Hutu farmers, Tutsi noblewomen supervised the Hutus’ work, and Hutu women worked hard at agricultural subsistence while the labor of their husbands in their fields or at war was monopolized by the aristocracy. Yet a Hutu man, despite his miserable position, remained no less a patriarch within his own family, where his wife had to kneel to offer him beer.”[16] Even though women had different social standings in society in its larger sense, when it came to each household, a woman’s place was the same, no matter her ethnicity.

As time went on, all Rwandan women occupied a similar societal role with similar expectations. The genocide, however, rekindled the issue of social distinctions between Hutu and Tutsi women. As the genocide continued, it became apparent that women were characterized not only by ethnicity, but also by regional affiliation. The way a woman dressed, could automatically define her as either a Hutu or a Tutsi regardless of her actual ethnicity. Depending on what part of the country one was in, the distinction between what clothing identified a woman as Hutu or Tutsi differed: “the peasants in this part of the country, which was far from the urban centers, were not used to seeing young women in pants, shorts, miniskirts, or braided hair. For these peasants, a young girl who dressed that way had to be Tutsi. According them, young Hutu girls were too well brought up to dress like whores.”[17]

Propaganda played a major role in pre- genocide Rwanda. Tutsi women might have been portrayed as more attractive than Hutu women, but they were also portrayed as “vixens, temptresses and spies who had to be eliminated,” [18] Kangura, an anti-Tutsi periodical, published as part of a leaflet of commandments regarding Tutsi women. The first commandment asserts that:

“1. Every Hutu should know that a Tutsi woman, whoever she is, works for the interest of her Tutsi ethnic group. As a result, we shall consider a traitor any Hutu who: Marries a Tutsi woman, befriends a Tutsi woman, and employs a Tutsi woman as a secretary or a concubine.” [19]

The Kangura urged Hutu women to “be vigilant and try to bring your husbands, brothers and sons back to reason.” [20] Other forms of propaganda called Tutsis “cockroaches” that needed to be eliminated. Valérie Bemeriki was a female journalist during this time who was an announcer on the RTLM, an extremist anti-Tutsi radio station. She was famous for reading the names of Tutsis that needed to be killed and where to find them. [21]

Women during the Genocide

Women took on different roles during the genocide. Hutu women at the head of Tutsi extremist circles rarely experienced any bloodshed. Fueled by hate and the memory of the suffering their people experienced, some Hutu women lashed out violently. Genevieve Mukarutesi, a Tutsi survivor, recounted her experience during the genocide:

On this date the situation deteriorated sharply in our sector. Hutu wanted to exterminate the Tutsis. My husband was Tutsi and we had four children….. Like other Tutsi families, we went to Kabuye hill where there were a lot of us, about 50,000. At least 40,000 perished on this hill. The first attack was led by Hutus from our district directed by a pregnant Hutu woman who was armed with a gun and a lot of grenades. She is Felicitee Semakuba, a former gendarme….During this attack, I, myself, saw Mme. Semakuba with a gun and grenades. She was on her knees shooting into the crowd of refugees all the while giving out orders to her team. She would often get up to throw grenades.[22]

Many stories like Mukaruteski’s tell of how ordinary women were driven to violence. Whatever drove her to take part in the violence, Semakuba participated willingly. Clearly Mukarutesi knew this woman because she knew this woman’s name. If they were from the same area they may have grown up around each other. This sort of brutality is brought on, not by one element, but by many. Ethnicity was a major aspect, but there were other factors. .

When the genocide ended eight hundred thousand deaths later, the remaining Rwandans were left to rebuild their country and salvage their culture. The remaining survivors now had to learn to heal and to forgive others for the deaths of their families. Whether or not this healing could occur and if society would be able to return to some semblance of normalcy, remained to be seen.

Post-Genocide Rwanda

A society cannot go back to what it was before, nor should it. Norms likes extreme patriarchal social structure and ethnic tensions instilled in Rwandan citizens prevented them from becoming economically advanced. Internal divisions and a rigid societal structure impeded humanitarian advancement.

Ethnic tensions contributed to the Rwanda’s stagnation, but the rigid social structure to which women were subjected also imposed limitations on the country. When a nation handicaps over half of the population by starving them of education and basic human rights, its ability to prosper is doomed. This changed in the 1990s when women began to attend school however rigid social structures still remained.

After the genocide, certain institutions were slow to recover. To this day fewer children attend school [than before the genocide]. Courts are slow to bring to justice many leaders of the genocide. Conflict still lingers on the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nevertheless, Rwanda has moved in a promising direction.

Seventy-two women presently serve in Parliament, holding 56% of its seats. Women have jobs and can own property, which had previously been illegal. Women have assumed positions of power and experienced a general empowerment because, as a result of the genocide’s devastating effect on Rwanda, they had no choice. Without women, Rwanda would not have survived. “The job of rebuilding Rwanda fell to us,” says MP Faith Mukakalisa.”We’ve been shouting about women’s empowerment ever since.” Staying a housewife, she says, was never an option. There were businesses to run, fields to sow, important decisions to make. [23]

In the years since the genocide, the majority of Rwandans are no longer poverty stricken however some still make only $1 a day. Domestic violence still routinely occurs, but now little girls are allowed to dream of being more than a housewife. A journalist for the BBC asked Aimee Umugeni, who runs a women’s center, what she looks forward to in the new Rwanda. Her answer sums up the hope that most women now have in their post- genocide world:

‘What is it you hope for most for your daughter, Marie Aimee?’ The journalist asked.‘That Rwanda continues to succeed,’ she says. ‘That my baby has a good education. Perhaps she’ll grow up to be a politician, a teacher or an engineer…it’s not like when I was young. Nothing will stop her. She’ll be able to do whatever she wants.” ’3

Conclusion: Reconciliation

Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, the Rwandan people are focusing on understanding the causes behind such an atrocity, and seeking to learn from the mistakes made during this time. Among Rwanda’s ethnic groups, reconciliation is still underway: “Reconciliation means that victims and perpetrators, or members of hostile groups, do not see the past as defining the future, as simply a continuation of the past. It means that they come to see the humanity of one another, accept each other, and see the possibility of a constructive relationship.” [24] The Rwandan government now has more women in positions of power than any other African government. Surprisingly, the issue of women’s role in the genocide has been largely ignored. The role of women pre- and post-genocide must now be melded into one. Their role must be redefined and Rwandan society as a whole must become acclimated to the diminishment of gender stratification.


Connecticut, Trinity College. “Aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide .”

thyde2/rwanda_aftermath.htm (accessed 3 31, 13).

Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. African Women A Modern History . Boulder: Westview Press, 1997

Ervin Staub, “Genocide and Mass Killing: Origins, Prevention, Healing and Reconciliation,” Political Psychology , 21, no. 2 (2000): 367-382,

Faiola, Anthony. “women rise in rwanda’s economic revival .” The Washington Post , May 16, 2008.

Gourevitch, Philip. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families . New York: Picador, 1998.

Hazeley, Josephine. “Profile: Female Rwandan Killer Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.” BBC, June 24, 2011.

Hintjens, Helen “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,”The Journal of Modern African Studies, 37, no. 2 (1999): 241-286,

Hogg, Nicole. “Woman’s participation in the Rwandan Genocide: mothers or monsters.” International Review of the Red Cross, March 2010.

Maier, Donna J. “Women Leaders in the Rwanda Genocide: When Women Choose to Kill.” Universitas: the Northern Iowa Journal of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity, 2012-2013.

Rothe, Dawn, Christopher Mullins, and Kent Sandstrom. “The Rwandan Genocide: International Finance Policies and Human Rights.” Social Justice. 35. no. 3 (2008): 66-86.

Staub, Ervin. “Reconciliation after Genocide, Mass Killing, or Intractable Conflict: Understanding the Rootsof Violence, Psychological Recovery, and Steps toward a General Theory.” Political Psychology. 27. no. 6 (2006): 867-894. . (accessed March 31, 2013).

Umutesi, Marie Beatrice. Surviving the Slaughter: The ordeal of a Rwandan refugee in Zaire. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

Women for Women International . women/stories-women-rwanda.php (accessed 3 30, 2013)

[1] Woman for Woman International . (accessed 3 30, 2013)

[2] Hazeley, Josephine. “Profile: Female Rwandan Killer Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.” BBC, June 24, 2011.

[3] Hazeley, Josephine. “Profile: Female Rwandan Killer Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.” BBC, June 24, 2011.

[4] Hogg, Nicole. “Woman’s participation in the Rwandan Genocide: mothers or monsters.” International Review of the Red Cross, March 2010.

[5] Helen Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,”The Journal of Modern African Studies, 37, no. 2 (1999): 241-286

[6] Ervin Staub, “Genocide and Mass Killing: Origins, Prevention, Healing and Reconciliation,” Political Psychology , 21, no. 2 (2000): 367-382

[7] Rothe, Dawn, Christopher Mullins, and Kent Sandstrom. “The Rwandan Genocide: International Finance Policies and Human Rights.” Social Justice. 35. no. 3 (2008): 66-86.

[8] Rothe, Dawn, Christopher Mullins, and Kent Sandstrom. “The Rwandan Genocide: International Finance Policies and Human Rights.” Social Justice. 35. no. 3 (2008): 66-86.

[9] Helen Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,”The Journal of Modern African Studies, 37, no. 2 (1999): 241-286

[10] Ervin Staub, “Genocide and Mass Killing: Origins, Prevention, Healing and Reconciliation,” Political Psychology , 21, no. 2 (2000): 367-382

[11] Gourevitch, Philip. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families . New York: Picador, 1998.

[12] Faiola, Anthony. “women rise in rwanda’s economic revival .” The Washington Post , May 16, 2008.

[13] Hogg, Nicole. “Woman’s participation in the Rwandan Genocide: mothers or monsters.” International Review of the Red Cross, March 2010.

[14] Connecticut, Trinity College. “Aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide .”

thyde2/rwanda_aftermath.htm (accessed 3 31, 13).

[15] Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. African Women A Modern History . Boulder: Westview Press, 1997

[16] Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. African Women A Modern History . Boulder: Westview Press, 1997

[17]Umetesi, Marie Beatrice. Surviving the Slaughter: The ordeal of a Rwandan refugee in Zaire. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

[18]-20 Maier, Donna J. “Women Leaders in the Rwanda Genocide: When Women Choose to Kill.” Universitas: the Northern Iowa Journal of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity, 2012-2013.

[22] Maier, Donna J. “Women Leaders in the Rwanda Genocide: When Women Choose to Kill.” Universitas: the Northern Iowa Journal of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity, 2012-2013.

[23] Skarlotos, Theopi. “‘The job of rebuiding Rwanda fell to us Women’ .” BBC News, 2012.

[24] Ervin Staub, “Reconciliation after Genocide, Mass Killing, or Intractable Conflict: Understanding the Rootsof Violence, Psychological Recovery, and Steps toward a General Theory,” Political Psychology, 27, no. 6 (2006): 867-894

Abandoned by the nuns

Monique speaks in French over a WhatsApp video call from Hasselt, a town in Flanders, Belgium’s Flemish-speaking northern region. She is with her youngest daughter and namesake, whose parrot sings loudly in the background while we speak. The older Monique wears thin-framed rectangular glasses, a black hoodie and her fingernails are painted a dark blue. She wears a solemn expression, but on occasion, she cracks a gentle, beautiful smile.

At the Catholic mission, the girls heard daily that they were the “children of sin”. They were told the devil created the Métis, and were baptised separately from the other Congolese children when no one was around to see.

The older children took care of the younger girls. They fed and looked after the babies, and attended school. They gathered the leaves of sweet potatoes to eat. In the room where Monique slept, at the head of her bed was a wall and on the other side, a morgue. She heard the mourners every night. She lived with Léa Tavares Mujinga, Noëlle Verbeeken, Simone Ngalula and Marie-José Loshi – the other women behind the lawsuit.

Were they always friends? “No – almost sisters,” she says. “One encourages the other.”

Clockwise from top left, Simone Ngalula, Monique Bitu Bingi, Lea Tavares Mujinga, Noelle Verbeeken and Marie-Jose Loshi, were each taken from their families as children [Francisco Seco/AP Photo] In 1960 the DRC became independent. Fearing violence from political turmoil in the wake of independence, the nuns prepared the children to leave for Belgium. But a priest prevented the girls’ departure. The nuns left, then returned, until one night when United Nations trucks took them away for good, abandoning the children.

It was 1961. Monique was 11. There were some 60 children including about 10 Métis, orphans and babies left on their own. Some of the babies died. When violence broke out in Kasai between different ethnic groups after independence, Bakwa Luntu militiamen arrived at the mission saying they would protect the children. Instead, they raped them.

“Every night for several nights they’d put the girls on the ground with their legs open and they would take long candles and put them inside their vagina,” says the younger Monique (who goes by her father’s surname Fernandes), 36, of what her mother and the others endured.

About a week later, a local administrator found families to house the girls. The violence around them continued. Bakwa Luntu fighters would brandish hands cut from their enemies. Food was scarce they ate worms and grasshoppers.

“We are traumatised,” says the older Monique. She still has nightmares about that time and when she hears trucks at night, she thinks the fighters have returned.

It’s a whole adolescence taken away, she says. She had no option but to go on. “I had to be strong.”

“They were destroyed mentally and physically,” says her daughter.

Monique Bitu Bingi was forced to live in a Catholic mission in Congo when she was four. She is the first child on the left of the front row [Courtesy of Monique Bitu Bingi] About a year later, in 1962, a Dutch and a Congolese priest took the girls, scarred and skinny, back to the mission. Monique stayed there until she was 17 when she married a Congolese-Portuguese businessman, with whom she had seven children. She saw her mother every two years but they could never regain what had been lost. It is just “because we were born with a different skin colour” that mothers did not have the right to keep their children, Monique says.

In 1981, at 32, she immigrated to Belgium with her family for her children’s education. Now, with grown-up children and grandchildren, she feels it is time to speak the truth about colonialism through her experience, to address the lies in school books that paint it as something altruistic, Monique Fernandes says. Her mother and her “aunties”, as she calls them, believe their story should not be hidden.

“It’s important that the Belgian government recognises what has happened, and that they repair what they have done. A crime has been committed and they need to fix it,” the older Monique says.

General Overviews

Until near the end of the 20th century, overviews of Belgian colonialism in central Africa clearly centered on Europe and the colonial administration, and scholars acted as if African history began with the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century. In the early 21st century, one can say that overviews fall into two categories: those focused on Belgium, the colonial administration, and the colonial experience from a European viewpoint, and those centered on African history, the Congo, Congo’s peoples, and the variety of ways in which Africans experienced European colonial rule. In the former category is Buelens 2007, which examines colonial companies and colonial finance in great detail. A quite different kind of work focused on Belgium is Ewans 2003, a brief article providing a quick overview of Belgium’s overseas expansion, including how it fits into Belgian history and memories. Among Afrocentric works is Manning 1998, which provides a concise but necessarily broad-ranging history of all of francophone Africa south of the Sahara between 1880– and 1995, including the Belgian Congo. Also among those works focused on Africa is Nzongola-Ntalaja 2002, whose subtitle, “A People’s History,” indicates its deliberate focus on common people. Van Reybrouck 2010 also fits into this latter category, drawing as it does on everyday Africans’ experiences with and memories of the colonial era, drawn from David Van Reybrouck’s work as a journalist, historian, and traveler in Africa. Early academic histories of Belgian imperialism, as opposed to those that were popular or nostalgic, were written mainly by non-Belgians, such as Slade 1962 (cited under Congo Free State Period) and Anstey 1966 (cited under Belgian State Rule Period). Generational change, additional archival resources becoming available, and perhaps the appearance of Hochschild 1998 (cited under Red Rubber) have led to a growth in history writing among Belgians and Congolese, among others. This has resulted in such fine syntheses as Vanthemsche 2007 and Ndaywel è Nziem 2009, both of which advance our knowledge and show us that more work needs to be done. Recent history writing and generational change also contributed to Vellut 2005, which brings together a plethora of expertise. In addition to the overviews listed here, see others in the Precolonial Period, Congo Free State Period, and Belgian State Rule Period sections.

Buelens, Frans. Congo 1885–1960: Een financieel-economische geschiedenis. Berchem, Belgium: EPO, 2007.

Buelen’s encyclopedic history of the Congo during the colonial period focuses on the metropole’s finances and the colonial economy, including colonial companies. It constitutes a massive resource for further research. It is much less valuable as a narrative or analytical history of colonial finance, political economy, or administration.

Ewans, Martin. “Belgium and the Colonial Experience.” Journal of Contemporary European Studies 11.2 (2003): 167–180.

This short journal article serves as a quick introduction to Belgium and empire, including Belgians’ “amnesia” regarding their contentious colonial past.

Manning, Patrick. Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1880–1995. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Although this revised edition suffers from a surprisingly large number of typographical errors, it is an extremely useful overview from an Africanist perspective. It is somewhat unusual to find historical treatment of the Congo Free State and the Belgian Congo placed in the larger context of francophone sub-Saharan Africa.

Ndaywel è Nziem, Isidore. Nouvelle histoire du Congo: Des origines à la République Démocratique. Brussels: Le Cri, 2009.

This new history of the Congo from its origins to the Democratic Republic is the revised and updated edition of Ndaywel’s Histoire générale du Congo (Paris: De Boeck, 1998), a huge narrative and analytical history of Congo, the first such work written by a Congolese scholar. To be read with Vellut 1999 (cited under Historiography).

Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges. The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History. London: Zed Books, 2002.

Nzongola-Ntalaja is a renowned Congolese scholar. This ambitious volume covers Congo’s history from the advent of European rule to the end of the 20th century in fewer than three hundred pages. It is strongest on the post-1960 period. Appropriate for undergraduates.

Van Reybrouck, David. Congo: Een geschiedenis. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2010.

Bestselling history of the Congo from the late 1800s onward, written by journalist and playwright Van Reybrouck and based on his travels and numerous interviews. It dispatches with the precolonial and Leopoldian periods before delving into the colonial and the postcolonial eras. Has been translated into English, among other languages.

Vanthemsche, Guy. La Belgique et le Congo: Empreintes d’une colonie, 1885–1980. Brussels: Complexe, 2007.

Vanthemsche sets the standard in an impeccably researched volume on the Congo’s effects or “imprints” on Belgium’s domestic politics (limited), foreign affairs (allowed Belgium to “punch above its weight”), and economy (slight, except in certain areas). The costs-and- benefits analysis goes beyond the more limited scope of Stengers 1957 (cited under Congo Free State Period).

Vellut, Jean-Luc, ed. La mémoire du Congo: Le temps colonial. Tervuren, Belgium: Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, 2005.

Some unjustly criticized this book on memory and the colonial era (and the Royal Museum for Central Africa exhibition from which it emerged) as an apologia for empire. Instead, it shows colonialism as an episode, albeit a violent one, in Africa’s long history. Contributors include an astonishing range of experts.

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Located in western Europe, Belgium has about 40 mi of seacoast on the North Sea, at the Strait of Dover, and is approximately the size of Maryland. The Meuse and the Schelde, Belgium's principal rivers, are important commercial arteries.


Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch. Under the 1994 constitution, autonomy was granted to the Walloon region (Wallonia), the Flemish region (Flanders), and the bilingual Brussels-Capital region autonomy was also guaranteed for the Flemish-, French-, and German-speaking ?communities.? The central government retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense, taxation, and social security.


Belgium occupies part of the Roman province of Belgica, named after the Belgae, a people of ancient Gaul. The area was conquered by Julius Caesar in 57?50 B.C. , then was overrun by the Franks in the 5th century A.D . It was part of Charlemagne's empire in the 8th century, then in the next century was absorbed into Lotharingia and later into the duchy of Lower Lorraine. In the 12th century, Belgium was partitioned into the duchies of Brabant and Luxembourg, the bishopric of Lige, and the domain of the count of Hainaut, which included Flanders. In the 15th century, most of the Low Countries (currently the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) passed to the duchy of Burgundy and were subsequently inherited by Emperor Charles V. When the latter abdicated in 1555, the territories went to his son Philippe II, king of Spain. While the northern part, now the Netherlands, gained its independence in the following decades, the southern part remained under Spanish control until 1713, when it was transferred to Austria. During the wars that followed the French Revolution, Belgium was occupied and later annexed to France. But with the downfall of Napolon, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 reunited the Low Countries under the rule of the king of Holland. In 1830, Belgium rebelled against Dutch rule and declared independence, which was approved by Europe at the London Conference of 1830?1831.

Germany's invasion of Belgium in 1914 set off World War I. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) gave the areas of Eupen, Malmdy, and Moresnet to Belgium. Leopold III succeeded Albert, king during World War I, in 1934. In World War II, Belgium was overwhelmed by Nazi Germany, and Leopold III was held prisoner. When he returned at the government?s invitation in 1950 after a narrowly favorable referendum, riots broke out in several cities. He abdicated on July 16, 1951, and his son, Baudouin, became king. Because of growing opposition to Belgian rule in its African colonies, Belgium granted independence to the Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1960 and to Ruanda-Urundi (now the nations of Rwanda and Burundi) in 1962.

Since 1958, when the European Economic Community was born, Brussels, the country?s capital, has gradually established itself as the de facto capital of what has now become the European Union (EU), a role that became official in Dec. 2000 when the European Council of heads of government decided to hold all its regular meetings in Brussels. As a result, the city has become home not only to nearly 20,000 European civil servants, but to an even more numerous community of lobbyists, lawyers, and other professionals drawn to the EU?s main decision center.

Growing divisions between Flemings and Walloons, and devolution along linguistic lines, culminated in the revised constitution of 1994, which turned Belgium into a federal state with significant autonomy for its three regions and its three language ?communities.?

A Decade of Scandals Leads to Reform

In the 1990s Belgium?s public life was shaken by a number of serious scandals. In 1991, a former deputy prime minister and socialist leader was murdered in a contract killing that took several years to come to light. The Dutroux child-sex-and-murder affair in 1996 led to national outrage, compounded by the realization that less official negligence and inefficiency could have saved the lives of several children. The tragedy fueled pressure for reform of the political, judicial, and police systems. In 1998, along with two other major Belgian politicians, former NATO secretary-general Willy Claes was convicted of bribery. In 1999, a public health scandal involving dioxin, a cancer-causing chemical, resulted in the unexpected electoral defeat of Christian-Democratic prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene.

In June 1999, the new prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt of the Liberal Party, cobbled together a coalition of liberals, socialists, and greens, which was continued, without the green parties, after the May 2003 election. His government passed extremely liberal social policies, including the legalization of gay marriage and euthanasia and the partial decriminalization of marijuana. Against the wishes of the prime minister?s party, a parliamentary majority also extended voting rights at local elections to all foreign residents.

Government Unable to Bridge Linguistic Divide

Prime Minister Verhofstadt resigned in June 2007, after his coalition of liberals and socialists took a drubbing in a general election. He remained in office as caretaker prime minister for more than six months, however, as talks between Flemish-speaking and French-speaking parties on forming a government reached a deadlock, leaving the country in political crisis. At King Albert II's request, Verhofstadt formed an interim coalition government in December 2007.

On March 20, 2008, Yves Leterme was sworn in as prime minister, ending the political crisis that spanned nine months. A new government was formed and includes both Flemish and French-speaking democrats, liberals, and socialists.

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, Belgium's enduring linguistic divide led to the resignation of Prime Minister Leterme on July 14, 2008. King Albert II did not immediately accept his resignation, leaving the government again in a caretaker's hands. The king accepted the resignation on December 22, 2008, and on December 28, asked Herman Van Rompuy to form a new cabinet. Parliament gave Van Rompuy's new government a vote of confidence (88-45) in January 2009. Van Rompuy stepped down in November to become President of the European Council. Leterme returned for another term as prime minister. He set to work on reviving the economy and reducing unemployment.

Leterme's government collapsed in April 2010 when the liberal Open VLD party bolted from the coalition in yet another conflict between Flemish and French speakers. The movement to break up Belgium gained steam in June's parliamentary elections when the separatist New Flemish Alliance party won the most seats.

First French Speaker to Lead New Government

After a record 541 days in the hands of a caretaker administration, Belgium was prompted by Europe's debt crisis to finally form a new government. Elio di Rupo, a Socialist from the Walloon (French-speaking) community took the prime minister's office on Dec. 6, 2011. Di Rupo, 60, became Belgium's first French-speaking prime minister in three decades and the first Socialist to assume the post since 1974.

King Albert II Announces Abdication

In early July 2013, King Albert II attended a midday session of the Belgian cabinet and announced that he would leave the throne later that month, on July 21, Belgium's National Day. He said he was resigning due to health reasons. Therefore, King Albert II, age 79, became the second Belgian king to abdicate. His father, King Leopold III, abdicated in 1951.

Prince Philippe, the eldest child of King Albert II and Queen Paola, became the seventh king of the Belgians on July 21, 2013. Next in line of succession is Princess Elisabeth, King Philippe's firstborn.

Prime Minister Di Rupo Resigns after Parliamentary Elections

In May 2014 parliamentary elections, the separatist New Flemish Alliance became the largest party in the language-divided country, taking 20.3% of the vote. The Socialist Party and Flemish Christian Democratic Party tied for second with 11.7%. After the vote, leader of the Socialist Party, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo resigned.

King Philip accepted Di Rupo's resignation and asked Flemish separatist leader Bart De Wever to lead the coalition talks. After four months of negotiations, a very shaky coaltion was formed in October, with the French-speaking liberal Reform Movement party, headed by Charles Michel, joining with three Flemish-speaking parties: the New Flemish Alliance, the Flemish Christian Democrats, and the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats. For the first time in 25 years, the Socialists will be in the opposition. Michel became prime minister and said his government would implement economic reforms, including lowering taxes and raising the retirement age, to reduce the budget deficit.

Brussels Rocked by Terrorist Attacks ISIS Claims Responsibility

Belgian police arrested Salah Abdeslam in March 2016. Abdeslam is believed to be the ISIS logistics chief for the November 2015 Paris attacks, and the only major player in the Paris attacks that is still alive.

Two bombs exploded in Brussels during rush hour on March 22, 2016, killing at least 30 people and wounding several hundred. At least 10 were killed at the Zaventem international airport and more than 20 died at the Maelbeek subway station. Both are located close to NATO headquarters. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. ?Islamic State fighters opened fire inside the Zaventem airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maelbeek metro station.? Authorities speculated that the attacks were a response to the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, days earlier.

How did it end?

The well-organised RPF, backed by Uganda's army, gradually seized more territory, until 4 July 1994, when its forces marched into the capital, Kigali.

Some two million Hutus - both civilians and some of those involved in the genocide - then fled across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the time called Zaire, fearing revenge attacks. Others went to neighbouring Tanzania and Burundi.

Human rights groups say RPF fighters killed thousands of Hutu civilians as they took power - and more after they went into DR Congo to pursue the Interahamwe. The RPF denies this.

In DR Congo, thousands died from cholera, while aid groups were accused of letting much of their assistance fall into the hands of the Hutu militias.

Fun Belgium facts

1. Belgium became an independent country in 1830. It's located in Western Europe and consists of three federal regions: Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south, and Brussels in the center.

2. Its official name is the “Kingdom of Belgium” and King Philippe of the Belgians is the current monarch.

3. Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. Contrary to what many people think, Flemish is not a language. It's a dialect cluster or simply the way people from the Northern part of Belgium – Flanders – speak Dutch.

4. The word “spa”, that's being used to talk about places to relax and get wellness treatments, comes from the Belgian city Spa.

5. Napoleon was defeated in Waterloo, a city south of Brussels.

6. Looking for some fun facts about Brussels? Well, together with Washington D.C., the capital of Brussels has the highest number of diplomats and foreign press correspondents in the world.

7. The largest agricultural, forestry and agri-food fair in Europe, the Foire de Libramont, is held in Belgium.

8. Belgium is the country with the most castles per square kilometer in the world. A famous example is the Gravensteen in Ghent.

9. Belgium has some of the highest income and social contribution tax rates in the world. For single people without children, it has the highest income tax rates.

10. Three famous Belgian comics are Tintin, The Smurfs and Lucky Luke.

12. The very first international football game was played in Brussels in 1904. CLICK TO TWEET THIS

Football is still one of the most popular sports in Belgium.

13. In 1990, the Belgian king Baudouin was dethroned for 36 hours. He was against the abortion law that the government wanted to pass, so they dethroned him, signed the law and made him king again.

14. Little weird Belgium holds the world record for the longest government formation in history. The country was without a government for 541 days and then it took another 200 days to divide the highest 65 administrative jobs.

15. The most translated books in the world, after the Bible, are those about Inspector Maigret by author Georges Simenon from Liège.

16. Television was introduced in Belgium in 1953 with two channels, one in Dutch and one in French.

17. Another interesting fact about Belgium is that it's one of the rare countries where education is compulsory until you're 18 years old.

18. Aside from Spain, Belgium is the only country in the world to have two living kings. Current King Philippe's father Albert continues carrying the title “king” after his abdication.

19. Antwerp is the world's diamond capital. There are lots of diamond stores outside Antwerp's central train station but the city is also called the diamond capital as over 80% of the world's rough diamonds pas through there.

20. Brussels International Airport is the world's largest chocolate selling point.

21. The world's two first printed newspapers were both published in 1605. One was printed in Strasbourg, the other (the Nieuwe Tijdingen) was printed by Abraham Verhoeven in Antwerp in the northern Flanders.

22. The first Belgian car was built in 1894, it was called the Vincke. The brand Vincke stopped existing in 1904.

23. Signal de Botrange (694 m) is the highest point in Belgium.

24. The North Sea is the lowest point in Belgium.

25. The Belgian coastal tram is the longest tram line in the world, being 68 km long. It opened in 1885 and operates between De Panne and Knokke-Heist, which is from the French border to the Dutch border.

26. The first railroad on the European mainland opened in Belgium in 1835. It connected Brussels and Mechelen. CLICK TO TWEET THIS

27. Belgium had the first openly gay Prime Minister in Europe. His name is Elio Di Rupo.

28. Ghent hosts the biggest cultural festival in Europe, the Gentse Feesten. It's a great event if you don't mind the crowds.

29. Belgium has the lowest salary gap between men and women in the EU.

30. The two French-speaking authors who have been the most translated are both Belgian: the comic ook author Hergé and George Simenon, an author mostly known for his detective novels. I visited the Hergé Museum here in Belgium.

31. 80% of billiard players use the Aramith pool balls made in Belgium.

32. Belgians invented fries (and a ton of other delicious things). That's that. Why everyone insists on calling them French fries is beyond me -)

33. Leuven has the oldest university city in the Low Lands.

34. The tallest building in Belgium is the Zuidertoren (“South Tower”) in Brussels.

35. The first stock exchange building was built in Bruges.

36. Haspengouw is the largest fruit region in Western Europe and after South-Tirol the largest one in entire Europe.

37. The music tape was invented by the Belgian department of Philips in Hasselt in 1963.

38. George Llewelyn Davies, the adopted son of the Scottish “Peter Pan” author James Barrie and the direct inspiration for the character of Peter Pan, was buried in Belgium.

39. Belgium hosts the world's largest sand sculpture festival.

40. Tomorrowland is the world's largest Electronic Dance Music festival and Belgium is a real festival country.

41. New York City was founded by the Belgian Pierre Minuit (1589-1638). He bought the island of Manhattan in 1626 from its original inhabitants.

42. Belgium supplied the Americans with the uranium that was used for the atom bomb they threw on Hiroshima. It came from Congo, at that time a colony of Belgium.

43. The name “Belgium” dates back to the Romans. They called their province in the north of Gaul Gallia Belgica after its previous inhabitants, the Celtic and German Belgae.

44. The small Belgium is the sixth largest importer of coffee with 4.3 million bags/year.

45. Over 800 kinds of beers are made in Belgium. Some claim it's over 1,000 kinds. CLICK TO TWEET THIS

46. The world's first beer academy opened in Herk-de-Stad, in the province of Limburg, in 1999.

47. Chocolate is one of the most famous Belgian things and pralines were invented by Jean Neuhaus in Brussels in 1912. It's still one of the most famous chocolate brands around.

48. Belgium produces over 220,000 tonnes of chocolate each year.

49. The Kingdom of Belgium was the first country in the world to ban cluster bombs.

50. Belgium was the first country in the world to issue electronic passports complying with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and, along with Italy, was the first to issue electronic ID cards in March 2003.

51. Belgium is one of the few countries in the world with compulsory voting.

52. The world's largest ship lift is the counterweighted lift of Strepy-Thieu (73.15 m high) in the Belgian province of Hainaut.

53. Europe's first skyscraper was built in Antwerp in 1928. It's called “De Boerentoren” (“Farmer's Tower”) and is still the second-tallest structure in the city, after the Cathedral of Our Lady.

54. Brussels sprouts have been grown in Belgium for over 400 years.

55. Belgium grants the most new citizenships per capita in the world.

56. The Galeries St Hubert in Brussels opened in 1847, which makes them Europe's oldest shopping arcades. They're located just one street away from the famous Grand Place.

57. The Law Courts of Brussels is the largest court of justice in the world. It has a built land area of 26,000 m² at ground level, which makes it bigger than the Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome (21,000 m²).

58. Belgium produces the greatest variety of bricks in the world. CLICK TO TWEET THIS

59. The largest Freemason temple on the European continent is the Great Temple in the capital of Brussels (at 79, Rue de Laeken).

60. Anheuser-Busch, the largest beer brewer in the world, is located in Belgium. Belgium is famous for its beer and has hundreds of different kinds of beer.

61. Belgium has produced some of the world's most influential scientists in the 16th century, including Gerardus Mercator, the famous cartographer, and the anatomist Andreas Vesalius.

62. Belgium has more comic bookmakers per square kilometer than any other country in the world (even Japan).

63. Durbuy dubs itself the smallest city in the world. Although it now has less than 500 inhabitants, it was granted the rank of city in medieval times, which it hasn't lost since then.

64. The Kingdom of Belgium has the highest density of art collectors of any country.

65. Neanderthal skulls were first discovered in the Belgian village of Engis ( a suburb of Liege), in 1829, although the name comes from the Neander Valley in Germany (the site of a later find in 1856).

66. In 1066, Huy became the first European city to receive a charter of city rights, making it the oldest free city on the continent.

67. Belgian painters are credited to have invented oil painting in the 15th century. It's unsure who exactly the inventor was, but scientists presume it was Jan van Eyck.

68. The capital city of Brussels was founded in the 13th century.

69. Charles V of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain (and colonies), Naples and Sicily, and ruler of the Burgundian territories, was born and raised in Ghent, with French as his first language.

70. The royal palace of Brussels is 50% longer than Buckingham Palace.CLICK TO TWEET THIS

71. There is no other country in Europe with as many street and music festivals all year round as Belgium.

72. The Belgian city of Spa had the first casino in Europe.

73. Belgium has the densest rail network in the world with 4,078 kilometers of track.

74. Belgian households have the highest percentage of cable TV in the world, at 97%.

75. The world’s first recorded lottery took place in Belgium. It was held to raise money for the poor.

76. The only Belgian race car, the Vertigo, once held the Guinness World Record for fastest acceleration from 0-100km/h in 3.266 seconds.

77. Besix, a Belgian construction company, was one of four contracted to construct the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai.

78. The Belgian Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps is the longest and the second oldest F1 Grand Prix Circuit still in use.

79. The tallest living horse is a Belgian Gelding Horse. His name is Big Jake and he's 210.19 cm tall (6 feet and 2,75 inches).

80. The first natural-color picture in National Geographic Magazine was of a flower garden in Ghent. This was in July 1914. The photo was printed on page 49.

82. “Fallen Astronaut” by the Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck is the only piece of art on the Moon.

83. The longest “bar” in the world is Leuven's Oude Markt. It has around 40 cafés on one square.

84. Luik/Liège was the first city in the world to get bombed from the sky by a German zeppelin.

86. The name for the Euro currency was proposed by Belgium, as was the design for the € symbol.

87. The capital of Brussels is home both to NATO and the European Union.

I've done some thorough research compiling these fun facts about Belgium, but it's always possible that I missed something. Are there other facts about Belgium that you think I should've mentioned? Let me know!

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Your Thoughts

Beste Sofie,
Ik heb net ” Belgium facts that’ll blow your mind” gelezen. een prachtige verzameling van feiten. Maar wat is nr 1 ?
In punt 46 ben jij waarschijnlijk even vergeten dat jij in het Engels aan het schrijven was :
46. The world’s first beer academy opened in Herk-de-Stad, in de province of Limburg, in 1999. (In de province…
Maar verder niets dan lof,

Hey Roger,
Ik zat met wat websiteproblemen vandaag en blijkbaar is hier iets misgelopen: de hoofding en het eerste feit waren verdwenen, waardoor alles er blauw ging uitzien. Opgelost nu!
Met die provincie was ik inderdaad even de kluts kwijt. Dat bloggen in twee talen, het is soms toch wat :-)
Bedankt om het op te merken! Zonder je comment had ik het waarschijnlijk niet zo gauw gezien.

Ik heb je telefoonnummer uit je comment gehaald. Dat zet je best niet publiek op het internet.

Ik las onlangs dat alle europeanen afkomstig zijn van belgen. Dat blijkt uit dna analyse. Dat lijkt mij toch een belangerijk feit die niet in de lijst staat, evenals de uitvinding van bakeliet, e.a.

Bedankt voor je comment. Dat artikel las ik ook, maar deze post dateert van voor het verscheen. Het lijkt me ook nogal straf, dus ik denk dat ik nog even afwacht tot ik dat toevoeg :-)

Ik ben zeker dat er nog een heleboel andere dingen niet in staan. Voor zo’n jong landje hebben we best al wel wat op ons palmares staan. Altijd fijn dus als lezers zoals jij iets kunnen toevoegen. Dankje daarvoor!

Zalig, ook: de pil (dr janssen), saxofoon. Rolschaatsen, de deurbel, doen het altijd goed in het buitenland -) Top!

Die komen in mijn lijstje over bekende Belgen dat al half klaar staat -)

Hallo Sofie,
Heb je eraan gedacht om Raf Simons bij jou lijstje te zetten van bekende Belgen? In 2012 bekwam hij creative director bij Dior, France. Hij heeft al verschillende heel succesvolle shows gedaan in Parijs en andere landen. Er is ook een documentary gemaakt over hem: Dior and I.
Je kan meer over hem lezen op google.
Beste groetjes,

Dat is een geweldige toevoeging! Bedankt, Alice :)

Hallo Sofie,
Bedankt voor de snelle aanpassing.
Ik doe dit alleen om je te helpen,
Misschien kon er het Groot Begijnhof van Leuven aan toegevoegd worden.
Toch wel uniek en het best bewaarde begijnhof van België.
Ik heb heel wat informatie over het Groot Begijnhof. Naar welk emailadres kan ik het sturen.

Deze comment heb ik precies gemist. Het Groot Begijnhof is inderdaad uniek, maar het is geen grootste, oudste, … in iets, waardoor het niet echt op deze lijst thuis hoort. Ik ben wel van plan er een aparte post aan te wijden. Ik woon namelijk op een kwartiertje fietsen van dat begijnhof:)
Je kan me altijd mailen via het contactformulier hier op de website, of via sofie [at] wonderfulwanderings [dot] com

Belgie heeft de begijnhoven uitgevonden, waarvan die van Kortrijk (1242) de eerste is. Dus in dit opzicht zou die van Leuven misschien genoemd kunnen worden denk ik, als de mooist en best bewaarde van Belgie. De meeste begijnhoven, zo niet alle, zijn bovendien elk UNESCO* – “for a reason” dus ). Ook het concept achter de begijnhoven (evenals die van de godshuizen en die bijv. ook naast de belforten uniek zijn aan Belgie), is zeer mooi en een van de redenen waarom Belgie een diep-humanistische natie is. (Samen met F en in tegenstelling tot Nederland.)

Durbuy is inderdaad niet de kleinste town, maar kleinste city ter wereld, zoals de expat hierbeneden of hierboven (?) zegt (ik weet niet waar mijn post zal komen). Anders heeft het geen enkele betekenis en is het zogezegd maximaal “cute”. Vergeet niet dat Belgie even klein is als Nederland en vergelijkbaar met Zwitserland (Zwitserland zelfs ook met vergelijkbaar aantal inwoners). Belgie is overigens in alle andere opzichten dan geografische, groter dan Nederland. Er ziin ook veel andere landen in EU die kleiner zijn dan Belgie. Dat continu zogezegde faire zelf-kritisch erkennen dat je klein “bent”, wat ik Belgen overal zie doen, is slecht voor de reputatie van Belgie, m.i., en leidt tot tal van misverstanden, overal op het internet, en waarschijnlijk ook ver daarbuiten…

* Dat de UNESCO organisatie direct alle begijnhoven of alle belforten tot UNESCO heeft benoemd, wil niet zeggen dat Belgie maar 11 UNESCO sites heeft. Dit zijn er veel en veel meer, in al die Belgische steden. Efficientie van UNESCO wil niet zeggen dat Belgie architectonisch minder waard wordt ) Belgie heeft een zeer, zeer rijk architectonisch patrimonium en historie en cultuur in het algemeen. :)

Bedankt voor je uitgebreide comment! Ik plaatste eerder al een artikel over het begijnhof van Leuven, alsook over de UNESCO-sites van België, waarin meerdere van de punten die je aanhaalt genoemd worden:-)

En je hebt volledig gelijk: we moeten verdorie fier zijn op wat we wel hebben! :-)

Mooie lijst – nuttig voor wanneer ik aan mede-expats wat over Belgie probeer te vertellen :)

Klein detail, voor fact 63 is het misschien niet slecht te vermelden dat het over stadsrechten gaat, anders heeft het niet echt veel betekenis. En fact 13, ik denk niet dat (officieel) Boudewijn tegen de wet was, maar dat hij de wet niet kon tekenen voor morele redenen. Maar ik wil geen polemiek opstarten hierover )

Bedankt voor de toevoegingen!
Hij kon inderdaad de wet niet tekenen wegens morele redenen… omdat hij er moreel tegen was -)

Vergeet zeker volgende zaken niet :
Grootste brouwer ter wereld – Inbev
Kant productie ….. Zie je vandaag nog steeds aan de talloze lingeriewinkels overal in Belgie

Hey Geert, Supertoevoeging over InBev!
Kant en beiaarden op zich zijn geen feiten, maar ik zal er eens opzoekwerk naar verrichten!

Ook golf is van oorsprong uit onze contreien en dus niet Schots zoals algemeen wordt aangenomen.

Och? Dat moet ik eens opzoeken! Dankje voor de toevoeging:)

Leuke oplijsting! Wat ik nog zou toevoegen is dat de Saxofoon ook een Belgische uitvinding was door Adolf Sax.

Dankje, Niels! De saxofoon heb ik gehouden voor mijn lijstje met bekende Belgen, dat volgende week gepubliceerd wordt:-)

The leader of the very first crusade was Godefroy de Bouillon, a Belgian town built around the Semois river in the province of Luxembourg.

True! I hadn’t thought of him. I remember visiting Bouillon as a kid and my dad would always say we were going to the city of “Godfried van Soep met Balletjes” (Godefroy of Soup with Meatballs). I guess the “Bouillon” made him think of soup:)

Adolf Sax from Dinant invented the saxophone. The Dutch Revolt which ended with the independence of the Netherlands started in Ghent in 1577. Belgium was the second country in the world to industrialize after the UK. You may want to add something about the port of Antwerp’s importance over the years. Also, your fact about Bruges and the stock market isn’t correct. There was a hotel Beurs where the traders met in front of, the building wasn’t built for them. Also, I think Antwerp had the first market and then Bruges. You may need to look that up. Also, you forgot about the Ninja Turtles that were invented in Belgium. Oomegang festival in Brussels is one of the largest meidival shows in Euorpe. There are other folk festivals in Belgium that are worth listing. Antwerp was the port of departure for thousounds of emmigrants leaving Europe for America.

Thanks for all the additions! I included Sax in my list of famous Belgians, instead of here. Besides that, it’s, unfortunately, impossible to include everything and I focused on things that were the biggest/oldest/whatever-est and not just worth mentioning, because otherwise the list would have become endless:). I knew I’d miss quite a few facts as well, but that’s okay, because I love that now everyone is adding their own facts!

Hi Diane, Just wanted to let you know that I’ve checked and the Ninja Turtles are, unfortunately, not Belgian :-)

Mannequin comes from the French word mannequin, which had acquired the meaning “an artist’s jointed model”, which in turn came from the Flemish word manneken, meaning “little man, figurine”.

België is de bakermat van de

Dankje! Mannequin is a nice addition:)

This is such a wonderful list. I didn’t know half of the things on there!! I’ve had people say to me:”Belgium, what do you guys have besides chocolate and beer”. I always get very patriotic when someone says something like that so this list is going to be useful. Thank you so much. Sax and all the wonderful painters would have been nice on there too but then again your list is much more creative than anything I would have come up with. Nice job

Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. I actually included the famous Belgians in a separate list, that you can find here :-)

You can allways say Belgium enslaved the Congo territory and made a fortune out of it.

It was actually King Leopold who enslaved the Congo and claimed it has his private property. Only later did the Belgian government made him give it up and did it start exploiting the country and its people.

The worlds best and most famous bicycle racer is Belgian Eddie Mercx!

I’ve made a list of Famous Belgians as well, but I haven’t included Eddy Mercx yet. It’s not that I hadn’t thought about him. It’s just that I’m not a big sports person and if I start adding cyclists and football players, where does it end -)

Very nice compilation of belgian facts. I’m looking forward to read your compilation of famous Belgians. Just in case you didn’t list him, I’ d like to mention Leo Baekeland, the inventor of bakelite. Thank you for your initiative. Yvan

Last Chances

As Dallaire predicted, the Rwandan government informed the Interahamwe that the UN knew of their plans. Worse, however, they told the militias that it was clear the UN was unwilling to use military action to enforce the peace agreement. Emboldened by the UN inaction, the Interahamwe leaders were now confident that nobody from the rest of the world was going to stand in their way when the time came.

The Interahamwe began compiling lists of Tutsis, moderate Hutus, and political opponents that they intended to target for assassination. Their plan for mass extermination was beginning to enter its next phase.

Beginning in early March of 1994, the Interahamwe began carrying out targeted attacks against political opponents, almost on a daily basis. At night, bands of soldiers and militiamen would raid the houses of suspected "Tutsi spies". Some of those targeted would be beaten and left battered on the side of the road. Others would turn up dead. Most were simply never seen again.

The Tutsi population, having already endured decades of discrimination by Rwanda's Hutu majority, quickly realized that the peace process was deteriorating. They pressured the US and UN to take action and stop the militias' reign of terror.

But the US and UN refused to take action. In doing so, they lost their last chance to maintain peace in Rwanda. On April 6th, 1994, the peace process, and any hopes for a nonviolent resolution, went up in flames.


In late 18 th century, mind and soul were considered to determine human behaviour, and this was judged mainly according to religious and spiritual criteria. Creationism was considered indisputable and lent support to racist theories, as different ethnic groups were seen as diverse races as conceived by God. Creationism would only be challenged in the second half of the 19 th century after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of the Species (1859).

Dr. Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) was a pioneer in the development of theories connecting human behaviour and cerebral function. According to him, mental and spiritual characteristics of the individual directly reflected differences in brain structure, especially the cortical areas. In addition, these differences could be evaluated objectively by examining the corresponding areas of the cranial vault.

Gall and his early followers in Germany and Austria did not mention racial differences as their subject of interest 2 2. Gall F. Letter from Dr. F. J. Gall, to Joseph Fr[eiherr] von Retzer, upon the Functions of the Brain, in Man and Animals. Der neueTeutscheMerkur. 1798[cited 2017 Aug 23].3:311332. Available from: . However, since the early development of organology (later called physiology of the brain), social discrimination and segregation according to craniological criteria – even in children – were held up as one of its most important aspects. From 1805 on, Gall lectured on the new system in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and France, where he finally settled in 1807. During this lecturing tour, he visited houses of correction and prisons, and “gave the most convincing proofs of his ability to discover, at first sight, such malefactors, thieves, and men of particular talents as were amongst the convicts and prisoners” 3 3. Wyhe J. The authority of human nature: the Schädellehre of Franz Joseph Gall. Br J Hist Sci 200235(1):17-42. .

A number of the pioneer's ideas lent support and prestige to conventional prejudices. Gall considered some Asian groups disposed to “theft and ruse”, and other groups from India were described as “cruel, superstitious, and stupid” 4 4. Staum MM. French scholars on society, race, and empire, 1815-1848. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press 2003. Chapter 3: The ambivalence of phrenology, p. 49-84. . Johann G. Spurzheim (1776-1832), Gall's disciple and later a distinguished lecturer on phrenology, affirmed the “destructiveness” of the Caribs 5 5. Spurzheim. Lectures on phrenology. Lancet. 1825 May4(86):204-10. .

Other early proponents of phrenology expressed unequivocal racist ideas 4 4. Staum MM. French scholars on society, race, and empire, 1815-1848. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press 2003. Chapter 3: The ambivalence of phrenology, p. 49-84. . In France, an incomplete list includes Dr. François J.V. Broussais (1772-1838), who thought some people would “never become civilized” 4 4. Staum MM. French scholars on society, race, and empire, 1815-1848. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press 2003. Chapter 3: The ambivalence of phrenology, p. 49-84. , 6 6. Broussais, FJV. Lectures on phrenology, delivered in 1836 in the University of Paris. [S.l.]: G. Churchill, 1836. , his son Dr. Casimir A-Me. Broussais (1803-1847), Dr. Pierre H. Gaubert (1796-1839), who ranked talents by racial criteria, Joseph Vimont (1795-1857), and the naval officer and explorer Jules Dumont D'Urville (1790-1842) 4 4. Staum MM. French scholars on society, race, and empire, 1815-1848. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press 2003. Chapter 3: The ambivalence of phrenology, p. 49-84. . Spurzheim's stepson, the painter Hyppolyte Bruyères (1801-1855), believed in a “vicious cerebral conformation” of certain races and their animal-like nature and amorality, and commented on the “immense differences” between the “miserable and frightful savage of New Holland” and the “superb and virtuous Germanic race”. Dr. Jean B.I. Bourdon (1796-1861) thought that it was a European's destiny to educate or subjugate other less intelligent races, and described the “Hottentots” (Khoikhoi) as hopeless, “stupid…intermediates between humans and apes”. The prison physician, Hubert Lauvergne (1797-1859), claimed an “immutability of the Jewish type” and saw the Makua of southeast Africa “at the bottom of the human chain…hardly superior to animal instincts”. He saw “more resemblance between the heads of Negroes and of great apes than between Negroes and Europeans” 4 4. Staum MM. French scholars on society, race, and empire, 1815-1848. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press 2003. Chapter 3: The ambivalence of phrenology, p. 49-84. .

In Britain, the founder of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society and lawyer, George Combe (1788-1858), suspected that the “development of the brain sets limits to the spontaneous development of civilization in different races” and the Phrenological journal warned against intermarriage between British soldiers and officers and the primitive races in the British Empire 4 4. Staum MM. French scholars on society, race, and empire, 1815-1848. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press 2003. Chapter 3: The ambivalence of phrenology, p. 49-84. .

Despite early skepticism regarding phrenology in the many scientific circles of the 19 th century 3 3. Wyhe J. The authority of human nature: the Schädellehre of Franz Joseph Gall. Br J Hist Sci 200235(1):17-42. , it survived well into the 20 th century, in the Americas as well as in European countries and their Asian and African colonies. Specifically, early works focused on miscegenation, and studies by Eugene Fischer (1874-1967) in German South West Africa (today's Namibia) involved physical measurements and led to prohibition of mixed-race marriages in all German colonies in 1912 1 1. Becker H. Auschwitz to Rwanda: the link between science, colonialism and genocide. 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 23]. Available from: , 7 7. Peace Pledge Union Information. Genocide. Talking about genocide: Namibia 1904. London: Peace Pledge Union [s.d.] [cited 2017 Aug 23]. Available from: . After losing its African colonies at the start of World War I, similar studies on mixed populations were held in Germany and led to sterilization of German Blacks, also called the “Rhineland Bastards” 1 1. Becker H. Auschwitz to Rwanda: the link between science, colonialism and genocide. 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 23]. Available from: . Similar methods were later used for physical-anthropological characterization of Jews, and the justification of racial purification and the Holocaust 1 1. Becker H. Auschwitz to Rwanda: the link between science, colonialism and genocide. 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 23]. Available from: , 8 8. Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg Memorial Website. Eugenics: Eugen Fischer. [S.l.]: The Esthger M. Zimmer Lederberg Trust 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 23]. Available from: .

The World Stood By and Just Watched

Following World War II and the Holocaust, the United Nations adopted a resolution on December 9, 1948, which stated that "The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish."

The massacres in Rwanda constituted genocide, so why didn't the world step in to stop it?

There has been a lot of research on this exact question. Some people have said that since Hutu moderates were killed in the early stages, then some countries believed the conflict to be more of a civil war rather than a genocide. Other research has shown that the world powers realized it was a genocide but that they didn't want to pay for the needed supplies and personnel to stop it.

No matter what the reason, the world should have stepped in and stopped the slaughter.

Watch the video: #EveryID Has a Story: How IDs Empower Women In Rwanda (August 2022).