A Timeline of the Genocide in Rwanda

Rwanda Commemorates The Country's 1994 Genocide
KIGALI, RWANDA - APRIL 07: A woman consoles Bizimana Emmanuel, 22, during the 20th anniversary commemoration of the 1994 genocide at Amahoro Stadium April 7, 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda. Thousands of Rwandans and global leaders, past and present, joined together at the stadium to remember the country's 1994 genocide, when more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus were slaughtered over a 100 day period. Chip Somodevilla / Staff/ Getty Images News/ Getty Images

The 1994 Rwandan Genocide was a brutal, bloody slaughter that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 800,000 Tutsi (and Hutu sympathizers). Much of the hatred between the Tutsi and Hutu stemmed from the ways they were treated under Belgian rule.

Follow the increasing stresses within the country of Rwanda, beginning with its European colonization to independence to genocide. While the genocide itself lasted 100 days, with brutal murders happening throughout, this timeline includes some of the larger mass murders that took place during that time period.

Rwanda Genocide Timeline

The Rwandan kingdom (later Nyiginya Kingdom and Tutsi Monarchy) was founded between the 15th and 17th centuries CE.

European Impact: 1863–1959

1863: Explorer John Hanning Speke publishes "Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile." In a chapter on Wahuma (Rwanda), Speke presents what he calls his "theory of conquest of inferior by superior races," the first of many races to describe the cattle-pastoralist Tutsi as a "superior race" to their partners the hunter-gatherer Twa and agriculturalist Hutu.

1894: Germany colonizes Rwanda, and with Burundi and Tanzania, it becomes part of German East Africa. The Germans ruled Rwanda indirectly through Tutsi monarchs and their chiefs.

1918: The Belgians assume control of Rwanda, and continue to rule through the Tutsi monarchy.

1933: The Belgians organize a census and mandate that everyone is issued an identity card classifying them as either Tutsi (approximately 14% of the population), Hutu (85%), or Twa (1%), based on the "ethnicity" of their fathers.

December 9, 1948: The United Nations passes a resolution which both defines genocide and declares it a crime under international law.

Rise of Internal Conflict: 1959–1993

November 1959: A Hutu rebellion begins against the Tutsis and Belgians, topple King Kigri V.

January 1961: The Tutsi monarchy is abolished.

July 1, 1962: Rwanda gains its independence from Belgium, and Hutu Gregoire Kayibanda becomes president-designate.

November 1963–January 1964: Thousands of Tutsi are killed and 130,000 Tutsi flee to Burundi, Zaire, and Uganda. All surviving Tutsi politicians in Rwanda are executed.

1973: Juvénal Habyarimana (an ethnic Hutu) takes control of Rwanda in a bloodless coup.

1983: Rwanda has 5.5 million people and is the most densely populated country in all of Africa.

1988: The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) is created in Uganda, made up of the children of the Tutsi exiles.

1989: World coffee prices plummet. This significantly affects Rwanda's economy because coffee is one of its major cash crops.

1990: The RPF invade Rwanda, starting a civil war.

1991: A new constitution allows for multiple political parties.

July 8, 1993: RTLM (Radio Télévison des Milles Collines) begins broadcasting and spreading hate.

August 3, 1993: The Arusha Accords are agreed upon, opening government positions to both Hutu and Tutsi.

Genocide: 1994

April 6, 1994: Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana is killed when his plane is shot out of the sky. This is the official beginning of the Rwandan Genocide.

April 7, 1994: Hutu extremists begin killing their political opponents, including the prime minister.

April 9, 1994: Massacre at Gikondo - hundreds of Tutsis are killed in the Pallottine Missionary Catholic Church. Since the killers were clearly targeting only Tutsi, the Gikondo massacre was the first clear sign that a genocide was occurring.

April 15-16, 1994: Massacre at the Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church - thousands of Tutsi are killed, first by grenades and guns and then by machetes and clubs.

April 18, 1994: The Kibuye Massacres. An estimated 12,000 Tutsis are killed after sheltering at the Gatwaro stadium in Gitesi. Another 50,000 are killed in the hills of Bisesero. More are killed in the town's hospital and church.

April 28-29: Approximately 250,000 people, mostly Tutsi, flee to neighboring Tanzania.

May 23, 1994: The RPF takes control of the presidential palace.

July 5, 1994: The French establish a safe zone in the southwest corner of Rwanda.

July 13, 1994: Approximately one million people, mostly Hutu, begin fleeing to Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

mid-July 1994: The Rwanda Genocide ends when the RPF gains control of the country. The government pledges to implement the Arusha Accords and to build a multiparty democracy.

Aftermath: 1994 to the present

The Rwandan Genocide ended 100 days after it began with an estimated 800,000 people killed, but the aftermath of such hatred and bloodshed may take decades, if not centuries, from which to recover.

1999: The first local elections are held.

April 22, 2000: Paul Kagame is elected president.

2003: First post-genocide presidential and legislative elections.

2008: Rwanda becomes the first nation in the world to elect a majority of women MPs.

2009: Rwanda joins the Commonwealth of Nations.

Sources and Further Reading

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "A Timeline of the Genocide in Rwanda." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/rwanda-genocide-timeline-1779930. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2021, February 16). A Timeline of the Genocide in Rwanda. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/rwanda-genocide-timeline-1779930 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "A Timeline of the Genocide in Rwanda." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/rwanda-genocide-timeline-1779930 (accessed June 3, 2023).