I meant to post this on April 6th but didn't get to it so will do it today. April 6th would have been the 14th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. That was the day when Rwandan president Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down just before landing in Kigali.
I think that it is nearly impossible to get your arms around the scope of the genocide. Rwanda is a tiny country, about the size of Vermont or Maryland. Surrounded by Burundi on the South, Tanzania on the East, Uganda on the North and Congo on the West it is dwarfed by it's neighbors. Often called "The Land of A Thousand Hills", it is beautiful (so my husband tells me for he has been there). From April to July in 1994 between 800,000 and one million Tutsi's were murdered by Hutus (most scholars believe the higher number to be the accurate one). Most of those people were killed in the first 3-4 weeks. That means that taking the lower number approximately 29,000 people were killed EVERY day. And it wasn't impersonal killing either. These Tutsi's were often murdered by people that they knew. Neighbors killed neighbors, friends killed friends. The killing was most often done with machete. You can't kill someone from an impersonal distance with a machete. Add to the killing (as if the killing isn't enough) the systematic rape of women and that time period is unimaginable in the scope of it's horror.
I could state lots of facts here but I think the best thing for you to do is to read about it yourself. The best book that I have read on the subject is We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. It is chilling and worth your time to find.
I don't want you to think that things are still bad in Rwanda. The country is a stable one in a region often marked by instability. They have made a tremendous effort at reconciliation and healing. Paul Kagami (the current President of Rwanda), for all the criticism leveled at him, has done a good job guiding his country through the painful process of reconciliation and growth.
You may wonder why I care about Rwanda. Well, if all works out as we hope, Dan and I will be in Rwanda in September with Opportunity International. We also hope to see the children that we sponsor through World Vision. We have a white board posted in our back hall with all their pictures on it. I see their beautiful faces many times a day. They have musical names like Jeanette, Bosco, Chantal, Donat, Jean Claude, Charlotte, Emmanuel, Enoch, Venuste, Phocus, Clementine, Joseph, Jean Pierre, Dominique, Fulgence, Vianney, Solange, Esperance, Agnes, Damascene, Felicien, Marie Jeanne, Evaliste, Winnifred, Angelique, Claire, Joseline, Francois, Vestine, Therese, Immaculee and JMV (Jean Marie Vianney). I want so much to meet these young people and hopefully we will.
Just an aside note. The current genocide taking place in Darfur is on the scope of Rwanda. It is just taking place over a longer period of time. But it is as bad and the world is reacting in just the same way. We wring our hands and say, "How awful" but we do nothing.
To conclude I will just give you a simple reading list. It isn't exhaustive by any means but it is the one that I have followed. New books on the genocide are coming out all the time (I have three on order at Amazon at the moment).
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
Shake Hands With The Devil by Romeo Dallaire
Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
Machete Season by Jean Hatzfeld
An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina
Frontline: Ghosts of Rwanda