Rwandan Genocide

Death Toll: 800,000 – 1,000,000+ in 100 days

In 1994, a fierce campaign of killing swept across Rwanda in central Africa, where many hundreds of thousands of people were killed, mainly of the Tutsi people. These events have been portrayed internationally as the eruption of ancient and incomprehensible hatreds. But in fact, an examination of the history of Rwanda shows that the hostilities of the herding Tutsi people and the agricultural Hutu people was greatly inflamed by the discriminatory policies of the colonial French governments in the early 20th centry. And more, the explosion of fighting in Rwanda (just like the later civil war in the Congo) are closely connected with the rivalry of Anglo-American and French imperialism over the control of Central Africa. The following article digs into recent revelations about the direct involvement of the French government in the genocide.

It focuses on a 500 page report compiled by a team of investigators from the Rwandan Justice Ministry, and released in August 2008. The scathing 3-volume report was rleased by Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karungarama to a conference room packed with hundreds of people. The findings of the report, which implicated French troops and 33 leading French politicians were quickly denounced by French officials.

The Tanzania-based U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Thursday convicted Theoneste Bagosora of instigating Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and sentenced him to life in prison.


* In 1990, rebels of the Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded northern Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda. The RPF’s success prompted President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, to speed up political reforms.

* In August 1993, Rwanda and the RPF signed a deal to end years of civil war, allowing for power-sharing and the return of refugees. But President Habyarimana was slow in implementing it. A transitional government failed to take off.


* On April 6, 1994, Habyarimana and neighbouring Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira were killed in a rocket attack on their plane.

* The next day, presidential guards killed moderate Hutu Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiwimana who had tried to calm tensions.


* Habyarimana’s death triggered a 100-day orgy of violence, perpetrated mainly by Hutus against Tutsis and moderate Hutus. About 800,000 people were killed, many butchered with machetes by militia known as Interahamwe.

* The RPF advanced and seized control of Rwanda after driving the 40,000-strong Hutu army and more than 2 million civilian Hutus into exile in Burundi, Tanzania and the former Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo.

* In July 1994 a new government was sworn in with Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, named president and RPF commander Paul Kagame as vice-president. Kagame was elected president in April 2000 and remains in the office.


* In December 1996, Rwanda’s first genocide trial opened under the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

* The Arusha-based ICTR had accused Theoneste Bagosora of being in charge of the troops and Interahamwe Hutu militia who carried out the massacres. He was found guilty and given a life sentence.


* Rwandan troops invaded neighbouring Congo twice in the 1990s to try to hunt down perpetrators of the genocide. Conflict in Congo since 1998 is estimated to have left over five million dead, mostly through hunger and disease.

* The 1994 genocide is at the root of the recent fighting in eastern Congo that pits Tutsi rebel General Laurent Nkunda against the Congolese army and militias.

* Nkunda and the Rwandans accuse Kinshasa of backing Hutu rebels who are remnants of the Interahamwe. Congo accuses Rwanda of backing Nkunda.

The Hutu, now without opposition, engaged in genocidal mania, clubbing and hacking to death defenseless Tutsi families with machetes everywhere they were found. The Rwandan state radio, controlled by Hutu extremists, further encouraged the killings by broadcasting non-stop hate propaganda and even pinpointed the locations of Tutsis in hiding. The killers were aided by members of the Hutu professional class including journalists, doctors and educators, along with unemployed Hutu youths and peasants who killed Tutsis just to steal their property.

Many Tutsis took refuge in churches and mission compounds. These places became the scenes of some of the worst massacres. In one case, at Musha, 1,200 Tutsis who had sought refuge were killed beginning at 8 a.m. lasting until the evening. Hospitals also became prime targets as wounded survivors were sought out then killed. In some local villages, militiamen forced Hutus to kill their Tutsi neighbors or face a death sentence for themselves and their entire families. They also forced Tutsis to kill members of their own families.

By mid May, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis had been slaughtered. Bodies were now commonly seen floating down the Kigara River into Lake Victoria.

Timeline of Rwandan Genocide

1300s – Tutsis migrate into what is now Rwanda, which was already inhabited by the Twa and Hutu peoples.

1600s – Tutsi King Ruganzu Ndori subdues central Rwanda and outlying Hutu areas.

Late 1800s – Tutsi King Kigeri Rwabugiri establishes a unified state with a centralised military structure.

1858 – British explorer Hanning Speke is the first European to visit the area.

1890 – Rwanda becomes part of German East Africa.

1916 – Belgian forces occupy Rwanda.

1923 – Belgium granted League of Nations mandate to govern Ruanda-Urundi, which it ruled indirectly through Tutsi kings.

1946 – Ruanda-Urundi becomes UN trust territory governed by Belgium.


1957 – Hutus issue manifesto calling for a change in Rwanda’s power structure to give them a voice commensurate with their numbers; Hutu political parties formed.

1959 – Tutsi King Kigeri V, together with tens of thousands of Tutsis, forced into exile in Uganda following inter-ethnic violence.

1961 – Rwanda proclaimed a republic.

1962 – Rwanda becomes independent with a Hutu, Gregoire Kayibanda, as president; many Tutsis leave the country.

1963 – Some 20,000 Tutsis killed following an incursion by Tutsi rebels based in Burundi.

1973 – President Gregoire Kayibanda ousted in military coup led by Juvenal Habyarimana.

1978 – New constitution ratified; Habyarimana elected president.

1988 – Some 50,000 Hutu refugees flee to Rwanda from Burundi following ethnic violence there.

1990 – Forces of the rebel, mainly Tutsi, Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invade Rwanda from Uganda.

1991 – New multi-party constitution promulgated.


1993 – President Habyarimana signs a power-sharing agreement with the Tutsis in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, ostensibly signalling the end of civil war; UN mission sent to monitor the peace agreement.

1994 April – Habyarimana and the Burundian president are killed after their plane is shot down over Kigali; RPF launches a major offensive; extremist Hutu militia and elements of the Rwandan military begin the systematic massacre of Tutsis. Within 100 days around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus are killed; Hutu militias flee to Zaire, taking with them around 2 million Hutu refugees.

1994-96 – Refugee camps in Zaire fall under the control of the Hutu militias responsible for the genocide in Rwanda.

1995 – Extremist Hutu militias and Zairean government forces attack local Zairean Banyamulenge Tutsis; Zaire attempts to force refugees back into Rwanda.

1995 – UN-appointed international tribunal begins charging and sentencing a number of people responsible for the Hutu-Tutsi atrocities.

Intervention in DR Congo

1996 – Rwandan troops invade and attack Hutu militia-dominated camps in Zaire in order to drive home the refugees.

1997 – Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels depose President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire; Laurent Kabila becomes president of Zaire, which is renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo.

1998 – Rwanda switches allegiance to support rebel forces trying to depose Kabila in the wake of the Congolese president’s failure to expel extremist Hutu militias.

2000 March – Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, resigns over differences regarding the composition of a new cabinet and after accusing parliament of targeting Hutu politicians in anti-corruption investigations.

Kagame elected

2000 April – Ministers and members of parliament elect Vice-President Paul Kagame as Rwanda’s new president.

2001 October – Voting to elect members of traditional “gacaca” courts begins. The courts – in which ordinary Rwandans judge their peers – aim to clear the backlog of 1994 genocide cases.

2001 December – A new flag and national anthem are unveiled to try to promote national unity and reconciliation.

2002 April – Former president Pasteur Bizimungu is arrested and faces trial on charges of illegal political activity and threats to state security.

2002 July – Rwanda, DR Congo sign peace deal under which Rwanda will pull troops out of DR Congo and DR Congo will help disarm Rwandan Hutu gunmen blamed for killing Tutsi minority in 1994 genocide.

DR Congo pull-out

2002 October – Rwanda says it has pulled the last of its troops out of DR Congo, four years after they went in to support Congolese rebels against the Kabila government.

2003 May – Voters back a draft constitution which bans the incitement of ethnic hatred.

2003 August – Paul Kagame wins the first presidential elections since the 1994 genocide.

2003 October – First multi-party parliamentary elections; President Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front wins absolute majority. EU observers say poll was marred by irregularities and fraud.

2003 December – Three former media directors found guilty of inciting Hutus to kill Tutsis during 1994 genocide and receive lengthy jail sentences.

2004 March – President Kagame rejects French report which says he ordered 1994 attack on president’s plane, which sparked genocide.

2004 June – Former president, Pasteur Bizimungu, is sentenced to 15 years in jail for embezzlement, inciting violence and associating with criminals.

2005 March – Main Hutu rebel group, FDLR, says it is ending its armed struggle. FDLR is one of several groups accused of creating instability in DR Congo; many of its members are accused of taking part in 1994 genocide.

Mass prisoner release

2005 July – Government begins the mass release of 36,000 prisoners. Most of them have confessed to involvement in the 1994 genocide. It is the third phase of releases since 2003 – part of an attempt to ease overcrowding.

2006 January – Rwanda’s 12 provinces are replaced by a smaller number of regions with the aim of creating ethnically-diverse administrative areas.

2006 November – Rwanda breaks off diplomatic ties with France after a French judge issues an international arrest warrant for President Kagame, alleging he was involved in bringing down Habyarimana’s plane.

2006 December – Father Athanase Seromba becomes the first Roman Catholic priest to be convicted for involvement in the 1994 genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal sentences him to 15 years in prison.

2007 February – Some 8,000 prisoners accused of genocide are released. Some 60,000 suspects have been freed since 2003 to ease prison overcrowding.

2007 April – Former president, Pasteur Bizimungu, is released from jail three years into his 15-year sentence after receiving a presidential pardon.

2007 October – Inquiry launched into 1994 presidential plane crash that sparked genocide.

2007 November – Rwanda signs peace agreement with Democratic Republic of Congo. Under the deal DRC will hand over those suspected of involvement in the 1994 genocide to Kigali and to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Arrests abroad

2008 January – French police arrest former Rwandan army officer Marcel Bivugabagabo who is on list of war criminals wanted for trial by the Rwandan government.

2008 February – A Spanish judge issues arrest warrants for 40 Rwandan army officers, accusing them of genocide, terrorism and crimes against humanity.

2008 April – President Paul Kagame says the Spanish judge who issued arrest warrants for Rwandan army officers can “go to hell”.

2008 May – A former cabinet minister, Callixte Kalimanzira, goes on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, charged with taking part in the 1994 genocide.

2008 August – Rwanda accuses France of having played an active role in the genocide of 1994, and issues a report naming more than 30 senior French officials. France says the claims are unacceptable.

2008 September – President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) wins large majority in parliamentary elections.

2008 September – Former deputy prosecutor Simeon Nshamihigo is sentenced to life imprisonment for role in genocide by the UN tribunal. He was working as a defence investigator at the tribunal under an assumed name when arrested in 2001.

2008 October – Rwanda decides all education will be taught in English instead of French, officially as a result of joining the English-speaking East African Community.

2008 November – Rwanda expels German ambassador and recalls own ambassador in row over detention in Germany of presidential aide Rose Kabuye in connection with the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane.

Genocide trials

2008 December – One of Rwanda’s most famous singers, Simon Bikindi, is sentenced to 15 years in prison for inciting violence during the genocide.

UN report accuses Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo of directly helping Tutsi rebels fighting in eastern DR Congo. Rwanda denies supplying aid and child soldiers.

Theoneste Bagosora sentenced to life imprisonment at UN tribunal for masterminding genocide.

2009 January – Former Justice Minister Agnes Ntamabyariro is jailed for life by a Kigali court for conspiracy to plan the genocide and speeches inciting people to take part.

2009 February – Rwandan troops leave the Democratic Republic of Congo five weeks after entering to attack Hutu rebels.

UN war crimes court finds former army chaplain Emmanuel Rukundo guilty of genocide, sexual assault and kidnapping during genocide, sentences him to 25 years in jail.

2009 March – Rwandan MP and member of Tutsi-led governing party Beatrice Nirere found guilty of genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment in Rwandan gacaca traditional community court.

Dutch court finds Rwandan Hutu Joseph Mpambara guilty of torture during the genocide but not of war crimes.

2009 November – Rwanda is admitted to the Commonwealth, as only the second country after Mozambique to become a member without a British colonial past or constitutional ties to the UK.

France and Rwanda restore diplomatic relations, three years after they were severed over a row about responsibility for the 1990s genocide.

2009 December – Rwanda declared free of landmines – the first country to achieve this status.

2010 February – French President Nicolas Sarkozy pays official visit to mark reconciliation after years of accusations over the genocide. Rwanda said France armed Hutu extremists, and a French judge accused President Kagame of involvement in the death of President Habyarimana.

2010 April – Opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who planned to run against President Kagame in the August elections, is arrested. Her lawyer is later detained.

Two senior officers are arrested within days of a reshuffle of the military leadership.

2010 June – Ex-army chief of staff Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former ally turned critic of President Kagame, is wounded in a shooting while in exile in South Africa.

2010 August – President Kagame wins new term in elections.

2010 October – UN report into 1993-2003 conflict in DR Congo says Rwandan forces took part in attacks on Hutu civilians which – if proven in court – could amount to genocide.

2010 December – Exiled military officers General Kayumba Nyamwasa and Colonel Patrick Karegeya form new political party – Rwanda National Congress.

Members of the pygmy community – known as the Batwa – say authorities have destroyed hundreds of their homes as a part of a purge of traditional thatched houses.

2011 February – Opposition leader Bernard Ntaganda, accused of stoking ethnic tensions, is sentenced to four years in jail. Rights groups criticise the ruling.

2011 April – Rwanda commemorates 1994 genocide.

%d bloggers like this: