Monday marked the launch of the official week of mourning as Rwanda remembers the genocide that shocked the world 20 years later. Over 800,000 lives were lost, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, at the hands of Hutu radicals. The memorial began with a wreath-laying ceremony in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. Afterward a flame was lit that will be kept burning for 100 days — One day for every day that passed during the massacre.
During Mondays Ceremony in Rwanda, France was notably absent. Rwandan officials retracted the invitation after President Paul Kagame condemned France for supporting the genocide. France in turn accused the president of distorting the facts.
According to the United Human Rights Council, the killings were triggered by a build-up of resentment the Hutus had toward the Tutsis. The Hutus believed the Tutsis were responsible for the countries increasing economic, political, and social, pressure. On April 6, 1994 the tensions reached a climax when an airplane transporting Rwanda’s Hutu president and Burundi’s Hutu president was shot down. Within hours, Hutu guerrillas began targeting and killing Tutsis. They ordered the 85% of the Hutu majority to attack the the 14% of the Tutsi minority. Students were murdered by teachers, husbands gave over their wives to be killed. Catholic priests and nuns OK’d killings as well ordering that churches be bulldozed and any survivors to be shot. They also ordered the execution of disabled children. Most of the clergy involved fled and was sheltered from persecution when they returned to France. It is not hard to see why 20 years later Rwanda still remembers and mourns after this horrific genocide.
Any Political officials who would have been able to stop the situation from escalating any further were killed. Tutsis or anybody accused of being Tutsi was killed. Whole families were killed in groups and women were raped brutally. Any Hutus who were in opposition of the genocide were killed as well. 800,000 Tutsis were murdered during the chaos, as much as ¾ of the Tutsi population.
The genocide in Rwanda was a result of the mindful choices of those in power to encourage fear and hatred so that they could keep their power. Rwandans accept responsibility for organizing and executing the massacre of the Tutsi people. Policymakers in the United States, Belgium, France and the United Nations accept responsibility as well. They were made aware of the steps being taken by the Hutus to prepare for the mass slaughter of thousands and refused to prevent it or even acknowledge the genocide after it had begun. American representatives even avoided using the word genocide in fears that it would cause those made aware of it to demand American action.
The genocide ended when the Tutsi led rebel group RPF conquered the Hutus establishment. It was at that time President Paul Kagame seized power.
in 2014 the economy in Rwanda is growing, there has been a decline in poverty, and life expectancy rates have grown. While things look better in Rwanda, officials have failed to bring all those responsible for bloodshed to justice. Today Rwanda is very different but still remembers the genocides 20 years later. Of the 95 indictments given out in connection to the massacre of so men, women, and children, only 45 convictions have been handed out after persecution began in 1995.
By Sarah Wright