Rwanda Genocide

A Central African Genocide


At 26,338 square kilometres (10,169 sq mi), Rwanda is the world's 149th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Haiti or the state of Maryland in the United States. The entire country is at a high altitude: the lowest point is the Rusizi River at 950 metres (3,117 ft) above sea level.

Rwanda is located in Central/Eastern Africa, and is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, and Burundi to the south. It lies a few degrees south of the equator and is landlocked. The capital, Kigali, is located near the centre of Rwanda.

The 1994 Rwandan Genocide, which occurred amidst a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi. International observers were slow to comprehend and react to the situation, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis in central Africa.
The country's environmental constraints, social structure, and basic facts of its history have had a profound impact on the destinies of its people. Landlocked, overpopulated and overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture, Rwanda stands as one of the poorest countries in Africa. With one of the highest population densities in the continent, the shortage of cultivable land has remained a major source of social tension in the countryside. No attempt to grasp the roots of genocidal violence, or assess the long-term viability the present regime, can overlook the implications of Rwanda's demographic explosion. From 2.5 million in 1960 Rwanda's population today is estimated at 10 million, of whom more than half live below the poverty level.

A former German colony later entrusted to Belgium, first as a Mandate under the League of Nations, and then as a Trust Territory under the United Nations. Through much of the colonial era Rwanda stood a classic example of indirect rule. While the king, Mwami, and his chiefs served as the legitimate instruments of colonial domination, the Tutsi as a whole saw their privileges substantially enhanced. As the main recipients of a Western education, their status as an elite group seemed firmly established—until challenged by the rise of a Hutu revolutionary movement in the mid-1950s. The postwar years saw a major shift in Belgian policies, owing in part to the rising influence of Christian Democracy among the missionary community, and UN pressures for hastening the pace of democratization.