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Rwanda Genocide: What to know, History and cites

The Rwanda Genocide is a painful past that brings sorrow but greatly shaped the present-day Rwanda. Also referred as the “genocide against the Tutsi”, the Rwanda genocide involved 100 days of horror inflicted on the Tutsi minority and the moderate Hutu by ethnic Hutu-led Government, Impuzamugambi and Interahamwe between 7th April and 15th July 1994.

Rwanda Genocide

Rwanda is generally comprised of three ethnic groups-Hutus who make up 85% of the population, Tutsi (14% of the population but have long dominated the country) and the Twa (1% of the population). The Rwanda genocide was started by members of the top Hutu political nobles who occupied top positions in the Government. However, the tension between Hutu and Tutsi wasn’t an abrupt occurrence with majority of the historians concurring that the genocide against the Tutsi was planned for more than a year. It was a war that was slowly brewing but was triggered by the assassination of then President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira (both Hutus) after the plane carrying them was shot on 6th April 1994 as it was landing in Kigali.

The crushing of the Plane didn’t immediately result into genocidal killings but was instead sparked the next day after militia, soldiers and police killed top Tutsi and moderate Hutu political as well as military leaders. Slaughter then spread across the country and was carried out with ultra-careful format whereby lists of targeted Government opponents were handed over to Militias who would go straight and kill them and their entire families. During this time husbands/wives killed their Tutsi wives/husbands, neighbors massacred neighbors claiming they would instead be killed if they disobeyed.

The most disturbing fact about the Rwanda genocide is that Identity Cards indicated individual’s ethnic group and thus roadblocks were placed by militias so as to mercilessly kill Tutsi with machetes or axes which were kept around houses. Also, many Tutsi women were kept and taken as sex slaves.  Not only that, the then ruling government (National Revolutionary Movement for Development-NRMD) had a youth wing known as Interahamwe that also became militia to carry out slaughter with weapons and hit lists handed out to local groups who knew where to find their victims.

The perpetrators of the genocide went as far as setting up a radio station (Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines-RTLM) as well as newspapers to spread hate propaganda calling upon people to “weed out the cockroaches” implying “kill the Tutsi” with names of popular individuals to be murdered read on radio. The sad and most painful thing is that even churches were not safe and those that sought shelter in churches were either killed by priests and nuns or handed over to be killed.

After just 100 days, up to 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were murdered during the painful Rwanda genocide. Sexual violence was widespread with more than 250,000 women raped. Surprisingly at the time of the genocide, Belgium and UN had armed forces in Rwanda but was not given mandate/authority to halt the killing.

The 100 days of terror ended after a well-organized Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) supported by Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) slowly took over many parts of the country until 4th July 1994 when its forces marched into Kigali City, forcing over 2,000,000 Hutus especially those involved in the genocide to flee across the borders of Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda later went through a period of reconciliation and to right the wrongs, with RPF setting up a coalition government (similar to the one agreed upon in Arusha) with Pasteur Bizimungu (a Hutu) being President as well as Paul Kagame (a Tutsi) as Vice President and Defense Minister.

In conclusion, every country has a painful past but when it comes to Rwanda, the 1994 genocide is a part of the country’s history that no Rwandan wants to remember. The Rwanda genocide has however contributed to shaping the country’s unity and peace that has led to tourism development and overall economic growth.

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