Rwandan Genocide

By: Liibaan Yusuf

The Rwandan genocide was one of the worst cases of ethnic cleansing in the late 20th century after the Holocaust. It began after Hutus, one of the three major ethnic groups in Rwanda, began rallying nationalist and radical ideas, which spread extremely quickly. Almost 1 million people died in the approximately three month span of pillaging, murder, and hatred for each other from May through June of 1994.

The Rwandan genocide was caused by key events in the years before. In 1994, Tutsi refugees in Uganda came together to start the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front). Through Uganda, they had infiltrated northern Rwanda and came on the plans of taking over the country. That incited the Rwandan civil war and abruptly ended when neither the RPF nor the Rwandan government gaining any advantage. As a result of the civil war, the former President, Habyarimana, brought forth the Arusha Accord to be signed by the Rwandan Government alongside he RPF in August of 1993.

Not even a year later, in early April of 1994, Habyarimana was assassinated. No one knows who did it, but historians say evidence leads them to believe that the perpetrators were of the Tutsi tribe. The death of the president lead to a power struggle between the Hutus, Tutsi, and Twa. Each group had reason to believe they were deserving of the position. The Hutus argued that since Habyarimana was a Hutu, it would only be right for a Hutu to be president and would be outlandish to hand over power to the Tutsi, who tried to overthrow the government just earlier that year. The Tutsi and Twa used exactly that as their counter argument though. Tutsi and Twa, both believed they should be given a chance at power.

Though just as early as the day after Habyarimana’s assassination, the genocide began. High power Hutus went after powerful and influential Tutsi’s first. Once the other Hutus heard of this, it morphed into an ethno-nationalist issue and Hutus began roaming the streets, killing anybody who was not a fellow Hutu.

The Tutsis hid in churches and schools believing that they would be spared, but they were massacred wherever they were found. Some of the perpetrators preferred machetes to rifles, they hacked away at hundreds of bodies. With murder came rape; Hutus sexually assaulted women and children with an estimated count of 500,000 women raped and some accounts of necrophilia.

All the while, when radical Hutu’s went after innocent Tutsis, the RPF saw the situation as a breach of the Arusha Accords and they resumed the brief civil war again, on grounds of fighting in defense. The RPF quickly took over the capital and gained tremendous ground and power with no central government to fight back. This incited violence and caused the innocent Tutsis to run towards Zaire, modern day DRC, in fear of the roaming Hutus killing anyone in sight.

Though the actual genocide ended in an estimated 100 days, the RPF formed into an actual government and in 1996 began an attack into neighboring Zaire, where thousands of Hutu refugees and war criminals ran to after the RPF took power in Rwanda. The Rwandan attack on Zaire began the First Congo War resulting in the deaths of 200 thousand people, combatants, and others.

Today, according to the Rwandan Constitution it claims that 1 million people died in the Rwandan Genocide and the government has put in many noteworthy laws and precautions to stop any similar uprisings and ethno-nationalist ideals are classified as criminal activity and can result in legal action. There are 2 holidays dedicated to the remembrance of those who died.

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