Stage Six of Genocide: Polarization

          The sixth stage of genocide according to the Genocide Watch outline is polarization. The definition of this stage as provided by President Gregory Stanton is as follows:

➔ 6. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Motivations for targeting a group are indoctrinated through mass media. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center. Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide, so are the first to be arrested and killed. Leaders in targeted groups are the next to be arrested and murdered. The dominant group passes emergency laws or decrees that grants them total power over the targeted group. The laws erode fundamental civil rights and liberties. Targeted groups are disarmed to make them incapable of self-defense, and to ensure that the dominant group has total control.

          The use of media to aid in the extermination of people is common throughout history, but in the 21st century, modern technology has advanced these mediums to project hate instantaneously and persistently. In the context of the Rwandan genocide, radio stations amplified dehumanizing rhetoric and calls for the extermination of Tutsis. In the piece below, you will further read on the influence radio had over the execution of genocide in Rwanda. 

The Impact of Hate Media in Rwanda

 The United Nations tribunal in Arusha has convicted three former media executives of being key figures in the media campaign to incite ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.

It is widely believed that so-called hate media had a significant part to play in the genocide, during which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.

There is also little doubt that its legacy continues to exert a strong influence on the country.

The most prominent hate media outlet was the private radio station, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines.


It was established in 1993 and opposed peace talks between the government of President Juvenal Habyarimana and the Tutsi-led rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which now forms the government.

After President Habyarimana's plane was shot down, the radio called for a "final war" to "exterminate the cockroaches."

During the genocide that followed it broadcast lists of people to be killed and instructed killers on where to find them.

The BBC's Ally Mugenzi worked as a journalist in Rwanda during the genocide and says there was no doubting the influence of the RTLM.

"RTLM acted as if it was giving instructions to the killers. It was giving directions on air as to where people were hiding," he said.

He himself said he had a narrow escape after broadcasting a report on the Rwandan media for the BBC.

They announced on the radio he had lied about them and summoned him to the station to explain himself. He spent three hours there, justifying his report.

General Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, said: "Simply jamming [the] broadcasts and replacing them with messages of peace and reconciliation would have had a significant impact on the course of events."

As the Tutsi forces advanced through the country during 1994, the broadcasters of Radio Mille Collines fled across the border into what was then Zaire.


Prosecutors in the Tanzanian town of Arusha at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda argued that RTLM played a key role in the genocide during the trial of the radio's top executives Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and Ferdinand Nahimana.

Mr Barayagwiza boycotted the trial and was sentenced to 35 years. Mr Nahimana was given life in prison.

Hassan Ngeze, who ran an extremist magazine called Kangura was also sentenced to life.

Their defence relied on the often ambiguous nature of the comments - which they say were aimed at the advancing Tutsi rebels under General Paul Kagame rather than at civilians.

President Kagame's government has used the recent memories of hate media to justify keeping a tight reign on its own media.

Just last week, the country's only independent newspaper, Umeseso, had copies of its newspaper seized and journalists arrested for publishing articles critical of the government.

Rwanda also still lacks a private radio station and the government exerts control over most of the media outlets.

This helped ensure landslide election wins for the RPF during the first post genocide multi-party elections this year.

The government promises to introduce a more open media soon.

There will be many hoping that the hate media verdicts delivered in Arusha on Wednesday will help that process along.


Last modified: Monday, 2 Mar 2020, 23:06