The Rwanda Genocide that took place in 1994 has been registered in the conscience of humans as one of the darkest days in the contemporary history. Within 100 days of slaughter that involved intense fighting, bloodshed and inconsolable hatred towards fellow citizens, over 800,000 people are said to have been killed in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists.
The extremists mostly targeted the minority Tutsi community and their political opponents.
Why Did the Conflict Erupt?
Hutu community is made up roughly 85 percent of the population and Tutsi some 14 percent. Although there were less of numbers of Tutsis in the country, they generally occupied the higher status in the social system in the past.
In 1959, when the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy, the power strata started changing. Thousands of Tutsis fled to neighbouring countries. A group of Tutsi in exile formed a rebel group called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in order to fight for their rights to return to Rwanda. The group invaded Rwanda in 1990 and fighting continued until a peace deal in 1993 stopped the war momentarily.
On April 6 1994, Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda (Both Hutus) were killed in a plane crash caused by a rocket attack. The incident ignited several weeks of intense and systematic massacres.
Hutu extremists blamed the RPF and immediately started a notorious campaign of slaughtering all Tutsis. According to a UN report, as many as 1 million people are estimated to have perished and an estimated 150,000 to 250,000 women were raped.
The genocide was carried out with meticulous planning and organization. Lists of people to be killed, such as government opponents, were handed out to militias who went and killed them. None of the family members, including children, were spared. Killings occurred among neighbours, while some husbands of Hutu roots killed their Tutsi wives saying that they would be killed themselves if they didn't kill all Tutsi's in their sight.
ID cards showed people's ethnic group during the time, so militias blocked the roads, held checkups and slaughtered Tutsis, often with machetes (large clever like knifes) which most Rwandans kept around their houses. Thousands of Tutsi woman were also reportedly taken away and made sex slaves.
UN, Belgium Forced Pulled Out of Crisis
The cruel mass killings of hundreds of thousands of people were held for months with no forces to stop them. The UN and Belgium had their forces in Rwanda, but the UN mission had not been mandated to stop the killings. After 10 Belgian soldiers were killed, the Belgians and the UN Peacekeepers pulled out of the area.
The French, which were then allies of the Hutu government, sent a force to set up what was called a 'safe zone,' but France is until today, accused of doing nothing to stop the killings. On Sunday, for instance, Rwanda's current government accused France of 'Direct links' to the massacres - a change that led Paris' to pull out form marking the day of remembrance of the genocide.
How Did it End?
The heartless killings went on until 4 July after RPF seized more territory when they marched into the capital, Kigali. Two million Hutus fled the country and took refuge in neighbouring Congo (called Zaire at the time) fearing revenge attacks from Tutsis.
The RFF are still accused of killing more people as they took power. Thousands of those who took refuge in DR Congo died from cholera.
Commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide:
The start date of the 1994 genocide, 7 April, has been designation by the UN General Assembly as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. The memorial ceremony at the UN Headquarters in New York will take place on 16 April.