Rwandan Genocide

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Rwandan Genocide
Perpetrator: MRND
Coalition for the Defence of the Republic
Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines
Date: April 7, 1994 - July 15, 1994
Location: Rwanda
Motive: To exterminate all Tutsis in Rwanda (failed)
Crimes: Genocide
Mass murder
War crimes
Crimes against humanity
Ethnic cleansing
In 1994 in the small African country of Rwanda, an estimated 75% of its minority Tutsi population was slaughtered in the most efficient genocide in history. In a mere 100 days, nearly a million people have killed a shocking average of 333 murders per hour. 5 per minute. Whether man, woman, or child no one was spared. This deeply interred genocide was the product of a generation of ethnic division and was executed through a carefully planned campaign of Hutu propaganda.
~ Introduction to a documentary about the Rwandan Genocide.

The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter that took place in the spring and summer of 1994 in the East African country of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days (from the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6th through mid-July) over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate. Estimates of the death toll have ranged in totally 1,000,000, the 20% of the country's total population. It was the culmination of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu peoples, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959–62. 


Origins of the tension between Hutus and Tutsis

During the period when Rwanda was a Belgian colony, the Tutsi ruled the region on Belgium's behalf. Belgium considered Tutsis to be genetically superior to Hutus, and often the ruling Tutsi elite would take Hutus as slaves. This practice continued for many years.

In the 1960's, the Hutus rebelled against colonial rule, with Grégoire Kayibanda and his Parmehutu party eventually taking power. The Parmehutu regime perpetrated numerous mass killings against Tutsis during their years in power, planting the seeds for the tension between the two ethnic groups.

Also, in neighbouring Burundi, Michel Micombero, a Tutsi, seized power in 1966. During his years in power, Burundian Hutus were persecuted and discriminated against, which encouraged anti-Tutsi sentiment in Rwanda. This was increased when Micombero perpetrated the genocide known as the Ikiza in an attempt to eliminate Burundi's Hutu population. Anti-Tutsi sentiment further grew in 1993 when Melchior Ndadaye, Burundi's first Hutu President, was assassinated by Tutsi hardliners within the army.

Rwandan Civil War

In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees under command of General Paul Kagame, invaded northern Rwanda from Uganda in an attempt to defeat the Hutu-led government. This sparked a civil war in the country, fought between the Hutu regime of President Habyarimana, with support from Francophone Africa and France, and the RPF, with support from Uganda. This exacerbated ethnic tensions in the country. In response, many Hutus gravitated toward the racist Hutu Power ideology (which asserted that Hutus were superior to Tutsis), with the prompting of state-controlled and independent Rwandan media.

As an ideology, Hutu Power asserted that the Tutsi intended to enslave the Hutu (much like they had during colonial rule) and must be resisted at all costs. Continuing ethnic strife resulted in the rebels' displacing large numbers of Hutu in the north, plus periodic localized Hutu killings of Tutsi in the south. International pressure on the Hutu-led government of Juvénal Habyarimana resulted in a cease-fire in 1993. He planned to implement the Arusha Accords, which would establish a coalition government between the ruling MRND party and the RPF.


The assassination of Habyarimana in April 1994 set off a violent reaction, during which Hutu groups conducted mass killings of Tutsis, pro-peace Hutus (who were portrayed as "traitors" and "collaborators"), and the Twa, Rwanda's indigenous pygmy peoples who are often described as the genocide's "forgotten victims."

The genocide had been planned by members of the Hutu power group known as the Akazu, a hardline sect of the MRND, many of whom occupied positions at top levels of the national government (including President Habyarimana's own wife); the genocide was supported and coordinated by the national government as well as by local military and civil officials and mass media.

Alongside the military, the primary responsibility for the killings themselves rests with two Hutu extremist militias that had been organized for this purpose by political parties: the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi (with both militias effectively serving as government-sanctioned death squads), although once the genocide was underway a great number of Hutu civilians took part in the murders. Looting also became commonplace, as was rape and sexual violence. The level of rape that occurred during the Rwandan Genocide was so high that it has been classified as "genocidal rape".

These mass killings effectively marked the end of the peace agreement, causing the RPF to restart their offensive. Ultimately, the RPF would emerge victoriously and put an end to the genocide with their capture of the capital city of Kigali in July 1994.

Aftermath and Legacy

Some of the génocidaires that escaped into the Democratic Republic of the Congo would go on to found the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group which fought on behalf of the DRC government under Laurent-Désiré Kabila against official Rwandan Army forces during the early years of the Second Congo War. The FDLR remains active in the DRC as part of the ongoing conflict in the Kivu region.

The spillover from the genocide would also indirectly lead to the beginning of the First Congo War.

Rwanda today has two public holidays commemorating the incident, with Genocide Memorial Day on April 7th marking the start, and Liberation Day on July 4th marking the end. The week following April 7th is designated an official week of mourning.

One global impact of the Rwandan Genocide is that it served as the impetus to the creation of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, so that ad hoc tribunals would not need to be created for future incidents of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC and was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on July 17th, 1998. The ICC would begin functioning in July 2002.


The perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide are commonly known as génocidaires.