Genocide is defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, cultural or national group.”
In 1994, Rwanda’s population of 7 million people was comprised of three ethnic groups: Hutu (85%), Tutsi (14%) and Twa (1%). Hutu extremists within Rwanda’s political elite blamed the entire Tutsi minority population for the country’s increasing social, economic and political problems. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana, a Hutu was shot down and violence began almost immediately.
Under the cover of war, Hutu extremists launched their plans to destroy the entire Tutsi civilian population. Political leaders who might have been able to take charge of the situation and other high profile opponents of the Hutu extremists plans were killed immediately. Tutsi and people suspected of being Tutsi were killed in their homes and at roadblocks as they tried to flee.
In the weeks after April 6, 1994, over one million men, women and children perished in the Rwandan genocide (approximately 75% of the Tutsi population). At the same time, thousands of Hutus were murdered because they opposed the killing campaign and the forces directing it.
Rwanda continues to suffer from effects of the genocide even though it ended in 1994. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa making life a continual struggle for resources. More than 50% of Rwanda’s population is children which includes over 600,000 orphans and over 100,000 living in households headed by children.
The infant mortality rates have increased since 2000 with malaria, diarrhea, HIV/AIDS and respiratory infections as the primary causes of death.