The republic of Rwanda is situated along the borders of Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium in 1962. Approximately 85% of the Rwandans are Hutus who were traditionally farmers, the balance of the population was Tutsi, who traditionally tended to livestock and had a long history of dominance over the country.
In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and tens of thousands of Tutsi’s fled to its neighbouring countries, mainly Uganda.
A group of Tutsi exiles and refugees formed a revolt group called the “Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)”, which invaded Northern Rwanda in 1990 from their base in Uganda, and that initiated the Rwandan Civil War. Neither the Tutsi or the Hutus were able to gain a decisive advantage in the war, and the Rwandan government which was led by President Juvénal Habyarimana signed the Arusha Accords with the RPF on 4 August 1993 where the peace treaty was considered.
However, on the night on the 6th of April 1994, an aircraft carrying the President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his colleague Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi (both Hutus) was shot down, killing everyone on board. Habyarimana’s assassination on the 6th of April 1994 then created some unrest and ended the peace accords.
The Genocidal killings began the following day when the soldiers, police, and militia executed the Tutsi exiles and the moderate Hutu military and political leaders. Between the 7th April 1994 and the 15th July 1994 an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed. The Hutus who blamed the RPF began a well organised campaign of slaughter.
The RPF, in their counter claim said the plane was shot down by the Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.
The number of deaths and the brutality of the war caused a great shock to the whole world, but no country intervened to forcefully stop the brutality and killings.
Most of the victims were killed in their own villages or towns, many by their neighbors and fellow villagers. They killed each other and some husbands went to the extent of killing their Tutsi wives, saying they would be killed if they refused to kill them.
The militias were handed lists of the government opponents, who went in and killed them, along with all of their families. The Hutu gangs searched for the victims who hid in churches and school buildings. The armed militias killed their victims with machetes and rifles. Sexual violence was common, with an estimation of two hundred and fifty thousand to five hundred thousand women raped during the genocide.
The most widely accepted deaths of Tutsi people were estimated to be around 500,000 to 800,000 deaths. Estimates for the total death toll which included Hutu and Tutsi victims were as high as 1,100,000. The UN and Belgium had forces in Rwanda, but the UN mission was not given the authority to stop the killing.
A year before, US troops were killed in the Somalian war, the US were determined never to get involved in another African conflict.
The Belgians and most of the UN peacekeepers withdrew after 10 of the Belgian soldiers were killed.
The French, sent a special force to leave their citizens and later set up a safe zone which was supposed to protect the Hutus but the French were accused of not doing enough to stop the killings in that area.
The well-organised RPF, which was backed by the army of Uganda, gradually seized more territory, until the 4th of July 1994, when the RPF forces marched into the capital named Kigali.
The RPF quickly resumed with the civil war once the genocide started and captured all government territory, which ended the genocide and forced the government and those who got involved in the genocide into Zaire. The genocide had a very long and serious effect on the people of Rwanda.
In 1996, the RPF led the Rwandan government to launch an offense into Zaire which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo(DR Congo), home to the exiled leaders of the former Rwandan government and many of the Hutu refugees, thus starting the First Congo War and killing an estimated two hundred thousand individuals.
Today, Rwanda, has two public holidays to mourn the genocide, and the “genocide ideology” and “divisionism” which were deemed criminal offences. International Day of Reflection on the Rwandan genocide is observed globally on the 7th of April every year.