In 1994, 800,000 men, women, and children were murdered, mostly Tutsi and some moderate Hutu, by the Interim Government of Rwanda, Rwandan Armed Forces, The Presidential Republican Guard, and Interahamwe (Hutu militias). Flying back from a peace conference in Tanzania, Rwandan President Habyarimana and President Ntaryamira of Burundi, both Hutus, were shot down over Kigali on April 6, 1994. Hutu Power extremists immediately launched the genocide to destroy the entire Tutsi population under the cover of Rwandan civil war. The genocide was led by a Hutu Power clique known as the Akazu, which came from top levels of the Rwandan government. They trained and armed militias and incited genocide months in advance.


Historical Background:


Rwanda’s population in 1994 consisted of 85% Hutu, 14% Tutsi, and 1% Twa. Hutus and Tutsis shared a common language and culture. Most were Roman Catholics. There had been many inter-marriages, but a person’s “ethnic” identity was determined solely by his or her father’s ethnicity. German and Belgian colonizers favored Tutsis in government employment, education, the church, and business, which resulted in Hutu resentment. Belgians introduced identification cards noting ethnic identity in 1933. Ethnicity was kept on ID cards after independence in 1959.


In 1959, Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and began massacres of Tutsis. Tens of thousands of Tutsis fled to neighboring countries such as Uganda and Burundi. Tutsi refugees formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1987.


In 1990, the RPF invaded Rwanda with a force of 7,000 fighters from Uganda and a civil war began. Tutsis in Rwanda were suspected of being accomplices of the RPF. Hutu opposition parties to the President’s MRND were labeled traitors by the Rwandan government. Hutu hate radio and newspapers incited genocide.


A ceasefire to the civil war was signed in 1993 in Arusha, Tanzania. The United Nations sent a peacekeeping force (UNIMIR) to monitor implementation of the Arusha Accords. However, the UN Security Council refused to provide adequate numbers of well-armed troops to enforce it.


The Interim Government, Prefects, Mayors, Rwandan Armed Forces, and Gendarmes organized systematic genocide, but most of the killing was done by Hutu militias, the Interahamwe. Ordinary people, including shopkeepers, teachers, priests, and farmers were encouraged to join the genocide. The killers often knew their victims personally. It is estimated that 200,000 people participated in the perpetration of the genocide. During approximately 100 days until mid-July, 1994, 800,000 people were killed. The genocide and civil war finished simultaneously when the RPF took military control of the entire territory of Rwanda.


In Resolutions 955 (1994) and 978, The United Nations Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to try top leaders of the genocide. Over 50 have been tried and over thirty have been convicted of genocide. 100,000 local “gaçaça” trials have been held, usually followed by community service. Rwanda is now in the midst of a lengthy process of reconciliation.


Tensions between Hutu deniers and Tutsis who continue to lead Rwanda have not yet fully healed the schisms underlying Rwanda’s post-genocidal recovery. The Rwandan government has launched a positive educational program to overcome many years of division. Rwanda has returned to rapid economic growth, religious freedom, and improvement in health.



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