The Rwandan Genocide
Rwanda. 1994. 100 days. This was all it took for a band of Hutu extremists to commit the Rwandan Genocide, killing just under a million civilians. The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has prompted yearly remarks around the world. The United Nations sponsors these, discussing the horrific implications of the event. Survivors have come forth to tell their stories as they work to make impacts to prevent genocides in the future.

What Was The Rwandan Genocide?

Two neighboring castes lead Rwanda; the Tutsis and the Hutus. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi was a power struggle between these dividing castes. Although the Hutus largely outnumbered the Tutsis, with “about 85% of Rwandans,” the Tutsi had been in power for a long time. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and civilians fled to neighboring countries. Rwanda remained under the Hutu dictatorship for many years following.

Long thereafter, a group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They stormed Rwanda in 1990 and fought until 1993 when both parties agreed upon a peace deal.

However, the peace agreement broke on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, a known Hutu, was shot down. Hutu extremists blamed the RPF for the killing. Soon thereafter started the mass genocide that resulted in the killing of over 800,000 people. Government troops backed up the Hutus, many of whom forced civilians and youths to fight and to exercise the slaughters. The RPF stormed the capital, Kigali, on July 4, 1994, to gain back power.

Help from The World Food Programme

The Rwandan genocide forced many civilians into starvation, often unable to provide for themselves or their families. The World Food Programme provided emergency food assistance to those in need, targeting the “fundamental role food plays for vulnerable communities fleeing from conflict.” One Rwandan that the WFP helped is Liberee Kayumba. A survivor of the genocide, she was only 12 when she lost both of her parents and brother, experiencing starvation following the conflict. Now working as a monitoring officer for the Mahama Refugee Camp organization, she helps others suffering from food insecurity.

On the WFP’s Website, Liberee tells her story. She says that the memories from the genocide helped motivate her to want to help people in need. Liberee remembers how food availability was the main problem after the genocide for her and other survivors. Therefore, she has exact memories of the meals the WFP distributed, which she thinks saved her life.

The United Nations Conducts The International Day of Reflection

The U.N. has mandated an information and educational outreach programme to help survivors and others cope with the ramifications of the Rwandan Genocide and their resulting losses. This program emerged in 2005 with the main themes of preventing genocide and supporting survivors. Around the world, events such as “roundtable discussions, film screenings, exhibits and debates” occur yearly.

The slogan of 2020’s event was International Day of Reflection. It marked the 26th anniversary of the genocide, with a virtual observance for all to join in on. Multiple officials and survivors made sure to show up, including Jacqueline Murekatete. She is a lawyer, human rights activist and founder of the nonprofit organization Genocide Survivors Foundation. Murekatete lost her entire family in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when she was only 9 years old.

The U.N.’s yearly observance reminds us to reflect on past events and recount what we can do to promote resilience and growth among countries facing hardships. Those this horrific event impacted have the chance to mourn and reflect, looking toward the greater good as individuals strive to create a better future for all.

– Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

15 Facts About the Rwanda Genocide How 800,000 People Were Murdered in 100 Days
Rwanda is located in Africa and borders Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), Tanzania and Uganda. Approximately 800,000 people were killed within the 100 days of the Rwanda genocide; the following facts about the Rwanda genocide explain the genocide’s precursors, methodology and consequences.

15 Facts on How 800,000 People Were Killed Within 100 Days

  1. Tensions between the Tutsi minority and Hutu majority were amplified when civil war broke out in Rwanda in 1900. Rwandan outcasts created the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and attacked Rwanda from their base in Uganda.
  2. The RPF consisted primarily of Tutsis who blamed the government for ignoring Tutsi refugees. All Tutsis were seen as RPF accomplices, and Hutus who belonged to opposition parties were seen as traitors.
  3. Although a peace agreement was reached between the opposing forces in 1992, political debate ensued in attempt to reconcile the Tutsis and Hutus. In 1994, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his place was shot down outside of the capital, Kigali.
  4. Hutu extremists believed the RPF to be responsible for the president’s murder and launched a genocide against them, whereas the RPF believed Hutus shot down the plane as an excuse for the genocide.
  5. President Habyarimana’s death sparked a violent campaign against Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians. Hutu rebels overwhelmed Kigali, eliminated all of Rwanda’s moderate leadership, and killed Tutsis and anyone suspected of having ties to a Tutsi.
  6. Government radio stations asked Rwandans to kill their neighbors and provided names, addresses and license plates. The radio was used to disclose locations of Tutsis and justify the genocide. Broadcasters used dehumanizing language to anger listeners and incite action.
  7. Once Hutu extremists encountered resistance from the RPF, they launched an extermination campaign to murder all Tutsis, thus eliminating their opposition.
  8. As many as 800,000 people were murdered by the Hutus from April to June 1994.
  9. Machetes were often used to kill Tutsis, as many Rwandans kept them around the house.
  10. Systematic rape was used in addition to the brutal mass killings. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped and killed during the Rwanda genocide; thousands of women were kept as sex slaves.
  11. At the end of 100 days, the RPF had made advances on the battlefield and in negotiations led by Tanzania. The RPF controlled most of the country by early July.
  12. The RPF victory created approximately 2 million more refugees, with over 100,000 Hutus fleeing in fear of reprisal killings. The aftermath of the Rwanda genocide intensified what was already a full-blown humanitarian crisis.
  13. The Rwanda genocide resulted in two decades of unrest in the DR Congo, where over 5 million people have died. Rwanda’s government, controlled by the RPF, has invaded the DR Congo twice because Hutu militias are believed to operate there.
  14. RPF’s leader and Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, has overseen rapid economic growth in Rwanda and tried to turn the country into a technological hub. Critics say Kagame refuses to tolerate dissent, which resulted in the trial of nearly 2 million people for roles in the genocide.
  15. It is illegal to discuss ethnicity in Rwanda. The government says such a regulation is in place to prevent further bloodshed, but some believe the law will only cause tensions to build and eventually boil over.

Future Prevention

These facts about the Rwanda genocide elaborate on the genocide’s background and future implications in order to educate the public and prevent other tragedies. 

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr