The Rwandan Genocide, 1994

The 1994 Rwanda genocide was the result of an economic crisis, civil war, population growth and a struggle for state power. The then-president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, had decided, after long opposition, to comply with the Arusha Accords and put an end to the crisis and civil war. The civil war began when the armed wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded from Uganda in the autumn of 1990.

The RPF was a movement mainly made up of the Tutsi refugee diaspora in Uganda with which Habyarimana´s party, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND), had been forced to compromise. On 6 April, he flew back from negotiations in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. His aeroplane was shot down as it came in to land, and the president and a number of other top officials were killed.

After the announcement of the president's death all hell broke loose in Rwanda. A group of senior military officials quickly seized power. Almost immediately, organised massacres of Tutsi and moderate Hutu began, initiated by the army and the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi youth militia.

It was not immediately clear what exactly was happening. The images on the news showed long queues of people fleeing the country, carrying their household effects. Young, shabbily dressed, men called heatedly for ‘Hutu power,’ waving machetes or holding huge weapons aloft and firing into the air. Piles of corpses lay along the sides of roads and in ditches, but there was a lack of clarity in the media’s observations and analyses.

People spoke of the Hutu and the Tutsi, and by referring to the chaos as an intertribal dispute, US President Bill Clinton confirmed people’s prejudices about Africa.

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Arusha Accords, front right Habyarimana, August 4, 1993
Interahamwe, 1993