Rwanda has begun a week of commemoration to remember the brutal spate of killings which wiped out one-tenth of its population a quarter of a century ago. In just 100 days, members of the Hutu extremists butchered more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in barbaric mass killings. Many of the victims were hacked to death by machetes as Government-backed militia, called the Interahahmwe, went door-to-door targeting people in their homes and communities. Children, women and men all perished as neighbours turned on neighbours – Hutu husbands even murdered Tutsi wives out of fear for their own lives.
Priests and nuns gave up Tutsis sheltering in their churches to the murderous gangs who would then go on to kill them by slaughter or by burning down the buildings.
The Hutus also inflicted a campaign of sexual violence against the female population, with up to 250,000 women and girls being raped.
Thousands of women were rounded up to be used as sex slaves.
AIDS patients were also released from hospital to form “rape squads” to infect Tutsi women, consequently infecting thousands of children later born with the HIV/AIDS virus.
The horrific violence began after a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down in the capital of Kigali on April 6, 1994, killing all on board.
A rebel group of mainly exiled Tutsis called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was blamed for the shootings leading the Hutus to carry out the murders.
Thousands of people fled Rwanda for neighbouring African countries to seek refuge during the killings.
The United Nations (UN) was slow to respond to the slaughter despite having troops in the country, only declaring the violence a genocide on June 30.
This is because they were reluctant to intervene in another African conflict.
The violence ended only when RPF forces, backed by the Ugandan army, stormed Kigali on July 4 under the leadership of Paul Kagame.
They were later accused of killing thousands of Hutu civilians as they took charge, something the RPF denies.
Mr Kagame became president in 2000 and remains in power today, aged 61.
Following the genocide, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established in Tanzania in November 1994 by the United Nations to prosecute those behind the genocide.
Dozens of senior officials, all Hutus, were prosecuted for their actions.
President Kagame will begin this week’s commemoration events by lighting a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the resting place of more than 250,000 victims.
Many world leaders will pay their respects by attending the service.
French President Emmanuel Macron is not one of them – Rwanda has accused France of being complicit in the genocide by aiding the Hutus and helping perpetrators escape.
President Macron denies France backed the genocide although former president Nicolas Sarkozy admitted in 2010 the country had made “serious errors of judgment”.
Rwanda genocide facts
- 70 percent of the Tutsi population was killed, equating to over 10 percent of the entire Rwandan population of seven million at the time
- As many as 10,000 people were killed per day
- Up to 250,000 women and girls were raped
- Thousands of birth took place after the genocide
- More than two million Hutus fled to neighbouring countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Burundi following the genocide