Rwanda’s genocide: a 100-day killing spree

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 07, 2021 Victims’ skulls are displayed at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. – France “bears significant responsibility” for enabling the genocide in Rwanda and still refuses to acknowledge its true role in the 1994 horror, said a report commissioned by Kigali that was released April 19, 2021. “It is our conclusion that the French government bears significant responsibility for enabling a foreseeable genocide,” concluded the nearly 600-page report into France’s role in the pogrom that saw some 800,000 people (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

At least 800,000 mainly Tutsi people were beaten, hacked or shot to death in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, a roughly 100-day killing spree carried out mostly by Hutu forces.

President killed
Rwanda’s president, Juvenal Habyarimana, is killed on April 6, 1994 when his aircraft is shot down over Kigali.

From the Hutu majority, he is returning from peace talks in Tanzania with Tutsi rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

His death unleashes a killing spree by Hutu forces and militia.

The Tutsis are accused by the Hutu authorities of colluding with RPF rebels who have come in from neighbouring Uganda.

Genocide starts
The next day soldiers of the elite presidential guard kill the moderate Hutu prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, as well as 10 Belgian paratroopers guarding her.

Massacres start. Authorities distribute lists of people to be killed, mostly Tutsis but also opposition Hutus; troops and militia set up roadblocks and go house-to-house looking for targets.

The Mille Collines radio station exhorts Hutus to kill Tutsi “cockroaches” and to rape and loot.

Men, women and children are massacred in the streets, in their homes and even in churches and schools where they seek refuge.

Ordinary people, encouraged by the authorities and the media, widely take part in the killings.

UN scales down effort
The international community is helpless faced with the carnage.

A UN peacekeeping operation is on April 21 reduced from around 2,300 to 270 men.

A week later Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says a “genocide” is underway.

On June 22 France deploys Operation Turquoise, a UN-mandated force tasked with protecting displaced persons and civilians.

The RPF accuses the force of seeking to protect the regime and the perpetrators of the genocide.

A week later the UN Human Rights Commission special rapporteur says the slaughter legally qualifies as “genocide” and appears to have been planned.

Killing stops
On July 4 the mainly Tutsi RPF soldiers finally seize the capital Kigali and the killing ends. The UN will later estimate 800,000 people lost their lives.

Hundreds of thousands of Hutus, fearing reprisals, flee to neighbouring Zaire, today’s Democratic Republic of Congo.

Seeking justice
In November 1994 the UN sets up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in neighbouring Tanzania to try the main perpetrators.

In 1998 it becomes the first international court to hand down convictions for genocide.

The court issues dozens of rulings before closing in 2015. Its work is taken over by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), with offices in The Hague and Tanzania.

Convictions are made internationally too, including in Belgium, a former colonial power.

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