In 100 days in 1994 approximately one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in the genocide in Rwanda. The genocide took place following decades of tensions between Hutus and Tutsis, and a recent history of persecution and discrimination against Tutsis. On 6 April 1994 the plane carrying Rwanda’s President was shot down. Extremist Hutu leaders accused Tutsis of killing the President, and Hutu civilians were told by radio and word of mouth that it was their duty to wipe out the Tutsis.
Despite its colossal scale, this genocide was carried out almost entirely by hand, usually using machetes and clubs. The men who had been trained to massacre were members of civilian death squads, the Interahamwe. The State provided support and organisation – politicians, officials, intellectuals and professional soldiers incited the killers to do their work. Local officials assisted in rounding up victims and making suitable places available for slaughter.
Tutsi men, women, children and babies were killed in their thousands in schools and churches. Frequently the killers were people they knew – neighbours, workmates, former friends, sometimes even relatives through marriage.