Outlook of the Rwandan Genocide
The Rwandan Genocide
Slaughter, mass genocide, and a plan to wipe out the Tutsis marked the most rapid and violent genocide ever recorded. All of this was an act of hatred and anger from the Hutus in Rwanda that began on April 6, 1994. Before the genocide, the Hutus weren’t treated as well as the Tutsis, which created tension worldwide, particularly in the U.S. The CIA knew that this situation would soon escalate, and a genocide would devastate the beautiful country of Rwanda. More than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus loyal to Tutsis were slaughtered. In addition, the survivors and 287,000 other Rwandans fled the country, causing a significant refugee crisis for other countries in Africa. The racial tension in Rwanda led to a genocide that spread throughout the country with shocking speed and brutality and resulted in a refugee crisis that heightened tension all over Africa and many other places worldwide.
The turmoil began between the years of 1894 and 1918 when Rwanda and its neighbor, Burundi, became part of the League of Nations by order from Belgium after WW1 (History.com “Rwandan Genocide”). During Rwanda’s colonial period under the rule of the Belgians, the Tutsis were favored more than the Hutus. The Hutus, being larger in number, believed they should be treated better than the Tutsis. Long before the Rwandan genocide, the Hutus sparked a revolution in 1959 which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Tutsis fleeing the country. By 1961, the Hutus were victorious and had exiled the Tutsis, confirming Rwanda as a Republic nation. In early July 1962, Rwanda was declared independent from the Belgians. In 1990, an army of Tutsi refugees invaded Rwanda. A ceasefire eventually led to negotiations between the government and the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1992. A treaty was signed in 1993, which angered Hutu extremists as it allowed for power-sharing. They were unwilling to stand idle and soon embarked on a course of action that would ignite a mass genocide.
Pffffzzz… it was a loud and scratchy broadcast on the radio, announcing that a plane carrying Habyarimana and Burundi’s president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down over the capital city of Kigali. The date was April 6, 1994 (Rwanda Genocide: 100 Days of Slaughter. BBC News). A few hours after the crash, the Rwandan armed forces (FAR) and Hutu militia created roadblocks with burning cars and armored vehicles and began killing Tutsis, even the young ones. The Hutu militia, known as the Interahamwe (Those Who Attack Together), had the backing of another group, the Impuzamugambi (Those Who Have The Same Goal). The killing was incessant, with an estimate of over 800,000 Rwandans killed in a few months. Meanwhile, the RPF was embroiled in a civil war, as the genocide continued to unfold. In July, the RPF gained control of the majority of the country, including the capital, Kigali. Habyarimana’s NRMD (National Revolutionary Movement for Development) party, which had primarily organized the genocide, was banned, and a new constitution established in 2003, eliminating ethnicity. A new president was elected, Kagame, serving a 10-year term, alongside the first-ever legislative election in Rwanda.
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Out of nowhere, a chaotic crisis ensued; it was Rwanda’s first refugee crisis, which took place in 1959. Approximately 550,000 Tutsi refugees fled Rwanda because the Hutus had gained control by overthrowing the Tutsi monarchy and exiling the Tutsis. The second refugee crisis started in 1990, approximately 31 years after the first crisis. This crisis involved the Burundians fleeing to Northern Rwanda from Uganda, escaping the RPF incursions, and the assassination of their president, Melchior Ndadaye. In the third refugee crisis, there were over 350,000 refugees, predominantly Hutu, but also Tutsi, that remained due to the conflict between the government and the RPF. Hutu refugees from Burundi were adopted for their skills and recruited to fight alongside the Interahamwe militia groups (Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Before the Genocide-Part 1). Months before the genocide, UN officials became concerned about the stability of the millions of refugees that had settled in Rwanda. This issue had become a political problem for the UN over the course of the genocide. The Rwandan government reported that 3.4 million Rwandan refugees had returned to Rwanda after the genocide, and more than 5,000 had returned in recent years.
The United States knew that weapons were crossing the borders, and the CIA noticed that the rebels’ growing military strength was creating tension in Rwanda. There was potential for thousands of Rwandans to perish due to the ethnic violence that was about to erupt. Washington ignored Uganda’s request for help against the Rwandan rebels, causing the rebels’ military to ramp up and develop (America’s Secret Role in the Rwandan Genocide). In 1992, the US began monitoring Ugandan weapons shipments and noticed that Museveni was not keeping his promise to court martial RPF leaders. The United States doubled the aid to his government, which provided access to almost half of Uganda’s budget. In 1991, Uganda purchased ten times more weapons from the US than in the previous 40 years combined. A US ambassador witnessed the atrocities occurring in Rwanda and urged George H.W. Bush to establish sanctions on Uganda – as he had done in other countries before.
The events that unfolded in 1994 were tragically catastrophic. Approximately 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in their homes and in front of their families. This genocide created panic not only in Africa, but also globally. No one was safe; a similar catastrophe could happen anywhere, at any time and place. Other instances of genocide have not been as brutal or gory as this one. It was a constant killing of Tutsis, and an ongoing battle between the Hutu extremists and the government. The root cause of the genocide dates back to before Rwanda gained independence, with Belgium favoring the Tutsis over the Hutus. Despite being outnumbered, the Tutsis were treated like royalty. Looking back, it appears that the Belgians ignited the uprising of Hutu extremists and the Rwandan Genocide by marginalizing the Hutus and providing the Tutsis preferential treatment.