The Rwandan Genocide was the systematic murder of Rwanda's Tutsi minority and the moderates of its Hutu majority, in 1994. This was both the bloodiest period of the Rwandan Civil War and one of the worst genocides of the 1990s. With the preliminary implementation of the Arusha Accords, the Tutsi rebels and Hutu regime were able to agree to a cease-fire, and further negotiations were underway. The diplomatic efforts to end the conflict were at first thought to be successful, yet even with the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) and Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) (political wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) in talks, certain Hutu factions, including the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), were against any agreement for cooperation between the regime, and the rebels, to end Rwanda's ethnic and economic troubles and progress towards a stable nationhood. The genocide was primarily the action of two extremist Hutu militias, the Interahamwe (military wing of the MRND) and the Impuzamugambi (military wing of the CDR), against dissenters to their Hutu extremism. Over the course of about 100 days, from April 6 to mid-July, at least 500,000 Tutsis and thousands of Hutus were killed during the genocide. Some estimates put the death toll around the 800,000 and 1,000,000 marks.
With the genocide, and the resurgence in the civil war, Rwanda's conflict was thought by the United Nations to be too difficult and volatile for it to handle. The Tutsi rebels successfully brought the country under their control and overthrew the Hutu regime. Hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees fled across the borders, mainly west to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The presence of the extreme Hutu factions on the border with Rwanda was the cause for the First and Second Congo Wars, with clashes between these groups and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)'s Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), now part of a coalition force. Rivalry between the Hutus and Tutsis is also central to the Burundian Civil War. The UN's neglect of the Rwandan Genocide, under comprehensive media coverage, drew severe criticism. France, Belgium, and the United States in particular, received negative attention for their complacency towards the extreme Hutu regime's oppressions. US troops had withdrawn from peace-keeping in Somalia one month earlier (March, 1994) due to casualties sustained in gunfights. The U.S. and other countries had become more reluctant to commit troops to contexts where the UN's presence was not at the request of the parties involved. U.S. officials were instructed to avoid using the word "genocide" when speaking of the conflict because that would trigger intervention under treaty obligations. Blaming the war on "ancient animosities," the world community chose to stand by and watch. Canada, Ghana, and the Netherlands, did continue to provide a force on the ground, under the command of Roméo Dallaire of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), but this mission had little actual power without support from the UN Security Council. Despite specific demands from UNAMIR's commanders in Rwanda, before and throughout the genocide, its requests for authorization to intervene were refused, and its capacity was even reduced. The Rwandan Genocide tested the world's commitment to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the world failed to meet its moral and legal responsibilities.
In the fifteenth century the Tutsis were the rulers of most of today's Rwanda, with some Hutus among the nobility. Tutsis were a minority of the population, mostly herders, and the majority Hutus were mostly croppers.
When the kings, known as Mwamis, began to centralize their administrations, they distributed land among individuals rather than allowing it to be held by the hereditary chieftains, who were mainly Hutu. Unsurprisingly, most of the chiefs appointed by the Mwamis were Tutsi. The redistribution of land, between 1860 and 1895, under Mwami Rwabugiri, resulted in Tutsi chiefs demanding manual labor in return for the right of Hutus to occupy their property. This system of patronage left Hutus in a serf-like status with Tutsi chiefs as their feudal masters.
With [[Mwami Rwabugiri] on the throne, Rwanda became an expansionist state. Its rulers did not bother to assess the ethnic identities of conquered peoples brought under their sway, simply labeling all of them “Hutu.” The “Hutu” identity, consequently, was to be a trans-ethnic one. Eventually, “Tutsi” and “Hutu” were seen to be economic distinctions, rather than particularly ethnic. In fact, there was social mobility between the Tutsis and Hutus, on the basis of hierarchical status. One could kwihutura, or lose “Hutuness,” with the accumulation of wealth. Conversely, a Tutsi bereft of property could gucupira, or lose “Tutsiness”.
In the Berlin Conference of 1886, Rwanda and Burundi were annexed by the Germany Germans. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles, ceded Rwanda to Belgium. The Belgians found it convenient to privilege "Tutsis" as allies in the colonial enterprise; as a minority, they had more to gain by identifying with the colonizers. The Belgians brought in identification cards to every Rwandan, with preferential treatment to Tutsis for positions in education, politics and business. However, given the blurred distinction between the two "races," a Tutsis was whoever the colonial authority said was a Tutsi.
The 1959 "social revolution" led by the Hutu nationalist party Parmehutu (Parti du Mouvement de l'Émancipation Hutu) was the foundation of a Hutu-led republic. It was essentially the first stage of the Rwandan Civil War, with the deaths of some 20,000 Tutsi. 200,000 had been made to flee across the borders, and the formation of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) found its roots in these refugees. Rwanda's independence from Belgium followed in 1961.
The Tutsi refugee Diaspora was by the late 1980s a coherent political and military organization. Large numbers of Tutsi refugees in Uganda had joined the victorious rebel National Resistance Movement during the Ugandan Bush War and made themselves a separate movement. This was similar to the NRM, with two parts, the political RPF and the military RPA. On the international stage this movement is known as the RPF.
In October, 1990, the RPF began their invasion of Rwanda to restore themselves within the nation. The journal Kangura, a Hutu counteraction towards the Tutsi journal Kanguka, active from 1990 to 1993, was instrumental in incitement of Hutu disdain for Tutsis, on the basis of their ethnicity, rather than their previous economic advantages.
In August 1993, the rebels and the Government of Rwanda signed the Arusha Accords, to end the civil war. The accords stripped considerable power from President Juvénal Habyarimana, who had been all-powerful. Most of the power was vested in the Transitional Broad Based Government (TBBG) that would include the RPF as well as the five political parties that had formed the coalition government, in place since April 1992, to govern until proper elections could be held. The Transitional National Assembly (TNA), the legislative branch of the transitional government, was open to all parties, including the RPF. The extremist Hutu Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), nominally controlled by President Habyarimana, was strongly opposed to sharing power with the RPF, however, and refused to sign the accords. When at last it decided to agree to the terms, the accords were opposed by the RPF. The situation remained unchanged until the genocide. The United Nations established UNAMIR (UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda) in October 1993, under General Roméo Dallaire, to assist in implementing the Accords.
Government leaders were in communication with key figures among the population, to form and arm militias called Interahamwe (meaning "Those who stand (fight, kill) together") and Impuzamugambi (meaning "Those who have the same (or a single) goal"). These groups, especially the youth wings, were to be responsible for most of the violence.
On January 11, 1994 Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire (UN Force Commander in Rwanda) notified Military Adviser to the Secretary-General, Major-General Maurice Baril of four major weapons caches and plans by the Hutus for extermination of Tutsis. The telegram from Dallaire stated that an informant who was a top level Interahamwe militia trainer was in charge of demonstrations carried out a few days before. The goal of the demonstrations was to provoke an RPF battalion in Kigali into firing upon demonstrators and Belgian United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) troops into using force. Under such a scenario the Interhamwe would have an excuse to engage the Belgian troops and the RPF battalion. Several Belgians were to be killed, which would guarantee a withdrawal of the Belgian contingent. According to the informant, 1700 Interhamwe militiamen were trained in Governmental Forces camps, and he was ordered to register all the Kigali Tutsis.
Dallaire made immediate plans for UNAMIR troops to seize the arms caches and advised UN Headquarters of his intentions, believing these actions lay within his mission's mandate. The following day UN Headquarters stated in another cable that the outlined actions went beyond the mandate granted to UNAMIR under Security Council Resolution 872. Instead, President Habyarimana was to be informed of possible Arusha Accords violations and the discovered concerns and report back on measures taken. The January 11 telegram later played an important role in discussion about what information was available to the United Nations prior to the genocide.
The killing was well organized. By the time the killing started, the militia in Rwanda was 30,000 strong — one militia member for every ten families — and organized nationwide, with representatives in every neighborhood. Some militia members were able to acquire AK-47 assault rifles by completing requisition forms. Other weapons, such as grenades, required no paperwork and were widely distributed. Many members of the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi were armed only with machetes, but these were some of the most effective killers.
Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed, in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal, that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and that "one cabinet minister said she was personally in favor of getting rid of all Tutsi; without the Tutsi, she told ministers, all of Rwanda's problems would be over." In addition to Kambanda, the genocide's organizers included Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, a retired army officer, and many top ranking government officials and members of the army, such as General Augustin Bizimungu. On the local level, the Genocide's planners included Burgomasters, or mayors, and members of the police.
On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi, was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali. Both presidents died when the plane crashed. Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with both the RPF and Hutu extremists being blamed. But in spite of disagreements about the identities of its perpetrators, the attack on the plane is to many observers the catalyst for the genocide.
On April 6 and April 7 the staff of the Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF) and Colonel Bagosora clashed verbally with the UNAMIR Force Commander Lieutenant General Dallaire, who stressed the legal authority of the Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, to take control of the situation as outlined in the Arusha Accords. Bagosora disputed the authority, and Dallaire gave an escort of UNAMIR personnel to Mrs. Uwilingiyimana to protect her and to allow her to send a calming message on the radio the next morning. But by then, the presidential guard had occupied the radio station and Mrs. Uwilingiyimana had to cancel her speech. In the middle of the day, she was assassinated by the presidential guard. The ten Belgian UNAMIR soldiers sent to protect her were later found killed; Major Bernard Ntuyahaga was convicted of the murders in 2007. Other moderate officials who favored the Arusha Accords were quickly assassinated. Protected by UNAMIR, Faustin Twagiramungu escaped execution. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil, Dallaire recalled the events from April 7, the first day of the genocide:
I called the Force HQ and got through to Henry. He had horrifying news. The UNAMIR-protected VIPs - Lando Ndasingwa, Joseph Kavaruganda , and many other moderates had been abducted by the Presidential Guard and had been killed, along with their families […] UNAMIR had been able to rescue Prime Minister Faustin, who was now at the Force HQ. Faustin Twagiramungu from the opposition party Democratic Republican Movement was supposed to become Prime Minister after Agathe Uwilingiyimana assassination. However, on April 9, 1994, Jean Kambanda was sworn in. Faustin Twagiramungu became Prime Minister on July 19, 1994, only after the Rwandese Patriotic Front captured Kigali.
MRND, the ruling party of Rwanda from 1975 to 1994, under President Juvénal Habyarimana, has been implicated in organizing many aspects of the genocide. Military and Hutu militia groups began rounding up and killing all Tutsis they could capture as well as the political moderates irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. 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 around the country. Lieutenant-General Dallaire and UNAMIR were escorting Tutsis in Kigali, and thus unable to stop the Hutus from escalating the violence. During this time, the Hutus also targeted Lieutenant-General Dallaire, and UNAMIR personnel through the RTLM.
The killing was quickly implemented throughout most of the country. The first to organize on the scale that was to characterize the genocide was the mayor of the northwestern town of Gisenyi, who on the evening of April 6th called a meeting to distribute arms and send out militias to kill Tutsis. Gisenyi was a center of anti-Tutsi sentiment, both as the homeland of the akazu and as the refuge for thousands of people displaced by the rebel occupation of large areas in the north. While killing occurred in other towns immediately after Habyarimana's assassination, it took several days for them to become organized on the scale of Gisenyi. The major exception to this pattern was in Butare Province. In Butare, Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana was the only Tutsi prefect and the province was the only one dominated by an opposition party. Prefect Habyarimana opposed the genocide, resulting in the province becoming a haven of relative calm, until he was arrested and killed on April 19th. Finding the population of Butare lacking in enthusiasm for the killing, the government sent in militia members from Kigali and armed and mobilized the large population of Burundian refugees in the province, who had fled the Tutsi-dominated army fighting in the Burundian Civil War.
Most of the victims were killed in their villages or in towns, often by their neighbors and fellow villagers. The militia members typically murdered their victims by hacking them with machetes, although some army units used rifles. The victims were often hiding in churches and school buildings, where Hutu gangs massacred them. Ordinary citizens were called on by local officials and government-sponsored radio to kill their neighbors and those who refused to kill were often killed themselves. "Either you took part in the massacres or you were massacred yourself." One such massacre occurred at Nyarubuye. On 12 April 12 1994, more than 1,500 Tutsis sought refuge in a Roman Catholic church in Nyange, in then Kivumu commune. Local Interahamwe acting in concert with the priest and other local authorities then used bulldozers to knock down the church building. People who tried to escape were hacked down with machetes or shot. Local priest Athanase Seromba was later found guilty and sentenced to life in prison by the ICTR for his role in the demolition of his church and convicted of the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity.In another case, thousands sought refuge in Ecole Technique Officielle school in Kigali where Belgian UNAMIR soldiers were stationed. However, on April 11 1994, Belgian soldiers withdrew from the school and members of the Rwandan armed forces and militia killed all the Tutsis who were hiding there.
There is no consensus on the number of dead between April 6 and mid-July. Unlike the genocides carried out by the Nazis or by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, authorities made no attempts to record deaths. The RPF government has stated that 1,071,000 were killed, ten percent of whom were Hutu. Philip Gourevitch agrees with an estimate of one million, while the United Nations lists the toll as 800,000. Others estimate at least 500,000.
UNAMIR was hampered from the outset by resistance from numerous members of the United Nations Security Council from becoming deeply involved first in the Arusha process and then the genocide. Only Belgium had asked for a strong UNAMIR mandate, but after the murder of the ten Belgian peacekeepers protecting the Prime Minister in early April, Belgium pulled out of the peacekeeping mission.
The UN and its member states appeared largely detached from the realities on the ground. In the midst of the crisis, Dallaire was instructed to focus UNAMIR on only evacuating foreign nationals from Rwanda, and the change in orders led Belgian peacekeepers to abandon a technical school filled with two thousand 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 to 260 men.
Following the withdrawal of the Belgian forces, Lt-Gen 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 administrative head of UNAMIR, former Cameroonian foreign minister Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, has been criticized for downplaying the significance of Dallaire's reports and for holding close ties to the Hutu militant elite.
The US government was reluctant to involve itself in the "local conflict" in Rwanda, and refused to even refer to it as "Genocide," a decision which President Bill Clinton later came to regret in a Frontline television interview in which he states that he believes if he had sent 5000 U.S. peacekeepers, more than 500,000 lives could have been saved.
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. France, which felt the U.S. and UK would use the massacres to try to expand their influence in that Francophone part of Africa, also worked to prevent a foreign intervention.
Finally, on May 17, 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. This was the original number of troops requested by General Dallaire before the killing escalated. The UN also requested 50 armored personnel carriers from the U.S., but for the transport alone they were charged 6.5 million U.S. dollars by the U.S. Army. Deployment of these forces was delayed due to arguments over their cost and other factors.
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 "Operation Turquoise|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 against the RPF. The former Rwandan ambassador to France Jacques Bihozagara has testified, "Operation Turquoise was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators, because the genocide continued even within the Turquoise zone." France has always denied any role in the killing.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) battalion of Tutsi rebels 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. The resulting civil war raged concurrently with the genocide for two months. The nature of the genocide was not immediately apparent to foreign observers, and was initially explained as a violent phase of the civil war. Mark Doyle, the correspondent for the BBC News in Kigali, tried to explain the complex situation in late April 1994 thusly:
Look you have to understand that there are two wars going on here. There’s a shooting war and a genocide war. The two are connected, but also distinct. In the shooting war, there are two conventional armies at each other, and in the genocide war, one of those armies, the government side with help from civilians, is involved in mass killings.
The victory of the RPF rebels and overthrow of the Hutu regime ended the genocide in July 1994, 100 days after it started.
Approximately two million Hutus, participants in the genocide, and the bystanders, with anticipation of Tutsi retaliation, fled from Rwanda, to Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and for the most part Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)). Thousands of them died in epidemics of diseases common to the squalor of refugee camps, such as cholera and dysentery.
After the victory of the RPF, the size of UNAMIR (henceforth called UNAMIR 2) was increased to its full strength, remaining in Rwanda until March 8, 1996.
In October 1996, an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in eastern Zaire marked the beginning of the First Congo War, and led to a return of more than 600,000 to Rwanda during the last two weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed at the end of December 1996 by the return of 500,000 more from Tanzania after they were ejected by the Tanzanian government. Various successor organizations to the Hutu militants operated in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for the next decade.
With the return of the refugees, the government began the long-awaited genocide trials, which had an uncertain start at the end of 1996 and inched forward in 1997. In 2001, the government began implementing a participatory justice system, known as Gacaca, in order to address the enormous backlog of cases. Meanwhile, the UN set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, currently based in Arusha, Tanzania. The UN 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 arose between Rwanda and the UN over the use of the death penalty, though these were largely resolved once Rwanda abolished its use in 2007. However, domestic tensions continued over support for the death penalty, and the interest in conducting the trials at home.
In March 1998, on a visit to Rwanda, U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke to the crowd assembled on the tarmac at Kigali Airport: "We come here today partly in recognition of the fact that we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred" in Rwanda. Four years after the genocide, Clinton issued what today is known as the "Clinton apology," in which he acknowledged his failure to efficiently deal with the situation in Rwanda, but never formally apologized for any non-action by the U.S./international community. Commenting on Clinton's "grudging apology," Muravchik says that in saying that the "international community must bear its share of responsibility" he "did not bring himself to acknowledge that the 'international community' in this instance was first and foremost himself."
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. In March 2000, after removing Pasteur Bizimungu, Paul Kagame became President of Rwanda. On August 25, 2003, Kagame won the first national elections since the RPF took power in 1994. A series of massive population displacements, a nagging Hutu extremist insurgency, and Rwandan involvement in the First and Second Congo Wars in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts.
Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire became the most well-known eyewitness to the genocide after co-writing the book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda describing his experiences with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The UN was already withdrawing peace-keeping forces from Somalia and doing little in Bosnia to prevent genocide there. In Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda the international community attributed conflict to ancient animosities and appeared to adopt the strategy of waiting for the strongest side, if there was one, to win. Public opinion in the USA and was not prepared to tolerate casualties in a war people did not understand in places about which they knew very little. Cynics also point out that these contexts were not rich in resources such as oil or even especially significant strategically. Reluctance to even concede that what was happening was genocide meant that the obligation to intervene under the 1948 convention could conveniently be ignored. The Rwandan Genocide placed the international community on trial; it was found guilty of indifference and of inability to act effectively. One Security Council member has even been accused of aiding and abetting the perpetrators. As Dallaire suggests in his book's title, it was "Humanity" that failed in Rwanda. This was the haunting question asked by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel when he said that the question to ask about the holocaust was not "where was God?" but "where was man in all this, and Culture, how did it reach this nadir?" Schabas says that he is "marked and indeed haunted by the failure of the international community to intervene in order to prevent the Rwandan genocide." Intervention to prevent the Holocaust during World War II may have been impossible until the war had been won, by which time it had already happened. Intervention during the 100 days of the Rwandan holocaust was wholly possible but humanity chose not to act.
The context of the 1994 Rwandan genocide continues to be a matter of historical debate. Suspicions about United Nations and French policies in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994 and allegations that France supported the Hutus led to the creation of a French Parliamentary Commission on Rwanda, which published its report on December 15, 1998. In particular, François-Xavier Verschave, former president of the French NGO Survie, which accused the French army of protecting the Hutus during the genocide, was instrumental in establishing this Parliamentary commission. To counter those allegations, there emerged a "double genocides" theory, accusing the Tutsis of engaging in a "counter-genocide" against the Hutus. This theory is promulgated in Noires fureurs, blancs menteurs (Black Furies, White Liars) (2005), the controversial book by French investigative journalist Pierre Péan. Jean-Pierre Chrétien, a French historian whom Péan describes as an active member of the "pro-Tutsi lobby," criticizes Péan's "amazing revisionist passion" ("étonnante passion révisioniste").
After its military victory in July 1994, the Rwandese Patriotic Front organized a coalition government similar to that established by President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1992. Called "The Broad Based Government of National Unity," its fundamental law is based on a combination of the constitution, the Arusha Accords, and political declarations by the parties. The MRND party was outlawed.
Political organizing was banned until 2003. The first post-war presidential and legislative elections were held in August and September 2003, respectively.
The biggest problems facing the government are reintegration of more than two million refugees returning from as long ago as 1959; the end of the insurgency and counter-insurgency among ex-military and Interahamwe militia and the Rwandan Patriotic Army, which is concentrated in the north and south west; and the shift away from crisis to medium- and long-term development planning. The prison population will continue to be an urgent problem for the foreseeable future, having swelled to more than 100,000 in the three years after the war. Trying this many suspects of genocide will drain Rwanda's financial resources sorely.
The current government prohibits any form of discrimination by ethnicity, race or religion. The government has also passed laws prohibiting emphasis on Hutu or Tutsi identity in most types of political activity.
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