Rwanda is composed of three ethnic groups: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. In 1994, Rwanda had a population of 7 million; 85% of society was Hutu, 14% Tutsi and 1% Twa. Following its independence from Belgian colonial rule in 1962, Rwanda has been governed by the Hutu majority. From 1962-1994, the Hutu political parties discriminated against the minority Tutsi population. This discrimination increased in the early 1990s when Hutu extremists began blaming the Tutsi minority for increasing social, economic and political hardships. Tutsi civilians were accused of supporting The Rwandan Patriotic Front, a Tutsi-dominated rebel force which had operated in Uganda and had orchestrated violent attacks in Rwanda in 1991. After the attacks, Hutu extremists began distributing propaganda suggesting that all Tutsi civilians were a threat to Rwanda. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana was shot down. Using this attack as a cover, the Hutu extremists began their plan to murder the country’s entire Tutsi minority as well as all others who opposed the government’s policies. 

The Rwandan Genocide refers to the four months between April and July 1994 when at least 500,000 Tutsi were murdered. Hutu extremists assassinated Tutsis as well as moderate Hutu leaders. Families were killed in their homes; women were systematically raped and murdered. Groups of Tutsi fled to safehouses, churches, schools and government buildings. These normally peaceful places became the sites of vicious massacres.  It is believed that 75% of the Tutsi population perished. At the same time, thousands of Hutu’s were murdered because they opposed the killing campaign. Over 200,000 Rwandans participated in the ethnic killings.

The civil war and genocide ended when the Tutsi-dominated rebel group, the RPF, defeated the Hutu perpetrator regime and President Paul Kagame took control. One-seventh of the total population of Rwanda was murdered, with Tutsis accounting for 94% of the victims. In October 1994, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to include a separate military tribunal for Rwanda. On September 2, 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda issued the world’s first conviction for genocide in an international tribunal.