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The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwandamarker's Tutsis and Hutu political moderates by Hutus under the Hutu Power ideology. Over the course of approximately 100 days, from the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana on 6 April through mid-July, at least 500,000 people were killed. Estimates of the death toll have ranged between 500,000 and 1,000,000, or as much as 20% of the total population of the country.

In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group, composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from Uganda. The Rwandan Civil War, fought between the Hutu regime, with support from Francophone nations of Africa and France itself, and the RPF, with support from Uganda, vastly increased the ethnic tensions in the country and led to the rise of Hutu Power, an ideology that asserted that the Tutsi intended to enslave Hutus and thus must be resisted at all costs. Despite continuing ethnic strife, including the displacement of large numbers of Hutu in the north by the rebels and periodic localized ethnic cleansing of Tutsi to the south, pressure on the government of Juvénal Habyarimana resulted in a cease-fire in 1993 and the preliminary implementation of the Arusha Accords.

The assassination of Habyarimana in April 1994 was the proximate cause of the mass killings of Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus. They were carried out primarily by two Hutu militias associated with political parties: the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi. The genocide was directed by a Hutu power group known as the Akazu. The killing also marked the end of the peace agreement meant to end the war and the Tutsi RPF restarted their offensive, eventually defeating the army and seizing control of the country.


In 1957, the Hutu Emancipation Movement (Parmehutu) published the Hutu Manifesto (sometimes called "Bahutu Manifesto"), in which it alleged a monopoly of power held by the Tutsi minority. In the 1960s, these denunciations led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the Republic headed by Gregoire Kayibanda. This was a regime which persecuted the Tutsi, who in many cases were forced to flee. The persecution also went on under the regime of Juvénal Habyarimana who had seized power in 1973 and promised progress and reconciliation.

Civil war

The Tutsi refugee diaspora was by the late 1980s a coherent political and military organization. Large numbers of Tutsi refugees in Uganda had joined the victorious rebel National Resistance Movement during the Ugandan Bush War and made themselves a separate movement.In October 1990 the RPF invaded Rwanda to restore themselves within the nation. The journal Kangura, a Hutu counteraction towards the Tutsi journal Kanguka, active from 1990 to 1993, was instrumental in incitement of Hutu disdain for Tutsis, on the basis of their ethnicity, rather than their previous economic advantages. Hassan Ngeze, founder and editor of Kangura, published the widely read Hutu Ten Commandments, which called for the formal installment of Hutu Power ideology in schools and the establishment of an exclf the transitional government, was open to all parties, including the RPF. The extremist Hutu Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), nominally controlled by President Habyarimana, was strongly opposed to sharing power with the RPF, however, and refused to sign the accords. When at last it decided to agree to the terms, the accords were opposed by the RPF. UN Peacekeepers were deployed to patrol ceasefire and assist in demilitarization and demobilization. A March 1993 report found that 10,000 Tutsi had been detained and 2,000 murdered since RPF 1990 invasion. In August 1993, Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN forces, made a reconnaissance trip to evaluate the situation and requested 5,000 troops; he was given 2,500. He saw the situation as a standard peacekeeping mission.

Preparations for the genocide

The killing was well organized and by the time it had started, the Rwandan militia numbered around 30,000 — one militia member for every ten families — and was organized nationwide, with representatives in every neighborhood. Some militia members were able to acquire AK-47 assault rifles by completing requisition forms. Other weapons, such as grenades, required no paperwork and were widely distributed. Many members of the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi were armed only with machetes.

Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed, in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunalmarker, that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and that "one cabinet minister said she was personally in favor of getting rid of all Tutsi; without the Tutsi, she told ministers, all of Rwanda's problems would be over." In addition to Kambanda, the genocide's organizers included Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, a retired army officer, and many top ranking government officials and members of the army, such as General Augustin Bizimungu. On the local level, the genocide's planners included Burgomasters, or mayors, and members of the police.

Both Hutus and Tutsis were given ID cards which specified an ethnic group. These cards served as symbols in which the Interhamwe could check via the threat of force. Skin color was a general physical trait which was typically used in "ethnic" identification. The lighter colored Rwandans were typically Tutsi, the minority group, while the darker skinned Rwandans were typically Hutu, the majority group in Rwanda. In many cases, Tutsi men, women, and children were separated from the general population and sometimes forced to be Hutu slaves. As for the Tutsi women, they were often referred to as "gypsies" and frequently fell victim to sexual violence.

Government leaders communicated with figures among the population to form and arm militias called Interahamwe, "those who stand (fight, kill) together", and Impuzamugambi, "those who have the same (or a single) goal". These groups, particularly their youth wings, were responsible for much of the violence.

Media propaganda

According to recent commentators the news media played a crucial role in the genocide: local print and radio media fueled the killings, while the international media either ignored or seriously misconstrued events on the ground. The print media in Rwanda is believed to have started hate speech against Tutsis which was later continued by radio stations. According to commentators anti-Tutsi hate speech "became so systemic as to seem the norm." The state-owned newspaper Kangura had a central role, starting an anti-Tutsi and anti-RPF campaign in October 1990. In the ongoing International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandamarker, the individuals behind Kangura have been accused of producing leaflets in 1992 picturing a machete and asking "What shall we do to complete the social revolution of 1959?" - a reference to the Hutu revolt that overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and the subsequent politically orchestrated communal violence that resulted in thousands of mostly Tutsi casualties and forced roughly 300,000 Tutsis to flee to neighboring Burundi and Uganda. Kangura also published the infamous "10 Hutu Commandments," which regulated all dealings with Tutsis and how Hutus are to treat them, and generally communicated the message that the RPF had a devious grand strategy (one feature article was titled "Tutsi colonization plan").

Due to high rates of illiteracy at the time of the genocide, radio was an important way for the government to deliver messages to the public. Two radio stations key to inciting violence before and during the genocide were Radio Rwanda and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). In March 1992, Radio Rwanda was first used in directly promoting the killing of Tutsi in Bugesera, south of the national capital Kigali. Radio Rwanda repeatedly broadcast a communiqué warning that Hutu in Bugesera would be attacked by Tutsi, a message used by local officials to convince Hutu that they needed to protect themselves by attacking first. Led by soldiers, Hutu civilians and members of the Interahamwe subsequently attacked and killed hundreds of Tutsi. At the end of 1993, the RTLM's highly sensationalized reporting on the assassination of the Burundi president, a Hutu, was used to underline supposed Tutsi brutality. The RTLM falsely reported that the president had been tortured, including castration of the victim (in pre-colonial times, some Tutsi kings castrated defeated enemy rulers). From late October 1993, the RTLM repeatedly broadcast themes developed by the extremist written press, underlining the inherent differences between Hutu and Tutsi, the foreign origin of Tutsi, the disproportionate share of Tutsi wealth and power, and the horrors of past Tutsi rule. RTLM also repeatedly stressed the need to be alert to Tutsi plots and possible attacks and called upon Hutu to prepare to 'defend' themselves against the Tutsi. After April 6, 1994, authorities used RTLM and Radio Rwanda to spur and direct killings, specifically in areas where the killings initially were resisted. Both radio stations were used to incite and mobilize, then to give specific directions for carrying out the killings.

The RTLM had used terms such as inyenzi (cockroach in Kinyarwandan) and Tutsi interchangeably with others referring to RPF combatants and warned specifically that RPF combatants dressed in civilian clothes were mingling among displaced people fleeing combat zones. These broadcasts gave the impression that all Tutsi were necessarily supporters of the RPF force fighting against the government. Women were part of the anti-Tutsi propaganda prior the 1994 genocide, for example the "Ten Hutu Commandments" published in December 1990 by "Kangura" included four commandments which portrayed Tutsi women as tools of the Tutsi people, as sexual weapons that would be used by the Tutsi to weaken and ultimately destroy the Hutu men. Gender-based propaganda also include cartoons printed in newspapers depicting Tutsi women as sex objects. Examples of gender-based hate propaganda used to incite war rape include statements by perpetrators such as "You Tutsi women think that you are too good for us" and "Let us see what a Tutsi woman tastes like ".

There were 50,000 civilian deaths in Burundi in 1993.

United Nations

On January 11, 1994 Lieutenant General Dallaire (United Nations Force Commander in Rwanda) notified Military Advisor to the Secretary-General, Major-General Maurice Baril of four major weapons caches and plans by the Hutus for extermination of Tutsis. The telegram from Dallaire stated that an informant who was a top level Interahamwe militia trainer was in charge of demonstrations carried out a few days before. The goal of the demonstrations was to provoke an RPF battalion in Kigali into firing upon demonstrators and Belgian United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) troops into using force. Under such a scenario the Interhamwe would have an excuse to engage the Belgian troops and the RPF battalion. Several Belgians were to be killed, which would guarantee a withdrawal of the Belgian contingent. According to the informant, 1,700 Interhamwe militiamen were trained in Governmental Forces camps and he was ordered to register all the Kigali Tutsis. Dallaire made immediate plans for UNAMIR troops to seize the arms caches and advised UN Headquarters of his intentions, believing these actions lay within his mission's mandate. The following day headquarters stated in another cable that the outlined actions went beyond the mandate granted to UNAMIR under Security Council Resolution 872. Instead, President Habyarimana was to be informed of possible Arusha Accords violations and the discovered concerns and report back on measures taken. The January 11 telegram later played an important role in discussion about what information was available to the United Nations prior to the genocide. On February 21 extremists assassinated the Minister of Public Works, and UNAMIR failed to gain approval to investigate the murder.

On the April 6, 1994 the RTLM accused the Belgian peacekeepers of having shot down – or helping to shoot down – the president's plane. This broadcast has been linked to the killing of ten Belgian UN troops by soldiers of the Rwandan army.

The situation proved too "risky" for the United Nations to attempt to help. The RPF successfully brought the country under their sway, although their efforts towards a conclusion to the conflict were delayed after the UN-mandated French-led force, under Operation Turquoise, established and maintained a "safe zone" for Hutu refugees to flee to in the southwest. Eventually, after the UN Mandate of the French mission was at an end, millions of refugees left Rwanda, mainly headed to Zairemarker. The presence of Hutu refugees (see Great Lakes refugee crisis) on the border with Rwanda was the cause for the First and Second Congo Wars with clashes between these groups and the Rwandan government continuing.

The UN's mandate forbids intervening in the internal politics of any country unless the crime of genocide is being committed. France has been accused of aiding the Hutu regime to flee by creating what is known as Operation Turquoise. Canada, Ghanamarker, and the Netherlands provided consistent support for the UN mission under the command of Roméo Dallaire although it was left without an appropriate mandate for the capacity to intervene from the U.N. Security Council. Despite emphatic demands from UNAMIR's commanders in Rwanda before and throughout the genocide, its requests for authorization to end it were refused and its intervention-capacity was even reduced.


The Roman Catholic Missionary "White Fathers" came to Rwanda in the late 1880s and developed the "Hamitic" theory of race origins which taught that the Tutsi were a superior race. The Church itself has been considered to have played a significant role in fomenting racial divisions between Hutu and Tutsi. Some in its religious hierarchy have been brought to trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted. The Roman Catholic Church affirms that genocide took place but argues that those who took part in it did so without the permission of the Church.

Though religious factors were not prominent (the event was ethnically motivated) the Human Rights Watch reported that a number of religious authorities, particularly Roman Catholic, in Rwanda failed to condemn the genocide. Bishop Misago was accused of corruption and complicity in the genocide but was cleared of all charges in 2000. The majority of Rwandans, and of Tutsis in particular, are Catholic.

Catalyst and initial events

On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi, was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigalimarker. Both presidents died when the plane crashed. Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with both the RPF and Hutu extremists being blamed. But in spite of disagreements about the identities of its perpetrators, the attack on the plane is to many observers the catalyst for the genocide.

On April 6 and April 7 the staff of the Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF) and Colonel Theoneste Bagosora clashed verbally with the UNAMIR Force commander Lieutenant General Dallaire, who stressed the legal authority of the Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, to take control of the situation as outlined in the Arusha Accords. Bagosora disputed the authority, and Dallaire gave an escort of UNAMIR personnel to Mrs. Uwilingiyimana to protect her and to allow her to send a calming message on the radio the next morning. But by then, the presidential guard had occupied the radio station and Mrs. Uwilingiyimana had to cancel her speech. In the middle of the day, she was assassinated by the presidential guard. The ten Belgian UNAMIR soldiers sent to protect her were later found killed; Major Bernard Ntuyahaga was convicted of the murders in 2007. Other moderate officials who favored the Arusha Accords were quickly assassinated. Protected by UNAMIR, Faustin Twagiramungu escaped execution. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil, Dallaire recalled the events from April 7, the first day of the genocide:

I called the Force HQ and got through to Ghanaianmarker Brigadier General Henry Anyidoho.
He had horrifying news.
The UNAMIR-protected VIPs - Lando Ndasingwa [the head of the [[Liberal Party (Rwanda)|Parti libéral]]]'', [[Joseph Kavaruganda]] ''[president of the constitutional court], and many other moderates had been abducted by the Presidential Guard and had been killed, along with their families [...] UNAMIR had been able to rescue Prime Minister Faustin, who was now at the Force HQ.


Skulls in Murambi Technical School
Numerous elite Hutu politicians have been found guilty for the organization of the genocide. Military and Hutu militia groups systematically set out to murder all the Tutsis they could capture, irrespective of their age or sex, as well as the political moderates. The western nations evacuated their nationals from Kigali and abandoned their embassies in the initial stages of the violence. National radio, with the exacerbation of the situation, advised people to stay in their homes, and the Hutu power station RTLM broadcast vitriolic propaganda against Tutsis and Hutu moderates. Hundreds of roadblocks were put up by the militia around the country. Lieutenant-General Dallaire and UNAMIR were in Kigali, escorting Tutsis, and were unable to stop the Hutus from escalating their attacks. During this time, the Hutus also targeted Lieutenant-General Dallaire, and UNAMIR personnel through the RTLM. On April 8 Dallaire sent cable to NY indicating ethnicity was the driving force of killings. The cable detailed killings of politicians and peacekeepers (Chairman of Liberal party, Minister of Labor, Minister of Agriculture and dozens more). Dallaire informed the UN that campaign of violence is well organized, deliberate—conducted primarily by presidential guard.

On April 9, UN observers witnessed the massacre of children at a Polish church in Gikondo. The same day 1000 highly armed and trained European troops arrived to escort European civilian personnel out of country. The troops did not stay to assist UNAMIR. Media coverage picked up on the 9th as the Washington Post reported the execution of Rwandan employees of relief agencies in front of their horrified expatriate colleagues. On April 9-10, US Ambassador Rawson and 250 Americans were evacuated.

Skulls of genocide victims in museum
Killings quickly took place throughout most of the country. The first person to organize killings on a genocidal scale was the mayor of the northwestern town of Gisenyimarker, who on the evening of April 6 called a meeting to distribute arms and send out militias to kill Tutsis. Gisenyi was a center of anti-Tutsi sentiment, both as the homeland of the Akazu and as a refuge for thousands of people displaced by the rebel occupation of large areas in the south. While killing occurred in other towns immediately after Habyarimana's assassination, it took several days for them to become organized on a similar scale. The major exception to this pattern was in Butare Provincemarker. In Butare, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana was the only Tutsi prefect and the province was the only one dominated by an opposition party. Habyarimana opposed the genocide, resulting in the province becoming a haven of relative calm, until he was deposed in lieu of an extremist, Sylvain Ndikumana. Finding the population of Butare unenthusiastic about the killings, the government proceeded to fly in militia members from Kigali by helicopter, and the killing began immediately.

Most of the victims were killed in their villages or in towns, often by their neighbors and fellow villagers. Militia members typically murdered their victims by hacking them with machetes, although some army units used rifles. Victims were often found hiding in churches and school buildings, where Hutu gangs massacred them. Ordinary citizens were called on by local officials and government-sponsored radio to kill their neighbors, and those who refused to kill were often murdered themselves. "Either you took part in the massacres or you were massacred yourself." One such massacre occurred at Nyarubuye. On April 12, more than 1,500 Tutsis sought refuge in a Catholic church in Nyange, then in Kivumu commune. Local Interahamwe, acting in concert with the other local authorities, then used bulldozers to knock down the church building. People who tried to escape were hacked with machetes or shot. Local priest Athanase Seromba was later found guilty and sentenced to life in prison by the ICTR for his role in the demolition of his church and convicted of the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity. In another case, thousands sought refuge in Ecole Technique Officielle school in Kigali where Belgian UNAMIR soldiers were stationed. However, on April 11, Belgian soldiers withdrew from the school and members of the Rwandan armed forces and militia killed all the Tutsis who were hiding there.

There is no consensus on the number of dead between April 6 and mid-July. Unlike the genocides carried out by the Nazi Germany and by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodiamarker, authorities made no attempts to record deaths. The RPF government has stated that 1,071,000 were killed, 10% of whom were Hutu. Philip Gourevitch agrees with an estimate of one million, while the United Nations lists the toll as 800,000. Alex de Waal and Rakiya Omar of African Rights estimates the number as "around 750,000," while Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch states that it was "at least 500,000." James Smith of Aegis Trust notes, "What's important to remember is that there was a genocide. There was an attempt to eliminate Tutsis — men, women, and children — and to erase any memory of their existence."

Out of a population of 7.3 million people - 84% of whom where Hutu, 15% Tutsi and 1% Twa - the official figures published by the Rwandan government estimated the number of victims of the genocide to 1,174,000 in 100 days (10,000 murdered every day, 400 every hour, 7 every minute). Other sources put the death toll to 800,000, 20% of whom were Hutus. It is estimated that about 300,000 Tutsis survived the genocide. Thousands of widows, many of whom were subjected to rape, are now HIV-positive. There are about 400,000 orphans and nearly 85,000 of them have become heads of families.

Several individuals were active in attempting to halt the Rwandan genocide, or to shelter vulnerable Tutsis, as the genocide was being carried out. Among them there are Pierantonio Costa, Antonia Locatelli, Jacqueline Mukansonera, Paul Rusesabagina, Carl Wilkens, and André Sibomana.

War rape

In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandamarker made the landmark decisions that war rape in Rwanda was an element of the crime of genocide. The Trial Chamber held that "sexual assault formed an integral part of the process of destroying the Tutsi ethnic group and that the rape was systematic and had been perpetrated against Tutsi women only, manifesting the specific intent required for those acts to constitute genocide." Although no explicit written orders to rape or commit sexual violence have been found, evidence suggests that military leaders encouraged or ordered their men to rape Tutsi as well as condoned the acts taking place, without making efforts to stop them. Compared to other conflicts the sexual violence in Rwandamarker stands out in terms of the organized nature of the propaganda that contributed significantly to fueling sexual violence against Tutsi women, the very public nature of the rapes and the level of brutality towards the women.

In his 1996 report the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Rwanda, Rene Degni-Segui stated that "rape was the rule and its absence the exception." The report also stated that "rape was systematic and was used as a weapon" by the perpetrators of the massacres. This can be estimated from the number and nature of the victims as well as from the forms of rape. The Special Rapporteur estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 Rwandese women and girls had been raped. A 2000 report prepared by the Organization of African Unity’s International Panel of Eminent Personalities concluded that "we can be certain that almost all females who survived the genocide were direct victims of rape or other sexual violence, or were profoundly affected by it". The victims were mostly Tutsi women and girls, of all ages, while men were only seldom the victims of war rape. War rape during the genocide was also directed against Hutu women considered moderates, but also occurred regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation, with young or beautiful women being targeted based only on their gender. Sexual violence against men was much less common, but frequently included mutilation of the genitals, which were often displayed in public. The perpetrators of war rape during the Rwanda genocide were mainly members of the Hutu militia, the "Interahamwe". Rapes were also committed by military soldiers of the Rwandan Armed Forced (RAF), including the Presidential Guard, and civilians.

Sexual violence against women and girls during the Rwanda genocide included: rape, gang rape, sexual slavery (either collectively or individually through "forced marriages"), rape with objects such as sticks and weapons often leading to the victim’s death, sexual mutilation of, in particular, breasts, vaginas or buttocks, often during or following rape. Pregnant women were not spared from sexual violence and on many occasion victims were killed following rape. Many women were raped by men who knew they were HIV positive and it has been suggested that there were deliberate attempts to transmit the virus to Tutsi women and their families. War rape occurred across the country and was frequently perpetrated in plain view of others, at sites such as schools, churches, roadblock, government buildings or in the bush. Some women were kept as personal slaves for years after the genocide, forced to move to neighboring countries after the genocide along with their captors.

UNAMIR and the international community

A school chalkboard in Kigali.
Note the names "Dallaire", UNAMIR Force Commander, and "Marchal", UNAMIR Kigali sector commander.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was hampered from the outset by resistance from numerous UN Security Council members, who were reluctant to become involved, first in the Arusha process and then the genocide. Only Belgium had asked for a strong UNAMIR mandate, but after the murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers protecting the Prime Minister in early April, Belgium pulled out of the peacekeeping mission.

The UN and its member states appeared largely detached from the realities on the ground. In the midst of the crisis, Lt. General Roméo Dallaire was instructed to focus UNAMIR on only evacuating foreign nationals from Rwanda. The change in orders led Belgian peacekeepers to abandon a technical school filled with 2,000 refugees, while Hutu militants waited outside, drinking beer and chanting "Hutu Power." After the Belgians left, the militants entered the school and massacred those inside, including hundreds of children. Four days later the Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR to 260 men.

Following the withdrawal of the Belgian forces, Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Canadian, Ghanaianmarker, and Dutchmarker soldiers in urban areas and focused on providing areas of "safe control". His actions directly saved the lives of 20,000 Tutsis. The administrative head of UNAMIR, former Cameroonianmarker foreign minister Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, has been criticized for downplaying the significance of Dallaire's reports and for holding close ties to the Hutu militant elite.

The U.S. government was reluctant to involve itself in the "local conflict" in Rwanda and refused to label the killings as "genocide", a decision which then-president Bill Clinton later came to regret in a Frontline television interview. In the interview, five years after the genocide, Clinton stated that he believes if he had sent 5,000 U.S. peacekeepers, more than 500,000 lives could have been saved.

The new Rwandan government, led by interim President Théodore Sindikubwabo, worked to minimize international criticism. Rwanda at that time had a seat on the Security Council and its ambassador argued that the claims of genocide were exaggerated and that the government was doing all that it could to stop it.

The UN conceded that "acts of genocide may have been committed" on May 17, 1994. By that time, the Red Crossmarker estimated that 500,000 Rwandans had been killed. The UN agreed to send 5,500 troops, mostly from African countries, to Rwanda. This was the original number of troops requested by General Dallaire before the killing escalated. The UN also requested 50 armoured personnel carriers from the United States, but for the transport alone they were charged $6.5 million (U.S.) by the U.S. Army. Deployment of these forces was delayed due to arguments over their cost and other factors.

French role

A French soldier, part of the international force supporting the relief effort for Rwandan refugees, adjusts the concertina wire surrounding the airport.
In the analysis of U.K. Linda Melvern, documents recently released from the Paris archive of former president François Mitterrand show how the RPF invasion was considered as clear aggression by an Anglophone neighbour on a Francophone country. The documents are said to argue that the RPF was a part of an "Anglophone plot", involving the President of Uganda, to create an English-speaking "Tutsi-land" and increase Anglophone influence at the expense of French influence. In Melvern's analysis, the policy of France was to avoid a military victory by the RPF. The policy had been made by a secretive network of military officers, politicians, diplomats, businessmen, and senior intelligence operatives. At its centre was Mitterrand. French policy had been unaccountable to either parliament or the press.

On June 22, with no sign of UN deployment taking place, the Security Council authorized French forces to land in Goma, Zairemarker on a humanitarian mission. They deployed throughout southwest Rwanda in an area they called "Zone Turquoise," quelling the genocide and stopping the fighting there, but often arriving in areas only after genocidaires had expelled or killed Tutsi citizens. Operation Turquoise was charged with aiding the Hutu army against the RPF by Jacques Bihozagara, the then-Rwandan ambassador to France, who later testified, "Operation Turquoise was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators, because the genocide continued even within the Turquoise zone."

Following an investigation of the plane crash of 6 April 1994 that killed both the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundianmarker President Cyprien Ntaryamira and precipitated the genocide, and in which three French crews had died, the French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière indicted eight associates of Rwandan president Paul Kagame on November 17, 2006. President Kagame himself was not indicted, as he had immunity under French law as a head of state. Kagame denied the allegations, decrying them as politically motivated, and broke diplomatic relationships with France in November 2006. He then ordered the formation of a commission of his own Rwandan Justice Ministry's employees that was officially "charged with assembling proof of the involvement of France in the genocide". The political character of that investigation was in turn further averred when the commission issued its report solely to Kagame - symbolically on November 17, 2007, exactly one year after Bruguière's announcement - and the head of the Rwandan commission, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, stated that the commission would now "wait for President Kagame to declare whether the inquiry was valid." In July 2008, Kagame threatened to indict French nationals over the genocide if European courts did not withdraw arrest warrants issued against Rwandan officials, which by then included broader indictments against 40 Rwandan army officers by Spanish judge Fernando Andreu. Findings of the commission were released at Kagame's order on August 5, 2008 and accused the French government of knowing of preparations for the genocide and helping to train the ethnic Hutu militia members; named 33 senior French military and political officials of involvement in the genocide, including then-President Mitterrand and his then general secretary Hubert Védrine, then-Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, then-Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, and his chief aide at the time, Dominique de Villepin A statement accompanying the release claimed that "French soldiers themselves directly were involved in assassinations of Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis... French forces committed several rapes on Tutsi survivors", though the latter was not documented in the report. A BBC report commented that French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, denied French responsibility in connection with the genocide but said that political errors had been made. Another BBC report delved into the motivations for the Rwandan report and stated that
Chief among them has been an iron determination to keep the world's attention focused on the genocide, rather than on the role of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the force that took power in 1994, bringing President Paul Kagame to power. In recent years uncomfortable questions have been raised about the war crimes the RPF are alleged to have committed during and after 1994. While stressing there can be no equation between genocide and war crimes, Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch says RPF leaders do have a case to answer. "Their victims also deserve justice," she says.

The suspicions about United Nations and French policies in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994 and allegations that France supported the Hutus led to the creation of a French Parliamentary Commission on Rwanda, which published its report on December 15, 1998. In particular, François-Xavier Verschave, former president of the French NGO Survie, which accused the French army of protecting the Hutus during the genocide, was instrumental in establishing this Parliamentary commission. The commission released its final report on December 15, 1998. It documented ambiguities and confusion in both the French and UN responses. Regarding Operation Turquoise, it regretted that the intervention took place too late, though it noted that this was better than the non-response from the UN and the opposition by the U.S. and U.K. governments to such a response. The report documented mixed success at disarming the Rwandan Army and militias, but a definite and systematic attempt (though not fast enough as far as then-General Paul Kagame of the opposing RPF forces was concerned, in documentation of the latter's communications with the French forces). It did not find any evidence of French participation in the genocide, of collaboration with the militias, or of willful disengagement from endangered populations, to the contrary. It documented multiple French operations, all at least partly successful, to disable genocide-inciting radio broadcasts, tasks which the UN and the United States had rejected calls for assistance with. The report concluded that there had been errors of judgment pertaining to the Rwanda Armed Forces, but before the genocide only; further errors of judgment about the scale of the threat, at the onset of the genocide; over-reliance on the UNIMAR mission without awareness that it would be undercut by the United States and other parties; and ineffective diplomacy. Ultimately, it concluded that France had been the foreign power most involved in limiting the scale of the genocide once it got started, though it regretted that more had not been done.

American role

Prior to the war, the U.S. government had aligned itself with Tutsi interests, in turn raising Hutu concerns about potential U.S. support to the opposition. Paul Kagame, a Tutsi officer in exile in Uganda who had co-founded the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1986 and was in open conflict with the incumbent Rwandan government, was invited to receive military training at Fort Leavenworthmarker, Kansasmarker, home of the Command and General Staff College. In October 1990, while Kagame was at Fort Leavenworth, the RPF started an invasion of Rwanda. Only two days into the invasion, his close friend and RPF co-founder Fred Rwigema was killed, upon which the U.S. arranged the return of Kagame to Uganda from where he became the military commander of the RPF. An article in the Washington Post of August 16, 1997, authored by its Southern African bureau chief Lynne Duke, indicates that the connection continued as RPF elements received counterinsurgency and combat training from U.S. Special Forces.

In January 1994 NSC member Richard Clark developed formal US peacekeeping doctrine, Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25).

Unlike French and U.N. troops, there were no U.S. troops officially in Rwanda at the onset of the genocide. Nevertheless, the U.S. government and military made a number of decisions, some of commission and most of omission, that had the effect of facilitating and extending the genocide. A National Security Archive report points out five ways in which decisions made by the U.S. government contributed to the slow U.S. and worldwide response and to the continuation of the genocide:
#Contrary to later public statements, the U.S. lobbied the U.N. for a total withdrawal of U.N. (UNAMIR) forces in Rwanda in April 1994;
#Secretary of State Warren Christopher did not authorize officials to use the term "genocide" until May 21, and even then, U.S. officials waited another three weeks before using the term in public;
#Bureaucratic infighting slowed the U.S. response to the genocide in general;
#The U.S. refused to jam extremist radio broadcasts inciting the killing, citing costs and concern with international law;
#U.S. officials knew exactly who was leading the genocide, and actually spoke with those leaders to urge an end to the violence but did not follow up with concrete action.

Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) renewed invasion

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) battalion of Tutsi rebels stationed in Kigali under the Arusha Accords came under attack immediately after the shooting down of the president's plane. The battalion fought its way out of Kigali and joined up with RPF units in the north. The resulting civil war raged concurrently with the genocide for two months. The nature of the genocide was not immediately apparent to foreign observers, and was initially explained as a violent phase of the civil war. Mark Doyle, the correspondent for the BBC News in Kigali, tried to explain the complex situation in late April 1994 thus:
Look you have to understand that there are two wars going on here.
There's a shooting war and a genocide war.
The two are connected, but also distinct.
In the shooting war, there are two conventional armies at each other, and in the genocide war, one of those armies, the government side with help from civilians, is involved in mass killings.

The victory of the RPF rebels and overthrow of the Hutu regime ended the genocide in July 1994, 100 days after it started.


Approximately two million Hutus, participants in the genocide, and the bystanders, with anticipation of Tutsi retaliation, fled from Rwanda, to Burundimarker, Tanzania, Uganda, and for the most part Zairemarker. Thousands of them died in epidemics of diseases common to the squalor of refugee camps, such as cholera and dysentery. The United States staged the Operation Support Hope airlift from July to September 1994 to stabilize the situation in the 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 eastern DR Congo until May 22, 2009.

Political development

After its military victory in July 1994, the Rwandese Patriotic Front organized a coalition government similar to that established by President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1992. Called The Broad Based Government of National Unity, its fundamental law is based on a combination of the constitution, the Arusha accords, and political declarations by the parties. The MRND party was outlawed. Political organizing was banned until 2003. The first post-war presidential and legislative elections were held in August and September 2003 respectively.

The current government prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race or religion. The government has also passed laws prohibiting emphasis on Hutu or Tutsi identity in most types of political activity.

In March 1998, on a visit to Rwanda, U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke to the crowd assembled on the tarmac at Kigali Airportmarker: "We come here today partly in recognition of the fact that we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred" in Rwanda.Power, Samantha. "Bystanders to Genocide." Atlantic Monthly. Sept. 2001./>. Four years after the genocide, Clinton issued what is now known as the "Clinton apology," acknowledging his failure to efficiently deal with the situation in Rwanda, but not formally apologizing for inaction by the U.S. government or the international community.

Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms, 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.

Economic and social developments

The biggest problems facing the government are reintegration of the more than two million refugees, ending the insurgency among ex-soldiers and Interahamwe militia fighters and the Rwandan Patriotic Army in the north and southwest of the country, and the shift away from crisis to medium and long-term development planning. The prison population will continue to be an urgent problem for the foreseeable future, having swelled to more than 100,000 in the three years after the war. Trying this many suspects of genocide will tax Rwanda's resources sorely.

The long-term effects of war rape in Rwandamarker for the victims include social isolation (social stigma attached to rape meant some husbands left wives who had become victims of war rape, or that the victims were rendered unsuitable for marriage), unwanted pregnancies and babies (some women resorted to self-induced abortions), sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV/AIDS. The Special Rapporteur on Rwanda estimated that between 2,000 and 5,000 pregnancies resulted from war rape (between 250,000 and 500,000 Rwandese women and girls had been raped). Rwanda is a patriarchal society and children therefore take the ethnicity of the father, underlining that war rape occurred in the context of genocide.The main issue involving reintegration is the fact that the violence that had occurred often involved neighbors; people lived next to rapists, murderers and torturers. It was very difficult right after the genocide for Tutsis to trust Hutus, whether or not they had any involvement in the genocide.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

With 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 Rwandamarker, currently based in Arushamarker, 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 the punishment in 2007. However, domestic tensions continued over support for the death penalty, and the interest in conducting the trials at home. In ten years the Arusha tribunal only succeeded in sentencing 20 people. In 2003, in an attempt to redress this mismanagement, the UN appointed Hassan Bubacar Jallow chief prosecutor with exclusive jurisdiction over Rwanda. Faced with the local criminal system's inability to cope with a number of detainees awaiting trial in Rwandan jails reaching 90,000, in 2000 a series of popular tribunals called gacaca courts were setup. The convicted are invited to admit their guilt in exchange for significant reductions in their sentences.

On Thursday, December 18, 2008, Theoneste Bagosora was found guilty of crimes against humanity. He was charged by UN judge Erik Møse, and sentenced to life in prison. The court also found Bagosora responsible for the deaths of former Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgianmarker peacekeepers.

Media and popular culture

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire became the most well-known eyewitness to the genocide after co-writing the 2003 book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda describing his experiences with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another firsthand account of the Rwandan genocide is offered by Dr. James Orbinski in his book "An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century." The critically acclaimed and multiple Academy Award-nominated 2004 film Hotel Rwanda is based on the experiences of Paul Rusesabagina, a Kigalimarker hotelier at the Hôtel des Mille Collinesmarker who sheltered over a thousand refugees during the genocide. It is listed by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 most inspirational movies of all time.

In 2005, Alison Des Forges wrote that eleven years after the genocide, films for popular audiences on the subject greatly increased the "widespread realization of the horror that had taken the lives of more than half a million Tutsi". In 2007, Charlie Beckett, Director of POLIS, made the following observation: "How many people saw the movie Hotel Rwanda? [it is] ironically the way that most people now relate to Rwanda."

The song Rwanda by the punk-ska band Rancid from the album Rancid is about the Rwandan genocide.

In 2006, Immaculée Ilibagiza survived the genocide and documented her story in Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (2006). Left to Tell recounts how Immaculée Ilibagiza survived for 91 days with another seven other women during the holocaust in a damp and small bathroom, no larger than 3 feet (0.91 m) long and 4 feet (1.2 m) wide.

Accusations of revisionism

The context of the 1994 Rwandan genocide continues to be a matter of historical debate. There have been frequent charges of revisionism. A "double genocides" theory, accusing the Tutsis of engaging in a "counter-genocide" against the Hutus, is promulgated in Black Furies, White Liars (2005), the controversial book by French investigative journalist Pierre Péan. Jean-Pierre Chrétien, a French historian whom Péan describes as an active member of the "pro-Tutsi lobby," criticizes Péan's "amazing revisionist passion" ("étonnante passion révisioniste").

Another person accused of genocide revisionism with respect to Rwanda is the Montreal writer Robin Philpot, whom Gerald Caplan identified in a 2007 Globe and Mail article as believing that "many people were killed in 1994 by both sides making those who carried out the genocide and their enemies morally equivalent." He further charges that Philpot argued "[t]here was no one-sided conspiracy by armed Hutu forces and militias against a million defenceless Tutsi, he says. Since the evidence completely contradicts these assertions, Mr. Philpot churns out a strange, incoherent series of assertions, rumours and speculation tied together solely by his unwavering determination to deny the truth."

See also


See: Bibliography of the Rwandan Genocide


See: Filmography of the Rwandan Genocide


  1. See, e.g., Rwanda: How the genocide happened, BBC, April 1, 2004, which gives an estimate of 800,000, and OAU sets inquiry into Rwanda genocide, Africa Recovery, Vol. 12 1#1 (August 1998), page 4, which estimates the number at between 500,000 and 1,000,000. 7 out of every 10 Tutsis were killed.
  2. Wallis, Andrew. Silent accomplice. 2006, page 38-41
  3. Walter, Barbara F. and Snyder, Jack L. Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention. 1999, page 135
  4. Linda Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, Verso, 2004, ISBN 1859845886, p. 49
  5. "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda." Human Rights Watch. Report (Updated April 1, 2004)
  6. Qtd. by Mark Doyle. "Ex-Rwandan PM reveals genocide planning." BBC News. On-line posting. March 26, 2004.
  7. Melvern, Linda. Conspiracy to Murder. 2006, p. 25-8
  11. Hate media in Rwanda The International Development Research Centre
  12. Dictionary of Genocide", Samuel Totten, Paul Robert Bartrop, Steven L. Jacobs, p. 380, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, ISBN 0313346445
  13. Rwandan Genocide: The Clergy Human Rights Watch
  15. Roméo Dallaire. "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda". London: Arrow Books, 2004. 242-244. ISBN 0-09-947893-5
  16. 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.
  17. Prunier, Gérard. The Rwanda Crisis. 1997, p.244
  18. 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.
  20. " RWANDA: No consensus on genocide death toll". Agence France-Presse. hosted by On-line posting. April 6, 2004.
  21. Fourth Annual Report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to the General Assembly (September, 1999), accessed at [1].
  22. Report of The Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the UN During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda; Statement of the Secretary-General on Receiving the Report [1999])
  23. Timeline of Events in Rwanda, American RadioWorks (see April 14, 1994)
  24. UN Security Council Resolution 912 (1994), implementing an "adjustment" of UNAMIR's mandate and force level as outlined in the Special Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda dated April 20, 1994 (document no. S/1994/470)
  25. Schabas 2000:461
  26. Evidence of Inaction: A National Security Archive Briefing Book, ed. Ferroggiaro)
  27. Linda Melvern, " France and genocide", The Times, 08 August 2008.
  28. "France accused on Rwanda killings", BBC News, October 24, 2006
  29. "Génocide rwandais: le rapport sur le rôle de la France remis à Paul Kagamé", AFP, November 17, 2007
  30. "France accused in Rwanda genocide"BBC, 05 August 2008.
  31. Rwanda: French accused in genocide, New York Times, 06 August 2008.
  32. N° 1271: ASSEMBLÉE NATIONALE: CONSTITUTION DU 4 OCTOBRE 1958: ONZIÈME LÉGISLATURE: Enregistré à la Présidence de l'Assemblée nationale le 15 décembre 1998: RAPPORT D'INFORMATION: DÉPOSÉ: en application de l'article 145 du Règlement: PAR LA MISSION D'INFORMATION(1) DE LA COMMISSION DE LA DÉFENSE NATIONALE ET DES FORCES ARMÉES ET DE LA COMMISSION DES AFFAIRES ÉTRANGÈRES, sur les opérations militaires menées par la France, d'autres pays et l'ONU au Rwanda entre 1990 et 1994. Online posting. National Assembly of France. December 15, 1998. Proposition 1271
  33. "Rwandan crisis deepens as Kagame begins seven-year term" by Alex Lefebvre, September 13, 2003
  34. "The U.S. and the genocide in Rwanda 1994", edited by William Ferroggiaro, August 20, 2001
  35. Col. Scott R. Feil. "Could 4,999 Peacekeepers Have Saved 500,000 Rwandans?: Early Intervention Reconsidered", ISD Report
  36. Transcript of remarks by Mark Doyle in Panel 3: International media coverage of the Genocide of the symposium Media and the Rwandan Genocide held at Carleton University, March 13, 2004
  37. in State of the World's Refugees 2000, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  38. Homepage for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda,
  39. "Rwanda still searching for justice" by Robert Walker, BBC News, March 30, 2004
  40. "Justice and Responsibility" chapter in "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda", Human Rights Watch, 1999
  41. "Rwanda's ban on executions helps bring genocide justice", Reuters via CNN, July 27, 2007
  42. Planner of Rwandan Massacres convicted of Genocide.
  43. "Camouflage and exposure", Canadian Medical Association Journal, April 29, 2003; 168 (9)
  44. 'Hotel Rwanda' Official movie site
  47. Letter by Gasana Ndoba (President de La Commission Nationale des Droits de L'Homme du Rwanda). Conference Mondiale sur Le Racisme, La Discrimation Raciale, La Xenophobie et L'Intolerance qui y est Associée. Durban, Afrique du Sud, 31 août-7 septembre 2001. Online posting.
  48. N° 300 ASSEMBLÉE NATIONALE: CONSTITUTION DU 4 OCTOBRE 1958: DOUZIÈME LÉGISLATURE: Enregistré à la Présidence de l'Assemblée nationale le 15 octobre 2002. Online posting. National Assembly of France. Proposition 300
  49. Jean-Paul Gouteux. "Mémoire et révisionnisme du génocide rwandais en France: Racines politiques, impact médiatique." Online posting. February 12, 2004.
  50. "Point de Vue: Un pamphlet teinté d'africanisme colonial." Le Monde December 9, 2005. Qtd. by Thierry Perret in "Les dossiers de presse : Afrique-France: Rwanda/« l’affaire » Péan." Online posting. RFI Service Pro December 22, 2005. Chrétien's "Point de Vue" posted online in Observatoire de l'Afrique centrale 8 (December 2005).

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