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Remembering Rwanda

Rwanda: 1918-1924

2004-04-01, Issue 150

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SOURCE: Edited from a chronology of events on the website, which was compiled from Fergal Keane's Season of Blood and Alain Destexhe's Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century.

1918: Treaty of Versailles makes the former German colony of Rwanda-Urundi a U.N. protectorate to be governed by Belgium.

1926: Ethnic identity cards differentiating Hutus from Tutsis introduced by Belgium.

1957: Party for the Emancipation of the Hutus is formed.

1959: Hutus rebel against the Belgian colonial power and the Tutsi elite. 150,000 Tutsis flee to Burundi.

1961-62: Belgians withdraw. Gregoire Kayibanda installed as president. Fighting continues.

1963: Attack by exiled Tutsis results in massacre and further Tutsis flee. This is followed by further massacres in 1967.

1973: General Juvenal Habyarimana takes power and sets up a one-party state. Tutsis are restricted to nine percent of available jobs. Pattern of exclusion continues through the 1970’s and 1980’s.

1975: Habyarimana's political party, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (Mouvement Revolutionnaire National pour le Developpement, or MRND) is formed.

1986: Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army takes power in Uganda, with the help of Rwandan exiles, who then form the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-dominated organisation.

1990: RPF guerrillas invade Rwanda from Uganda. Fierce fighting ends in a cease-fire on March 29, 1991.

1990/91: The Rwandan army begins to train and arm civilian militias known as interahamwe ("Those who stand together")

February 1993: RPF launches a fresh offensive and reach the outskirts of Kigali.

August 1993: Habyarimana and the RPF sign a peace accord that allows for the return of refugees and a coalition Hutu-RPF government. 2,500 U.N. troops are deployed in Kigali.

Sept.1993-Mar.1994: President Habyarimana stalls on setting up of power-sharing government. Training of militias intensifies. Extremist radio station, Radio Mille Collines, begins broadcasting exhortations to attack the Tutsis.

April 6, 1994: President Habyarimana and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, are killed when Habyarimana’s plane is shot down near Kigali Airport, sparking the beginning of the genocide.

April 7, 1994: The Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and the interahamwe set up roadblocks and go from house to house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. U.N. forces cannot intervene as they have only a monitoring mandate. The U.N. soon cuts its forces to 250 after ten Belgian soldiers are murdered.

April 30, 1994: The U.N. Security Council spends eight hours discussing the Rwandan crisis. The resolution condemning the killing omits the word “genocide”. Had the term been used, the U.N. would have been legally obliged to act to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees flee into Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire. In one day 250,000 Rwandans, mainly Hutus fleeing the advance of the RPF, cross the border into Tanzania.

May 17, 1994: As the slaughter of the Tutsis continues the U.N. agrees to send 6,800 troops and policemen to Rwanda with powers to defend civilians. A Security Council resolution says “acts of genocide may have been committed.” Deployment of the mainly African U.N. forces is delayed because of arguments over who will pay the bill.

July 1994: The RPF captures Kigali and sets up an interim government of national unity in Kigali.

November 1994: U.N. Security Council establishes an international tribunal that will oversee prosecution of suspects involved in genocide.

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