Remembering The Rwandan Genocide, 20 Years Later

by MATT STOKES | APRIL 7, 2014

Twenty years ago today, the widespread and deliberately-planned murder of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda began. Today, the only thing that most people outside of Africa know about Rwanda–a small country in central-east Africa with a population of 12 million and a land area the size of Massachusetts–is that it had a genocide in the ’90s. But even the facts of the genocide aren’t well known and appreciated by most people.

In many ways, Rwanda’s story is typical of that of post-colonial Africa. In the 19th century, when the great European powers were scrambling for control of territory in Africa (and its precious natural resources), the area that is now Rwanda was taken over by Germany. The two major ethnic groups of Rwanda are the Hutus (who make up about 85% of the population) and the Tutsis (15%). The two groups have had a tumultuous relationship for their entire history, with spurts of violence between the two a frequent occurrence. The Tutsis, despite being the minority group, have historically been viewed by other tribes and by the occupying European governments as the “racially superior” group. This created enormous resentment among the Hutus.