Rwanda has begun a week of mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide, described as “100 Days of Hell.”
The ethnic cleansing began on April 7, 1994, a day after the death of country’s President Jevenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport.
Following the killing of Habyarimana, the presidential guard together with politicians and businessmen initiated a campaign to destroy the entire Tutsi civilian population.
Within hours, political leaders and other high profile opponents against the plans were murdered. Recruits were also sent across Rwanda to carry out the bloodbath.
Entire Tutsi families were slaughtered in the homes and as they tried to flee at roadblocks. In addition, women were systematically and brutally raped. There were also reported cases of military officers forcing Hutu civilians of murdering their Tutsi neighbors.
As the massacre was taking place, the Rwandan people were largely left by the international community to defend themselves.
The UN Security Council withdrew, two weeks into the genocide, most of the UN mandated force of 2,500 soldiers, leaving only 270 in the country, after ten Belgian UN soldiers were killed.
The United Nations together with countries such as France, Belgium and the United States were criticized for failing to prevent the genocide.
According to the UN Human Rights Council, policymakers of the three countries and the UN were aware of preparations for massive slaughter, but they failed to take measures to prevent it.
The UN rights council said on its website that “Not only did international leaders reject what was going on, but they also declined for weeks to use their political and moral authority to challenge the legitimacy of the genocidal government.”
“Even after it had become indisputable that what was going on in Rwanda was a genocide, American officials had shunned the g-word, fearing that it would cause demands for intervention,” the council stated.
The UN Security Council did pass a resolution on April 30, in which it condemned the killings, but it did not call it a genocide.
On May 17, the UN finally agreed to send 5,500 troops to the country. However, the deployment of mainly African UN forces was delayed over who was to finance the mission.
The massacre ended in mid-July, when the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by current President Paul Kagame captured the capital, Kigali. The government was brought down and a ceasefire was declared.
The slaughter campaign saw as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population, or some 800,000 people, killed. At the same time, thousands of Hutus, who were against the slaughtering, were murdered.