The Genocide against Tutsi was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu. During the approximate 100-day period from April 7, 1994 to mid-July, more than a million of Tutsi were killed

Military leaders in Gisenyi province, the heartland of the akazu, were initially the most organised, convening a large gathering of interahamwe and civilian Hutu; the commanders announced the president’s death, blaming the RPF for the shooting of the plane, and then ordered the crowd to “begin your work” and to “spare no one”, including babies.

The killing spread to the whole country in each case local official, responding to orders from Kigali, spread rumours amongst the population that the RPF had killed the president, and then followed that with the command to begin killing Tutsi.

The Hutu population, which had been prepared and armed during the preceding years killed Tutsi without exception.

The Presidential Guard, gendarmerie and the youth militia, aided by local populations, continued killing at a very high rate. The goal was to kill every Tutsi living in Rwanda and, with the exception of the advancing RPF army, there was no opposition force to prevent or slow the killings, the domestic opposition had already been eliminated, while UNAMIR were expressly forbidden to use any force except in self-defense.

In rural areas, where Tutsi and Hutu lived side by side and families all knew each other, it was easy for Hutu to identify and target their Tutsi neighbors.

In urban areas, where residents were more anonymous, identification was facilitated using numerous road blocks manned by military and interahamwe; each person passing the road block was required to show the national identity card, which included ethnicity, and any with Tutsi cards were slaughtered immediately. Some Hutu were also killed, for a variety of reasons including alleged sympathy for the moderate opposition parties, being a journalist or simply having a “Tutsi appearance.

The RPF were making slow progressively ending the killings in each area they occupied.


The crisis committee appointed an interim government on 8 April; using the terms of the 1991 constitution instead of the Arusha Accords, the committee designated Theodore Sindikubwabo as interim president of Rwanda, while Jean Kambanda was the new prime minister. All political parties were represented in the government, but all members were from the “Hutu Power” wings of their respective parties. The interim government was sworn in on 9 April, but immediately relocated from Kigali to Gitarama to avoid fighting between the RPF and the Rwandan army in the capital. The crisis committee was officially dissolved, but Bagosora and the senior officers remained the de facto rulers of the country. The government played its part in mobilising the population, giving the regime an air of legitimacy, but was effectively a puppet regime with no ability to halt the army or the Interahamwe’s activities.

When Romeo Dallaire visited the government’s headquarters a week after its formation, he found most officials at leisure, describing their activities as “sorting out the seating plan for a meeting that was not about to convene any time soon.


 Means of killing

Most of the victims were killed in their own villages or in towns, often by their neighbors and fellow villagers. The militia typically murdered victims by machetes, although some army units used rifles. The Hutu gangs searched out victims hiding in churches and school buildings, and massacred them. Local officials and government-sponsored radio incited ordinary citizens to kill their Tutsi neighbors, and those who refused to kill were often murdered on the spot. “Either you took part in the massacres or you were massacred yourself.

Gender-targeted crimes

Rape was used as a tool by the Interahamwe, the chief perpetrators, to permanently separate the already conscious heterogeneous population and to drastically exhaust the opposing group. The use of propaganda played an important role in both the genocide, and the gender specific violence. The Hutu propaganda depicted Tutsi women as “a sexually seductive ‘fifth column’ in league with the Hutus’ enemies”. The exceptional brutality of the sexual violence, as well as the complicity of Hutu women in the attacks, suggests that the use of propaganda had been effective in the exploitation of gendered needs which had mobilized both female, and males to participate in the genocide. Soldiers, including the Presidential Guard, and civilians also committed rape against mostly Tutsi women. Although Tutsi women were the main targets, moderate Hutu women were also raped during the genocide. Along with the Hutu moderates, Hutu women who were married to Tutsis and Hutu women who hid Tutsis were targeted.

In his 1996 report on Rwanda, the UN Special Rapporteur Rene Degni-Segui stated, “Rape was the rule and its absence the exception. He also noted, “Rape was systematic and was used as a weapon” by the perpetrators of the massacres. With this thought and using methods of force and threat, the genocidaires forced others to stand by while women were raped.

Many of the survivors were also infected with the HIV virus transmitted from the HIV-infected men who were recruited by the genocidaires.

Tutsi women were also targeted with the intent of destroying their reproductive capabilities. Sexual mutilation sometimes occurred after the rape and included mutilation of the vagina with machetes, knives, sharpened sticks, boiling water, and acid. Men were seldom the victims of war rape, but sexual violence against men included mutilation of the genitals, then displayed as trophies in public. Disabling the reproductive capabilities of the women would prevent future generations of the Tutsi population.

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