Rwanda History

Updated September 9, 2022 | Infoplease Staff
Pervasive Ethnic Violence


In Oct. 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Tutsi rebels in exile in Uganda, invaded in an attempt to overthrow the Hutu-led Rwandan government. Peace accords were signed in Aug. 1993, calling for a coalition government. But after the downing of a plane in April 1994 that killed the presidents of both Rwanda and Burundi, deep-seated ethnic violence erupted. (Who is responsible for shooting down the plane is unclear. One theory suggests it was Hutu extremists who rejected the Hutu-Tutsi power-sharing plan proposed by President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu moderate.)

The presidential guard began murdering Tutsi opposition leaders, and soon policemen and soldiers began attempting to murder the entire Tutsi population. In 100 days, beginning in April 1994, Hutu rampaged through the country and slaughtered an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and their moderate Hutu sympathizers. A 30,000-member militia group, the Interahamwe, led much of the murderous spree, but, goaded by radio propaganda, ordinary Hutu joined in massacring their Tutsi neighbors. Although the genocidal slaughter seemed a spontaneous eruption of hatred, it has in fact been shown to have been carefully orchestrated by the Hutu government.