Rwandan refugee camp in east Zaire following the genocide, 1994.
|Attack type||Genocide, mass murder|
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The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of the Tutsis by the Hutus that took place in 1994 in the East African state of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days (from the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6 through mid-July) over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate. Estimates of the death toll have ranged from 500,000–1,000,000, or as much as 20% of the country's total population. It was the culmination of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu peoples, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959–62.
In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from Uganda in an attempt to defeat the Hutu-led government. They began the Rwandan Civil War, fought between the Hutu regime, with support from Francophone Africa and France, and the RPF, with support from Uganda. This exacerbated ethnic tensions in the country. In response, many Hutu gravitated toward the Hutu Power ideology, with the prompting of state-controlled and independent Rwandan media.
As an ideology, Hutu Power asserted that the Tutsi intended to enslave the Hutu and must be resisted at all costs. Continuing ethnic strife resulted in the rebels' displacing large numbers of Hutu in the north, plus periodic localized Hutu killings of Tutsi in the south. International pressure on the Hutu-led government of Juvénal Habyarimana resulted in a cease-fire in 1993. He planned to implement the Arusha Accords.
The assassination of Habyarimana in April 1994 set off a violent reaction, during which Hutu groups conducted mass killings of Tutsis (and also pro-peace Hutus, who were portrayed as "traitors" and "collaborators"). This genocide had been planned by members of the Hutu power group known as the Akazu, many of whom occupied positions at top levels of the national government; the genocide was supported and coordinated by the national government as well as by local military and civil officials and mass media. Alongside the military, primary responsibility for the killings themselves rests with two Hutu militias that had been organized for this purpose by political parties: the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi, although once the genocide was underway a great number of Hutu civilians took part in the murders. It was the end of the peace agreement. The Tutsi RPF restarted their offensive, defeating the army and seizing control of the country.
Rwanda today has two public holidays commemorating the incident, with Genocide Memorial Day on April 7th marking the start, and Liberation Day on July 4th marking the end. The week following April 7th is designated an official week of mourning.
One global impact of the Rwandan Genocide is that it served as impetus to the creation of the International Criminal Court, so that ad hoc tribunals would not need to be created for future incidents of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC, and was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998.
For over 20 years prior to German and then Belgian colonization, a Tutsi monarchy had controlled most of Rwanda. This monarchy continued under colonial rule. Past practices remained part of the culture of Rwanda: e.g., King Rwabugiri (1853–95) instituted the hated corvée labor, which targeted mainly the majority Hutu. In addition, he elevated the use of violence as standard practice against domestic and external foes.
During the 1950s, the Hutu majority became more restive. In 1957, the Hutu Emancipation Movement (Parmehutu) published the "Hutu Manifesto" (sometimes called "Bahutu Manifesto"). It alleged that the Tutsi minority held a monopoly of power in Rwanda. By 1962, the Hutu overthrew the monarchy and established a republic headed by president Grégoire Kayibanda. His regime persecuted the Tutsi, especially those previously in power, and many of the most educated fled the country for refuge in Uganda and other countries. Hutu general Juvénal Habyarimana seized power in a coup in 1973, killing Kayibanda and promising progress.
Belgian colonialism played a role in maintaining the divide between the Tutsi and Hutu peoples. While both the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups existed before colonialism, Belgian rule recognized and affirmed this preexisting distinction. The word Tutsi means those "rich in cattle" and the word Hutu means "servant" or "subject". The Belgians introduced separate ID cards for the two tribes. When Belgian rule ended, most of the land and power were in the hands of Tutsi while the Hutu were relegated to positions of forced laborers, or Akazi. The presence of the colonialists emboldened the ruling Tutsi against the Hutus, who then proceeded to independently embark on a genocidal massacre against their fellow countrymen.
In neighboring Burundi, two episodes of mass violence had taken place since the country's independence in 1962: the army's mass killings of Hutu in 1972, which was considered a Tutsi-initiated genocide because the ethnic group had controlled the government army. In 1994, the Hutu population arose and killed many Tutsi in Burundi.
At 408 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,060 /sq mi), Rwanda's population density is amongst the highest in Africa. Rwanda's population had increased from 1.6 million people in 1934 to 7.1 million in 1989, leading to competition for land. Historians such as Gérard Prunier believe that the 1994 genocide can be partly attributed to the population density.
The Tutsi refugee diaspora was a coherent political and military organization by the late 1980s. Large numbers of Tutsi refugees in Uganda had joined the victorious rebel National Resistance Movement during the Ugandan Bush War and created a separate movement. Some 6,000 Tutsi refugee warriors invaded Rwanda to try to regain power, threatening the gains of the Hutu since independence and their revolutionary ideals.
The journal Kangura, a Hutu response to the Tutsi journal Kanguka, active from 1990–93, 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 exclusively Hutu army. Among the commandments was the dictum, "The Hutu should stop having mercy on the Tutsi."
Tanzania (with the support of the West) brokered peace talks. In August 1993, the rebels and Government of Rwanda signed the Arusha Accords peace treaty to end the civil war. The accords rolled back the authoritarian power of President Juvénal Habyarimana, vesting authority in the Transitional Broad Based Government. The TBBG would include the RPF as well as the six political parties that had formed the coalition government, in place since April 1992, to govern until proper elections could be held. The Transitional National Assembly, the legislative branch of the transitional government, was open to all parties, including the RPF.
The extremist Hutu Coalition for the Defence of the Republic, nominally controlled by President Habyarimana, was strongly opposed to sharing power with the RPF and refused to sign the accords. When at last it agreed to the terms, the RPF opposed the accords in turn. United Nations 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 the RPF's 1990 invasion. In August 1993, Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire, commander of the UN forces, made a reconnaissance trip to evaluate the situation and requested 5,000 troops; he was given 2,548 military personnel and 60 civilian police. He at first saw the situation as a standard peacekeeping mission.
Preparations for the genocide
The killing was well organized by the government. When it started, the Rwandan militia numbered around 30,000, or one militia member for every ten families. It 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 by the government. Many members of the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi were armed only with machetes. Even after the 1993 peace agreement signed in Arusha, businessmen close to General Habyarimana imported 581,000 machetes from China for Hutu use in killing Tutsi, because machetes were obviously cheaper than guns. In a 2000 news story, The Guardian reported, "The former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, played a leading role in supplying weapons to the Hutu regime which carried out a campaign of genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. As Minister of Foreign Affairs in Egypt, Boutros-Ghali facilitated an arms deal in 1990, which was to result in $26 million (£18m) of mortar bombs, rocket launchers, grenades and ammunition being flown from Cairo to Rwanda. The arms were used by Hutus in attacks which led to up to a million deaths."
Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal 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. Hutus and Tutsis were forced to use ID cards which specified an ethnic group. These cards served as symbols that the Interahamwe could check via the threat of force. Skin color was a general physical trait that 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 individuals were separated from the general population and sometimes forced to be Hutu slaves. Tutsi women 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.
Family ties and relationships were manipulated by the Rwandan government as well as the Rwandan Armed Forces to create killing groups, or Interahamwe, throughout Kigali and more rural areas. Without these killing groups, the genocide would not have been nearly as effective and gruesome. In her article on citizen participation in the genocide, Lee Ann Fujii argues that the Interhamwe formed not from hatred for Tutsi or the Rwandan Patriotic Front, but from "social dynamics that sometimes took precedence over ethnic considerations."
According to recent commentators[who?], 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 Rwanda, 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 "Hutu Ten Commandments", which regulated all dealings with Tutsis and how Hutus were to treat them. It communicated the message that the RPF had a devious grand strategy against the Hutu (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. 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 attack first. Led by soldiers, Hutu civilians and the Interahamwe attacked and killed hundreds of Tutsi.
At the end of 1993, the RTLM's highly sensationalized reporting on the assassination of the Burundian president, a Hutu, was used to underline supposed Tutsi brutality. The RTLM falsely reported that the president had been tortured, including castration (in pre-colonial times, some Tutsi kings castrated defeated enemy rulers). There were 50,000 civilian deaths in Burundi in 1993.
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. The RTLM also repeatedly stressed the need to be alert to Tutsi plots and possible attacks. It warned 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 were initially resisted. Both radio stations were used to incite and mobilize populations, followed by 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 the RPF combatants. It warned that RPF combatants dressed in civilian clothes were mingling among the displaced people fleeing combat zones. These broadcasts gave the impression that all Tutsi were supporters of the RPF force fighting against the elected government. Women were targets of the anti-Tutsi propaganda prior to the 1994 genocide; for example, the "Hutu Ten Commandments" (1990) included four commandments that portrayed Tutsi women as tools of the Tutsi people, and as sexual weapons to weaken and ultimately destroy the Hutu men. Gender-based propaganda also included cartoons printed in newspapers depicting Tutsi women as sex objects. Examples of gender-based hate propaganda used to incite war rape included 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."
To promote an informed population and democracy in Rwanda, international agencies had promoted development of the media during the years leading up to the genocide. It appeared that promoting one aspect of democracy (in this case the media) may, in fact, negatively influence other aspects of democracy or human rights. After this experience it has been argued that international development agencies must be highly sensitive to the specific context of their programmes and the need for promotion of democracy in a holistic manner.
On January 12, 1994 Canadian Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire (United Nations Force Commander in Rwanda) notified Military Adviser 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 a top-level Interahamwe militia trainer directed demonstrations a few days before, to provoke an RPF battalion in Kigali into firing upon demonstrators and Belgian United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda troops into using force. The Interahamwe would then have an excuse to engage the Belgian troops and RPF battalion, killing Belgian citizens and causing the withdrawal of the Belgian contingent, the backbone of UNAMIR. The Tutsis would then be eliminated.
According to the informant, 1,700 Interahamwe militia 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 responded that his outlined actions went beyond the mandate granted to UNAMIR under United Nations Security Council Resolution 872. Instead, he was to notify President Habyarimana of possible Arusha Accords violations and his concerns and report back on measures taken. Dallaire's January 11 telegram was important in later review of what information was available to the UN prior to the genocide. On February 21, extremists assassinated the Minister of Public Works, and UNAMIR was unable to gain UN approval to investigate the murder.
On April 6, 1994, the RTLM accused the Belgian peacekeepers of having shot down–or of helping to shoot down – the president's plane. This broadcast has been linked to the killing of ten Belgian UN troops by Rwandan army soldiers.
The situation proved too "risky" for the UN to attempt to help. The RPF began to take control of the country. The UN-mandated French-led force, under Opération 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 Hutu refugees left Rwanda, mainly headed to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The presence of Hutu refugees (see Great Lakes refugee crisis) on the border with Rwanda, added to internal instability, contributed to 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 Opération Turquoise. Canada, Ghana, and the Netherlands provided consistent support for the UN mission under the command of Dallaire, although the UN Security Council did not give it an appropriate mandate to intervene. 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 reduced.
In 2000, the UN explicitly declared its reaction to Rwanda a "failure". Then Secretary General Kofi Annan said of the event "The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret."
The Roman Catholic Church affirms that genocide took place but states that those who took part in it did so without the permission of the Church. The Marian apparition, known as Our Lady of Kibeho, was seen in 1982. The Virgin Mary was said to have shown three visionaries a future blood bath and called for prayer and repentance. In 2001 the diocese approved the vision as "worthy of belief". Reports indicate the percentage of Muslims in Rwanda has doubled since the genocide due to Muslim sheltering and protection of Tutsis and Hutus during the genocide.
Though religious factors were not prominent (the event was ethnically motivated), in its 1999 report Human Rights Watch faulted a number of religious authorities in Rwanda, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestants for failing to condemn the genocide directly – though that accusation was belied over time. Some in its religious hierarchy have been brought to trial for their participation by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted. Bishop Misago was accused of corruption and complicity in the genocide, but he was cleared of all charges in 2000. Many other Catholic and Protestant clergy, however, gave their lives to protect Tutsis from slaughter. Some members of the clergy participated in the massacres. In 2006, Father Athanase Seromba was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for his role in the massacre of 2000 Tutsis. The court heard that Seromba lured the Tutsis to the church, where they believed they would find refuge. When they arrived, he ordered bulldozers to crush the refugees within and Hutu militias to kill any survivors.
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 Kigali, killing everyone on board. Responsibility for the attack was disputed, with both the RPF and Hutu extremists being blamed. A later investigation by the Rwandan government blamed Hutu extremists in the Rwandan army. In January 2012, a French investigation confirmed that the missile fire which brought down the Rwandan president's plane came from a military camp and not Tutsi rebels. In spite of disagreements about the identities of its perpetrators, many observers believe the attack and deaths of the two Hutu presidents served as the catalyst for the genocide.
On April 6 the general staff of the Rwandan Armed Forces and Colonel Theoneste Bagosora clashed verbally with the UNAMIR Force commander, General Roméo Dallaire, who stressed that Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana had the legal authority to take control, as outlined in the Arusha Accords. However Bagosora disputed her authority. In response General Dallaire provided Uwilingiyimana with a UN escort in order to allow her to send a calming message on national radio the next morning.
In the early hours of April 7, UN peacekeepers arrived at Uwilingiyimana's official residence only to find it under attack by Hutus from the Rwandan Army. The UN unit, which comprised troops from the crack ParaCommandos of the Belgian Army, made a two-hour stand against the larger force. During the fighting Uwilingiyimana tried to escape but was captured and killed by Hutu fighters. After being told no help was available, the UN force surrendered and gave up their weapons. However after releasing the five Ghanaian peacekeepers, Hutu troops then turned on the remaining Belgian UN soldiers. All ten were systematically tortured, castrated and dismembered with machetes. Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, the commanding officer of the Presidential Guard unit which carried out the brutal murders, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a court in Belgium in 2007.
Other Presidential Guard units also assassinated other moderate Hutu officials and politicians who favored the Arusha Accords. However the then-acting Prime Minister (under the Accords) of the Transitional Broad Based Government, Faustin Twagiramungu, escaped execution because he was protected by UNAMIR. Former UN commander, Roméo Dallaire, recalled the events from April 7, the first day of the genocide, in his book Shake Hands with the Devil:
"I called the Force HQ and got through to Ghanaian Brigadier General Henry Anyidoho. He had horrifying news. The UNAMIR-protected VIPs – Lando Ndasingwa [the head of the 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."
Jared Diamond theorized that population pressure was the main cause of the genocide. He points out that most of the Twa pygmies were wiped out despite being no threat to the Hutus. The Kanama region in the north west lost 5% of its population despite having virtually no Tutsis. A quarter of Rwandans have great grandparents from both tribes. Rwanda's population density in 1990 was 760 people per square mile, one of the highest in the world. The population grew at over 3% a year. By 1985 all the land except the national parks had been cultivated.
The Rwandan military (known as the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF)), Hutu rebel groups such as the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, and Hutu militia groups, notably the Interahamwe, systematically set out to murder all the Tutsis they could reach, regardless of age or sex, as well as the political moderates among the Hutu. They incited Hutu civilians to participate in the killings or be shot in turn, using radio broadcasts to tell them to kill their Tutsi neighbors. Most nations evacuated their nationals from Kigali and abandoned their embassies in the initial stages of the violence.
As the situation worsened, the national radio advised people to stay in their homes. The Hutu Power station RTLM broadcast violent propaganda against the Tutsi and Hutu moderates. The militia put up hundreds of roadblocks around the country, using them to block off areas and attack the citizens. Lieutenant-General Dallaire and UNAMIR were in Kigali escorting Tutsis and were unable to stop the Hutus from escalating their attacks elsewhere.
Through the RTLM, the Hutu also attacked Lieutenant-General Dallaire and UNAMIR personnel. On April 8, Dallaire sent a cable to New York City indicating ethnicity was the driving force of killings. The cable detailed the killings of politicians and peacekeepers (Chairman of Liberal party, Minister of Labor, Minister of Agriculture, and dozens more). Dallaire informed the UN that the campaign of violence was well-organized and deliberately conducted, primarily by the Presidential Guard.
On April 9, UN observers witnessed the massacre of children at a Polish church in Gikondo. The same day, 1,000 heavily armed and trained European troops arrived to escort European civilian personnel out of the 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 expatriate colleagues. On April 9–10, US Ambassador Rawson and 250 Americans were evacuated.
Killings quickly took place throughout most of the country. The mayor (burgomaster) of the northwestern town of Gisenyi was the first local official to organize killings on a genocidal scale: on April 6, he called a meeting to distribute arms and sent militias to kill Tutsis. Gisenyi was a center of anti-Tutsi sentiment. It was the homeland of the minority Akazu and a refuge for thousands of people displaced by the rebel RPF occupation of large areas in the south. While killing occurred in other towns immediately after Habyarimana's assassination, it took several days for officials to organize them on the scale of the murders in Gisenyi.
Butare Province was an exception to the local violence. Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana was the only Tutsi prefect, and the province was the only one dominated by an opposition party. Opposing the genocide, Habyarimana was able to keep relative calm in the province, until he was deposed by the extremist Sylvain Ndikumana. Finding the population of Butare resistant to murdering their fellow citizens, the government flew in militia from Kigali by helicopter, and they readily killed the Tutsi.
Most of the victims were killed in their own villages or in towns, often by their neighbors and fellow villagers. The militia typically murdered victims by machetes, although some army units used rifles. The Hutu gangs searched out victims hiding in churches and school buildings, and massacred them. Local officials and government-sponsored radio incited ordinary citizens to kill their neighbors, and those who refused to kill were often murdered on the spot. "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 authorities, used bulldozers to knock down the church building. The militia used machetes and rifles to kill every person who tried to escape. 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; he was convicted of the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity. In another case, thousands sought refuge in the École Technique Officielle (Technical School) in Kigali where Belgian UNAMIR soldiers were stationed. On April 11, the Belgian soldiers withdrew, and Rwandan armed forces and militia killed all the Tutsi.
Because of the chaotic situation, there is no consensus on the number of people killed between April 6 and mid-July. Unlike the genocides carried out by Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, authorities made no attempts to record deaths. The succeeding RPF government has stated that 1,071,000 were killed, 10% of whom were Hutu. The journalist Philip Gourevitch agrees with an estimate of one million, while the UN estimates the toll as 800,000. Alex de Waal and Rakiya Omar of African Rights estimate 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 were Hutu, 15% Tutsi and 1% Twa–the official figures published by the Rwandan government estimated the number of victims of the genocide to be 1,174,000 in 100 days (10,000 murdered every day, 400 every hour, 7 every minute). It is estimated that about 300,000 Tutsi survived the genocide. Thousands of widows, many of whom were subjected to rape, are now HIV-positive. There were about 400,000 orphans and nearly 85,000 of them were forced to become heads of families.
Several individuals were active in attempting to halt the Rwandan genocide, or to shelter vulnerable Tutsi, as it was taking place. Among them there are Romeo Dallaire (Lieutenant-General of UNAMIR), Pierantonio Costa (Italian diplomat who rescued many lives), Antonia Locatelli (Italian volunteer who tried to save 300 or 400 Tutsis by calling officials in the international community and was later murdered by the Interahamwe), Jacqueline Mukansonera (Hutu woman who saved a Tutsi during the genocide), Paul Rusesabagina (Academy Award nominated film Hotel Rwanda is based on his story), Carl Wilkens (only American who chose to remain in Rwanda during the genocide), André Sibomana (Hutu priest and journalist who saved many lives) and Captain Mbaye Diagne (Senegalese army officer of UNAMIR who saved many lives before he was killed).
Background on the concept of gender-targeted crimes
The concept of gender-targeted crimes was formulated to encourage recognition of the fact that such crimes serve as instruments of war, and are not merely a by-product of armed conflict. Gender-targeted crimes include rape, mutilation of reproductive capabilities, and other forms of sexual violence. These crimes serve as weapons and their use as weapons rose mostly during the 1970s and also before. WWII marked the beginnings of the new wars along with the new kinds of attacks—rape, mutilation of the body—as troops invaded enemy territory and typically attacked women first.Towards the end of the twentieth century, a new concept of war had risen, and instead of having a majority of victims as combatants from the battlefield, around eighty percent of the killed or wounded were civilians and twenty percent were combatants. This change corresponds with the rise of intrastate wars (conflict between non-state actors) and the decline of inter-state wars (conflict between states), and it is also linked with changes in the tactics and combating strategies of war.Intrastate wars involve more contact between the belligerents and civilians, and the contact is done through plundering, massacres, and gender-targeted crimes.
Anthropologists of violence have noted that attacks against unarmed civilians usually target the most human features—the face and the reproductive organs.And for women, both attacks are done against them as humans and as child-bearers. Gender-targeted crimes are used as a form of communication between men as proof of victory for one and loss for the other. It is also a part of the issue of nationalism. In the ideologies of nationalism, women symbolize the nation. This symbolism leads to women as main targets for violence especially in a conflict involving nationalism or group identity. In violating the women—particularly the body of the woman, which symbolizes the territory of the nation—the enemies are invading the territory of the nation and showing dominance over the nation. Women were also seen as treasures of war, part of the booty, or a prize of victory to the conquerors.
Gender-targeted crimes are within militaristic or nationalist plans in times of conflict. These crimes are strategic measures and effective instruments that save other weapons. Gender-targeted crimes, especially rape, is a war economy, which is the process of producing and allocating weapons to inflict violence in the most efficient way. Rape allows ethnic cleansing to be carried out more effectively and efficiently. With this ideology, women became more than prizes and became the main target.
Gender-targeted crimes during the genocide
With the release of the Hutu Ten Commandments in December 1990, Hutu extremists began to target Tutsi women. The first commandment lists the traits of a Hutu traitor and all of the traits involve a type of relationship with a Tutsi woman—whether it be through marriage, friendship, prostitution, etc. The commandments mobilized hatred against Tutsi women for the Hutu extremists.
Through the use of propaganda, the images of Tutsi women were debauched by depicting them as seductresses or spies of the enemy. This form of dehumanization led to the Tutsi women seen as objects that needed to be destroyed in the view of the Hutu extremists. In order to carry out this goal, rape and sexual violence were used as tools and as instruments of war. This mindset goes on to show that the crimes had little "sexual component." Rather, the crimes were committed to humiliate and mentally and physically disable the Tutsi women. The Tutsi women were separated from the Hutu women before the forms of gender-targeted crimes were committed upon them. This separation further supports the idea that rape, sexual violence, and other forms of gender-targeted crimes were acts of genocidal determination.
Rape as weapon of war
Rape was used as a tool by the Interahamwe, the chief perpetrators, to permanently separate the already conscious heterogeneous population and to drastically exhaust the opposing group. Soldiers of the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda and the Rwandan Defence Forces, including the Presidential Guard, and civilians also committed rape against mostly Tutsi women. Although Tutsi women were the main targets, moderate Hutu women were also raped during the genocide. Along with the Hutu moderates, Hutu women who were married to Tutsis and Hutu women who hid Tutsis were targeted. In his 1996 report on Rwanda, the UN Special Rapporteur Rene Degni-Segui stated, "Rape was the rule and its absence the exception." He also noted, "Rape was systematic and was used as a weapon" by the perpetrators of the massacres. With this thought and using methods of force and threat, the genocidaires forced others to stand by while women were raped. A testimonial by a woman of the name Maria Louise Niyobuhungiro recalls seeing local peoples, other generals and Hutu men watching her get raped about 5 times per day. Even when she was kept under watch of a woman, she would give no sympathy or help and furthermore, forced her to farm land in between rapes.
Through public display, rape breaks cultural and social bonds of a national, cultural, or political group. Most of the victims are killed after they are raped, and the survivors face many struggles. The survivors live under struggles such as fear, humiliation, and isolation especially if they are known to be rape survivors or if they become pregnant. According to the New York Times, more than 15,700 women and girls between the ages of thirteen and sixty-five were raped in Rwanda between April 1994 and April 10, 1995, and of that number of women and girls, more than 1,100 gave birth and 5,200 went through abortions. As for the remaining thousand, the women and girls either died, committed suicide, or abandoned the newborn baby. The report only includes the ones tracked, and it is believed many more are unreported. There is a wide range of estimations on the number of rape victims during the genocide. Observers have suggested the number of women raped to be between 200,000 and 500,000. U.N. Special Rappateur on Rwanda, Rene Degni-Segui, calculated that at least 250,000 and as many as 500,000 women were raped during the genocide. 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". Although the exact number of women raped by genocidaires is unknown, there is evidence that determines victims of rape made up the vast majority of female survivors in areas such as Kigali after the genocide.
HIV/AIDS as weapon of war
Many of the survivors were also infected with the HIV virus transmitted from the HIV-infected men who were recruited by the genocidaires. Survivors have testified that the transmission of the HIV virus was a deliberate act by talking about how the men, before they raped them, would say that they were not going to kill them directly but rather give them a slow death from AIDS. It is difficult to provide competent evidence that proves the transmission of AIDS was used as a weapon of war. However, there is preliminary evidence that suggests the transmission was conducted on purpose. Two-thirds of a sample of 1,200 Rwandan genocide widows tested positive for HIV, and the infection rates in rural areas more than doubled after the genocide. However, one important data is not available. There is no data on the number of victims who died of AIDS after 1994 and contracted the disease because of rape during the genocide. The victim is not registered as a casualty, and therefore is not counted in the death toll of the genocide, which is estimated to be 800,000.
Mutilation of the reproductive capabilities as weapon of war
Tutsi women were also targeted with the intent of destroying their reproductive capabilities. Sexual mutilation sometimes occurred after the rape and included mutilation of the vagina with machetes, knives, sharpened sticks, boiling water, and acid. The genocidaires also held women as sex slaves for weeks and sexually mutilated them with sharp sticks or gun barrels. More cases, such as cutting open the womb to kill the unborn child and the pregnant mother, occurred. These acts coincided with the ambition of the Interahamwe and of other Hutu extremists to fully eradicate the Tutsi population. Men were seldom the victims of war rape, but sexual violence against men included mutilation of the genitals, then displayed as trophies in public. Disabling the reproductive capabilities of the women would prevent future generations of the Tutsi population. The Hutu extremists aimed to not only just kill the living Tutsis but also to ultimately destroy the future of the Tutsi population; this reinforced the idea of ethnic cleansing.
Prosecuting the gender-targeted crimes
The Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949 (under the part: Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War) requires all persons who do not participate in the fighting or who have surrendered to be treated with humanity and to be protected against violence. It also requires women to be especially protected against any attack such as rape and enforced prostitution. However, the United Nations did not address the issue of sexual violence immediately. In early reports of the UN and in the international media, sexual violence was not mentioned or at least, the issue was not the main issue of such reports. After nongovernmental organizations (NGO) human rights advocacy pressed the need for investigation, the United Nations responded by having the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) begin the actions of investigation and prosecution of gender-targeted crimes with the NGOs providing the information on the crimes. The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) under the ICTR created a policy to prosecute rape, sexual violence, and other forms of gender-targeted crimes. It has a Rape and Sexual Violence Section that is headed by a female lawyer-investigator. Female investigators and trial lawyers are used by the OTP to talk to the victims who suffer the emotional injuries of rape and sexual violence. Because of those aspects, the OTP is considered for setting the legal developments in the prosecution crimes of sexual violence in international law. Before the OTP, international criminal law would normally not prosecute crimes of sexual violence. Crimes of rape are difficult to investigate and to prosecute since the injuries are invisible and the victims tend to not speak out.Nevertheless, the OTP has continued to prosecute the ones responsible for gender-targeted crimes and other crimes against humanity.
Prosecutor v. Akayesu
The OTP went as far to convicting Jean-Paul Akayesu, a mayor of Taba commune in south Rwanda, who ordered acts of sexual violence on Tutsi girls and women in the Taba commune, for rape and sexual violence in the case, Prosecutor v. Akayesu, in 1998. This is significant in that Akayesu is the first person to be convicted for rape and sexual violence by an international court. The case is also the first international war crimes trial to convict a defendant for the crime of genocide. The case is also significant in that it attached criminal liability to high-status and powerful figures such as Akayesu since there were criminal networks that attempted to protect such people who gave out undocumented orders and not carried out the actual crimes. Akayesu was found guilty of crimes against humanity and for forms of sexual violence. Additionally, the case also made the following landmark changes:
- Recognized sexual violence as a fundamental part of the Rwandan Genocide
- Identified rape and other forms of gender-targeted violence as separate crimes of crimes against humanity
- Provided internationally accepted definitions for rape and sexual violence
UNAMIR and the international community
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 have the UN become involved. As Philip Gourevitch puts it, "The Clinton administration's policy was, "Let's withdraw altogether. Let's get out of Rwanda. Leave it to its fate." The United States ambassador to the United Nations at that time was then Madeline Albright. And it was she who was in the position of having to represent this position to the Security Council, and who did so very effectively." This applied both to the Arusha Accords process and to preventing or suppressing the genocide. Only Belgium had asked for a strong UNAMIR mandate. After the murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers protecting the Prime Minister in early April and the failure of the Security Council to act, Belgium pulled out of the peacekeeping mission.
Just before the genocide began in April 1994 a Hutu man with a guilty conscience high in the ranks of the Mouvement Démocratique Républicain de Parmehutu sent a fax to the United Nations and to the United States detailing the plans of genocide against the Tutsis that would take place shortly. The fax detailed where, against whom and with exactly what materials the genocide would be carried out. The information was never dealt with. For whatever reason, perhaps bureaucracy, the word of the genocide never spread far enough to enlist help from the Security Council.
In addition, the UN peacekeepers were sent with specific instructions not to interfere unless a fellow peacekeeper or self was in danger. Under the United Nation's Capstone Doctrine peacekeepers were to exercise their own judgement in stopping the violence; however, it was the job of the United Nations Security Council to use force.
The UN and its member states did not respond to the realities on the ground. In the midst of the escalating crisis for Tutsis, they directed Lt. General Roméo Dallaire to focus UNAMIR on evacuating foreign nationals from Rwanda. Due to the change in orders, Belgian UN peacekeepers abandoned the Don Bosco Technical School, filled with 2,000 refugees. Hutu militants waited outside, drinking beer and chanting "Hutu Power." After the Belgians left, the militants entered and massacred everyone inside, including hundreds of children.
Four days later the Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR to 270 men, by Resolution 912. Following the withdrawal of the Belgian forces, Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Canadian, Ghanaian, and Dutch soldiers in urban areas and tried to provide areas of "safe control". His actions saved the lives of 32,000 people of different races. The administrative head of UNAMIR, former Cameroonian 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 US was reluctant to get involved in the "local conflict" in Rwanda and refused to label the killings as "genocide". Then-president Bill Clinton later publicly regretted that decision in a Frontline television interview. Five years later, Clinton stated that he believed that 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, an ethnic Hutu, worked to minimize international criticism. Rwanda at that time had a seat on the Security Council. Its ambassador argued that the claims of genocide in the country 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 Cross 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; the US Army charged $6.5 million (USD) for transport alone. Deployment was delayed due to arguments over their cost and other factors.
Some UN peacekeepers protected Rwandans despite the organizational limitations. One Senegalese peacekeeper, Mbaye Diagne, drove 1,000 people through check points to safety, a feat that no nation even attempted. Others stood outside of churches where hundreds of Tutsi refugees hid; their mere presence was sometimes enough to stop the militants.
Paul Rusesabagina, who saved over 1,000 people by sheltering them at the Hôtel des Mille Collines, has said: “In a sense things got better after the peacekeepers left... People realized no one was going to help them.”
Before the genocide
In the analysis of British journalist Linda Melvern, documents recently released from the Paris archive of former president François Mitterrand show how the RPF invasion in October 1990 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. As a matter for the French presidency, this foreign policy was not referred to parliament.
Mitterrand's political view proved prescient in that, as the BBC noted as of 2010, after a progressive rift with the Kagame-led regime that has ruled Rwanda since 1994 (described in greater detail below), Rwanda repeatedly broke diplomatic relations with France; the Rwandan government shut down all French institutions in Rwanda, including schools and cultural organisations, with only some being subsequently reopened; the language of instruction in Rwandan schools "has even been switched from French to English"; and Rwanda strove to join the British-led Commonwealth, thus becoming one of only two members that were not former British colonies.
Melvern goes on to state that most of Rwanda's arms deals were negotiated through the Rwandan embassy in Paris. When the genocide was over, according to her, extensive records were found in the embassy offices, but none of them concerned Rwanda's relationship with France, as the documents had been systematically destroyed by Colonel Sebastien Ntahobari, Rwanda's military attaché in France. The book also relates other forms of military assistance the government of France gave the Rwandan government, prior to the genocide:
- A French military co-operation team was openly acknowledged to be in Rwanda, and was thought to have included forty seven people. These people were attached to key units in the army and in the gendarmerie as "advisers" or "technical assistants".
- A list of Rwandan officers prepared by Rwandan army officers within the Rwandan Ministry of Defense and dated March 5, 1994, shows three French nationals working as "technical assistants" in the reconnaissance battalion.
- In the Rwandan air corps, there were two French flying instructors, a navigator, an air traffic controller, and a mechanic.
- In the para-commandos, under Colonel Aloys Ntabakuze, there were four French nationals including a major in the French Army.
Melvern attributes other forms of French support for the regime. She report that, according to Belgian intelligence in Rwanda, French diplomats advised opposition politicians that if they wanted to stop the RPF, they had to give their support to President Habyarimana.
“Official deliveries of arms by the French government to other governments are regulated by well-defined rules, but in the case of Rwanda – as in many others – the rules were rarely followed. According to the National Assembly investigative commission, thirty-one of thirty-six deliveries of weapons to Rwanda during the years 1990 to 1994 were made 'without following the rules.'”
HRW went on to provide that a former French policeman who had also served as security consultant to Habyarimana, Captain Paul Barril, was hired by the Rwandan Ministry of Defense to conduct a training program for 30 to 60 men, eventually to grow to 120, at Bigogwe military camp in the northwest. He was to provide training in marksmanship and infiltration tactics for an elite unit in preparation for attacks behind the RPF lines. Further, a Col. Didier Tauzin (who was later to re-enter Rwanda during the genocide under a fake name Col. Didier Tibault) was head of the French operation that had helped the Rwandan forces "spectacularly save the situation" in turning back the RPF offensive in February 1993. Notwithstanding HRW's associations, though, no evidence exists that these French officers were directly involved in the genocide.
In terms of balance, the HRW and Melvern analyses omitted countervailing facts known as of their writing – specifically, that there were no arms delivery by France or facilitated by France once it deemed large-scale killings likely, let alone during the mass genocide proper; and that one of the tasks that the Rwandan regime hired Barril for was to recover a pre-payment for a likely fraudulent arms delivery deal, that was stopped by the French authorities.
During the genocide
On June 22, with no sign of a UN deployment taking place, the Security Council authorized French forces to land in Goma, Zaire 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. Again, controversy subsequently arose about French intent. According to HRW, Opération Turquoise had another purpose: Preventing a victory by the RPF. HRW reported that some military officers in Paris had talked openly of “breaking the back of the RPF.” It remains that there were no documented large-scale killings in Zone Turquoise once it was established. Thus, regardless of any other aims attributed to it, the French intervention helped to stop the genocide locally and represents the only foreign intervention on the ground to have ended some of the killings after UNAMIR was reduced. The French military presence effectively helped the genocidaires to escape from the RPF and flee into neighboring Zaire.
Following an investigation of the plane crash of April 6, 1994 that killed both the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira and precipitated the genocide, and in which three French crew had also 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".
In testimony before the commission, Jacques Bihozagara, who was presented as "former ambassador to France", claimed that "Operation Turquoise was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators, because the genocide continued even within the Turquoise zone." Beside misrepresenting the timeline of the mass killings in the Zone Turquoise, the implication of the testimony as conveyed to the foreign press was that Bihozagara had a sitting ambassador's insight into French policy at the time of the genocide. In fact, Bihozagara was a founding member of the RPF and close Kagame ally under whose watch as Minister of Rehabilitation the Kibeho Massacre occurred in 1995. His attitude and statements at that time led to reports that he had ordered that massacre, making him too much of a political liability for the RPF to keep as minister. Bihozagara was subsequently ambassador to Belgium, and then to France from September 2001 onwards; but in the intervening period Rwanda had closed its French embassy and purged personnel, precluding continuity of records.
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. The report accused the French government of knowing of preparations for the genocide and helping to train the ethnic Hutu militia members; it accused 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 Juppé, 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.
French Parliamentary Commission on Rwanda and subsequent statements
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 Opération 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).
The Parliamentary Commission 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 UNAMIR 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.
On November 27, 2004 in a televised debate on France 3, after the showing of the French film "Tuez les Tous" (Kill Them All), created by three students of political science, the president of the parliamentary mission for information for Rwanda, former minister Paul Quilès stated that "France asks to be pardoned by the people of Rwanda, but not by their government".
In 2010, during a visit to Rwanda, French President Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged that France made "mistakes" during the genocide, although, according to a BBC report, he "stopped short of offering a full apology".
U.S. government 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 Leavenworth, Kansas, 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 Rwigyema 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, written 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.
There were no U.S. troops officially in Rwanda at the onset of 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 to the genocide:
- 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.
Fear of a repeat of the events in Somalia shaped US policy in subsequent years, with many commentators identifying the graphic consequences of the Battle of Mogadishu as the key reason behind the US's failure to intervene in later conflicts such as the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. After the battle, the bodies of several US casualties of the conflict were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by crowds of local civilians and members of Aidid's Somali National Alliance. According to the US's former deputy special envoy to Somalia, Walter Clarke: "The ghosts of Somalia continue to haunt US policy. Our lack of response in Rwanda was a fear of getting involved in something like a Somalia all over again." President Clinton has referred to the failure of the U.S. government to intervene in the genocide as one of his main foreign policy failings, saying “I don’t think we could have ended the violence, but I think we could have cut it down. And I regret it.”
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. Paul Kagame had already ordered RPF forces to renew their attacks on the Hutu-dominated government as soon as the Genocide started. 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.
After regrouping, the RPF launched an offensive and on July 4, 1994 they took the capital Kigali. On July 13 they seized Ruhengeri prompting a mass exodus towards Zaire. Four days later on July 17 the RPF defeated the last government stronghold and declared victory.
In anticipation of a Tutsi retaliation, approximately 2 million Hutus, participants in the genocide, and the bystanders, fled from Rwanda to Zaire (now called Congo), Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. Thousands of them died in disease epidemics 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.
The presence of 2 million refugees in eastern Zaire helped destabilize the already weak country, whose corrupt president, Mobutu Sese Seko, allowed Hutu extremists among the refugee population to operate with impunity. In October 1996, Mobutu's continued support of the Hutu militants led to an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in eastern Zaire (supported politically and militarily by Rwanda), which marked the beginning of the First Congo War, and led to a return of more than 600,000 Hutu refugees to Rwanda during the last two weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed at the end of December 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.
Mobutu was overthrown in May 1997, and Zaire's new leader, Laurent Kabila, renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila's relationship with his Rwandan allies quickly turned sour, and in August 1998 Tutsi rebel forces, supported by Rwanda and Uganda, launched another rebellion. This led to the Second Congo War, killing 5 million people from 1998 to 2004.
After its military victory in July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front organized a coalition government similar to that established by President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1994. 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 on August 25, and on September 29, 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, US President Bill Clinton spoke to the crowd assembled on the tarmac at Kigali Airport: "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. He acknowledged his failure to deal effectively with the situation in Rwanda. Clinton has stated that the "biggest regret" of his presidency was not acting decisively to stop the Rwandan Genocide.
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.
The first try at democracy in Rwanda was under Habyarimana just before his plane was shot down and the genocide began. Democratization had been prompted by French influences (international donors practically forcing the administration's hand). Because the idea of democracy had been presented as both a Tutsi imposition and a colonialist one, it remained a disdainful concept in the cultural mindset of the Hutu majority.
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 around 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 Rwanda for the victims include social isolation (social stigma attached to rape meant some husbands left wives who were 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 Rwandan 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.
Justice system after genocide
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. It was not until 1996 that courts finally began trials for genocide cases with the enactment of Organic Law N° 08/96 of 30 on August 30, 1996. This law initiated the prosecution of genocide crimes committed during the genocide and of crimes against humanity from October 199  The systematic destruction of the judicial system during the genocide and civil war was a major problem. Government institutions, including judicial courts, were destroyed, and many judges, prosecutors, and employees were murdered. Of 750 judges, 506 did not remain after the genocide—many were murdered and most of the survivors fled Rwanda. By 1997, Rwanda only had fifty lawyers in its judicial system. These barriers caused the trials to proceed very slowly: with 130,000 suspects held in Rwandan prisons after the genocide, 3,343 cases were handled between 1996 and the end of 2000. Of those defendants, twenty percent received death sentences, thirty-two percent received life in prison, and twenty percent were acquitted. It was calculated that it would take over two hundred years to conduct the trials of the suspects in prison—not including the ones who remained at large. In response to the situation, the government of Rwanda passed Organic Law N° 40/2000 in 2001. This law established Gacaca Courts at all administrative levels of Rwanda and in Kigali. It was mainly created to lessen the burden on normal courts and provide assistance in the justice system to run trials for those already in prison. The least severe cases, according to the terms of Organic Law N° 08/96 of 30, would be handled by these Gacaca Courts. With this law, the government began implementing a participatory justice system, known as Gacaca, in order to address the enormous backlog of cases. The Gacaca court system traditionally dealt with conflicts within communities, but it was adapted to deal with genocide crimes. The following are the objectives of the Gacaca courts:
- Identifying the truth about what happened during the genocide
- Speeding up of trial genocide trials
- Fighting against the culture of impunity
- Contributing to the national unity and reconciliation process
- Demonstrating the capacity of the Rwandan people to resolve their own problems
Throughout the years, the Gacaca court system went through a series of modifications. It is estimated that the Gacaca court system has tried over one million cases to date.
Meanwhile, the UN established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, currently based in Arusha, 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.
Closing of the Gacaca courts
On June 18, 2012, the Gacaca court system was officially closed after facing criticism.
The Gacaca court system faced many controversies and challenges; they were accused of being puppets of the RPF-dominated government. The judges (known as Inyangamugayo, which means "those who detest dishonesty" in Kinyarwanda) who preside over the genocide trials were elected by the public. After election, the judges received training, but there was concern that the training was not adequate for serious legal questions or complex proceedings. Furthermore, many judges resigned after facing accusations of participating in the genocide; 27.1% of them were so accused. There was also a lack of defense counsel and protections for the accused, who were denied the right to appeal to ordinary courts. Most trials were open to the public, but there were issues with witness intimidation. The Gacaca courts did not try those responsible for massacres of Hutu civilians committed by members of the RPF, which controlled the Gacaca Court system.
Closing of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Since the ICTR was established as an ad hoc international jurisdiction, the ICTR is scheduled to close by the end of 2014, after it completes trials by 2009 and appeals by 2010 or 2011. Initially, the U.N. Security Council established the ICTR in 1994 with an original mandate of four years without a fixed deadline and set on addressing the crimes committed during the Rwandan Genocide. As the years passed, it became apparent that the ICTR would exist long past its original mandate. However, with the announcement of its closing, there is a concern over whether the Rwandan genocide will still have an authority like that of the ICTR in prosecuting high-ranking fugitives and with access to international sources.
Media and popular culture
Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire became the best-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. Among survivors, Immaculée Ilibagiza documented her story in Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (2006). The book recounts how Immaculée Ilibagiza survived for 91 days with 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. Gil Courtemanche, a French-Canadian writer, authored Dimanche à la piscine à Kigali (A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali), which focuses on events in Kigali during the genocide.
The critically acclaimed and multiple Academy Award-nominated 2004 film Hotel Rwanda is based on the experiences of Paul Rusesabagina, a Kigali hotelier at the Hôtel des Mille Collines 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. This same story is related in Rusesabagina's 2006 autobiography An Ordinary Man.
The documentary Earth Made of Glass, an independent film, and the first of 33andOut Productions was about the personal and political costs of the Genocide, focussing on the Rwandan President Paul Kagame and genocide survivor Jean-Pierre Sagahutu premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.
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."
Among songs, "Rwanda" by the punk-ska band Rancid from the album Rancid is about the Rwandan genocide. So is the punk-ska band Rx Bandits's song "In All Rwanda's Glory" on their album Progress, which they say contains "overly political lyrics". Brooke Fraser wrote the song "Albertine" on her album Albertine about an eponymous orphan from the genocide which Fraser met time in Rwanda in 2005.
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".
On May 27, 2010, American law professor and attorney Peter Erlinder was arrested in Kigali and charged with genocide denial while defending presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire against charges of genocide.
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."
With "revisionism, negationism and trivialisation of genocide" being criminal offences in Rwanda, two journalists appealed jail terms in 2012 for purportedly denying the Rwandan genocide.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Rwandan Genocide|
|Wikiversity has learning materials about Rwandan Genocide|
- Genocide Archive Rwanda
- Through My Eyes Website Imperial War Museum – Online Exhibition
- United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
- Rwanda Commemoration Project: Genocide in Our Time
- Rwandan Genocide Background from the Human Rights Watch
- Step Up! American Association for Rwandan Women
- Gacaca Film Series Official site for the documentary film series that includes "My Neighbor My Killer" (Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival), "Gacaca Living Together in Rwanda?", "In Rwanda We Say...The family that does not speak dies" and "The Notebooks of Memory" By Emmy-winner Anne Aghion
- Rwandan Overview. Committee on Conscience: Rwandan Genocide. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Voices of Rwanda: The Rwanda Testimony Film Project—A populous oral history archive dedicated to filming video testimonies of Rwandans
- Sexual Violence and Genocide Against Tutsi Women