Tuesday, April 10, 2007


"We cannot turn the clock back nor can we undo the harm caused, but we have the power to determine the future and to ensure that what happened never happens again...I wish to make it abundantly clear that we Rwandans take primary responsibility for what happened 10 years ago. And I stand here in the name of the Rwandan government and the people of this country and apologize in their name..."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide which killed about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus

Generally, historians are divided on the origins of Rwanda ’s three ethnic groups, the Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa. However, pre-colonial Rwanda was highly organized and had a centralized system of administration. The kingdom was presided over by the Umwami (King), usually from the Nyiginya clan of the Tutsi sub-group.

There were nineteen clans, in all, shared among the three ethnic groups. Some argue that, up to about the middle of the 19th century, clan identities mattered more than Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa categorization.

However, the division of Rwandans by ethnicity, based partly on these indigenous groupings, is believed to be a colonial concoction, which gained currency in the later part of the 20th century.


King Mutara III shaking hand with King Baudoin

Ethnic tension in Rwanda is nothing new. There have been always been disagreements between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis.The two ethnic groups are actually very similar - they speak the same language, inhabit the same areas and follow the same traditions. In 1933 the Belgian colonial administration introduced a discriminatory national identification policy based on ethnicity. Banyarwanda who possessed ten or more cows were automatically registered as Batutsi, along with their descendants, whereas those with less were registered as Bahutu.

The Belgians considered the Tutsis as superior to the Hutus. Not surprisingly, the Tutsis welcomed this idea, and for the next 20 years they enjoyed better jobs and educational opportunities than their neighbours.

Resentment among the Hutus gradually built up, culminating in a series of riots in 1959. More than 20,000 Tutsis were killed, and many more fled to the neighboring countries of Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda. When Belgium relinquished power and granted Rwanda independence in 1962, Hutus took their place. Over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were used as scapegoats for every crisis. Tutsi refugees in Uganda - supported by some moderate Hutus - formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Their aim was to overthrow Habyarimana, president of Rwanda at the time, and secure their right to return to their homeland. Tutsis inside Rwanda were accused of being RPF collaborators.

In August 1993, after several attacks and months of negotiation, a peace accord was signed between Habyarimana and the RPF, but it did little to stop continuing unrest. 1994 would see the final collapse of the political process.


On April 6 of that year, President Habyarimana and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, were returning from a meeting of eastern and central African leaders in Tanzania, at which they discussed ways to end the ethnic violence in Burundi and Rwanda. Bloody feuding between the majority Hutu tribe and the minority Tutsis had plagued both tiny central African states for centuries. It had been particularly bad in Burundi where up to 100,000 people have been killed since the assassination of the country's first democratically-elected president, a Hutu, in October 1993. In Rwanda, President Habyarimana's Hutu coalition had reached a peace accord with Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels, made up mainly of Tutsis, but had failed to agree on a transitional government.

As their plane prepared to land in Kigali, it was shot down, some reports say by a surface-to-air missile. Conspiracy theories still abound about the identity of the assassins. There are various points of view explaining the shooting of the presidential jet; however, whatever the facts of that case reports indicate that the genocide had been planned systematically well in advance.

Lemarchanda says of the circumstances surrounding the assassination:

"Who actually fired the missile that brought down Habyarimana’s plane may never be known, anymore than that who ordered the missile to be fired. But if circumstantial evidence is any index, there is every reason to view the shooting of the plane as an eminently rational act from the standpoint of immediate goals."

The late President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down on April 9th, 1994. Burundi's President Cyprian Ntayamira was among the 10 other people on the aircraft, which some reports say was brought down by rocket fire.

The violence that followed was some of the worst in the history of humanity.

Rwanda's 100 days of genocide began shortly after President Habyarimana’s plane went down. Hutu militias began an orchestrated killing campaign. About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Hate radio urged Hutus to exterminate the Tutsi "cockroaches". Evidence of widespread massacres began to appear; many victims were attacked with machetes, clubs and sticks. The UN force was reduced, and those left could do little more than watch. Pleas for help from the West went unheeded.

Men, women and children were killed as they sought refuge in places of religious worship.

As the genocide built, the RPF invaded the country. By mid-July it had taken over the country – the killing ceased.

Rwanda Refugees in Neighbouring country Photo by World Prout Assembly

Two million people, mainly Hutus, had fled as the RPF advanced. An estimated 115,000 suspected killers were jailed.

About a tenth of Rwandas population died in the 100 days.

"The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret...I believed at that time that I was doing my best."

Koffi Annan Former U.N. Secretary General

After the genocide, a Government of National Unity and Transitional National Assembly were put into place. These were composed of all political parties in the country, with the exception of MRND and CDR, who organized the genocide and saw it through.

In July 1994, the Arusha Accords, with some alterations, were adopted by the transitional government as its constitutional base. In August and September 2003 presidential and legislative elections were organized, with President Paul Kagame and his RPF political party winning a landslide.


The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established for the prosecution of persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994. It also has some jurisdiction over Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations of international law committed in the territory of neighboring states during the same period.

Jean-Paul Akayesu, a former mayor in Rwanda, was found guilty of genocide by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for his part in the mass killings of ethnic Tutsis in 1994.

The Gacaca court is part of a system of community justice inspired by tradition and established in 2001 in Rwanda. After the Genocide, the new Rwandan Patriotic Front government struggled with developing just means for the humane detention of the more than 100,000 people accused of genocide, war crimes, and related crimes against humanity. In response to the overcrowded prisons, Rwanda implemented the Gacaca court system, which has evolved from traditional forms of communal law enforcement. The system has come under criticism, however, from a number of sources, including the Survivors Fund, which represents survivors of the genocide, due to the danger that the open courts pose to survivors. There have been a number of reports of survivors being targeted for giving evidence. Research done so far indicates that most Rwandans support Gacaca as a vital way to address the immense problem of justice following such a traumatic event. According to Peter E, Harrell, in his thesis, "Rwanda’s Gamble," 87 percent of Rwandans are willing to testify in a Gacaca session.


A new dawn at Lake Kivu

The Rwandan government has struggled to rebuild its economy, which was left in tatters by the 1994 genocide. Recent strong growth figures mask the difficulty of the task which lies ahead.

Rwanda’s economy may still be small and predominantly agricultural, but in recent years, with political stability, it has posted an impressive 9.9% GDP growth rate, while at the same time reducing inflation to 3.2% and currency depreciation to only 6.5% per annum. Foreign exchange controls have been liberalized and the banking system is sound and thriving.

Downtown Kigali

The government's main hope for the Millennium Development Goals and VISION 2020 is to enable Rwandans to emerge from under-development and poverty status by achieving economic growth objectives in combination with social indicators objectives. With its Vision 2020 objective of combating poverty, Rwanda is embarking on a comprehensive program of privatization and liberalization with the goal of attaining rapid and sustainable economic growth. They plan to transform the economy, from its 90% dependence on subsistence agriculture, into a modern, broadly based economic engine, welcoming to investors, and creating employment and new opportunities for its people. The major exports of Rwanda are coffee, tea, tin cassiterite, wolframite, and pyrethrum. Coffee makes up more than 50% of the total export value, while its mountain grown tea is considered to be some of the finest in the world.

In the year of the genocide, growth slumped by 50% and inflation reached 64%.

Recently, substantial private investments have been made to develop tourism and new industries such as cut flowers, for export, and fish farming. The full range of
Rwanda’s resources has yet to be realized. Commercial fishing in Lake Kivu is in its infancy, and there are vast opportunities in the emerging tourism industry. The labour force is dedicated, energetic and eager for training. The government, through the Rwanda Investment Promotion Agency (RIPA), is ready to work hand-in-hand with investors to realize their goals and drive the economy forward to a better future. Opportunities abound for long-term, well-capitalized investors with ideas, imagination, and business skills that could serve an emerging economy. More Information


PICTURESQUE: Rwanda's natural scenic beauty

Tiny, landlocked Rwanda is popularly known as "The Land of a Thousand Hills," and offers an experience of tropical Africa. Its green landscapes are truly incredible. Though visitors will be conscious of the 1994 genocide, its memory is overwhelming, and the focus is now on healing ethnic divisions and looking forward to the future.

Rwanda Air Express Staff Members

Rwanda's natural scenic beauty is best captured in the country's major national parks. Filled with picturesque scenes decorated by lakes, rivers, and natural vegetation, and teeming with wild animals, these three parks leave visitors begging for more.

The key attraction in Rwanda is its population of mountain gorillas, first made famous by Dian Fossey. It also has a number of other unique delights to offer travellers, including an incredible number of bird species (670 recorded so far); protected primate communities including chimpanzee, colobus, and golden monkeys; savannah wildlife; and a vibrant cultural tradition.

Photos by Issa Michuzi

Rwanda is, in a nutshell, a nature lover’s paradise. It is also among the friendliest of countries. A warm welcome is complemented by comfortable facilities, fine food, and a rich cultural heritage.

Rwandas very optimistic future generation
Photo Courtesy University College of London

Sources of the Materials and More Information:
Rwanda Tourism
Rwanda Gateway-All You Need To Know About Rwanda
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not all was death and gore about the genocide in Rwanda. Amidst the 100 days of killings in 1994, numerous lives were saved by complete strangers.

While Hutu Christians were hunting down and slaughtering innocent Tutsi Christians, Muslim Hutus were providing thousands of Tutsi Christians with sanctuary.

While some Muslim Hutus waited for the Tutsis to come to them to be rescued, other Muslim Hutus were actively searching out Tutsis to be rescued.

Some Tutsis were saved when Muslim Hutus paid ransom money for them. Some Muslims died because they refused to give up the Tutsis they were protecting.

While many churches became slaughter houses, many mosques became sanctuaries.

What makes what happened especially remarkable is because traditionally in Rwanda Muslims were looked down upon by the Christian majority. However, the decades of being placed on the fringe of mainstream society apparently did not stop the Muslims from sheltering those they could from certain death.

It is worth emphasising that the genocide started about four days after the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan during which Muslim religious leaders had openly preached against local Muslims getting involved in any ethnic conflicts in Rwanda.

As though being prophetic, the Muslim religious leaders repeatedly told Muslims that "murder is a sin".

Many had attributed the Muslim community's life-saving actions during the genocide to its religious leaders' roles.

Indeed, ten years after the genocide, mosques were among the few places in Rwanda where genuine reconciliations were taking place.

While other Rwandans had put themselves in danger by protecting Tutsis, it is only the Muslim community which had acted together as a unit.

Also, not only did Muslim Hutus protected Christian Tutsis, they also acted to protect Muslim Tutsis, thus leaving the community virtually intact during and after the genocide.

Ahmad Idham