Just a fair warning. These pictures and concepts aren’t particularly graphic, but they may make some people uncomfortable. I just want to stress that it’s important to know that these things REALLY happened to very REAL people. It’s important to recognize the past, even the stuff that might make some of us uncomfortable. Thank you.
For those who don’t know, Rwanda is a country located in the middle eastern portion of Africa, bordering Uganda and Tanzania.
The Rwandan Genocide began on April 7th, 1994 and lasted for around 100 days, ending in mid-July.
In the span of 3 months, it is estimated that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi’s and Tutsi supporters were killed. This constitutes the extermination of roughly 20% of the country’s entire population, and around 70% of the Tutsi population.
Hutu vs. Tutsi
There is some anthropological debate as to exactly where the hutu/tutsi difference began, but some believe it could have originated as early as 500 BC, when differing races with similar characteristics settled upon the same Rwandan territory.
However, most believe the Hutu Tutsi differences to be mostly class or caste based (as opposed to racial), as the physical differences are minute.
The class conflict began in 1884, when Germany was assigned the territory of Rwanda to establish a monarchy system.
Germans believed that people from the Tutsi race were more “Caucasian”, and racially superior, to the Hutu, and therefore put them in charge of the country.
This separation created severe tension, and continued when Belgium was placed in charge of the Rwandan territory as well. The Hutu, unsatisfied with the minority Tutsi rule, overthrew the government in 1959 and established a Hutu system.
After a civil war in the 1980’s, it was was clear that tension between the classes was coming to a head.
On April 6th, 1994, Rwandan (and Hutu supporter) President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. Although debate ranged greatly on who was responsible for the attack, Hutu extremists seized the opportunity.
Major General Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Colonel Theoneste Bagosora overthrew the power of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and achieved military control.
The Cheap Kill
With free government reign, the extermination began almost immediately.
It began in the city of Kigali. The extremist group The Interahamwe (“Those who fight together”) had been preparing by setting up road blocks, and were the first to begin checking ID cards.
These cards gave information on a person’s race. Any man, woman, or child with a Tutsi card was immediately killed.
In 1993, Rwanda had imported $750,000 worth of machetes from China. Because they were so inexpensive and readily available, the machete became the go-to weapon for the genocide.
Rate of Killing
The rate of killing in the 100 day time span was estimated to be 5 times worse that the holocaust in Germany.
Deaths from machete were slow and painful, to the point where some Tutsi’s were given the option of paying for a bullet from their killers, in order to ensure a quick death.
The Women Victims
It was estimated that between 100,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the genocide.
Of those, around 20,000 children were estimated to have been born as a result of rape.
More than 2/3 of the victims of rape were also infected with HIV/AIDS.
This was typically planned, where it was made certain that specific Hutu soldiers that were known to be infected would purposefully be forced upon the women to guarantee infection.
Massacre at Nyarubuye Church
One of the worst atrocities occurred April 15-16. Many Tutsi’s sought refuge in local churches, and a local Hutu loyalist mayor convinced several thousand refugees into the Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church.
The mayor then informed extremists, who began bombarding the church with grenades and machine gun fire. After that, they began using machetes and clubs. So many innocents were killed, that the soldiers had to kill in shifts.
It took 2 full days to massacre the thousands of refugees hiding inside the church.
Thank you for reading!
I know how much these posts can dampen your spirits. But once again, I think it’s important to remember that we can’t just give up on the world because of the bad; we have to keep fighting to protect the good.