Beneath the green slopes and fertile contours that moistened Rwanda’s coffee fields, streams of blood flowed through the country. Bodies with missing limbs and heads were littered in numbers. Orphaned babies sucking from their dead mothers’ breasts sung cries of hunger and pain. Women were raped. Fathers were butchered. Survivors fled to neighboring countries for refuge. It is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, but a dark cloud descended upon the hills that scraped the skies.
This week marks 25 years since the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide. 100 days of fear. 100 days of bloodshed. 100 days of pain. Even though time has passed, memories of the horror still linger in the minds of the victims.
On the 7th of April 1994, the mass murdering of Tutsis begun.
Background of the Genocide
1918 – Rwanda is occupied by Belgium under the Treaty of Versailles. A class system is created through the issue of passports in accordance to tribe to give Tutsis superiority over Hutus because they (Tutsis) have more Caucasian features i.e. fair skin, long noses, tallness.
Tutsis are given better jobs and enjoy the Belgian education system.
1959 -Ethnic tensions are heightened. Hutus rebel against the cast system thereby killing thousands of elite Tutsis. Few flee to neighboring counties, reducing their population in Rwanda by far less.
1962 – Rwanda gains independence. Tutsis remain the target of tribal violence by Hutus.
1975 – Hutus continue to oppress minority Tutsis. President Juvénal Habyarimana of Hutu ethnicity enables the segregation.
1980 – A record of 480, 000 Rwandans are refugees in neighboring countries.
1986 – RPF is formed by Tutsis currently exiled in Uganda. The guerrilla troop is led by Paul Kagame.
1990 – RPF invades Rwanda after President Juvénal Habyarimana’s dictatorial leadership plunges Rwanda into an economic recession.
1992 – Hutu activist Dr. Leon Mugusera calls for Tutsis to be displaced back to Ethiopia; the land of their origin.
1993 – Peace negotiations between RPF and the President fail. Radio stations owned by Hutu supporters endorse the killings of Tutsis.
1994 – On April 6th, a plane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, president of Burundi, is shot down in Kigali by unknown people. Conspiracists allege that the assassination is performed by the Tutsi led Rwandan Patriotic Front party (RPF).
Habyarimana and Ntaryamira are both of Hutu ethnicity.
On April 7th, the mass murder of Tutsis at the hands of enraged Hutus begins, in order to avenge their slain tribesmen.
For the next 100 days, a door to door killing of Tutsis takes place. Approximately 800, 000 civilians are recorded dead.
In July, RPF ceased control of Rwanda. The genocide finally came to an end shortly after.
Method of violence
Aftermath of the genocide
A lot of Rwandans became refugees in neighbouring countries
Many who trekked to other countries died on the way due to cholera and other illnesses
A number of children were left orphaned and/or lost their identity. Till date, a handsome number of young adults can only estimate how old they are.
The number of physically challenged persons increased
Ethnic debates/conversations were later forbidden to avoid tension between the two tribes
Let it be known that the tension between the two ethnic groups was perpetrated by the Belgians who used the Divide and Conquer tool to colonize Rwanda. Even though 25 years have gone by, the scars have not completely healed. Every raindrop in the month of April is a grave reminder of the hate that crippled the Land of a Thousand Hills.