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10 Shocking Facts about the Rwandan Genocide

An airplane crash in 1994 triggered a shocking genocide that ravished Rwanda with catastrophic speed and brutality. Learn more Rwandan Genocide facts here.

10 Shocking Facts about the Rwandan Genocide

1. The Rwandan genocide occurred between April and July of 1994. Over the course of 100 days, the ethnic majority group, the Hutu, systematically murdered over 800,000 Tutsi, the minority population.

2. The Rwandan people are collectively known as the Banyarwanda. They are linked by a common language and culture, but are made up of three ethnic groups: the Tutsi, the Hutu, and the Twa.

3. Divisions between the various ethnic and social groups in Rwanda, which were exacerbated by European colonizers, form the historical background causes of the genocide.

4.Though the Tutsi had historically ruled Rwanda, power structures shifted violently in 1959, when a Hutu uprising left many hundreds of Tutsi dead and caused thousands more to flee the country. This conflict helped set the stage for the later genocide.

5. The rate of slaughter during the Rwandan genocide was five times higher than that of the Nazi death camps.

6. The assassination of Rwanda's president Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, was the spark that set off the Rwandan genocide. Unknown combatants shot down the president’s plane, and the violence ensued mere hours later.

7. Hutu ideologues incited the peasantry to violence over the radio, admonishing them to go out and exterminate the "Tutsi cockroach." The génocidaires also targeted liberal and moderate Hutus, as well as those who refused to participate in the killing.

8. The vast majority of the killings during the genocide were committed by Hutu peasants with machetes, a common tool in every Rwandese house.

9.The Hutu militias used rape as a tactic of war and terror during the violence. Hundreds of thousands of women were raped. Most were killed afterwards, but some were taken as sex slaves or left to “die of sadness.”

10. The violence ended in early July 1994, when the Tutsi-led military group, the RPF, took Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. Nearly a million Tutsi were dead, and the country lay in ruins.

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