This is FRONTLINE's old website. The content here may be outdated or no longer functioning.

Browse over 300 documentaries
on our current website.

Watch Now


A Historical Chronology
(Compiled from Fergal Keane's Season of Blood and Alain Destexhe's Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century)

1918 Under the Treaty of Versailles the former German colony of Rwanda-Urundi is made a League of Nations protectorate to be governed by Belgium. The two territories (later to become Rwanda and Burundi) are administered separately under two different Tutsi monarchs.

Both Germany and Belgium turned the traditional Hutu-Tutsi relationship into a class system. The minority Tutsi (14%) are favored over the Hutus (85%) and given privileges and western-style education. The Belgians used the Tutsi minority to enforce their rule.

1926 Belgians introduce a system of ethnic identity cards differentiating Hutus from Tutsis.

1957 PARMEHUTU (Party for the Emancipation of the Hutus) is formed while Rwanda is still under Belgian rule.

1959 Hutus rebel against the Belgian colonial power and the Tutsi elite; 150,000 Tutsis flee to Burundi.

1960 Hutus win municipal elections organized by Belgian colonial rulers.

1961-62 Belgians withdraw. Rwanda and Burundi become two separate and independent countries.

A Hutu revolution in Rwanda installs a new president, Gregoire Kayibanda; fighting continues and thousands of Tutsis are forced to flee. In Burundi, Tutsis retain power.

refugees leaving rwanda 1963 Further massacre of Tutsis, this time in response to military attack by exiled Tutsis in Burundi. Again more refugees leave the country. It is estimated that by the mid-1960s half of the Tutsi population is living outside Rwanda.

1967 Renewed massacres of Tutsis.

1973 Purge of Tutsis from universities. Fresh outbreak of killings, again directed at Tutsi community.

The army chief of staff, General Juvenal Habyarimana, seizes power, pledging to restore order. He sets up a one-party state. A policy of ethnic quotas is entrenched in all public service employment. Tutsis are restricted to nine percent of available jobs.

1975 Habyarimana's political party, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (Mouvement Revolutionnaire National pour le Developpement, or MRND) is formed. Hutus from the president's home area of northern Rwanda are given overwhelming preference in public service and military jobs. This pattern of exclusion of the Tutsis continues throughout the '70s and '80s.

1986 In Uganda, Rwandan exiles are among the victorious troops of Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army who take power, overthrowing the dictator Milton Obote. The exiles then form the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-dominated organization.

1989 Coffee prices collapse, causing severe economic hardship in Rwanda.

July 1990 Under pressure from Western aid donors, Habyarimana concedes the principle of multi-party democracy.

Oct. 1990 RPF guerillas invade Rwanda from Uganda. After fierce fighting in which French and Zairean troops are called in to assist the government, a cease-fire is signed on March 29, 1991.

1990/91 The Rwandan army begins to train and arm civilian militias known as interahamwe ("Those who stand together") For the next three years Habyarimana stalls on the establishment of a genuine multi-party system with power-sharing. Throughout this period thousands of Tutsis are killed in separate massacres around the country. Opposition politicians and newspapers are persecuted.

November 1992 Prominent Hutu activist Dr. Leon Mugusera appeals to Hutus to send the Tutsis "back to Ethiopia" via the rivers.

February 1993 RPF launches a fresh offensive and the guerillas reach the outskirts of Kigali. French forces are again called in to help the government side. Fighting continues for several months.

August 1993 Following months of negotiations, Habyarimana and the RPF sign a peace accord that allows for the return of refugees and a coalition Hutu-RPF government. 2,500 U.N. troops are deployed in Kigali to oversee the implementation of the accord.

Sept.1993-Mar.1994 President Habyarimana stalls on setting up of power-sharing government. Training of militias intensifies. Extremist radio station, Radio Mille Collines, begins broadcasting exhortations to attack the Tutsis. Human rights groups warn the international community of impending calamity.

March 1994 Many Rwandan human rights activists evacuate their families from Kigali believing massacres are imminent.

April 6, 1994 President Habyarimana and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, are killed when Habyarimana's plane is shot down near Kigali Airport. Extremists, suspecting that the president is finally about to implement the Arusha Peace Accords, are believed to be behind the attack. That night the killing begins.

boutros boutros ghaliApril 7, 1994 The Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and the interahamwe set up roadblocks and go from house to house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. Thousands die on the first day. U.N. forces stand by while the slaughter goes on. They are forbidden to intervene, as this would breach their "monitoring" mandate.

April 8, 1994 The RPF launches a major offensive to end the genocide and rescue 600 of its troops surrounded in Kigali. The troops had been based in the city as part of the Arusha Accords.

April 21, 1994 The U.N. cuts its forces from 2,500 to 250 following the murder of ten Belgian soldiers assigned to guard the moderate Hutu prime minister, Agathe Uwiliyingimana. The prime minister is killed and the Belgians are disarmed, tortured, and shot and hacked to death. They had been told not to resist violently by the U.N. force commander, as this would have breached their mandate.

April 30, 1994 The U.N. Security Council spends eight hours discussing the Rwandan crisis. The resolution condemning the killing omits the word "genocide." Had the term been used, the U.N. would have been legally obliged to act to "prevent and punish" the perpetrators. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees flee into Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire. In one day 250,000 Rwandans, mainly Hutus fleeing the advance of the RPF, cross the border into Tanzania.

May 17, 1994 As the slaughter of the Tutsis continues the U.N. agrees to send 6,800 troops and policemen to Rwanda with powers to defend civilians. A Security Council resolution says "acts of genocide may have been committed." Deployment of the mainly African U.N. forces is delayed because of arguments over who will pay the bill and provide the equipment. The United States argues with the U.N. over the cost of providing heavy armoured vehicles for the peacekeeping forces.

June 22, 1994 With still no sign of U.N. deployment, the Security Council authorizes the deployment of French forces in south-west Rwanda. They create a "safe area" in territory controlled by the government. Killings of Tutsis continue in the safe area, although some are protected by the French. The United States government eventually uses the word "genocide."

July 1994 The RPF captures Kigali. The Hutu government flees to Zaire, followed by a tide of refugees. The French end their mission and are replaced by Ethiopian U.N. troops. The RPF sets up an interim government of national unity in Kigali. A cholera epidemic sweeps Genocidethe refugee camps in Zaire, killing thousands. Different U.N. agencies clash over reports that RPF troops have carried out a series of reprisal killings in Rwanda. Several hundred civilians are said to have been executed. Meanwhile the killing of Tutsis continues in refugee camps.

August 1994 New Rwandan government agrees to trials before an international tribunal established by the U.N. Security Council.

November 1994 U.N. Security Council establishes an international tribunal that will oversee prosecution of suspects involved in genocide.

Jan. 5-10 1995 U.N. begins process towards finalizing plans with Zaire and Tanzania that will lead to the return of one and a half million Hutus to Rwanda over the next five months. U.N. Security Council refuses to dispatch an international force to police refugee camps.

Feb. 19, 1995 Western governments, including the U.S. ($60 million), pledge $600 million in aid to Rwanda.

Feb. 27, 1995 U.N. Security Council urges all states to arrest people suspected of involvement in the Rwandan genocide.

Mid-May 1995 Tensions increase between the United Nations and the Rwandan government; the government growing resentful of the lack of international financial aid

June 10, 1995 U.N. Security Council unanimously agrees to cut by more than half the number of U.N. troops in Rwanda after a direct request from the Rwandan government to withdraw U.N. forces.

July 1995 More than 720,000 Hutu refugees around Goma refuse to return to Rwanda.

August 1995 U.N. Security Council lifts arms embargo until September 1, 1996.

Sept. 20, 1995 At a Mass in Nairobi, Pope John Paul II urges an end to the bloodshed in Rwanda and Burundi.

Dec. 12, 1995 United Nations Tribunal for Rwanda announces first indictments against eight suspects; charges them with genocide and crimes against humanity.

Dec. 13, 1995 U.N. Security Council extends its peacekeeping mission for three more months and agrees to reduce the number of troops.

Nov. 1996 Mass repatriation from Zaire begins; the Rwandan government orders a moratorium on arrests of suspected genocide perpetrators.

December 1996 Trials begin for Hutus involved in 1994 genocide.

Mid-Dec. 1996 Tanzania closes refugee camps and repatriates Rwandans, bringing the total to over one million.

January 10, 1997 First case in the Rwandan genocide trials comes before the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. The case is against Jean Paul Akayesu, a local government official accused of ordering mass killings in his area.

January 17, 1997 In a Rwanda court, Francois Bizimutima becomes the third Hutu convicted and sentenced to death for his role in genocide.

January 13-17, 1997 A woman who testified against Jean Paul Akayesu is murdered along with her husband and seven children by Hutu extremists.

January 22, 1997 Over 300 are killed in an attempt by the Rwandan army to capture Hutu insurgents responsible for killings in Northwestern Rwanda, including the murder of the three Spanish aid workers. U.N. officials state many victims are recently returned refugees who witnessed the 1994 genocide and are potential trial witnesses.

February 2, 1997 In Gikongoro, Rwanda, Venuste Niyonzima is the first man tried locally for crimes against humanity in his own village. A U.N. Human Rights official in Rwanda expresses "serious concern" over the lack of lawyers and adequate defense for those accused of participation in the 1994 genocide. Canadian priest, Guy Pinard, a witness to the 1994 genocide, is murdered by Hutu terrorists while saying mass.

February 4, 1997 Five human rights observers are killed in an ambush in Cyangugu, Rwanda. The murders are viewed as an effort by Hutu terrorists to get foreign observers out of the country. All human rights observers in Cyangugu, Kibuye, and Gisenyi are withdrawn by the U.N. to Kigali.

February 12, 1997 United Nations watchdog agency criticizes the management of the Rwandan genocide trials.

February 14, 1997 United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan asks the five permanent security council members to look into reports that the Zairean army is providing arms to Rwandan Hutus in an Eastern Zaire refugee camp.

karamira February 14, 1997 Vincent Nkezazaganwa, a Rwandan Supreme Court Justice, is gunned down by uniformed gunmen at his house. Frodouald Karamina, leader of a Hutu extremist political movement, is sentenced to death for his involvement in the genocide. Karamina is believed to be one of the leaders and organizers of the genocide, having coined the slogan "Hutu Power" and made many racist radio broadcasts urging mass murder. Karamina expressed no remorse for the part he had played in the genocide. Karamina was born a Tutsi and assimilated himself as a Hutu only later in life.

February 19-20, 1997 Four prominent Rwandans accused of genocide appear in court for the first time.

February 23, 1997 Israel Nemeyimana is the first defendant in the genocide trials to be found not guilty. Authorities state there was a lack of evidence and witnesses.

February 26, 1997 Citing mismanagement and inefficiency, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan fires the chief administrator Andronico Adede, and deputy prosecutor Honore Rakoromoanana in the Rwanda criminal trials. Agwu Okali of Nigeria is appointed new chief minister. By this date, the court has indicted 21 suspects.

February 28, 1997 Virginia Mukankusi is sentenced to death for her participation in the genocide.

December 1999 A leader of a Hutu militia that helped lead the genocide, businessman Georges Rutaganda, is found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and sentenced to life in prison. He is the sixth person found guilty since the tribunal began hearings in Arusha, Tanzania.

home | to daniel | special reports | map | interview | chronology | reactions
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation
PBS Online