Rwanda Genocide: 20 Years On

On 6 April 1994, an aeroplane carrying Rwandan president  Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down killing everyone on board. What followed the next day was the beginning of a 100 days of horror.

Rwanda Genocide Memorial
20 years later, the scar is still deep from the Rwanda genocide configmanager / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Hutu soldiers, policemen and militia executed Tutsis and moderate Hutu officials. Soon after that they quickly erected roadblocks, checkpoints really, where people needed to use their ID to pass. This was used to systematically search out Tutsis and execute them.

Hutu civilians were recruited and armed to kill, rape or maim Tutsi neighbours to steal their properties. Fewer than 1 in 30 – about 3% – survived the killings. Over 800,000 were executed.

Rebel leader and current president Paul Kagame put an end to the killings and started the work of building a new Rwanda with fresh ideals. Kagame pushed for a new Rwanda where identity was not based on ethnic identity but one Rwanda.

Kagame accuses the country’s former colonial master, France of being complicit in the genocide. He said it and Belgium had a direct role in the political preparation for the genocide.

Kagame also accused French soldiers of being involved in the bloodbath. France sent an intervention force 11 weeks into the genocide and locals have said that its soldiers maimed, raped and killed Tutsis.

Kagame scoffed at the sentencing of Pascale Simbikangwa by a French court, saying that it was insignificant saying that it was done more as a ‘favour’ for Rwanda than a search for justice. He accuses France of being slow to act on killers on its soil.

This has prompted France to pull out of commemorations for the genocide set to take place on Monday. It says that Kagame’s comments hinder progress in reconciliation between the two countries.

In 2008, a report by Rwanda’s MUCYO commission of inquiry concluded that France had trained the armed groups that carried out killings and French troops had taken part in massacres. It accused 13 politicians and 20 officers by name.

Though the world said ‘never again’, in the Central African Republic, thousands have been killed this year since sectarian violence  broke out. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned of genocide if the government of that country did not act quickly.

The world on Monday 7 April will observe a day of remembrance for the victims of the Rwandan genocide.

With information from Al Jazeera, and The Guardian UK