In 1994, the swiftest genocide in history took place in Rwanda. More than 800,000 people were killed in just 90 days. The brutality is unfathomable to us today. Hutu and Tutsi, Rwanda’s two most dominant ethnic groups at the time of the genocide, warred against each other. During Belgian colonization in the early 1900s, the minority Tutsis were given favor and considered superior to the majority Hutus. As a result, Tutsis benefited from better jobs and educational opportunities.
Hutu resentment built up. In 1959, more than 20,000 Tutsis were killed by angry Hutus. Thousands of Tutsis fled Rwanda and settled in neighboring countries: Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Burundi. In 1962, when Belgium pulled out of Rwanda, the Hutus took over the government. With the Hutus in power, the minority Tutsis were blamed for every problem and crisis in the country. Political tension increased.
Tutsi refugees with support from some moderate Hutus in Uganda formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) with an aim to overthrow the then-current President, Juvenal Habyarimana, a moderate Hutu, and return to their home country.
In an effort to improve his waning popularity, President Habyarimana exploited the RPF’s threat. As a result, Tutsis still living in Rwanda were accused of being RPF collaborators and were mistreated. In April 1994, President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. No one knows who actually ordered the assassination.
Regardless, the assassination was then blamed on the RPF and the killing spree began. Overnight, roadblocks were put up and thousands were armed with machetes, guns and clubs. Three months later, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been slaughtered. In July 1994, the RPF captured Kigali. With this shift in power, a ceasefire was declared and the genocide was over. About two million Hutus fled the country to Congo.
Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide, which is believed to be the cause of the AIDS epidemic in Rwanda. Due to the genocide and the ensuing HIV/AIDS epidemic, more than 600,000 orphans lived in Rwanda by 2001. Additionally, there was virtually no psychological care for anyone in Rwanda after the genocide.
There is camaraderie in similar experience, regardless of the devastating nature. The people of Rwanda bound together in the aftermath of the genocide. Today they are filled with joy, filled with love. Rwanda’s people are reconciling, forgiving, growing, and overcoming. Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda is rebuilding itself. Many people involved in the genocide were tried and put to death or imprisoned. The educational system is strengthening. The economy is rapidly growing. There is reconciliation in Rwanda.
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch – BUY ONLINE
- Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza – BUY ONLINE
- Led By Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide by Immaculee Ilibagiza – BUY ONLINE
- Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld – BUY ONLINE
- A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer – BUY ONLINE
- Sometimes in April – BUY ONLINE
- Hotel Rwanda – BUY ONLINE
- As We Forgive – BUY ONLINE
- Ghosts of Rwanda: PBS Frontline Special – BUY ONLINE