Rwanda marks 25 years since event that triggered genocide

Rwanda marks 25 years since event that triggered genocide

Twenty-five years ago, Rwanda descended into an orgy of violence in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by the majority Hutu population over a 100-day period in what was the worst genocide in recent history.

The massacres, mostly by gangs wielding machetes, swept across Rwanda and groups of people were killed in their homes and farms, and where they sought shelter in churches and schools.

A Rwandan Hutu refugee child desperately tries to waken his mother (Javier Bauluz/AP)
A Rwandan Hutu refugee child desperately tries to waken his mother (Javier Bauluz/AP)

The mass killings started after a plane was shot down on April 6 1994, in the capital, Kigali, killing President Juvenal Habyarimana.

A Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel walks by the plane wreckage in which Rwanda’s president Juvenal Habyarimana died (Jean-Marc Bouju/AP)
A Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel walks by the plane wreckage in which Rwanda’s president Juvenal Habyarimana died (Jean-Marc Bouju/AP)

The killers were encouraged by hate messages broadcast on radio stations while Rwandan police, military and other government authorities did not stop the killings.

A starving woman, one of thousands of civilians caught in the fighting between government troops and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels, sips milk at a makeshift health clinic in Ruhango (Jean-Marc Bouju/AP)
A starving woman, one of thousands of civilians caught in the fighting between government troops and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels, sips milk at a makeshift health clinic in Ruhango (Jean-Marc Bouju/AP)

Scores of thousands of terrified Tutsis fled Rwanda for neighbouring countries including Zaire, which is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda.

Tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees, who were forced by the Tanzanian authorities to return to their country despite fears they would be killed upon their return, stream back towards the Rwandan border (Jean-Marc Bouju/AP)
Tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees, who were forced by the Tanzanian authorities to return to their country despite fears they would be killed upon their return, stream back towards the Rwandan border (Jean-Marc Bouju/AP)

The waves of murders continued until the rebel forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the country.

A Rwandan child too weak to stand in line to receive a vaccination rests his head at the SOS village orphanage housing about 3,000 Rwandan children near Goma in the country then known as Zaire (Jacqueline Arzt Lama/AP)
A Rwandan child too weak to stand in line to receive a vaccination rests his head at the SOS village orphanage housing about 3,000 Rwandan children near Goma in the country then known as Zaire (Jacqueline Arzt Lama/AP)

Paul Kagame, who led the rebels, helped re-establish order in the country and served as vice-president and defence minister from 1994 until he became Rwanda’s president in 2000.

Some of the 334 inmates, who were accused of committing war crimes and participating in the genocide, in prison in Kibungo, Rwanda, in 1994 (Javier Bauluz/AP)
Some of the 334 inmates, who were accused of committing war crimes and participating in the genocide, in prison in Kibungo, Rwanda, in 1994 (Javier Bauluz/AP)

The scale of the killings in 1994 was unimaginable but the reporting and photographs taken at the time helped to inform the world of the horrors of the genocide.

- Press Association

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