In 1994, the swiftest genocide in history took place in Rwanda. More than 800,000 people were killed in just 90 days. The brutality was and remains difficult to fathom. The violence stemmed from long-standing tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis, Rwanda’s two most dominant ethnic groups at the time.
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 the neighboring nations of Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Burundi. Then, in 1962, when Belgium pulled out of Rwanda, they left the Hutus in control of the government. With the Hutus in power, the minority Tutsis, formerly perceived as oppressors, 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.
On the evening of April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. No one knows to this day who actually ordered the assassination, but it was the perfect excuse. The Hutu publicly blamed the RPF, and a killing spree began. Overnight, roadblocks were put up and thousands were armed with machetes, guns and clubs. By three months later, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been slaughtered. On July 4, 1994, the RPF captured Kigali, shifting the power dynamics and ending the genocide. About two million Hutus fled the country to Congo fearing reprisals. The nation began its long, long road of mourning, healing, rebuilding, and reconciliation.
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 of that experience. 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, and community-led justice and reconciliation initiatives have helped rebuild devastated relationships between neighbors. The educational system is strengthening. The economy is rapidly growing. There is reconciliation in Rwanda and hope for a strong and united future.
We strongly encourage you to utilize the resources below to expand you knowledge and understanding of Rwanda and how Africa New Life approaches international development.
- Queen of Katwe (Biography, Drama, 2017)
- Poverty, Inc. (Documentary, 2016)
- Rising from Ashes (Documentary, 2012)
- Kinyarwanda (Drama, 2011)
- Earth Made of Glass (Documentary, 2010)
- As We Forgive (Documentary, 2009)
- Beyond the Gates (Drama, 2007)
- Sometimes in April (Drama, 2005)
- Frontline: The Ghosts of Rwanda (Documentary, 2005)
- History Channel: Do Scars Ever Fade? (Documentary, 2004)
- Hotel Rwanda (Drama, 2004)
- For a different perspective on this Hollywood film, please read Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story and Why it Matters Today by Edouard Kayihura
ABOUT THE GENOCIDE
- Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza
- Lead By Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide by Immaculee Llibagiza
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
- Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld
- Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire & Brent Beardsley
- Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World by Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond
- A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer
- Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda by Rosamond Halsey Carr and Ann Howard Halsey
- A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope and a Restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin
- Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team by Tim Lewis
- When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
- Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David A. Livermore
- Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot And Cold Climate Cultures by Sarah A. Lanier
- African Friends and Money Matters by David E. Maranz
- Giving Wisely: Killing with Kindness or Empowering Lasting Transformation by Jonathan Martin
- Overview of When Helping Hurts concepts (6 part series; ~15 minutes each)
- Living Culture Clip, Rwanda
- 2 Part History of Rwanda in the 20th century Part 1;Part 2
- We Need to Learn from Christians from Other Cultures (Blog, June 2017)
- Why you should beware a laughing or yawning hippo (Jan. 2016)
Do not be afraid, just be knowledgeable in the game parks!
- Gorillas and Coffee Bars? The Transformation of Rwanda (Sept. 2015)
- An African orphan on what he loves (and doesn’t) about short-term mission teams (May 2014)
- An Op-ed profile of Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame (Sept. 2013)
- Portraits of Reconciliation (April 2014)
- High-level overview of the Genocide and its consequences (April 2014)
- Rwanda Vision 2050 (PDF)
- Constitutional Amendment for Presidential Terms (January 2016)
- BBC President Paul Kagame Profile (January 2016)