What happened in the Rwandan Genocide, French and US allegations

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The Rwandan Genocide was the killing of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists (Interahamwe) in Rwanda in about a hundred days in 1994.

The massacre ended with the fall of the Hutu-dominated government by forces loyal to Paul Kagame, leader of the Tutsi-backed rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front. Hundreds of thousands of Hutus took refuge in neighboring Zaire (Republic of Congo) after the Tutsis, empowered by the government, attacked on the pretext of revenge. France is the country most responsible for the Rwandan Genocide as it was the closest friend and supporter of the Hutu government that carried out the genocide.

What Happened Before the Genocide

At the 1890 Brussels Conference, Rwanda was placed under German rule by the sovereign states, despite the fact that there were almost no Germans in the region. Germany, which did not see the benefit of having this poor and landlocked state for its share while other states rich in natural resources were present, did not even send an administrator to the country until 1907. After World War I, the administration of Rwanda was given to Belgium. Unlike the Germans, the Belgians took more interest in the administration. Rwandans, who did not work except to meet their natural needs, were obliged to work in the coffee plantations and new rules were introduced, such as whipping for those who did not work.

At that time, 90% of the people living in the country were Hutu, 9% were Tutsi and 1% were Pygmy. Although the Pygmies were different from the others in terms of habitat and culture, the Tutsis and Hutus, who had lived together until then, were not seen as very different from each other. The Belgians, who applied the principle of separation of rulers and ruled elements in African politics, saw this policy as a guarantee of retaining control for Rwanda and granted some race-based privileges to support the minority Tutsis in the region against the Hutus. For the convenience of the colonial forces, everyone was issued with racial identification cards. A kind of artificial racial segregation was started by ignoring the language-tradition-ethical background and culture of Tutsis and Hutus, which were actually common. In order to fuel discrimination, Belgian administrators began to make all decisions, from recruitment to hospital admissions, based on racial differences. During this period, Tutsis enjoyed much better living conditions and better jobs than Hutus. Some objective and irrational criteria were used to determine which race people belonged to. It was claimed that Tutsis, who were descended from Noah, believed to be of Ethiopian origin, were more slender and delicate in appearance, and those with physical characteristics such as tall stature and good looks were considered Tutsis. In addition, those who were rich, for example those who owned more than 10 cows, were also recorded as Tutsi.

What happened in the Rwandan Genocide, French and US allegations 1
Skulls of Tutsis killed in the massacre

Later, universities, education and social opportunities were almost completely closed to Hutus. Belgium, which pursued a policy of favoring the Tutsis over the Hutus until the 1950s, eased the pressure on the Hutus after this date, as libertarian movements gained strength after the war, and even tended to support the Hutus over time because of their numerical superiority. One reason for this was that in the long run, the possibility of the Hutus outnumbering the Hutus in the country through elections increased. Belgium ruled Rwanda and Burundi until both states gained their independence in 1962. Belgian rule during this period was accused of being brutal and unjust towards the indigenous population, just as the British had been in the Republic of South Africa.


At the end of World War II, Rwanda was handed over to the United Nations to prepare for independence. As expected, elections were held and the Hutu nationalist PARMEHUTU Movement (Hutu Freedom Movement) came to power. From the moment they came to power, with the support of the Belgians, they carried out various activities in almost every region against the Tutsis, who were considered an extension of the former administration. As a result of these activities, between 20,000 and 100,000 Tutsis were killed and 160,000 took refuge in neighboring countries, Tanzania and Uganda.

After independence, the PARMEHUTU administration pursued a Hutu nationalist policy during its one-party rule. In 1964 and later in 1974, many Tutsis were killed or expelled in so-called pogroms. Hutus who killed Tutsis during these events were protected by the state. No one was prosecuted or punished except for a few token cases. The Tutsi population ratio of 9% was defined as the upper limit throughout the country and educated Tutsis in all institutions and organizations, especially in the Parliament, were dismissed and forced into exile.

In 1973, the Hutu Juvénal Habyarimana seized power in a coup and put an end to the PARMEHUTU movement. However, as he himself was a Hutu nationalist, not much changed for the Tutsis.

What happened in the Rwandan Genocide, French and US allegations 2
Nyamata Memorial Site, Rwanda.

By 1980, the Tutsi population in neighboring countries reached 500 thousand. As they were educated and qualified people, they captured important cadres in the countries they went to and tried to organize for their return to their country. The “Rwandan Patriotic Union” (RPU) established for this purpose tried to put pressure on the Rwandan government, but no political solution was reached.

From January 1, 1990, when they left their camps in Uganda and started an armed struggle with the government in Rwanda, a civil war took place until 1992, but the war was temporarily stopped with a ceasefire signed in August. During this time, the extremist Hutus, who wanted to find a “permanent solution” to the problem, decided to put their decisions into practice.

Local quasi-military organizations called Interahamwe were established everywhere, down to the remotest villages, and Tutsis and moderate Hutus were profiled. Hundreds of thousands of cleavers were ordered to China because the country’s economy was not suitable for arms purchases. Those who could not be given cleavers were given pointed sticks and told to use them in the upcoming hunt for “insects”. The Hutu government, aware of all these preparations, took no precautions.

On April 6, 1994, one of the bloodiest massacres in history began with radio announcements. On that day, the plane of the head of state, a Hutu, was shot down. Taking advantage of the chaos in the country, members of the Interahamwe began to massacre mainly educated Tutsis and moderate Hutus based on the lists they had.

The US, which wanted to stay away from the region due to the failure in Somalia, pressured the withdrawal of the UN Peacekeeping Force troops, citing the 10 UN soldiers killed in the region as the reason. The massacre then intensified. Hutu militias started killing Tutsis with almost every tool they could get their hands on, axes, knives, cleavers, stones. Tutsis with money could buy a painless death by paying for bullets, while those without money were killed in the most brutal way. Tired of killing, the Hutus cut the Achilles tendons of the Tutsis to prevent them from escaping, and after resting, they continued their massacres. Priests in the church and doctors in the hospital handed over the Tutsis to their executioners.

Every place where bodies could be hidden was filled with corpses, and the Hutus, angry at the dogs attacking the corpses, killed and destroyed almost all the dogs in the country at that time. Countries such as France and the USA, which said they would not stand by and watch genocides in the world, asked for amendments to all resolutions containing the word genocide at the UN in order not to intervene in the region and asked for it to be removed from the documents.

Upon receiving the news of the massacres, RYB members entered the country from the east and fought the massacres and took over the country until the capital. France, which had tried to stay away from intervention in the region until then, suddenly decided to provide military aid to the Hutu government, which supported the massacre and was recognized as legal at the time. French troops rapidly advanced in the region and took control of the area from west of Kigali to Congo, preventing the RYB troops from entering and not intervening in the massacre in the region. While 600,000 people had already been killed, they stood by and watched as another 200,000 people were killed in the area under their responsibility.

Within 100 days, close to 800,000 people were killed in the region and 2,000,000 Hutus fled to neighboring countries as refugees, fearing retaliation by Tutsis and RYB soldiers. All state institutions have collapsed and there is no cultivated land left.

Causes of Genocide

European theories based on race have also been put forward as the cause of the genocide. Some circles in Europe at the time, who were thinking about race, claimed that the people living in Rwanda were a kind of transitional race between the Aryan race and the blacks, who were considered an inferior race. Therefore, it was claimed that the Hutus did not consider the Tutsis as true Rwandans, but as the invading relatives of the Europeans who had constantly humiliated and exploited them. Similar incidents have occurred in other countries, for example in Sudan.

Another reason cited was the Hutu desire to seize the remaining fertile agricultural land, especially in Tutsi areas. It is also thought that the Hutus, who wanted to seize the property of their rich neighbors, killed especially Tutsis and the massacre spread at once.

Following the massacre, efforts were made to identify and prosecute those responsible. However, due to the large number of perpetrators and the destructiveness of the events, there were some problems in the trial. Due to the absence of state institutions, which were almost completely destroyed during the massacre, most of the massacre defendants continued to live in their villages. In order to alleviate the impact of the massacre on the population, the “people’s courts” (gacaca) tried those who killed more than 3 people, and the people themselves imposed their own punishment, after being informed that the verdicts of the people’s own courts would be judicially recognized. For more serious criminals, an international criminal tribunal was established in Arusha Tanzania under the auspices of the United Nations.

Allegations against France and the United States

Despite all the political and economic aid, Rwanda has not recovered from the shock of the genocide. Due to the Congo wars that took place near the country, economic and social progress could not be achieved in the country. The first elections held in 1999 after the massacre also failed to ensure political stability.

On March 31, 2005, the Democratic and Liberationist Forces for Rwanda (FDLR), formed after the Interahamwe, condemned the genocide and declared an end to the civil war.

These allegations are based on diplomatic attempts by France and the United States to render the United Nations dysfunctional, especially when the Hutu massacres in the region could have been prevented. In addition, former French President François Mitterrand stated that the fact that there was a genocide in those countries is not such a big deal. (Le Figaro, January 12, 1998)

In 1992, Thierry Prungnaud, retired Deputy Commander of the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, who was in Rwanda to train the Rwandan Presidential Guard, said in an interview with state radio France-Culture: “In 1992, I saw French soldiers giving shooting training to Rwandan civilian militias”, referring to France’s responsibility that is yet to be understood. When reminded by the interviewer that France denies that it trained Rwandan militias, the retired commander said, “France has always denied it, like other things. But it doesn’t matter, I confirm it.”

sources used

  • Statement by President Kegame: ‘France complicit in genocide’Archived July 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  • Allegations of French Intervention Archived November 27, 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
  • Hotel Rwanda, a motion picture about the Rwandan genocide
  • Shooting Dogs, a feature film about the Rwandan genocide
  • Shake Hands with the Devil, a feature film about the Rwandan genocide
  • Sometimes in April, television movie about the Rwandan genocide


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