Rwandan genocide

Rwandan genocide
Part of Rwandan Civil War
Nyamata Memorial Site 13.jpg
Human skulls at the Nyamata Genocide Memorial
Date7 April – 15 July 1994
TargetTutsi population, Twa, and moderate Hutus
Attack type
Genocide, mass murder
PerpetratorsHutu-led government, Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi militias

The Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi,[2] was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. An estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed during the 100-day period from 7 April to mid-July 1994,[1] constituting as many as 70% of the Tutsi population. Additionally, 30% of the Pygmy Batwa were killed.[3][4] The genocide and widespread slaughter of Rwandans ended when the Tutsi-backed and heavily armed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by Paul Kagame took control of the country. An estimated 2,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Hutus, were displaced and became refugees.[5]

The genocide was planned by members of the core political elite, many of whom occupied positions at top levels of the national government. Perpetrators came from the ranks of the Rwandan army, the Gendarmerie, government-backed militias including the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi.

The genocide took place in the context of the Rwandan Civil War, a conflict beginning in 1990 between the Hutu-led government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which largely consisted of Tutsi refugees whose families had fled to Uganda after the 1959 Hutu revolt against colonial rule. Waves of Hutu violence against the RPF and Tutsi followed Rwandan independence in 1962. International pressure on the Hutu government of Juvénal Habyarimana resulted in a ceasefire in 1993, with a road-map to implement the Arusha Accords, which would create a power-sharing government with the RPF. This agreement was not acceptable to a number of conservative Hutu, including members of the Akazu, who viewed it as conceding to enemy demands. The RPF military campaign intensified support for the so-called "Hutu Power" ideology, which portrayed the RPF as an alien force who were non-Christian, intent on reinstating the Tutsi monarchy and enslaving Hutus. Many Hutus reacted to this prospect with extreme opposition. In the lead-up to the genocide the number of machetes imported into Rwanda increased.[6]

On 6 April 1994, an aeroplane carrying Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down on its descent into Kigali.[7] At the time, the plane was in the airspace above Habyarimana's house. One person survived but died soon after en route to the hospital.[citation needed] The assassination of Habyarimana ended the peace accords.

Genocidal killings began the following day. Soldiers, police, and militia quickly executed key Tutsi and moderate Hutu military and political leaders who could have assumed control in the ensuing power vacuum. Checkpoints and barricades were erected to screen all holders of the national ID card of Rwanda (which contained ethnic classification information introduced by the Belgian colonial government in 1933) in order to systematically identify and kill Tutsi. These forces recruited and pressured Hutu civilians to arm themselves with machetes, clubs, blunt objects, and other weapons to rape, maim, and kill their Tutsi neighbors and to destroy or steal their property. The breakdown of the peace accords led the RPF to restart its offensive and rapidly seize control of the northern part of the country before capturing Kigali in mid-July, bringing an end to the genocide. During these events and in the aftermath, the United Nations (UN) and countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Belgium were criticized for their inaction and failure to strengthen the force and mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) peacekeepers. Other observers criticized the government of France for alleged support of the Hutu government after the genocide had begun.[8][9][10][11]

The genocide had a lasting and profound impact on Rwanda and its neighboring countries. The pervasive use of rape as a weapon of war caused a spike in HIV infection, including babies born of rape to newly infected mothers; many households were headed by orphaned children or widows. The destruction of infrastructure and the severe depopulation of the country crippled the economy, challenging the nascent government to achieve rapid economic growth and stabilization. The RPF military victory and installation of an RPF-dominated government prompted many Hutus to flee to neighboring countries, particularly in the eastern portion of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), where the Hutu genocidaires began to regroup in refugee camps along the border with Rwanda. Declaring a need to avert further genocide, the RPF-led government-led military incursions into Zaire, including the First (1996–97) and Second (1998–2003) Congo Wars. Armed struggles between the Rwandan government and their opponents in DRC have continued to play out through proxy militias in the Goma region, including the M23 rebellion (2012–2013). Large Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi populations continue to live as refugees throughout the region.

Today, Rwanda has two public holidays mourning the genocide. The national mourning period begins with Kwibuka (Remembrance), the national commemoration, on 7 April and concludes with Liberation Day on 4 July. The week following 7 April is an official week of mourning, known as Icyunamo. The genocide served as an impetus for creating the International Criminal Court to eliminate the need for ad hoc tribunals to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.


Pre-independence Rwanda and origins of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa

Photograph of King's palace in Nyanza, Rwanda depicting main entrance, front and conical roof
A reconstruction of the King of Rwanda's palace at Nyanza

The earliest inhabitants of what is now Rwanda were the Twa, a group of aboriginal pygmy hunter-gatherers who settled in the area between 8000 BC and 3000 BC and remain in Rwanda today.[12][13] Between 700 BC and 1500 AD, a number of Bantu groups migrated into Rwanda, and began to clear forest land as a way to gain space for agriculture.[14][13] Historians have several theories regarding the nature of the Bantu migrations: one theory is that the first settlers were Hutu, while the Tutsi migrated later and formed a distinct racial group, possibly of Cushitic origin.[15] An alternative theory is that the migration was slow and steady from neighbouring regions, with incoming groups bearing high genetic similarity to the established ones,[16] and integrating into rather than conquering the existing society.[17][13] Under this theory, the Hutu and Tutsi distinction arose later and was not a racial one, but principally a class or caste distinction in which the Tutsi herded cattle while the Hutu farmed the land.[18][19] The Hutu, Tutsi and Twa of Rwanda share a common language and are collectively known as the Banyarwanda.[20]

The population coalesced, first into clans (ubwoko),[21] and then, by 1700, into around eight kingdoms.[22] The Kingdom of Rwanda, ruled by the Tutsi Nyiginya clan, became the dominant kingdom from the mid-eighteenth century,[23] expanding through a process of conquest and assimilation,[24] and achieving its greatest extent under the reign of King Kigeli Rwabugiri in 1853–1895. Rwabugiri expanded the kingdom west and north,[25][23] and initiated administrative reforms which caused a rift to grow between the Hutu and Tutsi populations.[25]

Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi were assigned to Germany by the Berlin Conference of 1884,[26] and Germany established a presence in the country in 1897 with the formation of an alliance with the king.[27] German policy was to rule the country through the Rwandan monarchy; this system had the added benefit of enabling colonization with small European troop numbers.[28] The colonists favoured the Tutsi over the Hutu when assigning administrative roles, believing them to be migrants from Ethiopia and racially superior.[29] The Rwandan king welcomed the Germans, using their military strength to widen his rule.[30] Belgian forces took control of Rwanda and Burundi during World War I,[31] and from 1926 began a policy of more direct colonial rule.[32][33] The Belgians modernised the Rwandan economy, but Tutsi supremacy remained, leaving the Hutu disenfranchised.[34] In 1935, Belgium introduced identity cards labelling each individual as either Tutsi, Hutu, Twa or Naturalised. While it had previously been possible for particularly wealthy Hutu to become honorary Tutsi, the identity cards prevented any further movement between the groups.[35]

Revolution and Hutu-Tutsi relations after independence

After World War II, a Hutu emancipation movement began to grow in Rwanda,[36] fuelled by increasing resentment of the inter-war social reforms, and also an increasing sympathy for the Hutu within the Catholic Church.[37] Catholic missionaries increasingly viewed themselves as responsible for empowering the underprivileged Hutu rather than the Tutsi elite, leading rapidly to the formation of a sizeable Hutu clergy and educated elite that provided a new counterbalance to the established political order.[37] The monarchy and prominent Tutsi sensed the growing influence of the Hutu and began to agitate for immediate independence on their own terms.[36] In 1957, a group of Hutu scholars wrote the "Bahutu Manifesto". This was the first document to label the Tutsi and Hutu as separate races, and called for the transfer of power from Tutsi to Hutu based on what it termed "statistical law".[38]

On 1 November 1959, a Hutu sub-chief, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, was attacked in Kigali by supporters of the pro-Tutsi party. Mbonyumutwa survived, but rumours began spreading that he had been killed.[39] Hutu activists responded by killing Tutsi, both the elite and ordinary civilians, marking the beginning of the Rwandan Revolution.[40] The Tutsi responded with attacks of their own, but by this stage the Hutu had full backing from the Belgian administration who wanted to overturn the Tutsi domination.[41][42] In early 1960, the Belgians replaced most Tutsi chiefs with Hutu and organised mid-year commune elections which returned an overwhelming Hutu majority.[41] The king was deposed, a Hutu dominated republic created, and the country became independent in 1962.[43]

As the revolution progressed, Tutsi began leaving the country to escape the Hutu purges, settling in the four neighbouring countries: Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire.[44] These exiles, unlike the Banyarwanda who migrated during the pre-colonial and colonial era, were regarded as refugees in their host countries,[45] and began almost immediately to agitate for a return to Rwanda.[46] They formed armed groups, known as inyenzi (cockroaches), who launched attacks into Rwanda; these were largely unsuccessful, and led to further reprisal killings of Tutsi and further Tutsi exiles.[46] By 1964, more than 300,000 Tutsi had fled, and were forced to remain in exile for the next three decades.[47] Pro-Hutu discrimination continued in Rwanda itself, although the indiscriminate violence against the Tutsi did decrease somewhat following a coup in 1973, which brought President Juvenal Habyarimana to power.[48]

At 408 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,060/sq mi), Rwanda's population density is among the highest in Africa. Rwanda's population had increased from 1.6 million people in 1934 to 7.1 million in 1989, leading to competition for land. Historians such as Gérard Prunier believe that the 1994 genocide can be partly attributed to population density.[49]

Rwandan Civil War

Close up profile picture of Paul Kagame, taken in 2014
Paul Kagame, commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front for most of the Civil War

In the 1980s, a group of 500 Rwandan refugees in Uganda, led by Fred Rwigyema, fought with the rebel National Resistance Army (NRA) in the Ugandan Bush War, which saw Yoweri Museveni overthrow Milton Obote.[50] These soldiers remained in the Ugandan army following Museveni's inauguration as Ugandan president, but simultaneously began planning an invasion of Rwanda through a covert network within the army's ranks.[51] In October 1990, Rwigyema led a force of over 4,000[52] rebels from Uganda, advancing 60 km (37 mi) into Rwanda under the banner of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).[53] Rwigyema was killed on the third day of the attack,[54] and France and Zaire deployed forces in support of the Rwandan army, allowing them to repel the invasion.[55] Rwigyema's deputy, Paul Kagame, took command of the RPF forces,[56] organising a tactical retreat through Uganda to the Virunga Mountains, a rugged area of northern Rwanda.[57] From there, he rearmed and reorganised the army, and carried out fundraising and recruitment from the Tutsi diaspora.[58]

Kagame restarted the war in January 1991, with a surprise attack on the northern town of Ruhengeri. The RPF captured the town, benefiting from the element of surprise, and held it for one day before retreating to the forests.[59] For the next year, the RPF waged a hit-and-run style guerrilla war, capturing some border areas but not making significant gains against the Rwandan army.[60] In June 1992, following the formation of a multiparty coalition government in Kigali, the RPF announced a ceasefire and began negotiations with the Rwandan government in Arusha, Tanzania.[61] In early 1993, several extremist Hutu groups formed and began campaigns of large scale violence against the Tutsi.[62] The RPF responded by suspending peace talks and launching a major attack, gaining a large swathe of land across the north of the country.[63] Peace negotiations eventually resumed in Arusha; the resulting set of agreements, known as the Arusha Accords, were signed in August 1993 and gave the RPF positions in a Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG) and in the national army.[64][65] The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), a peacekeeping force, arrived in the country and the RPF were given a base in the national parliament building in Kigali, for use during the setting up of the BBTG.[66]

Hutu Power movement

In the early years of Habyarimana's regime, there was greater economic prosperity and reduced violence against Tutsi.[48] Many hardline anti-Tutsi figures remained, however, including the family of the first lady Agathe Habyarimana, who were known as the akazu or clan de Madame,[67] and the president relied on them to maintain his regime.[68] When the RPF invaded in 1990, Habyarimana and the hardliners exploited the fear of the population to advance an anti-Tutsi agenda[69] which became known as Hutu Power.[70] A group of military officers and government members founded a magazine called Kangura, which became popular throughout the country.[71] This published anti-Tutsi propaganda, including the Hutu Ten Commandments, an explicit set of racist guidelines, including labelling Hutu who married Tutsi as "traitors".[72] In 1992, the hardliners created the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) party, which was linked to the ruling party but more right wing, and promoted an agenda critical of the president's alleged "softness" with the RPF.[73]

Following the 1992 ceasefire agreement, a number of the extremists in the Rwandan government and army began actively plotting against the president, worried about the possibility of Tutsi being included in government.[74] Habyarimana attempted to remove the hardliners from senior army positions, but was only partially successful; akazu affiliates Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Theoneste Bagosora remained in powerful posts, providing the hardline family with a link to power.[75] Throughout 1992, the hardliners carried out campaigns of localised killings of Tutsi, culminating in January 1993, in which extremists and local Hutu murdered around 300 people.[62] When the RPF resumed hostilities in February 1993, it cited these killings as the primary motive,[76] but its effect was to increase support for the extremists amongst the Hutu population.[77]

From mid-1993, the Hutu Power movement represented a third major force in Rwandan politics, in addition to Habyarimana's government and the traditional moderate opposition.[70] Apart from the CDR, there was no party that was exclusively part of the Power movement.[78] Instead, almost every party was split into "moderate" and "Power" wings, with members of both camps claiming to represent the legitimate leadership of that party.[78] Even the ruling party contained a Power wing, consisting of those who opposed Habyarimana's intention to sign a peace deal.[79] Several radical youth militia groups emerged, attached to the Power wings of the parties; these included the Interahamwe, which was attached to the ruling party,[80] and the CDR's Impuzamugambi.[81] The youth militia began actively carrying out massacres across the country.[82] The army trained the militias, sometimes in conjunction with the French, who were unaware of their true purpose.[81]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Ruanda soyqırımı
беларуская: Генацыд у Руандзе
български: Геноцид в Руанда
davvisámegiella: Rwanda álbmotgoddin
Esperanto: Ruanda genocido
Bahasa Indonesia: Genosida Rwanda
Bahasa Melayu: Genosid Rwanda
Nederlands: Rwandese genocide
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Ruandadagi genotsid
Simple English: Rwandan genocide
slovenčina: Rwandská genocída
slovenščina: Ruandski genocid
српски / srpski: Геноцид у Руанди
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Genocid u Ruandi
українська: Геноцид у Руанді