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|“||And as I was shaking their hands, I noticed they still had blood spots on them. And all of a sudden they disappeared from being human. All of a sudden....something happened that turned them into non-human....things. And I was not talking with humans. I literally was talking with evil.||„|
|~ Roméo Dallaire describes a meeting with the leaders of the Interahamwe.|
The Interahamwe is a Hutu supremacist terrorist paramilitary group founded by Robert Kajuga that is best known as being the main perpetrator of the Rwandan Genocide alongside the Impuzamugambi, during which an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsi, Twa, and moderate Hutus were killed over the course of 100 days from April to July 1994. The Interahamwe committed numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity during the genocide, including mass murder, rape, mutilation, kidnapping, torture, destruction of property, arson, and numerous other atrocities.
Robert Kajuga acted as the president of the Interahamwe, while Georges Rutaganda served as vice president (as well as their primary field commander) during the genocide, receiving his orders from the military officers who took control of the government after the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana, such as Théoneste Bagosora and Augustin Bizimungu.
The Interahamwe was formed in 1990 as the youth wing of the MRND, the ruling party of Rwanda, and enjoyed the backing of the Hutu-led government. Their name in Kinyarwanda means "those who work together."
The radio station RTLM was popular amongst the Interahamwe for its decidedly pro-Hutu agenda, among other things. From October 1993 to late 1994, it was used as an outlet for extremists to release ethnocentric and xenophobic propaganda that demonized Tutsis, moderate Hutus and Belgians. Often it encouraged the ongoing acts of genocide by promoting fear among the Hutus that the Tutsis would massacre them, and broadcasting the positions of Tutsis hiding or attempting to flee.
Following the end of the Rwandan Genocide and subsequent end of the civil war in July 1994, the Interahamwe were driven out of the country by Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), who had seized control of the government, and today are mostly active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. They were participants in the First and Second Congo Wars, supporting the government of Mobutu Sese Seko during the first war and once again opposing the forces of Paul Kagame during the second war.
As of 2019, the Interahamwe are still active, but they have lost most of their power and the threat they pose is greatly diminished. They are considered a terrorist organisation by many African and Western governments.
Leaders of the Interahamwe have been primarily prosecuted through the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. The tribunal has convicted at least 41 persons, often with life sentences, including former interim Prime Minister Jean Kambanda and Georges Rutaganda (who later died in prison while serving his sentence.) Fugitives have been captured and prosecuted in other countries, including Jean-Marie Vianney Mudahinyuka (a.k.a. "Zuzu"), an Interahamwe leader found hiding in Chicago, Illinois in January 2011.
Many Interahamwe members who participated in the Rwandan Genocide remain at large to present day. It has been nearly impossible to fully bring the Interahamwe to justice because they did not wear uniforms or have a clearly organized group of followers. They were the neighbours, friends and co-workers of Tutsis. In the aftermath of the genocide and during and after the Congo Wars, members of the Interahamwe moved into camps of refugees and the internally displaced. There the victims were mixed in with the enemy making it difficult to prosecute members of the Interahamwe. It is believed that they continue to use this method to evade being brought to justice, so it is highly likely that many Interahamwe members will never be captured.