World, Africa

Rwanda: From civil war to genocide

One of the last genocides of the 20th century

30.03.2018 - Update : 09.04.2018
Rwanda: From civil war to genocide


More than 800,000 Rwandans were massacred in 1994 in a matter of 100 days, between April and July, by the members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the East African country.

Those killed were mainly from the Tutsi minority.

Origins of the genocide

1959 social revolution: Rwanda, under Belgian trusteeship since 1922, is the scene of attacks against the Tutsi ethnic group and their property by the Hutu ethnic majority. A government composed entirely of Tutsis is formed with Belgian support.

1962: The United Nations Trusteeship Council asks Belgium to grant independence to Rwanda. It will be proclaimed on July 1, 1962.

1963 – 1967: Exiled Tutsis attempt to return to Rwandan territory by force. They fail and their attempt triggers new attacks on their community. Nearly 20,000 Tutsis are massacred and another 300,000 flee the country.

1972 - 1973: Grégoire Kayibanda, elected in 1961 as the first president of independent Rwanda, launches an anti-Tutsi propaganda to create a Hutu support base around him. This campaign will cause more Tutsis to flee. Nevertheless, Kayibanda loses power after a military coup in 1973 led by Juvenal Habyarimana.

1975 - 1990: Habyarimana attracts western countries by portraying Rwanda as the Switzerland of Africa. Although he does not practice a clear policy of ethnic discrimination like his predecessor, only 10 percent of places in schools, universities, and jobs are granted to Tutsis.

Oct. 1, 1990: The Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), founded in 1987 by Tutsis in exile, attacked the country's northern border from Uganda. Ten thousand Tutsis and political opponents are arrested in Kigali. A first Tutsi massacre is committed in Kibilira (in the Gisenyi prefecture, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Oct. 4, 1990: French, Belgian and Zairean [present day Democratic Republic of Congo] troops stationed in the territory intervene in order to evacuate the western nationals in the country (Operation Noroit). Unlike the Belgians, the French troops remain behind after the evacuation of the expatriates.

The Rwandan civil war begins, with conflicts breaking out between the patriotic army of the FPR and the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) -- the government forces backed by France.

1992: In March, the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), comprised of radical Hutus, is created. Hutus form armed militias (interahamwe militia). A new massacre of Tutsis is perpetrated in Bugesera.

Despite negotiations under the Ashura agreements in June 1992 between the Hutu government, the democratic opposition, and the FPR, new massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus [Hutus who did not support the killings] are organized by pro-government interahamwe militias from August to December.

1993: On Aug. 4, in Arusha, Tanzania, peace and power-sharing agreements are signed with the supposition they will end the war. In Oct., the UN Security Council Resolution 872 creates UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda), composed of 2,500 peacekeepers and military observers. Two months later, the French troops of Operation Noroit leave Rwanda, giving way to UNAMIR.

April 6, 1994: An airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira is shot down while preparing to land in the capital Kigali. The plane crashes near the airport, leaving no survivors. The incident triggers a genocide against the Tutsis. Several moderate Hutu political figures are murdered only hours after the announcement of Habyarimana's death. Hutu militias set up checkpoints across the country and start slaughtering all those who are identified as Tutsis.

Nearly 1 million victims in 100 days

One million victims in 100 days means that almost 10,000 people were murdered daily for more than three months.

April 6 - 7: The killing of Tutsis begin in Kigali and spreads to the whole country in a few hours.

April 8: The Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) launches an offensive towards Kigali.

April 9 – 16: Western nationals are evacuated.

April 21: The UN reduces its peacekeeping force from 2,500 to 250 troops.

April 30: The UN Security Council demands a cease-fire between the FAR and the FPR, but the latter is already limited to diplomatic and humanitarian actions.

May 12: The number of civilian casualties is estimated at 200,000 although the UN presidency refuses to pronounce the word "genocide".

May 17: The UN Security Council decrees an arms embargo on Rwanda.

May 31: A UN Secretary-General's report estimates the number of victims to be between 250,000 and 500,000.

June 8: The UN Security Council denounces the acts of genocide and extends the mandate of UNAMIR.

June 23: France launches Operation Turquoise, French soldiers enter southwestern Rwanda to set up a humanitarian safe zone for refugees.

July 4: The FPR takes control of the cities of Kigali and Butare.

July 17: The FPR takes control of almost the entire country. A date that marks the end of the genocide.

Over 800,000 Tutsis, and moderate Hutus who were opposed to the killings, were massacred in just over three months.

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