We will look at one of the most heart-wrenching examples of a heart of darkness. Unlike the greed and brutality of the colonisers of a century ago, the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was black-on-black violence, but was undoubtedly racist, with Tutsi people referred to as inyenzi (cockroaches). The level of evil involved is difficult for most normal people to comprehend.

The term genocide was coined in 1944, appropriately by the Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin. Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

(Holocaust Memorial Museum)

The most notorious example was the Holocaust, for which many Nazis were charged with crimes against humanity, and some hanged. In 1948, the United Nations established a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. They found that: “Genocide, whether committed in time of peace or time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent or punish.” {Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide} Since then, there has been genocide carried out in Cambodia, Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda.

Anyone with any humanity would deplore such horror, some attempt to justify even this. In his Obersalzberg Speech of 1939, Adolf Hitler mentioned: Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier? Trans: Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians? {Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung} They had been victims of an earlier Turkish genocide from 1915-18, involving death marches which killed 1.5 million people.

A little closer to home, we could say: Who speaks today of the annihilation of the Tasmanian Aborigines?

Racial tensions between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi had been brewing for decades. The Tutsi had been given privileges by Belgian colonists, the Hutu began rebelling against this in the Fifties. After independence in 1962, the Hutu became more powerful and violent, many Tutsi fled to neighbouring countries after various abuses.  They formed a rebel organisation called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

In 1993 they signed an agreement called the Arusha Accords, between the RPF and President Juvenal Habyarimana, who was Hutu. However the trouble was already behind the scenes in his government with the extremist Hutu Power and their youth militia, the notorious Interahamwe (those who attack together).

On 6 April 1994, Habyarimana’s plane was shot down with missiles over the capital Kigali. It has never been proven who was responsible, but Hutu Power had much to gain by taking over the government. The Tutsi were blamed for his assassination, and killing began immediately in the capital, spreading into the countryside.

Hit lists had already been drawn up. The Interahamwe established roadblocks, murdering those with Tutsi identity cards. More hatred and killing was incited by the notorious Radio Television des Milles Collines. Some Hutu were forced to participate, or be killed themselves. {Rosenberg 1}

In the next three months, the homicides would escalate. Mostly they were killed by clubs and machetes, with much torture. The lucky ones could buy a bullet for themselves. The final death toll was about 800,000 casualties {Rosenberg 1}, with some estimates as high as 1 million {Gourevitch 227}. This was about five times the killing rate of the ultra-efficient Germans, in their death camps {Robertson 100}.

The international community was slow to respond. When Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana was murdered, ten Belgian peacekeepers perished with her, after gruesome torture. After this, the UNAMIR withdrew from the country. {UN Rwandan Genocide}. The Security Council denied that a real genocide was taking place, because then they would been bound to intervene {Robertson 99}.

In May 1994, when the genocide was at its height, staff at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, were wearing badges saying “Never Again”. {Gourevitch 152}

Finally the genocide would end, but only when the RPF took Kigali in July. Their leader, Paul Kagame, was now in charge of a totally shattered country.   “Every survivor wonders why he is alive”{Gourevitch 21}.

Since then major genocidaires have been convicted of crimes against humanity. In a return to Arusha in Tanzania, the ICC would establish a court there. Others were sent to Rwandan prisons. More recently, reconciliation courts have been established, called Gacaca.

Twenty years later, in 2014, many spoke of the annihilation of the Rwandans. The centenary of the Armenian Genocide, this year, was also remembered by many, including Armenian-American celebrity Kim Kardashian. However, the memories of the 1994 genocide are most poignant for those who must live down the street from neighbours who murdered their families.



Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda. London: Picador, Macmillian Publishers, 2000.

Robertson, Geoffrey. Crimes Against Humanity. 4th Edition. London: Penguin Books, 2012.

Weitz, Eric. A Century of Genocide. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.


“Armenian Genocide”. United Human Rights Council. Armenian Youth Federation. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/armenian_genocide.htm

“Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”. United Nations. 1948. Retrieved from: https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%2078/volume-78-I-1021-English.pdf

“Genocide in Rwanda”. United Human Rights Council. Armenian Youth Federation. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm

“Rwanda genocide: 100 days of slaughter”. BBC. 7 April 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26875506

“Rwanda: A Brief History of the Country”. The Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/rwanda/education/rwandagenocide.shtml

“Rwanda: How the genocide happened”. BBC. 17 May 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13431486

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. United Nations, 1948. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

“What Is Genocide?” Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Updated 18 August 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007043

Armenian National Institute. 1998-2015. Retrieved from: http://www.armenian-genocide.org/

Halsall, Paul. “Adolf Hitler: The Obersalzberg Speech”. Modern History Sourcebook. Fordham University. July 1998. Retrieved from: http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/hitler-obersalzberg.asp

Kardashian West, Kim. ‘Armenian Genocide Victims “Should Never Be Forgotten”’. Time Inc. 24 April 2015. Retrieved from: http://time.com/3835074/kim-kardashian-west-armenian-genocide/

McGreal, Chris. “Rwanda genocide 20 years on: ‘We live with those who killed our families. We are told they’re sorry, but are they?’” Guardian News and Media Limited. 12 May 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/12/rwanda-genocide-20-years-on

Robinson, Wills. “’We will be recognized by all soon’: Kim Kardashian takes to Twitter to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide where 1.5million people were massacred .” Daily Mail. Ninemsn Pty Ltd. 25 April 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3054518/We-recognized-soon-Kim-Kardashian-takes-Twitter-mark-100th-anniversary-Armenian-genocide-1-5million-people-massacred.html

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “A Short History of the Rwanda Genocide”. About Education. 2015. Retrieved from: http://history1900s.about.com/od/rwandangenocide/a/Rwanda-Genocide.htm

Zwangsmigrationen in Europa 1938-48. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Retrieved from: http://library.fes.de/library/netzquelle/zwangsmigration/32ansprache.html


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