But in April 1994 Rwandan President Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down. It was never proved who was responsible. Within hours of Habyarimana’s death a new radical Hutu regime came to power and violence against Tutsis and moderate Hutus began. Hutu militias, including the Impuzamugambi and Interahamwe demanded to see identity cards. Anyone identified as a Tutsi was killed.
In a period of 100 days from April 1994, it is estimated that around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus people were murdered. The aim of the killers was to completely eradicate Tutsis from Rwanda.
Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, the main propaganda tool for the Hutu extremists persuaded many Hutus that they were under threat from Tutsis. The station called on Hutus to ‘cut the Tutsi down to size’, referring to the physical stereotypes propagated by the colonists. It also urged Tutsis to be sent ‘back to Ethiopia’ via the nearest river. During the genocide thousands of bodies washed up on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Although the killings were well organised, the weapons used were relatively primitive and included machetes and clubs. The killings were accompanied by mass rape and looting.
In July 1994, Rwanda’s capital Kigali was captured by the RPF. Most of the killers fled to neighbouring countries, along with 2 million Hutus fearing revenge from Tutsis. International response
Major General Dallaire, Head of the UN Mission in Rwanda, and others had warned that a massacre of Tutsis was being planned. But the international community took no action to stop the genocide. When violence broke out most Westerners were evacuated from Rwanda and virtually all UN personnel pulled out.
The US government refrained from calling the killings a genocide. Under the Genocide Convention of 1948 the UN is legally obligated to intervene to put a stop to any acts of genocide.
The actions of France in Rwanda remain controversial. France had close links with the Hutu government and had given military support to Habyarimana since 1975. In June 1994 France mounted Opération Turquoise, claiming it was humanitarian mission. But it has been accused of allowing the genocide to continue and helping the perpetrators, along with their weapons, to escape to Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
It was not until July 1994, that the first significant international humanitarian effort was sent to help the refugees who had fled to neighbouring countries. Legacy
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established by the UN in November 1994. Several individuals have been charged with genocide, including the former prime minister Jean Kambanda.
Local Rwandan courts, known as ‘Gacaca’ courts were also set up to prosecute the perpetrators.