Rwandan Genocide (1994)

Figure 1.--A Tutsi baby sits next to his mother, who became gravely ill during her effort to flee the killing in Rwanda. She carried her baby from Rwanda, to Kigali in Burundi.

Rwanda's Hutu majority in 1994 organized and carried out the mass murder of the Tutsi minority. The Hutis in only 100 days, slaughtered 0.8 million Tutsis and moderate Hutu political opponents. Incredibly the Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis at a faster pace than the NAZIs murdered the Jews in World War II. The Hutu massacres seem even more unfathomanable than the NAZI genocide. One journalist reports, "... how do you account for the evil we saw in the green hills of that nation in 1994, when one day we saw a mother with a baby tied to her back gleefully using a machete to hack up another woman also carrying an infant?" [Hartley] A U.N. peace keeping force in the country was unable to protect Tutsis seeking sanctuary. Finally as the Hutu massacres intensified, the U.N. withdrew its force, completely abandoning Tutsi refugees to their grisly fate. Only a Tutsi rebel force defeating the Hutu dominated Rwandan Army finally ended the killing. France had strong contacts woth the Hutu Government and had good inteligence on what was transpiring. A small French force toa ssist the U.N. Peace Keepers might have prevented the killing. France did send troops, but only to evacuate its own nationals. America also failed to act, paralized by the 1993 debacle of the humanitarian relief effort in Somalia.


Rwanda-Urundi was a German colony. Under the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, the two territories were made a protectorate of the new League of Nations. This gave them a different legal status than most other European colonies. The League assigned Belgium to administer them. Given the Belgium colonial record in the neighboring Congo, this decision is difficult to understand. (We suspect thatb the brutality of the German World War I occupation had a kind of cleansing impact on Belgium's reputation.) The two territories would under Belgium become separated as Rwanda and Burundi. Belgium continued to administer the colonies under the two existing Tutsi monarchies used by the German colonial authorities. Belgium also continued the German process of transforming the traditional Hutu-Tutsi relationship into a more recognizable European class system. The Tutsis were a minority of the population (15 percent). The Belgian administration favored the minority Tutsi over the majority Hutus (85 percent). The Tutus were provided a range of privileges and had access to western-style education, but mostly ionly at the primary level. The Belgians thus relied on the Tutsi minority to enforce their colonial rule. This helped reduce the administrative costs for the Belgians. Belgian officials introduced ethnic identity cards differentiating Hutus from Tutsis (1926).

Decolonization (1950s)

A decolonization process resulted from World War II. It began in India (1947), but soon spread to Africa. The Mau-Mau uprising against the British in Kenya accelerated the process (1952). The British Gold Coast colony became the first African colony to gain independence as Ghana (1957). The ideda of independence became a possibility throughout Africa. And people in colonies like Rwanda began to realize this. Belgium had made even less preparation to prepare its colonies for indepence than the British and French in their colonies. Virtually no Rwandans had university degrees and very few had secondary-level educations. Hutu activists formed PARMEHUTU (Party for the Emancipation of the Hutus) (1957). Hutus rebeled against Belgian colonial rule. Violence spread. Many Hutus saw the Tutsi elite with some validity as a tool of the Belgian colonial regime. [Destexh] In the spreading violence mostly aimed at them, some 150,000 Tutsis fled, largely to Burundi (1959).]

Indepemdence (1961-62)

Belgina colonial officials as afirst step toward indepoendence hold municipal elections (1960). The majority Hutus swwep the field giving hem a taste of political power. As in the Congo, disorder and violence escalate. Belgium withdrew from both the Congo as well as Rrwanda and Burundi which became separate, independent countries. Hutu leader Gregoire Kayibanda is installed as president after a Hutu-led revolution. Violence mostly aimed at Tutsis continued. Thousands of Tutsis flee, mostly to Burundi and Congo. Tutsis retain power in Burundi.

Simmering Situation (1960s-80s)

Hutu animosity and scatered acts of violence toward Tutsis continues. Exiled Tutsis in Burundi form a militia and launch an attack on Rwanda (1963). They fail, but the attack spawns widespread Hutu attacks on Tutsis. Massacres occur. Large numbers of Tutsis again flee the country. As a result, something like half of the Tutsi populatiin had been forced to flee the country (mid-1960s). Tusi communitis develop in the neughboring countries (Burunsi, Comgo/Zaire, and Uganda). More Hutu massacres of Tutsis are reoorted (1967). The Hutu dominated Goverment purges Tutsis from the country's universities (1973). Renewed viloence with Hutus killing more Tutsis occur. Army Chief of Staff General Juvenal Habyarimana seized power aminst the violence (1973). He pledged to restore order. He proceeded to establish a one-party state, a common approach throughout Africa at the time. Habyariman iniitiated a policy of ethnic quotas in the civil service. The quota for Tutsis were restricted to 9 percent of the public service jobs. This sounds like a low number, but probably exceedes the remaining Tutsi population in Rwanda, but actual hires are far below this levl. Habyarimana forms a political party to provide political support beyond the Hutu-dominated Army -- the Mouvement Revolutionnaire National pour le Developpement (National Revolutionary Movement for Development -- MRND). President Habyariman gives preference to Hutus from his home northern district in the civil service and military. The policy of excluding Tutsis continues (throughout the 1970s and'80s). Rwandan exiles in Uganda are part of the Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army who overthrow the dictator Milton Obote (1986). Mostly Tutsis They form the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). World coffee prices collapse (1989). Coffee exports were vital to the Rwandan economity. The fall in coffee prices caused severe economic problems in Rwanda, exacerbating the existing ethnic tensions.

Preparation and Rwandan Civil War (Early 1990s)

Dicatorial one-party rule came under increasing pressure from Western donor countries President Habyarimana and MRND offer to move to a multi-party democracy (July 1990). Actual steps were a very different matter. Tutsi RPF fighters guerillas invade Rwanda from Uganda (October 1990). This essentially was the beginning of the Rwandan Civil War. Fierce fighting occurs. President Habyarimanin obtains military support from France and Zairean. A cease-fire is agrred to (March 1991). President Habyarimana as a result of the Tutsi RPF invasion and resulting fighting, began to strngthen Hutu security potential. The Rwandan army in a major step begans to train and arm civilian militias, meaning Hutu grops. They were known as interahamwe (those who stand together). Habyarimana fot 3 years stalls on the establishment of a real multi-party system with actual power-sharing. Attacks on Tutsis continue. Thousands of Tutis are masacred in violent outbreaks all over the country. Habyariman and MRND, despite the pledge to move toward mukt-party democracy continue to supress opposition politicians and newspapers. Leading Hutu activist Dr. Leon Mugusera in radio appeals tells Hutus to send the Tutsis 'back to Ethiopia' via the rivers (November 1992). The ceasefire with the RPF breaks dowm. RPF fighters launched a renewed offensive . They reach the outskirts of Kigali (February 1993). Habyarima again appealsfor French aid. French forces stop the RPF advance, but fighting continues for several months.

Arusha Accords (August 1993)

The Arusha Accords were the Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and the Tutsi-dominated revel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The agreement was a set of five accords signed in Arusha, Tanzania (August 4, 1993). It wa meant to end the 3-year Rwandan Civil War. The peace talks were organized by the Organisation of African Unity (OAS) and the heads of state in the African Great Lakes region. Talks began (July 12, 1992 amd continued for more than a year of difficult negotiations. The accords were finally signed (August 4, 1993). The Arusha Accords provided for the establishment of a Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG)--a coalition Hutu-Tutsi (RPF) government. It was to consist Tutsi RPF fighters and the five Hutu political parties which would constitute a temporary government to prepare for a general election. The Accords included other provisions to end the Civil War and endemic violence: the rule of law, return of refugees both from fighting and from power sharing agreements, and the merging of the RAF (government) and RPF rebel armies. Some 2,500 U.N. troops wereare deployed in Kigali to oversee the security situatiin and implementation of the agreement. President Habyarimana stalled on following through on the agreement. He took no substantive steps toward actually etting up the BBTG power-sharing government (September 1993-March 1994). And ominously, the training of Hutu militias intensified. The Extremist radio station, Radio Mille Collines, began broadcasting impassioned exhortations to attack Tutsis. Human rights groups in Rwanda begin warning the international community of an impending calamity (early 1994). They began evacuating themselves and their families -- meaning they clearly saw what was happening (Mmarch 1994).

Shootdown Incident (April 1994)

Unidentified terrorists shot down President Habyarimana's plane near Kilgali airport (April 6, 1994). Habyariman and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira were aboard. Both are killed. It has never determined who was responsible. It is widely believed that Hutu extremists bent on a major killing campaign were responsible. It is also unknown what Habyarima's intentions had been. Whatever they were, it appears that at the time he was killed that he was was preparing to implement Arusha Peace Accords and defuse thge tensions between Hutus and Tutsis. And the Hutu extemists were determined to prevent it. The incident proved to be the signal that the Hutu miklitias were waiting for. Immediately after Habyarimana was killed, the killing begins with nightfall. [Keane]

The Killing (April-June 1994)

The almost exclusively Hutu Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and the Hutu Interahamwe militia organized and carried out the mass murder of the Tutsi minority (1994). The Hutis in only 100 days (April-June 1994), slaughtered 0.8 million Tutsis and moderate Hutu political opponents. Hutu mobs went door to door searching for Tutsis. Incredibly the Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis at a faster pace than the NAZIs murdered the Jews in World War II. More than 800,000 Tutsis were murdered. The Hutus killed in many ways. Often Tusi men, women, and children were hacked to death with machetes. The FAR and Interahamw set up roadblocks to preven terrified Tutsis from fleeing (April 7). They then began going from house to house killing any Tutsi they found as well as moderate Hutu politicians. Thousands were murdered on the fitst day. Well armed U.N. forces do nothing. They stand by, many watching the Tutsi's being slaughtered. Secretary General Boutras Boutras Ghali forbids them from intervening because this would violate their 'monitoring' mandate. The RPF forces launched a major offensive to end the genocide and rescue 600 of its troops surrounded in Kigali (april 8). The RPF troops had been based in the city as part of the Arusha Accords. Tens of thousands of refugees flee into Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire. In one day 250,000 Rwandans, mainly Hutus fleeing the advance of the RPF, cross the border into Tanzania. With the slaughter of the Tutsis continuing, the United Natiins finally agreed to send 6,800 troops and policemen to Rwanda with powers to defend civilians (May 17). A Security Council resolution says "acts of genocide may have been committed." Deployment of the mainly African U.N. forces is delayed because of arguments over who will finance the cost and provide neded equipment. United States officilas argues with the U.N. authorities over the cost of providing heavy armoured vehicles for the peacekeeping forces. With no agreement on U.N. deployment, the Security Council finally authorizes France to deploy forces in south-west Rwanda (June 22). They created a 'safe area' in territory controlled by the governmentand RAF forces. Killings of Tutsis, however, continued even in the safe area, but some Tutsis were protected by the French. The United States Government began using the term 'genocide'.


The Hutu massacres seem even more unfathomanable than the NAZI genocide. One journalist reports, "... how do you account for the evil we saw in the green hills of that nation in 1994, when one day we saw a mother with a baby tied to her back gleefully using a machete to hack up another woman also carrying an infant?" [Hartley]

United Nations

The U.N. peace keeping force in the country did not protect Tutsis seeking sanctuary. Finally as the Hutu massacres intensified, the U.N. withdrew its force, completely abandoning Tutsi refugees to their grisly fate. Not only did the United Nations not intervene, but they withdrew most of its force (April 21, 1994). The United Nations cut its forces from 2,500 to 250 following the murder of ten Belgian soldiers assigned to guard the moderate Hutu prime minister, Agathe Uwiliyingimana. The prime minister was murdered and the Belgian soldiers were disarmed, tortured, and shot and hacked to death. The U.N. Force Commander had ordered them not to resist violently because it would have breached their mandate. The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) spent 8 hours discussing the Rwandan crisis (April 30). The UNSC resolution condemning the killing omited the term 'genocide'. Had the term been used, the United Natioins would have been legally obligated to act to 'prevent and punish' the perpetrators.

RPF Ends the Killing (July 1994)

Only the Tutsi RPF rebel force defeating the Hutu dominated RAN finally ended the killing (July 1994). The RPF entered Kigali. The Hutu government flees to Zaire, followed by a tide of refugees, this time mostly Hutus. The French end their mission and are replaced by athiopian U.N. troops. The RPF sets up an interim government of national unity in Kigali. A cholera epidemic sweeps through refugee camps in Zaire, killing thousands. U.N. agencies differ over reports that RPF troops are conducting reprisal killings in Rwanda. Several hundred civilians are said to have been executed. Meanwhile the Hutu killings of Tutsis continues in refugee camps.

Justice: Trials

The new Rwandan government agrees to genocide trials before an international tribunal established by the U.N. Security Council (August 1994). November 1994 The UNSG set up an international tribunal to prosecute the suspects believed to be involved in genocide (November 1994). The USSG urges all member governments to arrest people suspected of involvement in the Rwandan genocide (February 27, 1995). The nited Nations Tribunal for Rwanda announceed the first indictments against eight suspects. They are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity (December 12, 1995). Trials begin for Hutus involved in killing Tutsis (December 1996). Mass repatriation of refugees from Zaire starts (November 1996). Tthe Rwandan government orders a moratorium on arrests of additional suspected genocide perpetrators. The first Rwandan genocide trialswas conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. This case was against Jean Paul Akayesu, a local government official accused of ordering mass killings in his area (January 10, 1997). A woman who testified against Akayesu was murdered along with her husband and seven children by Hutu diehards (January 13-17). rancois Bizimutima was tried in a Rwandan court. He was the the third Hutu convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the killing (January 17). Over 300 people are killed in an attempt by the Rwandan Army to capture renegade Hutu insurgents responsible for a spree of killing killings in northwestern Rwanda. The victims including three Spanish aid workers. U.N. officials report many victims are recently returned refugees who witnessed the 1994 genocide and are potential witnesses in the genocide trilas (January 22). Venuste Niyonzima is the first man tried locally for crimes against humanity in his own village-- Gikongor. A U.N. Human Rights official expresses 'serious concern' over the lack of lawyers and adequate defense for those accused of participation in the genocide. Canadian priest, Guy Pinard, who witnessed the genocide, is murdered by Hutu terrorists while saying mass (February 2, 1997). Five human rights observers are killed in an ambush in Cyangugu (February 4, 1997). The murders are believed to be an effort by Hutu terrorists to drive out foreign observersy. It worked. The United Natiins withdraws all human rights observers in Cyangugu, Kibuye, and Gisenyi to Kigali. The United Nations watchdog agency criticizes the management of the Rwandan genocide trials (February 12). February 14, 1997 Vincent Nkezazaganwa, a Rwandan Supreme Court Justice, is gunned down by uniformed gunmen at his house. Frodouald Karamina, leader of a Hutu extremist political movement, is sentenced to death for his involvement in the genocide. Karamina is believed to be one of the leaders and organizers of the genocide, having coined the slogan 'Hutu Power' and made many ugly racist radio broadcasts urging mass murder. And Karamina expressed no remorse or misgivings for the part he had played in the bloody kilklings. Strangely, Karamina was born to Tutsi parents, but assimilated himself as a Hutu later in life. Four prominent Rwandans accused of genocide appear in court for the first time (February 19-20). Israel Nemeyimana is the first defendant in the genocide trials to be aquited. Authorities report that there was a lack of evidence and witnesses (February 23). U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan dismisses the chief trial administrator Andronico Adede and deputy prosecutor Honore Rakoromoanana in the Rwanda criminal trials (February 26). He complains of mismanagement and inefficiency. Agwu Okali of Nigeria is appointed the new chief minister. By this date, the court has indicted 21 suspects. Virginia Mukankusi is convicted and sentenced to death for her participation in the genocide (February 28). A Hutu militia leader that helped lead the genocide was businessman Georges Rutaganda. He was found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and sentenced to life in prison (December 1999). He was the sixth person convicted since the tribunal began hearings in Arusha, Tanzania (December 1999).

France's Role

France had strong contacts with the Hutu Government and had good inteligence on what was transpiring. A small French force toa assist the U.N. Peace Keepers might have prevented the killing. France did send troops, but only to evacuate its own nationals.

America's Role

America also failed to act, paralized by the 1993 debacle of the humanitarian relief effort in Somalia.


Destexhe, Alain. Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century.

Hartley, Aidn. The Zanzibar Coast: The Story of Life, Love, and Death in Foreign Lands (Atlantic Monthly, 2003), 414p.

Keane, Pergal. Season of Blood.


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to Main Randan history page]
[Return to Main 20th cerntury mass killing and genocide page]
[Return to Main genocide page]
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Environmental issues] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Created: 2:52 AM 11/27/2004
Last updated: 3:14 AM 9/10/2019