For many the Rwandan Genocide stands out as historically significant, not only because of the sheer number of people that were murdered in such a short period of time, but also because of the way many Western countries responded to the atrocities. Despite intelligence provided before the killing began, and international news media coverage reflecting the true scale of violence as the genocide unfolded, virtually all first-world countries declined to intervene.
The United Nations refused to authorize its peacekeeping operation in Rwanda at the time to take action to bring the killing to a halt. Despite numerous pre- and present-conflict warnings by Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire the UN peacekeepers on the ground were forbidden from engaging the militias or even discharging their weapons. In the weeks prior to the attacks the UN ignored reports of Hutu militias amassing weapons and rejected plans for a pre-emptive interdiction. This failure to act became the focus of bitter recriminations towards individual policymakers specifically, such as Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, as well as the United Nations and countries such as France and the United States more generally and President Clinton specifically. Clinton was kept informed on a daily basis by his closest advisors and by the U.S. Embassy of Rwanda. The genocide was brought to an end only when the Tutsi-dominated expatriate rebel movement known as the Rwandese Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame, overthrew the Hutu government and seized power. Trying to escape accountability, hundreds of thousands Hutu "genocidaires" and their accomplices fled into eastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The violence and its memory continue to affect the country and the region. Both the First and Second Congo Wars trace their origins to the genocide, and it continues to be a reference point for the Burundian Civil War.
The Twa were the first known inhabitants of Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the few states in Africa to closely follow its ancestral borders. The Kingdom of Rwanda, controlled by a Tutsi royal family, ruled the region throughout recorded history. While the upper echelons of this society were largely Tutsi, ethnic divisions were not stark. Many Hutu were among the nobility and significant intermingling took place. The majority of the Tutsi, who made up 15-18% of the population, were poor peasants, as were most of the Hutu.
In 1890 the country was given to the Germans at a conference in Brussels, but there was virtually no German presence in the area until the end of the century. The Belgians were awarded some German spoils after the First World War, including Rwanda. They tended to simplify matters; transforming the majority Tutsi elite into a solely Tutsi elite, with position in society determined by ethnicity. Colonial identity cards even used ethnic affiliation as a classification despite the fact that Tutsis and Hutus shared many cultural characteristics including geography, language and traditional practices. Tutsis enjoyed privileged status under Belgian rule and were able to secure better jobs and better education than Hutus for the next two decades.
Belgium controlled both Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi from the end of the First World War until independence in 1962.
The Rwandan Genocide
History of Rwanda
Causes of the genocide
Role of the International Community
Consequences of the Genocide
Glossary and supplements
After World War II the Belgian colonial administration in Rwanda was placed under United Nations trusteeship and was therefore expected to prepare Rwanda for independence. Preceding the Belgian pull out, elections brought the Hutu nationalist Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) to power in 1959. They launched a program of advancing the power of the Hutu majority, largely in the West. While the Tutsi had been the favourites of the colonial powers, perception shifted as the Tutsi became viewed as feudal overlords. It was thus seen as proper that the Tutsi leadership was ousted in favour of rule by the Hutu majority. This also led to a downplaying of the violence that was associated with this process. Some 20,000 Tutsi were killed and an additional 200,000 fled to neighbouring countries.
After independence, PARMEHUTU established a one-party rule based upon Hutu nationalism. In 1964 and again in 1974, pogroms were initiated in which large numbers of Tutsi were killed and more were forced into exile.
In 1973 the Hutu Juvénal Habyarimana seized power in a military coup, ousting PARMEHUTU, but continuing to rely on Hutu nationalism to stay in power, mainly on akazu.
Other causes of the violence
Another school of thought argues that the violence in the region is a result of the same European theories of race that led to the Holocaust. These ideas were propagated by John Hanning Speke. Unlike the other mixed states of Africa, Rwandans were considered by Europeans to be on the border between Blacks and the "more noble" Hamites. Tutsis were viewed as Hamites and Hutus as inferior Bantus. This ingrained racism was reversed upon independence when the majority Hutus took to viewing the Tutsis as foreign invaders and not true Rwandans. Similar divisions have led to violence in other parts of northeast Africa, most notably in Sudan.
Others see an economic explanation for the violence. The Great Lakes region, with rich soil and a more temperate climate because of its altitude, is one of the most densely populated parts of Africa. This has led to a great deal of competition for scarce land and resources.
Jared Diamond, in his book Collapse, argues that this overpopulation was a contributing factor to the violence, as in one area where only a single Tutsi lived, 5% of the 2000 Hutu inhabitants were also killed. Diamond claims that the mayhem of the genocide provided a pretext for some Rwandans to kill their wealthier neighbours and seize their land.
Many Rwandans claim that there was little inter-ethnic rivalry until it was deliberately encouraged by the Juvénal Habyarimana government as a ploy to counter Paul Kagame and the Rwandese Patriotic Front's (RPF) largely Tutsi invasion on October 1, 1990.
Unearthed bodies at a massacre siteAs though the assassination was a signal, military and militia groups began rounding up and killing all Tutsis they could capture as well as the political moderates irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. (The movie Hotel Rwanda dramatizes this as a coded radio broadcast instructing Hutus to "cut the tall trees"). Large numbers of opposition politicians were also murdered. Many nations evacuated their nationals from Kigali and closed their embassies as violence escalated. National radio urged people to stay in their homes, and the government-funded station RTLM broadcast vitriolic attacks against Tutsis and Hutu moderates. Hundreds of roadblocks were set up by the militia in the capital Kigali and around the country. Lieutenant-General Dallaire and UNAMIR, escorting Tutsis in Kigali, were unable to do anything as Hutus kept escalating the violence and even started targeting, via RTLM, UNAMIR personnel and Lieutenant-General Dallaire.
The killing swiftly spread from Kigali to all corners of the country; between April 6 and the beginning of July, a genocide of unprecedented swiftness officially left 937,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus (some estimates pin the number at or a little over 1,000,000) dead at the hands of organized bands of militias. One such massacre occurred at Nyarubuye. Even ordinary citizens were called on by local officials and government-sponsored radio to kill their neighbours and those who refused to kill were often killed themselves. "Either you took part in the massacres or you were massacred yourself," said one Hutu who was forced to take part. The president's MRND party was implicated in organizing many aspects of the genocide.
Most of the victims were killed in their villages or in towns, often by their neighbours and fellow villagers. The militia members mostly killed their victims by chopping them up with machetes, although some army units shot and killed the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. In some towns the victims were forcibly crammed into churches and school buildings, where Hutu extremist gangs then massacred them. In June 1994 about 3000 Tutsis sought refuge in a Catholic church in Kivumu. Local Interahamwe then used bulldozers supplied by the local police to knock down the church building. People who tried to escape were hacked down with machetes.
For the next couple of weeks, many questionable decisions were made by members of the United Nations Security Council. The UN had a peacekeeping force in the country, UNAMIR — the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda.
UNAMIR's Force Commander Lieutenant-General Dallaire became aware of plans for the genocide in January of 1994. He sent a cable to U.N. headquarters in N.Y. asking for permission to confiscate weapons. Throughout January, February and March, he pleaded for reinforcements and logistical support. The UN Security Council refused. The United States refused to provide requested material aid after the failed US efforts in Mogadishu, Somalia. France, China and Russia opposed involvement in what was seen as an "internal affair". Dallaire was directly "taken to task," in his words, for even suggesting that UNAMIR should raid Hutu militants' weapons caches, whose location had been disclosed to him by a reliable government source. Many U.N. officials, including Boutros Ghali and Kofi Annan were involved in watering down the response of the U.N. In the United States, Clinton and Albright refused to take action. Only Belgium asked for a strong UNAMIR mandate. After the murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers protecting the Prime Minister in early April, Belgium pulled out of the peacekeeping mission.
The UN and member states appeared largely detached from the realities on the ground. In the midst of the crisis, Dallaire was instructed to have UNAMIR focus only on evacuating foreign nationals from Rwanda, and the change in orders even led Belgian peacekeepers to abandon a technical school filled with 2,000 refugees, while Hutu militants waited outside, drinking beer and chanting "Hutu Power." After the Belgians left, the militants entered the school and massacred those inside, including hundreds of children. Four days later the Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR down to 260 men.
The administrative head of UNAMIR was former Cameroonian foreign minister Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, who has come under criticism for downplaying the significance of Dallaire's reports, and holding close ties to the Hutu militant elite.
Following the Belgian forces' withdrawal after 10 soldiers were killed, General Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Canadian, Ghanaian, and Dutch soldiers in urban areas and focused on providing areas of "safe control". His actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 20,000 Tutsis.
The new Rwandan government, led by interim President Théodore Sindikubwabo, worked hard to minimize international criticism. Rwanda at that time had a seat on the Security Council and its ambassador argued that the claims of genocide were exaggerated and that the government was doing all that it could to stop it. Representatives of the Rwandan Catholic Church, long associated with the radical Hutus in Rwanda, also used their links in Europe to reduce criticism. France, which felt the United States and United Kingdom would use the massacres to try to expand their influence in that francophone part of Africa, also worked to prevent a foreign intervention.
UNAMIR's Kigali sector commander, Belgian Col. Luc Marchal, reported to the BBC that one of the French planes supposedly participating in the evacuation operation arrived at 0345 hours on 9 April with several boxes of ammunition. The boxes, about 5 tons, were unloaded and transported by FAR vehicles to the Kanombe camp where the Rwandese Presidential Guard was quartered. The French government has categorially denied this shipment, saying that the planes carried only French military personnel and material for the evacuation.
Finally, on April 29, 1994, the UN conceded that "acts of genocide may have been committed." By that time, the Red Cross estimated that 500,000 Rwandans had been killed. The UN agreed to send 5,500 troops to Rwanda, most of whom were to be provided by African countries. The UN also requested 50 armoured personnel carriers from the United States. However, deployment of these forces was delayed due to arguments over their cost.
On June 22, with no sign of UN deployment taking place, the Security Council authorized French forces to land in Goma, Zaire on a humanitarian mission. They deployed throughout southwest Rwanda in an area they called "Zone Turquoise," quelling the genocide and stopping the fighting there, but often arriving in areas only after the Tutsi had been forced out or killed. Operation Turquoise is charged with aiding the Hutu army and fighting against the RPF. Due to confusion amongst French troops about what was actually going on, many Tutsi were massacred in French controlled areas.
RPF renewed invasion
See also: Great Lakes refugee crisis
The RPF battalion stationed in Kigali under the Arusha Accords came under attack immediately after the shooting down of the president's plane. The battalion fought its way out of Kigali and joined up with RPF units in the north.
Refugee camp in Zaire, 1994The RPF renewed its civil war against the Rwandese Hutu government when it received word that the genocidal massacres had begun. Its leader, Paul Kagame, directed RPF forces in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Tanzania to invade the country, battling the Hutu forces and Interahamwe militias who were committing the massacres. The resulting civil war raged concurrently with the genocide for two months.
The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the genocide in July 1994, 100 days after it started. Approximately two million Hutu refugees, most of whom participated in the genocide and feared Tutsi retribution, fled to neighbouring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire (now DRC). Thousands of them died in epidemics of cholera and dysentery that swept the refugee camps. The Rwandan genocide and the resulting large numbers of refugees destabilized the regional balance of power along the Zairian border, resulting in the start of the First Congo War, which set the stage for the Second Congo War that continues to trouble the region. Battalions of Interahamwe continue to operate in eastern Congo, destabilizing the region and causing tension between Rwanda and the DRC.
Paul Kagame is now President of Rwanda. Rwanda is in the process of prosecuting thousands of genocide suspects in the national courts and in informal Gacaca sessions.
Gisozi Genocide Memorial near KigaliThe United States had experienced trouble in Somalia shortly before the genocide, and President Clinton decided not to get involved in the "local" conflict — a decision he was later reported to regret. The United Nations, in the absence of any serious military aid from the United States, was forced to open its communication pathways wider than before and urge other countries to join the efforts. The United States agreed to support these efforts with finance and some equipment. Early in the relief process, American camps began to drop large food packages from the air in hopes of alleviating the suffering below. However, the opposite occurred as people were slaughtered once again by the mobs trying to reach the precious food. The United States refused to bring its aid closer to the ground, and, as time went by, dysentery and cholera began to spread rapidly through the crowded refugee camps, ultimately killing tens of thousands. Soon, the problem was exacerbated as rain began to fall and scores of people contracted septic meningitis.
By this point, France had established a field hospital at the area of Lake Kivu in an attempt to help the large numbers of refugees. Many of these refugees were Interahamwe leaders and members of the government who fled the country fearing retaliation from the RPF. Although equipment and medical supplies were plentiful, the young and relatively inexperienced medical staff lacked the surgical expertise essential to the relief efforts. To aid the ground forces, Israel conducted the largest medical mission in its history, and, although their supplies were not as abundant as those of the other forces, their all-volunteer force of military surgeons was composed both of specialists and sub-specialists, including well-known surgeons. The two units were able to establish a unique and constructive method of operation that relied on France's abundant medical supplies and Israel's medical expertise.
In tandem with these two units, the Netherlands had sent a small contingent consisting mostly of medics and nurses. This force turned out to be beneficial for rehabilitation efforts and ambulatory care after patients moved out from the French-Israeli medical quarters. Care Deutschland assisted by supplying ambulances, and Merlin of Ireland assisted by supplying trucks and heavy equipment to distribute food and supplies to the end targets at the refugee camps. Together, this unique combination of well-intentioned forces was responsible for curbing the death toll about the waters of Lake Kivu, near Goma, Zaire.
UNAMIR was brought back up to strength after the RPF victory (and was called UNAMIR 2 thereafter). UNAMIR remained in Rwanda until March 8, 1996.
Following an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in eastern Zaire in October 1996 that marked the beginning of the First Congo War, a huge movement of refugees began which brought more than 600,000 back to Rwanda in the last two weeks of November. The Interahamwe continues to operate in eastern DRC. This massive repatriation was followed at the end of December 1996 by the return of 500,000 more from Tanzania, again in a huge, spontaneous wave.
Justice, reconciliation, reforms
Poster of fugitives wanted for genocide in RwandaWith the return of the refugees, the government began the long-awaited genocide trials, which got off to an uncertain start in the closing days of 1996 and inched forward in 1997. In 2001, the government began implementation of a participatory justice system, known as "gacaca" in order to address the enormous backlog of cases. Meanwhile, the United Nations set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, currently based in Arusha, Tanzania. The United Nations Tribunal has jurisdiction over high level members of the government and armed forces, while Rwanda is responsible for prosecuting lower level leaders and local people. Tensions have arisen between Rwanda and the United Nations over use of the death penalty.
Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms — including Rwanda's first ever local elections held in March 1999 — the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output and to foster reconciliation. A series of massive population displacements, a nagging Hutu extremist insurgency, and Rwandan involvement in the First and Second Congo Wars in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts.
On March 31, 2005, the successor organization to the Interahamwe, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), finally condemned the genocide of 1994.
Charges of revisionism
The context of the 1994 Rwandan genocide continues to be an important matter of historical debate with charges of revisionism often made  . Suspicions against French and United Nations (UN) policies in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994 and its alleged support of the Hutus led to the creation of a French Parliamentary Commission on Rwanda, which published its report on December 15, 1998 . In particular, the action of François-Xavier Verschave, former president of French NGO Survie, which accused the French army of protecting the Hutus during the genocide, was instrumental in the creation of this Parliamentary commission. To counter those allegations, a "double genocides" theory was created, which accused the Tutsis of having committed a "counter-genocide" against the Hutus. This theory was in particular supported by Black Furies, White Liars (2005), the controversial book of investigative journalist Pierre Péan  . For example, researcher Jean-Pierre Chrétien, named in the book as an active member of the "pro-Tutsis lobby", published an op-ed in Le Monde criticizing this "amazing revisionist passion" (étonnante passion révisioniste) .
Kigeri V of Rwanda Former Monarch of Rwanda speaking out against the Rwandan Genocide
François-Xavier Verschave's various books on the Rwandan genocide & the complicity of France.
French Parliamentary Commission on Rwanda and its 1995 report
List of wars and disasters by death toll
List of massacres
Hotel Rwanda (2004) movie about Paul Rusesabagina, who ran a Kigali hotel that became a sanctuary for Tutsis and moderate Hutus fleeing the genocide.
Sometimes In April (2005) movie detailing events prior, during and after the genocide through the story of an intermarried Hutu-Tutsi family.
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
"Gacaca, Living Together again in Rwanda?" (2002) and "In Rwanda we say... The family that does not speak dies" (2004) two documentaries on the justice/sponsor and reconstruction process by Anne Aghion
'A Problem From Hell', America And The Age Of Genocide by Samantha Power
Le Feu sous la soutane (Fire under the Cassock) by Benjamin Sehene
All sides have a quilty conscious in this. And people too who watched this slaughter on their television sets and did nothing at all to call up politicians to do something to save human beings.
At least brave Hutu's, Tutsi's and the remaining U.N forces tried to save as many people as they could, even at threat to their own lives.
And what makes a European life more important than an African's life? What? I don't see any.