In 1994, during the Rwandan genocide, members of the majority Hutu ethnic group of Rwanda killed almost 800,000 people. Majority of those killed were of the minority Tutsi ethnic group. The genocide started off in the eastern African country’s capital of Kigali by people who professed nationalistic ideas. The killing spread throughout Rwanda with a form of brutality and force that the country was yet to witness.
The central government led by a moderate Hutu relied on propaganda machinery to rile up the ordinary citizens to take up arms against their Tutsi neighbors. At the end of the genocide, about 2 million people, including men, women, and children, were made refugees.
Ethnic Tension: A Ticking Time bomb
Rwanda by the early 1990s was a country that subsisted majorly on an agricultural-driven economy. Also, by that time, it had one of the highest population densities in the continent of Africa. A large chunk, about 85 percent of the country’s population belonged to the Hutu. The Tutsis, Twas, and Pygmys accounted for the remaining 15 percent.
During the colonial period, the Belgians under whose control the eastern African country was, favored the minority Tutsi over their Hutu neighbors. It led to the few oppressing and exerting control over the majority, and with time, it exploded into a full blown civil war.
A Hutu Revolution occurred in 1959, and about 330,000 Tutsis were compelled to seek shelter away from Rwanda. This further reduced their number compared to the Hutus. The Hutus as well were successful in their attempt to force the Tutsi monarch into exile by early 1961. The following year, following a referendum by the United Nations, Belgium granted Rwanda their independence.
The attainment of independence didn’t do much in the way of quelling tensions, instead it heightened it. The military installed Major General Juvenal Habyarimana. He founded the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (NRMD), and was elected as the country’s president under a newly rectified 1978 constitution. He was also re-elected president in 1983 and in 1988.
Forces loyal to the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1990, invaded Rwanda from their base in Uganda. The RPF was constituted of majorly Tutsi refugees. Habyarimana accused the Tutsis residing within Rwanda of collusion, and many of them were arrested. In 1992, a ceasefire agreement was negotiated between the government and the RPF. The agreement was signed in Arusha, Uganda in 1993. A major condition for the ceasefire was that a transition government that included the RPF should be put in place. This condition didn’t find much favor from the Hutu extremists and therefore took swift actions to ensure its futility.
The decision to oppose the power-sharing formula in the Arusha Agreement led to the 1994 shooting down of the plane conveying Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi. Ten Belgian peacekeepers, Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana were the first sets of casualties of the genocide. Within three months, about 800,000 people have been brutally murdered. Also, about 2 million people, mostly Hutus, fled the country.
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