Genocide in Rwanda

Rwanda is made up of three groups of people, Tutsis, Hutus, and Twa. The Hutu were the majority of the population with a large minority of Tutsis. After World War I, Belgium took authority of Rwanda. Colonial rule disrupted the previous society introducing western ideals. They encouraged a division between the Hutus and Tutsis. The Belgian administration issued identity cards classifying the population into two distinct ethnic groups. The authorities gave the Tutsi power to rule over the Hutu majority. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a growing Hutu nationalist movement called for freedom of Tutsi rule and an independent Rwanda.On July 5, 1973, Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, ousted the previous president, turning the country into a one-party state, essentially establishing a dictatorship. Many Tutsi fled to Uganda to save themselves from the rampant violence against them that were being committed by the Hutu.

On October 1, 1991, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, (RPF), Rwandan Tutsi refugees from Uganda, attacked the border. The surprise attack heightened prejudice against Tutsi.Hutu extremists used propaganda in both papers and hate radio to instill fear of Tutsis, claiming the Tutsi were trying to reclaim their former power and planning to murder all Hutus. They declared, in order to combat the Tutsi “accomplices” to the RPF, the Hutus must rise and exterminate all Tutsis. During this time, the Rwandan Minister of Defense built up the Rwandan military and created a civilian defense force of young uneducated peasants, called the Interahamwe. They stockpiled weapons such as machetes, rifles, and grenades.

The Rwandan government and the RPF agreed to sign a peace treaty, the Arushu Accords, which included a provision to establish a new multi-party parliamental government. Later, the United Nations deployed the peacekeeping mission, United Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), under the leadership of Romeo Dallaire, to ensure that peace was kept. UNAMIR was to act with in  a limited mandate requiring  them to remain neutral and never engage in the use of force. Overtime, it was prevalent to Dallaire that the Rwandan military was arming civil militias and organizing an attack on all Tutsis and moderate Hutus opposing the Hutu government.

On April 6, 1994, at 8:30pm, President Habyarimana’s plane, coming back from Arushu, was shot down near the Kigali airport. Immediately, the troops were given weapons and orders to do “work” and finish off the “cockroaches,” euphemism for murdering all Tutsi and moderate Hutus.  The next day, they began murdering all those on the previously prepared lists of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Prime Minister, Agathe Uwimiliyana, a moderate Hutu, was immediately murdered along with ten Belgian peacekeepers whose job it was to protect her. The soldiers and militias went house to house dragging supposed Tutsis from their homes and hiding places to be murdered. At roadblocks, the militias checked identification cards, killing all Tutsis that they stopped. The RTLM radio station, called for citizens to take up arms and build road blocks inciting and promoting the killing of all Tutsis. Tutsis fled to hospitals, churches, seminaries, markets, and schools in hopes of finding safety. In Butare, approximately 20,000 people were killed at a Catholic Church in three days.

In the wake of the initial outbreak of murder and massacre of the Belgian troops, the international community called for the evacuation of all foreigners. They brought in 1,000 outside troops to facilitate the evacuation. In the first three days, as 4,000 foreigners were evacuated, about 20,000 Rwandans were murdered. Dallaire and UNAMIR troops knew that the violence was not uncontrolled, but a planned, organized, and deliberate campaign of murder by the Army, under the leadership of Colonel Bagosora. Dallaire implicated the main element behind the killing was ethnicity. The international community’s response to Dallaire’s outcry for more troops to protect innocent civilians was inaction. The world looked away as people were being murdered by the thousands. On July 4, 1994, the RPF took Kigali and stopped the killing. Thousands of Hutu fled Rwanda into neighboring countries. Approximately, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were murdered between April 7 to July 4, 1994.

In November 1994, the United Nations created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of genocide. The ICTR established major precedents in the international criminal courts, determining systematic rape as a form of genocide. The ICTR also recognized and tried the two former media officials of the RTLM radio, for using media as a instrument to incite genocide.

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