Rwanda’s 1994 genocide

1 min 29Approximate reading time

At least 800,000 mainly Tutsi people were beaten, hacked or shot to death in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, a 100-day killing spree carried out mostly by Hutu forces.

Here is a recap:

– President killed –

On April 6, 1994 Rwanda’s president, Juvenal Habyarimana, is killed when his aircraft is shot down over Kigali.

From the Hutu majority, he is returning from peace talks in Tanzania with Tutsi rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

It is not clear who carried out the attack but the killing unleashes a killing spree by Hutu forces and militia.

– Genocide starts –

On April 7 soldiers of the elite presidential guard kill the moderate Hutu prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, as well as 10 Belgian paratroopers guarding her.

Massacres start. Authorities distribute lists of people to be killed, mostly Tutsis but also opposition Hutus; troops and militia set up roadblocks and go house-to-house looking for targets.

The Mille Collines radio station exhorts Hutus to kill Tutsi “cockroaches”, to rape and loot.

Men, women and children are killed in the streets, in their homes and even in churches and schools where they seek refuge.

– UN scales down effort –

From April 9 French and Belgian paratroopers arrive to evacuate their nationals.

A UN peacekeeping operation, unable to stop the massacres, is on April 21 reduced from around 2,300 to 270 men.

A week later Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says a “genocide” is underway.

On June 22 France deploys Operation Turquoise, a UN-mandated force tasked with halting the killing. It has little effect.

On June 30 the UN Human Rights Commission special rapporteur says the slaughter legally qualifies as “genocide” and appears to have been planned.

– Killing stops –

On July 4 the mainly Tutsi RPF soldiers finally seize the capital Kigali and the killing ends. The United Nations will later estimate that 800,000 people lost their lives.

Hundreds of thousands of Hutus, fearing reprisals, flee to neighbouring Zaire, today’s Democratic Republic of Congo.

– Justice –

In November 1994 the UN sets up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in neighbouring Tanzania to try the main perpetrators.

In 1998 it becomes the first international court to hand down a conviction for genocide, finding a former town mayor guilty of inciting the massacre of more than 2,000 Tutsis.

Local community courts also find thousands of people guilty and convictions are also made internationally. Belgium, the former colonial powers, holds five trials linked to the genocide.

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