The Rwandan Civil War and Genocide
By Mary Corbett, Ava Cramp, and Janine Berger
Period 2

The conflict in Rwanda was a civil war, because there was fighting between the two native groups, the Tutsi and the Hutu. However, it can also be considered a guerilla war because of the tactics and strategies which were used. The fighting erupted when King Muratara III died and King Kigeri succeeded him in 1959, the Hutu rebelled and claimed that the new leader was inappropriately chosen. There were also ongoing tensions between the two groups. The Tutsi had been held higher than Hutus, and in response, the Hutu began attacking all Tutsi. Tutsis fled Rwanda in fear of being hunted down by Hutus. Gregoire Kayibanda of the Hutu Emancipation Movement was put into power, and a year later; the dominant Hutu government proclaimed Rwanda a republic and abolished the Tutsi monarchy.

In 1990, the Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame began to rise up against the extreme government. Belgium and southwestern African countries interacted, stopping the rebellion. The continuous Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) attacks accelerated political reform. In 1991, a constitution was formatted and in 1993 the UN formed a peace treaty between the Rwandan government and the Rwanda Patriotic Front and sent out peacekeeping forces to the country.

The causes of the Rwandan Civil War age all the way back to 10th century when the Hutu's were established in the land known as Rwanda. “Tutsi’s arrived from the north in the 15th century, taking over the Hutu and creating an elaborate feudal system that ruled the Hutus”[1]. Germany explorers arrived in the late 1800’s and tried to take over the area. They failed to control the land and that eventually led to the League of Nations giving the land to Belgium and present-day Burundi. Belgium tried to phase out the unequal caste system but the Tutsi’s refused to give up their political power. Hutus began to be loud about their hatred toward the unjust caste system and when a new king, Kigeri V succeeded, they rebelled against the government. When fighting erupted between the Tutsis and Hutus, the Hutu’s won and the Tutsis fled. The Hutus toke over the government a year later with a constitution and new president, Kayibanda .For the first time the Hutus were in charge.

In 1964, the Tutsis returned to Rwanda as a rebel army and they invaded Burundi. This invasion failed and led to a large-scale massacre of Tutsis. Even though a peace agreement was put into place the violence continued. “A new constitution was put in place in 1973 to confirm Rwanda as a single-party state and general Juvenal Habyarimana became the new president”[2]. During the time he was a president, a massive drought devastated agriculture and led to a downfall of the economy. “The Rwandan Patriot Front (FPR), a group of Hutu and Tutsis moderates rose up against the government and began to rebel"[3]. Belgium and some southwestern countries sent troops to stop the rebellion. Because of the long time of sustaining the rebellion, the FPR changed and used new tactics like conducting forceful attacks from Ugandan bases. When the Hutus heard about what the FPR was doing, they immediately used that to justify long-term extermination of Tutsis.

Even after another political reform and a new prime minister, the Hutus were still angered and wanted to find a reason to kill the Tutsis. In April 1994, Habyarimama was killed in a suspicious plane crash. This was the Hutus reason to mass murder the Tutsis. The massacre ended up killing more than 500,000 people and the Hutu government was in support. After the killing, the FPR recaptured the government and scared off the Hutus.


During the Rwandan Civil War, there weren’t many formal plans or tactics. One of the few tactics used during the war was “radio broadcasts that were a crucial instrument in the coordination and perpetuation of the genocide”[4]. The main weaponry used by the Hutu against the Tutsi was firearms, machetes, and different sorts of garden implements. Many Hutu men would perform sexual violence frequently against Tutsi women, and it was common for these men to murder the women after the acts were performed. Some men that were HIV positive would rape women as an attempt to pass the disease to the Tutsi population. As well, mutilation was a common form of torture and murder. Over 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed in a one hundred day span, leading to the “fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century”[5].



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However, the main weapon used throughout this war was just pure hatred and frustration between the Hutu and the Tutsi. The Rwandan Patriotic Front was an example of one of the rebel groups that “began to challenge the [Hutu] government from camps in neighboring states”[6]. The Hutu’s became increasingly upset with the Tutsi, and decided “Tutsi participation with the rebels gave justification for further repression of the Tutsi. The [Hutu] government began planning the genocide of Tutsi as a way of repolarizing the population”[7]. The Hutu then began to savagely ethnically cleanse the Tutsis.

Since the war was fought in Rwanda, and nearly everyone was involved, there wasn’t really a home front, per say. However, there are a few things that were happening in the United States that should be discussed. As some know, the American government did close to nothing to help the situation in Rwanda. According to www.nsarchive.org and Samantha Power, a writer for the Atlantic Magazine, “the U.S. government knew enough about the genocide early on to save lives, but passed up countless opportunities to intervene”[8]. Basically, the government ignored what was happening and refused to see it as a real issue. Bill Clinton was president at the time, and although he issued a formal apology, it was clear he “had shown virtually no interest in stopping the genocide, and his Administration had stood by as the death toll rose into the hundreds of thousands”[9]. Not only did America not send any troops; they refused to accept the term genocide, they didn’t attempt to use technology to block the radios commonly used in the war, and blocked all possible United Nations reinforcements.

Also, since the war involved almost the entire country of Rwanda, there weren’t any resistance or revolutionary movements that are known. There were no major movements in America either, because not many civilians were aware the war was even happening until it was too late. Obviously some Americans were very upset with the government for not taking any action in stopping the war, but there were not many large movements. The movie
Hotel Rwanda was produced in 2004 to expose the horrors of the war and to open American’s eyes as to what really happened.

Despite reports of mass killings, the UN failed to take immediate action to stop the massacres, due to opposition from France and the US. In 1995, a UN-appointed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda began trying those responsible for the 1994 atrocities[10].

The newly formed government in July 1994 immediately set out to establish peace and security in all parts of the country following the genocide. The goal was for peace and security to reinforce the political, economic and social recovery of post-genocide Rwanda. At the time, the nation was vulnerable and in a very depressing time, it was necessary for peace to overrule anarchy. However, two cities in Rwanda, Ruhengeri and Gisenyi remained volatile because former Rwandan Armed Forces and the Interahamwe (“those who work together”) militia continued to attack from their refugee settlements from present day Democratic Republic of Congo, then Zaire.

Following the genocide, many guilty Hutu fled to the Congo and tried to hide in international organization camps from the consequences that were sure to come. Rwanda invaded in 1996 which began an African war, leading to the collapse of the Congo’s government and an ongoing war. In Tanzania, the United Nation’s International Tribunal for Rwanda is to investigate and possibly convict the leaders of the genocide. So far, it has only accomplished fifteen cases. Gacaca courts (meaning “grass” courts) have been formed to put the more than 100,000 in prisons that acted in the genocide on trial[11].

After the economy of Rwanda was devastated by the genocide and war it has spent the past years attempting to recover. The government is putting through most of the effort by providing jobs and adopting a neo-liberal approach. For example, they “increased the revenue from exports of coffee and tea by privatizing large sectors of the government run industry”[12]. Lastly, Uganda and Rwanda are still closely watched but trade routes that once have been abolished are now in use again.



1] “Rwanda.” World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. 11 Sep. 2009. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>
2] Ibid.
3] Ibid.
4] Power, Samantha. "Bystanders to Genocide." The Atlantic Sept. 2001: 1-10. The
Atlantic. Web. 23 Sept. 2009. <http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200109/
power-genocide>.
5] "Bystanders to Genocide"
6] "Tutsis." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. 15 Sep. 2009. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>.
7] "Hutus." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. 15 Sep. 2009. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>.
8] "Bystanders to Genocide"
9] Ibid.
10]
"Rwanda." Global Policy Forum: 1. Global Policy Forum. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.
<http://www.globalpolicy.org/security-council/
index-of-countries-on-the-security-council-agenda/rwanda.html#top>.
11] "Rwanda- After the Genocide." PBS Frontline Dec. 2003: Context. Frontline World.
Web. 30 Sept. 2009. <http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/fellows/
rwanda1103/context.html>.
12] The Economist Intelligence Unit. 1998-99. Country Profile. Rwanda and Burundi. The Unit: London, pp. 16-18.


Works Cited
1)“Rwanda.” World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. 11 Sep. 2009. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>

2)Power, Samantha. "Bystanders to Genocide." The Atlantic Sept. 2001: 1-10. The
Atlantic. Web. 23 Sept. 2009. <http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200109/
power-genocide>.

3)"Tutsis." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. 15 Sep. 2009. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>.

4)"Hutus." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. 15 Sep. 2009. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>.

5)"Rwanda." Global Policy Forum: 1. Global Policy Forum. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.
<http://www.globalpolicy.org/security-council/
index-of-countries-on-the-security-council-agenda/rwanda.html#top>.


6)"Rwanda- After the Genocide." PBS Frontline Dec. 2003: Context. Frontline World.
Web. 30 Sept. 2009. <http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/fellows/
rwanda1103/context.html>.

7)The Economist Intelligence Unit. 1998-99. Country Profile. Rwanda and Burundi. The Unit: London, pp. 16-18.