rwandan genocide facts

The Rwandan genocide sprung from a complex web of factors spanning hundreds of years. This compendium of 15 Rwandan genocide facts illustrates the most important things to understand about the genocide.

Top Rwanda Genocide Facts

  1. The Dates
    The Rwandan genocide began on April 6, 1994, and ended approximately 100 days later on July 16.
  2. The Death Toll
    According to U.N. estimates, between 800,000 and one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. As many as 10,000 people were killed per day. Seventy percent of the Tutsi population was wiped out, and over 10 percent of the total Rwandan population.
  3. Major Players – The Hutus
    The Hutus are the majority ethnic group in Rwanda. At the time of the genocide, they made up 85 percent of the population. Historically, the Hutus were farmers who occupied a lower social status than their Tutsi neighbors. They took control of Rwanda after the nation gained its independence in 1962.
  4. Major Players – The Tutsis
    The Tutsis traditionally owned cattle, which allowed them to achieve more wealth and social power than the Hutus. Compared to the Hutus, the Tutsis were taller and thinner. Though the minority, the Tutsis benefited from their elite status under Belgian rule.
  5. The President
    On April 6, 1994, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed in a plane crash. While it has never been determined exactly who was to blame, both Hutu extremists and the rebel Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were accused of the crime. Less than half an hour after the crash, the Hutu presidential guard began shooting Tutsi civilians.
  6. The Prime Minister
    On April 7, the day after the fatal crash, Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana was assassinated, along with ten Belgian peacekeepers assigned to protect her. Other moderate Hutu leaders were murdered as well.
  7. The Role of Radio
    Hutu leaders used radio broadcasts to incite genocide, broadcast misinformation and identify Tutsi targets and locations. Ten percent of the violence can be attributed to radio broadcasts.
  8. Rape
    Hundreds of thousands of women were raped, including nearly every survivor over the age of 12. For the first time, rape was listed as an official act of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
  9. AIDS
    Hutus released AIDS patients from hospitals in order to form rape squads. Though men were quickly killed by the attackers, rapists intentionally infected their female victims and told them that they would die slowly and painfully from AIDS. As a result, more than 67 percent of rape victims are now HIV-positive.
  10. Communities
    Leaders handed out kill lists to militias familiar with local communities, so they had no trouble locating their victims. Neighbors killed neighbors, and some Hutu husbands even murdered their Tutsi wives out of fear for their own lives. Religious institutes provided no respite; priests and nuns were convicted of killing those who sought sanctuary in churches. Militias targeted those taking refuge in churches as well, sometimes killing thousands with grenades, fire, machetes and firearms.
  11. The Rest of the World
    The rest of the world watched the Rwandan genocide in horror, but did very little to stop it. U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali lamented that “in Rwanda nobody was interested.” Bill Clinton, U.S. President at the time of the massacres, admitted that the genocide was “one of history’s great failures” and “one of my personal failures.”
  12. The End
    The killings ended when the Tutsi RPF took control of Rwanda on July 16, 1994.
  13. The Aftermath
    After the RPF took control, two million Hutus fled into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. There, Hutu militias caused years of conflict and were responsible for up to five million deaths.
  14. The Trials
    In December 1996, proceedings began in Rwanda’s first genocide trial under the ICTR. Additionally, local courts tried almost two million people for their roles. Lower sentences were given when defendants showed remorse and sought reconciliation.
  15. New Language
    Because they had no vocabulary to adequately convey the magnitude of post-traumatic stress and grief endured by survivors, Rwandans coined a new term: “ihahamuke.”

These 15 Rwandan genocide facts shed light on the atrocities committed in the African nation in 1994. Hopefully, they serve as a reminder of the international community’s duty to prevent similar horrors in the future.

– Anna Parker

Photo: Flickr

Post-Genocide Reconstruction in RwandaAfter the three-month-long genocide in 1994 that claimed the lives of approximately 800,000 predominantly Tutsi and moderate-Hutu citizens, Rwanda has been working to rebuild, reconstruct and promote lasting peace and stability.

Poverty in the post-genocide years is still a prevalent issue, even after 23 years of reconstruction in Rwanda. More than 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, and the nation failed to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving the 1990 poverty rate by 2015. However, the current state of poverty must be considered in the context of the conflict and upheaval Rwanda has experienced and the progress it has made since its brutal setback.

Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 23.8 percent reduction in poverty. Rwanda has also become one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Africa. It had four straight years, between 2011 and 2014, of GDP growth at eight percent. These are all positive signs for Rwanda’s future.

Since the genocide and the preceding civil war, under the leadership of former-RPF leader Paul Kagame, the government, local NGOs and the international community have worked toward reconstruction in Rwanda.

On the federal level, economic reform has led to rapid and sustainable economic growth which has lifted many people out of poverty. Privatization and liberalization have been the core tenets of this economic growth. More specifically, it has been achieved by increasing opportunities for employment outside of the agricultural sector, increasing agricultural productivity and increasing entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

Women have been central to reconstruction in Rwanda. Women make up 57 percent of the adult working population and they produce nearly 70 percent of the country’s overall agricultural output. Women have also organized themselves into socio-professional associations, development associations and cooperative groups, thereby taking control of and exercising agency over the reconstruction process.

Outside of the economy, gender equality has still been a focus, especially in politics. Women make up 64 percent of the Rwandan parliament, which is three times the worldwide average of 22 percent.

Interpersonal social reconstruction has also been a necessity, since the conflict exploited ethnic divides and hatreds. On the federal level, Rwanda adopted a policy of de-ethnicization wherein they “erased” ethnicity, stating that there were no longer Hutu and Tutsis, only unified Rwandans. On the local level, communities implemented Gacaca community courts to relieve the judicial burden of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda and foster accountability and reconciliation.

Local organizations and initiatives have had a crucial role to play in reform and reconstruction. These groups have worked on both the community empowerment and economic empowerment levels, as well as on many other fronts.

The Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe’s Action Peace Campaign works to empower women to realize the need to live in peace, give them the tools to live together peacefully and organize “dialogue clubs” to address underlying tensions. Another initiative, TO THE MARKET, is an online sales platform where genocide survivors can sell homemade goods globally. This harnesses local entrepreneurship and economically empowers the artisans.

Regarding the government, Kagame’s leadership has been strong and authoritative. While this has allowed him to mandate many economic reforms, it has also squashed political dissidence and limited freedom of the press.

The needs of women continually need to be met. The Rwandan Genocide was the first time in which mass rape was recognized as a tool of genocide. The prevalence of rape during the conflict means that today there are thousands of survivors who need unique support from the government and from society.

Finally, Rwanda is still very dependent on foreign aid. Approximately 35 percent of its budget comes from foreign aid. The next step in reconstruction should be to increase independence and make sustainable economic advancements so Rwanda can support itself with less support from the international community.

– Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr