The background to the Rwanda genocide of 1994 is detailed here. This page examines the genocide itself and how today, many years later, the country of Rwanda still carries scars from that woeful period in its history. The genocide was triggered when ruling Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down by what some believed to be a Tutsi conspiracy, others a Hutu militant missile fired by rebels. This event, set against a background of generational conflict between the Hutu and Tutsis, started a genocide of Tutsi men, women and children by Hutu led forces. It is estimated that eight hundred thousand people were killed over the subsequent one hundred days, a total of nearly 20% of the then entire population of Rwanda. The world looked on without intervening, dismissing the genocide as a local difficulty between warring factions.
However, the genocide in Rwanda was not a spontaneous response to the killing of its ruler. It had been planned well in advance and was informed by a general Hutu belief that if the Tutsi were 'cleansed' from Rwanda, all of the country's problems would be resolved. The Rwanda militia of 30,000 was poised to carry out the massacre, but even worse, Hutu families were urged, under pain of death, to kill their Tutsi friends and neighbours, many of who had inter-married. Horrifically, Hutu fathers butchered their children if borne to Tutsi mothers to cleanse the race. The genocide ended in July 1994 after Tutsi rebels under the banner of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) overthrew the Hutu regime, forcing millions of Hutu to flee to refugee camps primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania where many died of disease. It is estimated that apart from a few million, nearly the entire population of Rwanda was displaced during this period. The new government proposed that henceforth all Tutsi and Hutu should consider themselves Rwandans and it installed a Hutu as president and, whilst the conflict continued to rage unabated elsewhere, this signalled an opportunity for an eventual peace that is still intact today.
Whilst many urged action as the massacres unfolded such as Kofi Annan, then Undersecretary-General of the United Nations, who stated, "If the pictures of tens of thousands of human bodies being gnawed on by dogs do not wake us out of our apathy, I do not know what will", others such as then French President Francois Mitterrand allegedly stated after the event, "In such countries, genocide is not too important." Whilst former President Bill Clinton reiterated his apology of 1998 on a visit to Kigali on 23rd July 2005 when he expressed regret for his "personal failure" to intervene in the genocide. Today, nearly two decades after these events, genocide suspects still live in various countries across Africa and the wider world however the Rwandan government continues to pursue those suspected of genocide crimes with regular applications for extraditions. However pursuing those deemed responsible cannot heal the wounds of the genocide with a recent UNICEF study finding that 96% of those interviewed in Rwanda had witnessed the massacres and 80% of all children had lost at least one family member.
Rwanda Genocide: Volunteer in Rwanda
Rwanda Genocide: Rwanda History
Rwanda Genocide: Child Sponsor Rwanda
Rwanda Genocide: Rwanda Country Profile
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