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Running head: 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

1994 Genocide in Rwanda

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1994 Genocide in Rwanda

In 1994 in Rwanda, a country in east central Africa, between 500,000 and 1 million people, mostly of the Tutsi ethnic group, were slain after a coup by extremists of the Hutu ethnic group. Since 1991 thousands of people, predominantly Bosnian Muslims, have become victims of genocide in wars in the states of the former Yugoslavia. Although every mass killing involves unique circumstances, certain underlying conditions are common to most genocides. The offending nation, or perpetrator, is usually a nondemocratic country that views the targeted group as a barrier or threat to maintaining power, fulfilling an ideology, or achieving some other goal. The perpetrators exclude the victim from their universe of obligation—that is, they believe that they do not have to account for or protect the victims, who are seen as inferiors, subhumans, or strangers. Most genocides occur during a crisis, such as a war, state breakdown, or revolution that is blamed on the victims. In addition, the governments of other countries that might have interfered or deterred the genocide may support the perpetrator directly or indirectly by their lack of action.

The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass killing of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutu sympathizers in Rwanda and was the largest atrocity during the Rwandan Civil War. This genocide was mostly carried out by two extremist Hutu militia groups, the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, during about 100 days from April 6 through mid-July, 1994. At least 500,000 Tutsis and thousands of moderate Hutus died in the genocide. Some estimates put the death toll between 800,000 and 1,000,000. In the wake of the Rwandan Genocide, the international community, and the United Nations in particular, drew severe criticism for its inaction. Despite international news coverage of the violence as it unfolded, most countries, including France, Belgium, and the United States, declined to prevent or stop the massacres. Canada continued to lead the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). Despite specific warnings and requests from UNAMIR's commanding officers in Rwanda, before and during the genocide, the UN Security Council refused to send additional support, declined UNAMIR's request for authorization to intervene, and even scaled back UNAMIR's forces and authority. Fearing reprisals, hundreds of thousands of Hutu and other refugees fled into eastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). People who had actively participated in the genocide hid among the refugees, fueling the First and Second Congo Wars. Rivalry between Hutu and Tutsi tribal factions is also a major factor in the Burundi Civil War.

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In the fifteenth century, one chiefdom managed to incorporate several of its neighbors, establishing the Kingdom of Rwanda, which ruled over most of what is now considered Rwanda. Although some ethnic Hutus were among the nobility and significant intermingling took place, the Hutu made up 82–85% of the population and were mostly poor peasants. In general, the kings, known as Mwamis, were Tutsi.
Despite efforts by Rwanda’s new government, the United Nations (UN), and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Rwanda’s recovery from genocide has been slow and far from steady. At a December 1997 press conference, United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stressed that the United States and Rwanda “must account for the past in order to forge a more just future.” One of the 20th century's worst atrocities—the brutal slaughter of approximately 800,000 people in the East African nation of Rwanda in 1994—still demands an accounting. Three years after the genocide ended, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), created by the United Nations (UN), has yet to bring a war criminal to justice. In contrast, the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established in 1993 to try war crimes committed during the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has proceeded relatively smoothly. The ICTY reached its first conviction in May 1997. The ICTR's lack of progress has led many Rwandans to believe that the outside world is more concerned about “ethnic cleansing” in Europe than about mass atrocities in east central Africa. On April 6, 1994, Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down by unknown assailants as his plane approached the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Habyarimana's death triggered a chain of events in which neighbor turned on neighbor and friend upon friend. Murders occurred within families as ethnic Hutu killed their ethnic Tutsi relatives. Many Hutu priests refused asylum to Tutsi fugitives, and some Hutu schoolteachers actually murdered their Tutsi students. Although the violence appeared spontaneous, it was in fact planned. Many reports in Western news media inaccurately described what was happening as a tribal conflict. The true causes lay elsewhere.

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The killings in Rwanda shattered the post-World War II illusion that the world would no longer stand idly by while genocide was openly occurring. Unlike the genocide of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia that took the lives of nearly two million people in the 1970s while Cambodia was rigidly closed to the outside world, the atrocities in Rwanda were recorded on nightly television reports. The 1948 International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was shamelessly violated. Several countries, including the United States, carefully refrained from referring to what went on as a “genocide.” The 1948 convention would have obliged them to take action if they had. The UN also failed to respond, unable to overcome the conflicting concerns of its members. The UN had a force of about 1500 peacekeepers in Rwanda at the time the massacres began, stationed there as part of the 1993 Arusha agreement. These troops did not attempt to halt the genocide because UN members were concerned about becoming enmeshed in the conflict. In fact on April 21, 1994, just as some of the most violent massacres were taking place, the UN Security Council voted to reduce the number of UN peacekeepers in Rwanda. France was in the worst position of all. The French government had provided military support to the Hutu-led government throughout its war with the RPF. France believed that the Tutsi exiles—some of whom had learned English during their years in Uganda—were bent on destroying French influence in Rwanda with the support of the United Kingdom and the United States. This bizarre view had very little to do with reality. The majority of the exiles spoke little or no English, and they certainly did not take orders from the United Kingdom or the United States. Nevertheless, this belief led French officials to maintain contacts with the genocidal regime and tolerate the worst acts of violence perpetrated by their former clients.

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Because of the chaotic nature of the genocide, the total number of people killed has never been systematically assessed, but most experts believe the total was around 800,000 people. This includes about 750,000 Tutsis and approximately 50,000 politically moderate Hutus who did not support the genocide. Many of these killings were carried out by club- and machete-wielding mobs, and their victims often died horribly. Only about 130,000 Tutsis survived the massacres. In addition to the organized slaughter, there were also thousands of rapes and beatings, and untold psychological damage was done to those who witnessed but escaped the killings. Over 100,000 houses were torn down. Businesses were looted, and other property destroyed. Many of the country's most important citizens were killed or forced to flee, including its most experienced government workers, judges, lawyers, physicians, and many other professionals. These losses continue to haunt Rwanda today in the form of a poor economy, an overwhelmingly backlogged judicial system, and an inexperienced government. The killings also triggered a new round of fighting between the government and the RPF, which sought to stop the slaughter by ousting the Hutu-led government. As the RPF advanced, its forces killed an estimated 50,000 Hutus considered responsible for the massacres. The Hutu-led government attempted to use these killings to convince the Hutu population that the RPF, which came to power in July 1994, was planning a counter-genocide and that all Hutus should flee the country.

The ousted Hutu government was partially successful. By August 1994 more than two million Hutus (about 30 percent of Rwanda's Hutu population) had fled to Tanzania and what was then Zaire (now renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Many of those responsible for planning and executing the genocide accompanied the refugees, hiding among the mass of innocents. Under the influence of these extremists, the UN-supported refugee camps became hotbeds of subversion and terrorism aimed at the new RPF-led government.

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Approximately two million Hutu refugees, most of whom participated in the genocide and feared Tutsi retribution, fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC]). Thousands of them died in epidemics of cholera and dysentery that swept the refugee camps. After the victory of the RPF, the size of UNAMIR (henceforth called UNAMIR 2) was increased to its full strength, remaining in Rwanda until March 8, 1996. In October 1996, an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in eastern Zaire, marked the beginning of the First Congo War, and led to a return of more than 600,000 to Rwanda during the last two weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed at the end of December 1996 by the return of 500,000 more from Tanzania after they were ejected by the Tanzanian government. Various successor organizations to the Hutu militants operated in the eastern DRC for the next decade. Wanted poster for the International Criminal Tribunal for RwandaWith the return of the refugees, the government began the long-awaited genocide trials, which had an uncertain start at the end of 1996 and inched forward in 1997. In 2001, the government began implementing a participatory justice system, known as Gacaca, in order to address the enormous backlog of cases. Meanwhile, the UN set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, currently based in Arusha, Tanzania. The UN Tribunal has jurisdiction over high level members of the government and armed forces, while Rwanda is responsible for prosecuting lower level leaders and local people. Tensions arose between Rwanda and the UN over the use of the death penalty, though these were largely resolved once Rwanda abolished its use in 2007. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms—including Rwanda's first ever local elections held in March 1999—the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output and to foster reconciliation. In March 2000, after removing Pasteur Bizimungu, Paul Kagame became President of Rwanda. On August 25, 2003, Kagame won the first national elections since the RPF took power in 1994. A series of massive population displacements, a nagging Hutu extremist insurgency, and Rwandan involvement in the First and Second Congo Wars in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts.

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At first the RPF takeover appeared to improve political conditions in Rwanda. The new government was balanced between RPF representatives and Hutus who had opposed Habyarimana's ethnic dictatorship. The new government seemed poised to begin the arduous task of reconstruction and reconciliation. But the power-sharing arrangement did not last. From bases in the teeming refugee camps of eastern Zaire, the ousted Hutu army was purchasing weapons with money taken from the national treasury and conducting cross-border raids. Despite Rwanda's calls for the camps to be shut down, international attention was focused more on caring for the refugees than sorting out the guilty from among their ranks. The few attempts that were made to shut down the camps met with resistance from the refugees, who had been told by the extremists that they would face retribution in Rwanda. Meanwhile, as the UN-sponsored war crimes tribunal was struggling to get off the ground, many of the genocide's masterminds were openly living abroad. Exiled government officials denied that the genocide had even taken place, insisting instead that their victims had died in battle. These circumstances led to a radicalization of the Rwandan government. The military began to demand an increased role in the political process, and RPF hardliners moved to consolidate their control over the government. Government reshuffles in August 1995 and March 1997 resulted in the removal from power or demotion of many Hutu politicians, especially those with independent political support. These politicians were replaced with Hutus who owed their prominence to the RPF. Even Tutsis tended to be chosen more on the basis of their support for the RPF than any other quality. As a result, the government grew increasingly authoritarian and militarized. This trend was reinforced by the sudden crisis that developed in late 1996 in what was then Zaire. Most of the Hutu refugee camps in Zaire were located in the two eastern provinces of Sud-Kivu and Nord-Kivu, just across the border from Rwanda. The presence of so many anti-Tutsi elements in eastern Zaire intensified existing tensions between the Zairian government of Mobutu Sese Seko and Zaire's ethnic Tutsi population. In the fall of 1996, the Banyamulenge (a Kinyarwanda-speaking group of Zairian Tutsis) rebelled against Zaire's efforts to force them out of the country. Rwanda began providing military support to the rebels. While assisting the Banyamulenge, the Rwandans also moved to close down the refugee camps. Amid the chaos in Zaire, the Tanzanian government forced Hutu refugees who had fled to Tanzania in 1994 to return home. By December 1996 several hundred thousand refugees had crossed back into Rwanda. The remainder, including many of those responsible for the genocide, fled into the Zairian jungle. They were driven westward by the advancing rebels, who by then were comprised of several movements in addition to the Banyamulenge and were known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (AFDL). Many of the refugees died during their trek across Zaire, and the UN has found evidence that some were killed by the AFDL. Under the command of veteran revolutionary Laurent Désiré Kabila, the AFDL overthrew Mobutu in May 1997.

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Rwanda's economy remains badly damaged, with little hope of a quick recovery. There are several reasons for this, including the lack of roads, bridges, and telephone lines. Education is also suffering due to a shortage of schools, educational materials, and teachers, many of whom died in the genocide. Foreign countries and international agencies have pledged funds to aid Rwanda's recovery, but much of this aid has failed to materialize. Much of the aid money that is distributed disappears into the pockets of corrupt officials. The country remains split along an ethnic divide, with most of the Tutsis living in towns and most of the Hutus dependent on subsistence agriculture. Because they distrust the Tutsi-led government, many Hutus are reluctant to support government economic plans. Demand for land is great, but as a result of widespread deforestation—due to the need for fuel and new land—precious topsoil is being lost to erosion.


Des Forges, Alison (1999). Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda. Human Rights Watch. ISBN ISBN 1-56432-171-1. Retrieved on 2007-01-12. 

When Does a Settler Become a Native? Reflections of the Colonial Roots of Citizenship in Equatorial and South Africa"PDF by Mahmood Mamdani, University of Cape Town, 13 May 1998, pp. 5-6

"Rethinking East African Integration: From Economic to Political and from State to Civil Society"PDF (185 KiB) by Hannington Ochwada, Africa Development, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, 2004, pp. 53–7. P. 57

Timeline RwandaPDF, Amnesty International. Accessed February 23, 2007

Doyle, Mark (May/June 2006). "Rewriting Rwanda". Foreign Policy (154). Retrieved on 2007-04-09. 

"The Hutu Revolution" section in Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch, 1999

Linda Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, Verso, 2004, ISBN 1859845886, p. 49

Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda 4-5 (15 December 1999). Retrieved on 2007-02-24.

"Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda." Human Rights Watch. Report (Updated 1 April 2004)

Qtd. by Mark Doyle. "Ex-Rwandan PM reveals genocide planning." BBC News. On-line posting. 26 March 2004.

Roméo Dallaire. "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda". London: Arrow Books, 2004. 242-244. ISBN 0-09-947893-5

Faustin Twagiramungu from the opposition party Democratic Republican Movement was supposed to become Prime Minister after Agathe Uwilingiyimana assassination. However, on April 9, 1994, Jean Kambanda was sworn in. Faustin Twagiramungu became Prime Minister on July 19, 1994, only after the Rwandese Patriotic Front captured Kigali.

Qtd. in The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (London: Hurst, 1995), by Gérard Prunier; rpt. in "Rwanda & Burundi: The Conflict." Contemporary Tragedy. On-line posting. The Holocaust: A Tragic Legacy.

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