Previous > Part 1: Background to the Genocide
The Start of the Genocide
On 6 April 1994, after a meeting with the Tutsi-backed FPR, President Habyarimana's plane was shot down as it came into land at Kigali. (Also on board was the Hutu president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira.) The people behind the assassination have never been identified -- both Hutu extremists and the FPR have been blamed. This act, however, was the trigger for a well planned campaign of violence against the Tutsi minority in Rwanda. The next day Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a Hutu moderate, was also assassinated by members of the Rwandan Army (Presidential Guard). The ten Belgian UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) soldiers sent to protect her were also killed
For the next 100 days the Rwandan Army and Hutu militia -- known as Interahamwe ('Those Who Attack') -- went on the rampage, killing an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates. (A less well reported statistic is that a significant number of Twa were also targeted, possibly as much as 30% of the whole Twa population of Rwanda.)
The International Response to the Genocide
At the very beginning of the genocide, General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian head of the 2,500 stong UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, was ordered not to intervene. Americans and Europeans were evacuated, and following the murder of its soldiers, Belgium withdrew the rest of its UN personnel -- Dallaire was left with 2,100 troops. By 22 April, the UN Security Council had voted to withdraw the majority of its troops from Rwanda; the remaining 450 soldiers were deployed by Dallaire to protect as many Rwandans as they could.
By mid-May the UN was reconsidering its position and started planning to send in troops, but bureaucratic wrangling slowed the process down -- troops only started to arrive in mid-July. The UN Security Council authorized France to act unilaterally, sending in a force on 22 June, and deployed to create a 'safe zone'. The massacre of Tutsis, however, continued.
The Civil War
With no one else acting against the Interahamwe, the Tutsi-backed FPR mobilized and moved down through the country from Uganda. By 4 July they reached the capital, Kilgali. The MRND government collapsed a few days later, and a Government of National Unity (under the FPR) was created. The genocide in Rwanda was halted, but 2 million Hutu (mostly militia fearing reprisals) fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) where their presence has caused continuing conflict. The Tutsi-led Rwandan government has invaded the region twice intending to wipe out the Hutu forces.
Special genocide courts were established in August 1996, with the power to impose the death penalty against the genocide's leaders and organizers. By 2005 around half of the 130,000 prisoners held in detention had been released, 20,000 had confessed, and 500 had been sentenced to death. In 2001 Gacaca Jurisdictions were introduced to pursue those accused at a community level, with a potential sentence of life imprisonment available to the locally elected judges.
It is estimated that half-a-million women were raped during the genocide, with the majority of these now HIV-positive. In addition 400,000 children were orphaned by the genocide and over half are believed to be HIV-positive.