The Overall Context

The Rwandan genocide in 1994 resulted in the death of nearly one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in only a hundred days. A team of Swiss journalists present in Rwanda during these events created Radio Agatashya, with the following objective: to provide help to local populations by broadcasting independent information in five languages.

1 min 26Approximate reading time


In twenty-six months of uninterrupted broadcasting (from August 1994 to October 1996), four million potential listeners, including one million refugees and displaced persons, were able to listen to Radio Agatashya in broad regions of Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi.

The success of this initial project gave birth to the Fondation Hirondelle, whose aim is to supply useful, impartial and dispassionate information to populations which have been deprived of such information as a result of conflicts or natural disasters.

In 1994, the Security Council of the United Nations created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Its role was to pursue, initiate legal proceedings and judge people who had allegedly violated humanitarian international law in Rwanda and in neighbouring countries.

As soon as the ICTR became active, Radio Agatashya broadened its activities by covering trials conducted by this tribunal, the head office of which is located in Arusha in Tanzania. Thus the foundation stone of the IDTA News Agency was laid.

Fondation Hirondelle considers that this Tribunal, owing to its exceptional nature and its symbolic meaning, is designed to play a preventive and dissuasive role by identifying those crimes which are punishable according to international humanitarian law. Moreover, the Foundation considers that the Tribunal fulfils an essential educational function, by allowing the Rwandan population to understand what happened and by recording and preserving the memory of this tragedy.

In 2001, the Rwandan government requested the intervention of a semi-traditional institution, called "gagaca", in order to accelerate the trials of some 120,000 people detained in Rwandan jails since the genocide. This traditional system is inspired by pre-colonial experience in Rwandan society and is based on citizen participation and local justice. Gagacas involve 250,000 judges operating in some 10,000 courts throughout the entire country. The challenge with gagaca trials is indeed crucial: the chances of a national reconciliation are at stake.

In this context, Hirondelle News Agency's objective is too to follow and report on the on-going progress of classic justice proceedings in Rwanda as well as of gagaca trials.