https://www.history.com/topics/africa/rwandan-genocideThis month of April 2023 marks the 29th anniversary of the catastrophic Rwandan Genocide of 1994 during which an estimated 800,000-1m Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in three months and sixteen days or 7th April to 23rd July 1994.
The Genocide also displaced millions and forced them into refugee camps and exile in Tanzania, Congo DRC, Uganda and so. The troubled country was then populated by only seven million people, out of which over 1m were slaughtered during and after the Genocide.
Over 200,000 Rwandans also died of various terminal diseases and sicknesses following the Genocide-with another large number estimated at 100,000 or more killed a few years after in attacks and counter-attacks by rival fighting parties.
A total of over 2.5m citizens were displaced in the Genocide including 1.5m displaced during the 116 days of the Genocide-with over 500,000 in Goma (Congo DRC) and 270,000 in Burundi. Rwandan academic scholars who survived were also forced to flee the country to foreign lands where they became “urban refugees”.
The genocidal Government of the day was headed by General Juvenal Habyarimana who was assassinated in a plane crash alongside his Burundian counterpart-Cyprien Ntaryamira on 6th April 1994 leading to the eruption of the Genocide the late night of the same day.
The surviving top Government officials alongside their wives and children and looted Government properties including cash, computers, automobiles, files and so on ended up in cross-border refugee camps in Goma in the then Zaire (Congo DRC). Other ‘unlucky’ top Government officials were trapped and massacred including the respected moderate Hutu Prime Minister, Madame Agathe Uwilingiyamana, and her husband; Lando Ndasingwa, a Tutsi cabinet minister in the transitional government who was executed alongside his Canadian wife, their two children, and mother; Joseph Kavaruganda, the then president of the Supreme Court and ten peacekeepers from Belgium. Prominent human rights leaders felled by the genocidal knives and bullets included Charles Shamukiga, Fidele Kanyabugoyi, Ignace Ruhatana, Patrick Gahizi, Rev. Father Chrysologue Mahame, and Abbe Augustin Ntagara. They were butchered by the rampaging presidential guards. Others like Mathieu Uwizeye (activist judge) and Charles Mbabaje (secretary of a human rights outfit: LIPREDHOR) were executed in the Rwandan cities of Kibundo and Byumba by the advancing rebels of the Rwandese Patriotic Front.
20,000 Massacred Few Hours Into The Genocide In Kigali: Some Catholic nuns and priests also paid dearly with their lives in the hands of “the Interahamwe” militias and the presidential guards. In turn, scores of defenseless civilians, especially women, and children were massacred through the collaboration of some priests and nuns when they sought refuge in churches and missionary school compounds.
Barriers were mounted on all roads by the presidential guards and the “Interahamwe” militias so as to prevent the fleeing civilians from getting through. An estimated 20,000 people were executed in Kigali a few hours into the Genocide. It was a killing by anybody against anybody in sight. Women also killed men as well as fellow women.
On the other hand, the Rwandese Patriotic Front rebels fiercely matched Kigali from their main base in Uganda. Some of their colleagues, stationed in Kigali following the failed peace accords, which included a cease-fire, got entrapped and endangered. The genocidal killings went down following the successful capture of Kigali by the RPF rebels on July 4, 1994.
This forced mass exodus of the Hutus and their failed central government into the then Zairian city of Goma as well as Burundi and Tanzania. The genocide lasted from 6th April to 21st-23rd July 1994; forcing then leader of the RPF rebels, Brig General Paul Kagame to inform an international news agency that “the killings have stopped not because of changing of heart, but because there are few people left to be killed”.
Formation Of Bizimungu Govt. On July 21, 1994: A new central government was formed in Kigali on July 21, 1994, with the appointment of Mr. Pasteur Bizimugu (a moderate Hutu) as president and Mr. Faustin Twagiramungu (a Tutsi) as prime minister. The leader of the Rwandese Patriotic Front rebel, Brig General Paul Kagame became the vice president and commander-in-chief of the new armed forces. He took over as the president in the year 2000 and remains so to date.
There were also reported cases of post-genocide killings and deaths in Rwanda. Cases of genocidal revenge massacres were rife, leading to the killing of hundreds of Hutu extremists. There were also reported cases of post-genocide killings and deaths in Rwanda. Cases of genocidal revenge massacres were rife, leading to the killing of hundreds of Hutu extremists.
The new RPF government and its sympathizers killed scores of suspected Hutus. The ousted Hutu central government, which escaped with bank funds, computers, vehicles, and other luxury items to Tanzania, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and Burundi later regrouped and rearmed. Some of their victims were Tutsi communities living in the DRC, called “Banyamulenges”. They were systematically targeted and killed in large numbers.
The ousted Hutu government forces and their “Interahamwe” militias also launched a series of cross-border attacks into Rwanda and killed scores of innocent civilians. In neighboring Burundi, similar massacres were also the order of the day.
The then central government of President Sylvestre Ntibantinganya was helpless. The rift between the Tutsi-dominated Army of Burundi and the Hutu-backed rebel groups turned the country into killing fields leading to the massacre of thousands of innocent nationals.
The massacres reared their ugly heads after the gruesome assassination of President Cyprien Ntaryamira on 6th April 1994. The butchery came down after a bloodless coup in 1996 led by the former military head of State, Major Jean Pierre Buyoya.
Build-Up To Rwandan Genocide Of 1994
The Rwandan Genocide was bred or hatched over a long period of time with decades of butcheries caused by Tutsi and Hutu-led coups and counter-coups, election rigging crises, political segregation and exclusion as well as chronic domination of economic resources and political offices by the Tutsis.
The undue favoring by the Belgian colonial masters of the Tutsi population and their elevation to plum public office positions in the public affairs of Burundi and Rwanda including key military posts also forced the majority Hutu populations in the two countries into group violence or violent self-defense and emancipation-leading against the Tutsi populations in the two countries. This is more so when the Hutus constitute 84% of the two countries-with Tutsis having 14% and Twi 1%. Consequently, the Tutsis became stigmatized and labeled as “cockroaches” that must be cleansed or wiped out (“nettover”).
The Tutsis retaliated through their stronghold of the military by launching several military coups and putsch killings targeting Hutu political and military leaders and officers. There were counter-retaliations and massacres organized by Hutu political leaders and extremists-forcing the Tutsi population to flee en masse into Uganda and other neighboring countries where they settled as refugees.
Such anti-Tutsi massacres and reprisals took place in 1966, 1972 and 1978, and 1980s; forcing the fled Tutsis in cross-border refugee camps and their rival Hutu refugees to form or join rebel groups in countries like former Zaire (Congo DRC) and Uganda.
In Uganda, the generation of current President Paul Kagame of Rwanda belonged to Rwandan Tutsi citizens who fled their country to escape the 1972 and 1978 Hutu-organized massacres and settled as refugees in Uganda from where they were conscripted into the National Resistance Movement (NRM) of the then Ugandan Rebel leader, but now President Yoweri Museveni and assisted him to overthrow the then Ugandan military Government of Generals Tito and Basilo Okello in 1986. The Tutsis were so visible in Museveni’s NRM that his earliest Chief of Army was a Tutsi refugee and senior rebel/military colleague of current President Paul Kagame who rose to become a Brig Gen in the Ugandan Army under Museveni. Together they formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that ended the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 through their “famous match to Kigali” that started from the Ugandan-Rwandan borders in early April 1994.
The Role Of Cultural Violence In the Rwandan Genocide
Through the promotion of cultural violence against the Tutsi population, anti-Tutsi butcheries erupted months before the plane crash of 6th April 1994 and the butcheries were aided by the Hutu-controlled Rwandan Government, of General Juvenal Habyarimana.
Fresh plots were also uncovered showing that plans had been successfully hatched by the regime to massacre the Tutsis, moderate Hutus, and rights activists in large numbers. To actualize this, mass recruitment of the unemployed Hutu youths was ordered and it was supervised by two Hutu extremist political movements called “the National Republican Movement for Democracy (MRND)” and “the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR)”.
Those recruited were later named “the Interahamwe militias” and militarily trained and indoctrinated by the presidential guards. Their tribal killing operation code was “operation leftover (cleanup”); targeted at Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Those targeted for the massacre were labeled “enemies” and “traitors” that do not deserve to live or be spared alive.
The Tutsis were also labeled “Cockroaches warranting treatment of insecticides” including butchering, clubbing, macheting, lynching, shooting, poisoning, strangulation, and burning. As if the above were not enough, the murderous messages of ethnic hatred and cleansing against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus were widely spread across the country using the State-run radio station called “Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines”.
The indoctrinated Hutu extremists were firmly directed not to spare any “enemy” or “traitor”, including the newborn. Externally, there was massive support for the cleansing policies and operations of the then Hutu-controlled central government in Kigali including arms supplies and technical support, and among the countries accused of lending support genocidal support Egypt and South Africa. France was also accused of providing expertise for the killer presidential guards and the “Interahamwe” militias.
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