The Rwandan genocide was the mass slaughter of the Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government.
The Rwandan genocide was not a tribal conflict. They share the same language; the same religion; the same culture. They had lived together for centuries before the arrival of the European colonists. The minority Tutsis were mostly aristocratic cattle herders, and the majority Hutu were mostly farmers and peasants. The differences between the communities were emphasized by the Germans and Belgians as an instrument of colonial rule. The Belgians changed these terms from separating based on socio-economic classes to signify different socio-ethnic groups.
After Rwanda gained its independence in 1962, the distinctions driven by the Europeans remained. The Hutu majority continued to use these labels politically to win elections. Before 1994, 14% of the population was Tutsi, 85% were Hutu, and 1% was Twa. The only way to differentiate between these groups was to check national identity cards.
On April 6, 1994, less than a year after a ceasefire was established between the Hutu government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the Tutsi-backed paramilitary lead by Paul Kagame, an airplane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana and the Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down. The assassination of Habyarimana ended the peace talks.
The genocide began the following day. Soldiers and police executed Tutsi and moderate Hutu political leaders who were a threat to the Hutu radical. Checkpoints were created to check ID cards in order to systematically kill the Tutsi. Citizens were pressured to kill their Tutsi neighbors. Rape was also used as a tool to divide and dehumanize. UN Special
Rapporteur Rene Degni-Segui stated, “Rape was the rule and its absence was the exception.” During the conflict, Hutu extremists released hundreds of HIV/AIDS positive patients from the hospitals to form ‘rape squads’ During the 100-day period from April 7 to mid-June in 1994, between 500,000-1,000,000 Rwandans were killed. This constituted roughly 70% of the entire Tutsi population. 30% of the Twa people were also killed.
The genocide ended when the RPF, took control of the country. Nearly 2,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Hutus, became refugees as a result of the RPF’s efforts.
Skulls of victims of the Ntarama massacre during the 1994 genocide are lined in the Genocide Memorial Site church of Ntarama, in Nyamata 27 February 2004. In the Bugesera province, where the small town of Nyamata is located, the 1994 Rwandan genocide was particularly brutal. Among the 59.000 Tutsis who lived in the province, 50.000 were killed during the genocide, and among them, 10.000 were slain in the church. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)/PRI
April 6: The plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, shown here in 1982, is shot down over Kigali. Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira, both members of the Hutu ethnic group, are killed along with everyone else onboard. Getty Images/PRI
April 7: The killings begin. First political opponents are executed, then security forces and militia systematically murder members of the Tutsi minority, as well as moderate Hutus. This photo, taken on April 11, shows a looter ransacking a house as its occupants lie dead. Not pictured, the murdered occupants of the house. Getty Images/PRI
A Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel soldier stares at a portrait of slain president Juvenal Habyarimana in Kigali. Corinne Dufka: Reuters
11 April 1994- French paratroopers help Europeans at Kigali airport during an evacuation operation Pascal Guyot: AFP
12 April 1994- A French soldier accompanies a convoy of Europeans to the airport in Kigali. Reuters
April 19: Thousands of Rwandans flee the killing. More than 30,000, including this man and his son, cross the border into Burundi in less than two weeks. Getty Images: PRI
30 April 2004: Tutsi children play at a refugee camp. Pascal Guyot: AFP
April 30- More than 8,000 Tutsis take shelter at the Niashishi refugee camp in the south of Rwanda, where French soldiers guard them. Getty Images:PRI
France and Belgium deploy soldiers to evacuate their nationals. They do not have orders to protect Rwandan civilians. Getty Images:PRI
3 May 1994- Refugees wait for relief food from the Red Cross near the border between Rwanda and Tanzania. Reuters
5 May 1994- Displaced Rwandans collect water from a polluted lake near a refugee camp in Benako, Tanzania. Gerard Julien: AFP
8 May 1994- Makeshift shelters are seen at a refugee camp in Benako, Tanzania, after torrential rain. Gerard Julien: AFP
11 May 1994- A Canadian Military Police officer plays with refugee children at the Kigali sports stadium where they were living with around 20,000 Rwandans who fled their homes. Gerard Julien: AFP
12 May 1994- Tutsi children who were mutilated with machetes rest at the Red Cross hospital in Kigali. Gerard Julien: AFP
20 May 1994- An amputee walks past three Tutsi refugees huddled together to protect themselves against the cold and damp in a camp in southern Rwanda. Corinne Dufka: Reuters
20 May 1994- Fishermen pile up corpses for burial at Kasensero village in Uganda. The bodies were carried by the Akagera river from Rwanda into Lake Victoria. Reuters
23 May 1994- Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels load mortars and other ammunition onto a truck after taking the Kanombe barracks from government troops. Corinne Dufka: Reuters
26 May 1994- Rwanda Patriotic Front rebels inspect the wreckage of the plane in which President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when it crashed on 6 April, sparking the murder of hundreds of thousands of people. Corinne Dufka: Reuters
28 May 1994- Rwandan orphans hide in a house near their orphanage after it was hit by shelling. Corinne Dufka: Reuters
28 May 1994- A displaced Tutsi baby cries as she and her mother wait for food at a refugee camp in Kabgayi. AFP
28 May 1994- Displaced Tutsis wait for food at Kabgayi refugee camp, south of the capital. Alexander Joe: AFP
5 June 2004- An exhausted Rwandan mother lies next to her two crying children at Runango refugee camp about 50km south of the capital. Abdelhak Senna: AFP
6 June 1994- A Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front fighter lights a cigarette in Nyanza in the Gitarama district of central Rwanda. Abdelhak Senna: AFP
12 June 1994- A young Rwandan government soldier holds his machine gun on the Mushubuti front line during the battle against Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels. Alexander Joe: AFP
12 June 1994- A Rwandan government soldier takes aim in a banana field on the Mushubuti frontline as Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels make gains, Alexander Joe: AFP
13 June 1994- Three girls who were saved from Hutu militias by Rwandan rebels stand in a school which is now safely in rebel-held territory. Reuters
June 14: Rebels gain ground in Kigali. When this picture was taken, two days later, the capital was strewn with bodies. One woman, outside the frame, lays dead in the gutter. Getty Images/PRI
June 22: The UN Security Council approves a proposal by France to send troops to establish a “safe zone” for refugees in southwest Rwanda. Soldiers from France and several African countries enter the country the next day. “Operation Turquoise,” which was controversial as it accused to be a failed attempt to prop up the genocidal Hutu regime and that its mandate undermined the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda. Getty Images/PRI
22 June 1994- Rwandan youngsters carry water at Benako refugee camp in Tanzania. Reuters
22 June 1994- An elderly Rwandan refugee looks through a barbed wire fence at a UN mission in Benako. Reuters
23 June 1994- A little Hutu boy waits for his food rations, along with thousands of others living in the sprawling refugee camp in Benako. Corinne Dufka: Reuters
27 June 1994- A French soldier shakes hands with Hutu children in the village of Murutu, 60 km from the border with Zaire. Pascal Guyot:AFP
27 June 1994: French soldiers pass Hutu troops from the Rwandan government forces near Gisenye, about 10km from the border with Zaire. The French military was later accused of ferrying extremist Hutu militiamen to a mountain hideout in Rwanda to slaughter thousands of ethnic Tutsis. Pascal Guyot/AFP
7 July 1994: A Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel examines a nail-spiked club found near a militia checkpoint which was abandoned after the rebels captured Kigali. Such weapons were used by the militia to slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and opposition Hutus. Corinne Dufka/Reuters
10 July 1994- A French paratrooper holds a Tutsi child in the western Rwanda village of Rwimpiri. Pascal Guyot:AFP
15 July 1994- A Zairean soldier with a bandana covering his face searches Rwandan refugees for weapons at the border crossing. Corinne Duka: Reuters
July 17: At least 100 people are trampled in the rush to escape across the border. By now, President Clinton has described the genocide as the “worst humanitarian crisis in a generation.” Dozens of the deceased not pictured. Getty Images/PRI
17 July 1994- A Zairean soldier steals from a Rwandan civilian before he crosses into the country, fleeing in front of advancing RPF forces Corinne. Dufka: Reuters