Ten years ago, one of the worst slaughters of the twentieth century took place in Rwanda. For decades, Rwanda had been split by ethnic strife between the minority Tutsis and the majority Hutus. The mass killing began hours after the mysterious plane crash on April 6th, 1994, that killed Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.
Over eight-hundred-thousand people were massacred when Habyarimana supporters targeted ethnic Tutsi and politically moderate Hutus whom they accused of sympathizing with Tutsi rebels. Tens of thousands of children lost their mothers and fathers. Thousands of women were victims of horrific brutality and rape. Hundreds of thousands fled the country.
For many Rwandans, the legacy of trauma and grief brought on by the genocide is far from over. Many women were infected with AIDS during mass rapes and later died, leaving thousands of children orphaned. A United Nations report estimates that about one-hundred thousand children are now on their own in Rwanda, either because their parents were killed in the genocide, died from AIDS, or were imprisoned for a crime related to the mass atrocities.
The U-N International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is prosecuting those most responsible for the genocide. Dozens of Rwandan leaders have been convicted, including Jean Kambanda, the prime minister of the Rwandan government during the genocide. But hundreds of suspects remain at large. They include Felicien Kabuga, a wealthy businessman alleged to have been the major financier of a Rwandan radio station that urged Hutus to kill Tutsis. He is also accused of supplying arms to the Hutu militias.
The U.S. has offered a five-million-dollar reward for information leading to Kabuga's arrest, or for the arrest of any person indicted by the U-N tribunal. As U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli says, “The United States has worked continuously to help bring those responsible for these heinous acts [in Rwanda] to justice, and we continue to stand with the people of Rwanda as they seek to rebuild their country in the aftermath of the genocide.”
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda grew from a policy aimed at the systematic destruction of a people. The people of Rwanda survive, but the scars are deep. The damage wrought in Rwanda by ethnic hatred is there for the world to see -- and to learn from.