Stromae and the Rwandan Genocide – Post #5

Welcome back to my blog everyone, for today we’re going to continue the discussion surrounding the singer-songwriter Stromae. Stromae is biracial, with his mother being from Belgium and his father from Rwanda. The particular song that we have been analyzing puts a heavy critique on to gender stereotypes and expectations in roles. The music video constructed to pair with his song, “Tous Les Mêmes”, utilizes angles, acting and colors to emphasize Stromae’s argument. Today’s post on Stromae’s hit single will discuss the Rwandan Genocide, women in Rwanda and the oppression that they face on a daily basis.

The Rwandan Genocide was one of the worst ethnic cleansings in history, yet it is one of the most overlooked, unacknowledged and forgotten. This genocide took the lives of over 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, once one of the largest ethnic groups in the nation. The Tutsis, alongside many moderate Hutus, were murdered in cold-blood in 1994. The genocide left many families ripped apart or even wiped some of them out. The effects of the genocide have left many women on their own, forced to move in with other loved ones as they have no rights to attempt to rebuild their own lives after such tragic loss. Women’s rights are a foreign concept, and the tragedy of loss does not end there, as stated by an interviewee an article by Laura Santoro, “If a woman’s husband dies, or if a woman is repudiated, she can lose her house, her land, and her offspring in a single devastating blow” (Santoro).

In correspondence to Stromae’s critique of gender stereotypes and expectations, the women in Rwanda are expected to be submissive and essentially are looked at as property rather than people. Stromae’s lyrics, “tous les mêmes” or “you are all the same” can reflect the relationship between men and women in Rwanda, especially in regards to the genocide and loss experienced. Since women who lost everything were expected to give up the remaining tangible items in her life, it degraded them further into nothing as not only was their families and lives destroyed but they couldn’t even salvage what was left of them. This created a commonality amongst women and the treatment they received, additionally the lack of knowledge to fight for their rights, especially post-genocide.

Stromae critiques both binary genders through his lyrics and as he acts out stereotypical gender-identified actions,. His song provides a message to both genders and even those who are gender fluid, to begin to speak out for what they truly want and not what they are expected of. In the article a professor at the University of Butare stated their biggest adversity in advocating for women’s’ rights in Rwanda, “First, we will need to convince women they are being discriminated against. Then we will have to convince them to go out and claim what is theirs” (Santoro). A Tutsi lawyer who returned to the nation from being abroad post-genocide identified the main issue with rebuilding the nation, and that was the further dehumanization of women. He has made strong efforts to instill written law for women’s rights so that in such tragedy especially, they do not have to lost every single thing in their lives.

Thanks for joining me on another discussion with Stromae and his hit song of 2013, “Tous Les Mêmes”. In the next post we will continue our discussion of the Rwandan Genocide in parallel to Stromae’s musical work. Make sure to check out the music video for reference, it is embedded here on my blog!

Santoro, Lara. “Women in Rwanda Get a Room of Their Own.” List of Books and Articles about Euthanasia | Online Research Library: Questia, National Association of Social Workers, 1997,

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