Timeline of History

1860s: Germany colonizes Ruanda-Urundi

1884: The Berlin Conference—the borders of most modern African countries are drawn by a group of Europeans in Berlin looking at a paper map.

1918: Treaty of Versailles—Ruanda-Urundi is made a UN protectorate and given to Belgium to govern. The territories of Ruanda and Urundi are administered separately under two different Tutsi monarchs.

1926: Belgium introduces a system of ethnic identity cards differentiating Hutu and Tutsi.

1957: PARMEHUTU (Party for the Emancipation of the Hutus) is formed while Rwanda is still under Belgian rule.

1959: The Tutsi king, Mwaami Rudahigwa, dies. Hutus rise up against the nobility and kill thousands of Tutsis. Thousands of Tutsis flee to Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire.

1961: The first “elections” are held in Rwanda, electing Grégoire Kayibanda, the head of PARMEHUTU, president.

1962: Rwanda gains independence from Belgium. Wide-scale killing of Tutsis and massive outflow of refugees, most to Uganda.

1963: Exiled Tutsis in Burundi attack Rwanda. Massacres of Tutsis inside Rwanda follow.

1967: Further massacres of Tutsis. It is estimated that by the mid-1960s, half of the Tutsi population is living outside Rwanda.

1973: Purge of Tutsis from universities, more killings, more Tutsis flee country. General Juvénal Habyarimana, chief of staff of the army, seizes power. He institutes a one-party (MRND) state and establishes ethnic quotas in all public service jobs and schools. Tutsis are restricted to 9 percent.

1986: Rwandan exiles in Uganda are part of the National Resistance Army that overthrows Milton Obote and puts Yoweri Museveni in power. These exiles then form the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

July 1990: Under pressure from western aid donors, Habyarimana concedes the principle of multi-party democracy and new political parties are allowed to form.

October 1990: Guerillas of the RPF invade Rwanda from Uganda. After fierce fighting in which French and Zairean troops are called in to assist the government, a ceasefire is signed on 29 March 1991.

1990-1993: The Rwandan army, under the direction of the stridently anti-Tutsi Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), begins to train and arm civilian militias known as the interahamwe (“those who stand together”). President Habyarimana stalls on the establishment of a true multi-party system with power-sharing.

February 1993: The RPF launches a fresh offensive. The guerillas reach the outskirts of Kigali and French troops are again called in to help the government side.

August 1993: After months of negotiations in Arusha, Tanzania, President Habyarimana signs the Arusha Accord, agreeing to power-sharing with both the Hutu opposition and the RPF. He also agrees to integrate the RPF into the Rwandan army.

September 1993-March 1994: Habyarimana stalls on setting up a power-sharing government. Training of interahamwe intensifies. Radio Télévision Libres des Milles Collines begins broadcasting exhortations to attack the Tutsis.

6 April 1994: President Habyarimana and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi are killed when Habyarimana’s plane is shot down as it approaches Kigali airport.

7 April 1994: The Rwandan armed forces (FAR) and the interahamwe set up roadblocks and go from house to house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. UN forces stand by while the slaughter goes on, forbidden to intervene by their “monitoring” mandate.

8 April 1994: The Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) launches a major offensive to end the genocide and rescue 600 of its troops surrounded in Kigali.

21 April 1994: The UN cuts the level of its forces from 2,500 to 250 following the murder of 10 Belgian soldiers guarding the moderate Hutu prime minister, Agathe Uwiliyingimana.

30 April 1994: The UN Security Council spends eight hours discussing the Rwandan crisis. The resolution condemning the killing omits the word “genocide” which would have legally obliged the UN to act to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators.

17 May 1994: The UN finally agrees to send 6,800 troops to Rwanda with power to defend civilians. The United States forbids its spokespersons to use the word “genocide.” Deployment of the mainly African UN forces is delayed as the United States argues with the UN over the cost of providing the heavily armored vehicles it promised.

22 June 1994: With still no sign of UN deployment, the Security Council authorizes the deployment of French forces in southwest Rwanda—“Operation Turquoise”. The French create a “safe area” where some are protected but many more are killed as they reveal themselves in the expectation of being protected.

July 1994: The final defeat of the FAR by the RPF. The government, army and interahamwe flee to Zaire, followed by over 1 million refugees fleeing in fear of the now victorious rebels. The French end their mission. The RPF create a new government in Kigali.


[1] Fergal Keane, Season of Blood (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), pp. 193-198

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