KIGALI – Twenty years ago this week, the genocide against Rwanda’s Tutsis, the most brutally efficient killing spree in history, began. As the international community looked on – capable of intervening but unwilling to act – more than one million Tutsis and others who stood in the way of the atrocities were slaughtered. I count many in my own family among them.
The anniversary is wrenching for Rwanda, and yet we owe it to the victims and survivors – and to ourselves – to reckon squarely with the events of 1994. The genocide against the Tutsi was neither entirely unforeseen nor spontaneous. It was not a savage outburst of innate African tribalism. It was the outcome of a methodical, state-orchestrated campaign over decades to dehumanize Tutsis as a means to amass power.
The imported racist ideology that promoted hatred and enabled genocide was a toxin deliberately injected into Rwanda’s bloodstream. It brought us to our knees. It threatened our viability as a nation-state. But it did not prevail.
It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of the challenges Rwanda confronted in the aftermath of the genocide. Political institutions had collapsed, the justice system was in disarray, and the national budget was in tatters. Civil society was non-existent. The population was traumatized and afraid. Rwandan territory was under perpetual assault from genocidal militias seeking to “finish the job.”