The two main ethnic groups in Rwanda are divided between ethnic Hutus (who make up 85% of the population) and the Tutsi minority, which formed the traditional elite. On 6 April 2004, the plane carrying the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down above Kigali airport. Within hours, a campaign of violence throughout the country where Hutu militias armed with machetes, clubs, guns and grenades began indiscriminately killing Tutsi civilians. Over the next 100 days, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the genocide. The world did little to stop the massacres. The U.N. Security Council responded to the worsening crisis by voting unanimously to effectively abandon Rwanda. U.N. peacekeeping troops were pulled out of Rwanda, leaving behind a tiny force of about 200 soldiers for the entire country. After the genocide some 120,000 people were arrested and an international court was set up to try the ringleaders of the genocide.
A decade later, at a cost of more than half a billion dollars, only 20 people have been charged and 3 have been acquitted. The Court has been condemned for being inefficient, corrupt and not doing enough to protect witnesses. Criminal courts and mass trials have so far convicted 105 and acquitted 37 people. Due to the sheer numbers involved in the genocide, traditional community courts have been introduced to speed up the trial process, but continue to be inefficient and corrupt.
Some effects of the genocide:
- The scars of the genocide and subsequent reprisals will remain with Rwandans for generations with massive social consequences
- Rwanda’s economy continues to be badly damaged. Many professionals and labourers were killed in the genocide and this has had significant impact on all aspects of development
- Since mostly men were killed in the genocide, there is a demographic imbalance on marriage and polygamy (which is illegal in Rwanda) or kwinjira (practice of sharing men), are seen as a solution to this issue. This has implications for the spread of HIV in Rwanda, already high due to the systematic policy of rape as a weapon of war during the genocide
- The genocide in Rwanda leaves behind large numbers of orphans as a direct result of the genocide.