Archived conflict (updated: January 2004)

In 2003, for the second straight year, there were no confirmed reports of clashes between Rwandan armed forces and Hutu militants based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Rwanda maintained its soldiers had completely withdrawn from the DRC early in the year. The continued deployment of the United Nations Mission to the DRC (MONUC) served to stabilize the Rwandan/Congolese border and assisted in the repatriation of thousands of Rwandan Hutu fighters. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), as well as local Rwandan courts, continued their work in bringing to justice those complicit in the 1994 genocide.


Summary:2002 Within Rwanda there was no reported fighting and political efforts were focussed on national reconciliation and justice. Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila signed a peace deal requiring Rwanda to pull troops out of the DRC. In return, the DRC agreed to disarm and arrest Congo-based Hutu rebels.

2001 A major offensive by Rwandan rebels based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was defeated by the Rwandan military in May and June. More than 1,000 rebels were reported killed. Fighting between Uganda and Rwanda in the DRC ended with an agreement to conduct joint military operations along their common borders.

2000 Rwanda and Uganda (which had both backed the Congolese rebels aiming to overthrow President Kabila,) turned against each other and engaged in heavy fighting in the city of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, by mid-June, Rwanda announced that it was withdrawing its troops from Kisangani in order to allow for the deployment of UN observers. Meanwhile, clashes between government forces and Hutu extremists continued in the northwest, eastern province of North Kivu and the neighbouring areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Specific casualty figures were unavailable; however, it is likely that hundreds of people were killed this year, in the ongoing clashes (mostly civilians) and as a result of prison overcrowding, “murder” and “assassination” by government security forces.

1999 Fighting between the government Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and Hutu militias continued in northwest Rwanda and the neighbouring areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Casualty figures were not available, but were likely far less than for 1998. Meanwhile, over 1,000 people died due to prison overcrowding while waiting trials for the 1994 genocide.

1998 Hutu rebels and Tutsi Rwandese forces clashed in increasingly brutal fighting in mainly, though not exclusively, the country’s northwest. The rebels slaughtered Tutsis and Hutus said to be in collaboration with the government, attacked jails to free prisoners, and entered villages to kill civilians sometimes seemingly at random. The Government’s Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) also committed numerous atrocities, killing insurgents and civilians suspected of aiding the rebel army.
Type of Conflict:

State control
Parties to the Conflict:

1) Government of National Unity:

Dominated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by President Paul Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi.

President Pasteur Bizimungu resigned from office, citing “personal reasons” in his letter to the National Assembly. A joint session of the Rwandan assembly and cabinet voted in Acting President Paul Kagame as the new President on April 16, 2000. President Kagame was reelected for a seven year term in 2003.

“Rwanda’s President Pasteur Bizimungu, who had been in power since the end of the country’s 1994 genocide, resigned on Thursday after falling out with leading members of his ruling party…On Monday, Bizimungu launched a stinging attack on the central African country’s parliament, saying it had been partisan in its corruption investigations and ignored powerful Tutsis…” [Reuters, 23 March 2000]

“The largely Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which took power following the civil war and genocide of 1994, is the principal political force in the Government of National Unity. President Pasteur Bizimungu, an ethnic Hutu, and Vice President and Minister of Defense Paul Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi, both belong to the RPF. The mainly Hutu Republican Democratic Movement (MDR) retains the office of Prime Minister. Prime Minister Pierre Rwigema runs the Government on a daily basis and is responsible for relations with the National Assembly… The Minister of Defense is responsible for internal security and military defense; the Minister of Interior is responsible for civilian security matters. The security apparatus consists of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and the gendarmerie, largely made up of RPA soldiers.” [1997 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Rwanda, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, US Department of State, 1998]

2) Rebels:

Hutu armed groups believed to be interahamwe militia responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or members of the Forces armées rwandaises (ex-FAR), the former army of Rwanda. The Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) is one such Hutu extremist group. These armed groups have been based primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for much of the last decade, but have begun returning to Rwanda following the termination of the Congolese conflict in 2003.
Status of Fighting:

2003 The security situation in Rwanda remained relatively calm for a second consecutive year. However, there were unconfirmed reports of Rwandan armed forces returning to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and clashing with DRC-based militias. Although officials in Kigali denied these allegations, they raised the possibility of Rwandan soldiers returning to the DRC if the United Nations Mission, MONUC, failed to neutralize the threat to Rwanda’s security posed by the Hutu militias and alleged foreign forces within the DRC. (Violence attributed to the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) in the DRC in January 2004 attested to the ongoing threat posed by these armed groups.) An isolated incident of Hutu-Tutsi violence occurred in December, as four genocide survivors were allegedly killed by genocide suspects as they prepared to give testimony to local courts concerning the atrocities of 1994.

“Four genocide survivors were reported to have been killed in Gikongoro in December 2003 by an alleged gang of genocide suspects in order to prevent the survivors from testifying in the Gacaca justice system, introduced in the country in 2001.” [IRIN, January 12, 2004]

“A wave of attacks has displaced some 20,000 people since late December in the volatile South Kivu province [of the DRC] bordering Rwanda … Lapierre [MONUC spokesman] blamed the attacks on the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), an extremist Rwandan Hutu group …” [Reuters, January 12, 2004]

“The Rwandan army has denied taking part in fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo between two local rival militia groups, the Rwandan News Agency reported on Wednesday.” [IRIN, June 12, 2003]

“The Rwandan army attacked targets in neighbouring northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo using helicopters equipped with flame-throwers, a local bishop has told AFP.” [Agence France Presse, June 11, 2003]

“The Rwandan army and a Kigali-backed rebel group have been carrying out ‘systematic massacres’ in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since the start of the month, a report by a French-Congolese observer group has quoted witnesses as saying.
…”On Monday, Mbusa Nyamwisi, leader of a political-military group in northeastern DRC, wrote a letter to President Joseph Kabila in which he denounced ‘the aggression of the Rwandan army and the RCD … Kigali is determined to send troops back into DRC, but the excuse they give – of insecurity at the border – is not credible because the Congolese government and the United Nations are fully engaged in disarming and repatriating to Rwanda these ‘negative forces’,’ Nyamwisi said.” [Agence France Presse, April 16, 2003]

“A spokesman for … MONUC, said on Thursday that MONUC was unable to confirm reports that Rwandan troops had re-entered the country after their withdrawal earlier this year.
…”He was responding to reports that truckloads of Rwandan and Burundian troops had re-entered North Kivu Province between 13 and 16 March.” [IRIN, March 21, 2003]

“Rwanda warned Friday it would send troops back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) if the United Nations failed to secure the total withdrawal of Ugandan forces from the vast, war-ravaged state.
…”‘Should the international community fail to reverse this development promptly and decisively, Rwanda would be compelled to assume its responsibility and take appropriate measures to protect its peoples,’ it [a Rwandan foreign ministry statement] said.” [Agence France Presse, March 14, 2003]

“The United Nations said on Saturday it was concerned about a buildup of foreign troops in northeastern Congo …

“The spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Congo, Hamadoun Toure, said Uganda and Rwanda had sent troops into Kivu and Ituri …” [Reuters, February 1, 2003]

2002 There was no reported fighting in Rwanda between government forces and Congo-based Interahamwe and ex-FAR rebels.

2001 By June 2001, Rwanda and Uganda reached a truce in the DRC and agreed to cooperate in joint operations to curb insecurity along their common borders. In mid-May and June, the Rwandan army repulsed a major offensive by rebels invading from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) are to resume joint operations along their common border to curb insecurity caused by the Interahamwe militia based in the DRC. The UPDF and the RPA also agreed to hold monthly meetings to resolve any differences that might arise during the joint operations. Clashes have taken place almost daily over the last two weeks between rebels of the Interahamwe and Rwandan security forces in areas bordering the Congo. ‘Uganda and the Republic of Rwanda share a common task to stablilize the security of their nations and their citizens. We have to work together if we are to achieve this goal,’ UPDF Lt-Col Tumusiime Nyakaitana as saying. ‘We are brothers. We have no ill intention to fight with Rwanda,’ Nyakaitana said. Lt-Col Mubarak Muganga of Rwanda said the Kigali government was ready to restore a working relationship with Uganda. Relations between the two armies deteriorated following clashes in the eastern DRC city of Kisangani in 1999 and last year.” [IRIN, June 18, 2001]

“Senior Rwandan military officers said they had routed a force that invaded northwestern Rwanda from Congo in mid-May, forcing survivors to hide in the Virunga volcano range on the border with its vast neighbour. ‘This is a serious loss inflicted on the insurgents in a period of three weeks, and I doubt those remaining in the Virunga forests will be able to launch a new attack,’ said Brig. Gen. James Kabarebe, the deputy chief of staff. Rwandan helicopter gunships, artillery and infantry have fought a series of battles in the past month with the rebels, led by militiamen who fled into the Congolese jungle after taking part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.” [The Washington Post, June 22, 2001]

2000 Rwanda and Uganda, which had both backed the Congolese rebels aiming to overthrow President Kabila, turned against each other and engaged in heavy fighting in the city of Kisangani, a strategic diamond centre in the DRC. However, by mid-June, Rwanda announced that it was withdrawing its troops from Kisangani in order to allow for the deployment of UN observers. Initially, the two countries had maintained they were in DRC to protect their borders against their own rebels who had taken refuge in the Congo. Meanwhile, clashes between government forces and Hutu extremists continued in the northwest, eastern province of North Kivu, and in the neighbouring areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There were reports of Interahamwe militias infiltrating through northwest Rwanda, recruiting members at gunpoint.

“Rwanda and Uganda, once allies in a rebel insurgency against the Congolese government of President Laurent Kabila split last year when two rebel chiefs disputed the leadership of one of the factions. Rwanda supported one man, and Uganda backed the other.” [CNN, 9 June 2000]

“The Ugandan army chief of staff Brigadier James Kazini on Tuesday said Uganda may now consider Rwanda as an ‘enemy’ following the latest clashes in the DRC city of Kisangani, Uganda’s independent ‘Monitor’ newspaper reported on Wednesday… Ugandan and Rwandan forces fought each other in Kisangani last Friday and Saturday, and again on Tuesday. They first clashed in the city last August, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.” [IRIN, 10 May 2000]

“The ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias are reportedly infiltrating the prefectures of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri in northwest Rwanda with the intention of ‘fighting to destabilise the population once again’, an OCHA update for May said…OCHA quoted local sources as saying the militias were going from house to house asking the local residents to join them. ‘Those rejecting were shot at and those accepting taken away to be recruited,’ the sources said.” [IRIN, 9 June 2000]

“…fighting along the southern front — mostly controlled by Rwandan forces and quiet for many months — was concentrated along a sector stretching north from the government-held diamond trading center of Mbuji-Mayi in Kasai province. He said there had been at least 20 attacks in Kasai on rebel and Rwandan positions since June and Rwandan troops were returning fire. Mazimhaka said clashes had also increased behind the frontlines in the eastern province of North Kivu, where Rwanda says hordes of pro-government militiamen are being supplied by Congolese President Laurent Kabila.” [Reuters, 2 August 2000]

“Troops of the Rwandan Patriotic Army’s 75th Battalion’s 402nd Brigade withdrew from Kisangani after clashes last month with Ugandan forces, their erstwhile allies in the two-year civil war in Congo. A handful of unarmed U.N. military observers took control of the war-torn city and supervised the pullout of both Rwandan and Ugandan armies.” [Associated Press, 8 August 2000]

1999 Clashes between government forces and Hutu extremists continued in the northwest and in the neighbouring areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In December, the Hutu extremists launched a series of attacks from their bases in the DRC, confirming the government’s long-held position of facing rebel infiltrations from its neighbour’s territory. At the end of the year, government forces had almost brought under control the insurgency in the northwest.

“By late 1999, the Rwandan government had largely put down an insurgency which had operated out of northwestern Rwanda and adjacent areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the past eighteen months. In doing so, its troops killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, and forced hundreds of thousands of Rwandans to move into government-established ‘villages’.” [Human Rights Watch World Report, 2000].

“A series of attacks and confrontations throughout December appeared to confirm reliable reports of the infiltration into Rwanda from DRC of Interahamwe militias, and of a general increase in clashes between Interahamwe and Rwandan Patriotic Army forces, in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri prefectures, humanitarian sources have told IRIN. Recent incidents in Ruhondo and Nyamutera communes in Ruhengeri, and in Tamira resettlement site in Mutara commune, Gisenyi prefecture, confirmed that the Interahamwe were still operating from the volcanic forests in eastern DRC, on the border with Uganda and around Gishwati, which appears to be their in-country hide-out, they said. Relief agencies were again considering the safety of workers on the Kigali-Ruhengeri road, on which the need for military escorts had been lifted last July thanks to an improving security situation, IRIN was told.”[IRIN, January 7, 2000]

1998 The fighting continued to be very brutal in 1998. Rebel insurgency and government reprisal has steadily escalated since the Tutsi controlled Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) regained control of the country in the summer of 1994 after the attempted Hutu genocide in the spring of that year. Most of the dead were unarmed civilians, killed by both the RPA and the rebels. The majority of the clashes took place in the North West region (though there were some major insurgencies in other regions), with rebel forces attacking jails to free prisoners and entering villages to kill civilians sometimes seemingly at random. The government used its military arsenal of helicopters, machine guns, and armoured vehicles to hold the upper hand in their counter-attacks.

“The Rwandan government and insurgents fought an increasingly brutal and costly war, killing thousands–probably tens of thousands of unarmed civilians during 1998. Based largely in the northwest, the insurgents also led major strikes against other regions. They attacked jails to free prisoners and they slaughtered members of the Tutsi minority, government officials, and others who refused to support the rebellion. Soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), equipped with helicopters, armored vehicles, and heavy weapons killed unarmed civilians, sometimes in pursuit of insurgents, sometimes in places or at times where no rebels were present but where they suspected the population of supporting them.” [Human Rights Watch Report, 1999]

Number of Deaths:

Total: Between 500,000 and one million deaths in 1994, followed by tens of thousands of subsequent deaths, mostly of refugees and other civilians.

2003 Aside from the four genocide survivors who were killed in Rwanda in December, there were no confirmed casualties of conflict between Rwandan forces and ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias in 2003.

2002 Information on the number of people killed in the conflict this year was unavailable.

2001 More than 1,000 rebels were reported killed in an offensive against government troops in June. Government troops captured some 600 prisoners during the offensive, many of whom were children forced into service.

“Rwanda’s army said that it had repulsed one of the biggest attacks on the country in years after killing more than 1000 ethnic Hutu rebels in a month of fierce fighting. The Rwandan army said it captured about 600 rebels during the fighting, many of whom were poorly armed and malnourished children who described themselves as having been pressed into service by militia leaders.” [The Washington Post, June 22, 2001]

“The Rwanadan army killed about 40 rebels of the Hutu extremist Interahamwe militia in the northwestern Ruhengeri area. Rwanda’s Presidential advisor, Lt-Col Charles Kayonga, told IRIN. ‘It was not an invasion or an attack by theInterahamwe,’ he said. ‘They were literally driven out by fighting in their bases in the DRC and were forced to flee into Ruhengeri Prefecture,’ he explained. He said the rebels, 70 in number, had been ‘annihilated’ by the army. ‘About 40 of them were killed and 25 captured,’ Kayonga added.” [IRIN, May 23, 2001]

2000 Specific casualty figures were unavailable; however, it is likely that hundreds of people were killed in the ongoing clashes (mostly civilians) and as a result of prison overcrowding, “murder” and “assassination” by government security forces.

“An Amnesty International report published on 26 April 2000 (‘Rwanda: The troubled course of justice’) has documented …Gross overcrowding, poor hygiene and inadequate medical care continue to cause widespread disease and deaths in detention…torture and ill-treatment: these violations are especially prevalent in the cachots communaux and military detention centres, where detainees are regularly beaten…unlawful detention of civilians in military custody, sometimes in unofficial or secret detention centres…” [Amnesty International, 27 April 2000]

“The New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a report released on Thursday, accuses the Rwandan government of ‘using the pretext of security to cover human rights abuses against Rwandan citizens’. The report details cases of murder, assassination, torture and arbitrary detention, which it says, were carried out by the security forces. According to HRW, human rights abuses in Rwanda go beyond the ethnic divide. ‘The Tutsi-led government is now targeting Tutsi survivors of the 1994 genocide because they are supposedly political l opponents,’ HRW consultant Alison DesForges says in the organisation’s press statement.” [IRIN, 27 April 2000]

1999 While casualty figures for 1999 were not available, sources indicate that over 1000 people died as a result of prison overcrowding while waiting trials for the 1994 genocide.

“The RPA committed significantly fewer extrajudicial killings inside the country than in 1998, due to its success in largely suppressing the insurgency in the northwest, as it pushed Hutu rebels including the former Rwandan armed forces (ex-FAR) and the Interahamwe militia inside the territory of the DROC.” [1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Rwanda, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, US Department of State, February 25, 2000 ].

(Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening and, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 1,148 prisoners died in custody from curable illnesses.)

1998 The number of deaths in Rwanda in 1998 was at least 6,000 with some reports claiming the possibility of 10,000. Hundreds of thousands of people were considered missing in the two prefectures of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri, and presumed dead or living as refugees or in rebel controlled regions. In addition, some 3,300 prisoners, mostly Hutu accused of genocide in 1994 who were awaiting trial, died because of overcrowding – prisons designed to hold 17,000 people were holding as many as 125,000.

“Diplomats concluded that between 100,000 and 250,000 persons were unaccounted for out of a population of some 1,500,000 in the two prefectures of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri. Some 200,000 persons did not collect their required identity papers in Gisenyi, suggesting that they were either dead or living on the other side of the frontier, in the forest, or in areas controlled by rebels.” [Human Rights Watch World Report, 1999]

“By July 1997, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had located some 286,000 Rwandans in DRC and adjacent countries and had assisted some 234,000 of these persons to return to Rwanda. An additional 213,000 remained missing, many of them presumably dead either from military attack or hunger and disease.” [Human Rights Watch World Report, 1998].

Political Developments:

2003 Attempts to bring to justice those accountable for the events of 1994 continued this year, both domestically and abroad. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Tanzania, continued its work, adding to a total of 19 cases completed since its inception. Local courts in Rwanda also were involved in trying those accused of complicity in the genocide. In spite of these initiatives, at the outset of the year over 100,000 people suspected of involvement in genocide remained in prison awaiting trial, leading President Kagame to release 40,000 inmates in March.

Presidential elections held in September, the first since 1994, were conducted without any reported incidents of violence and resulted in President Kagame’s re-election. One of the most prominent Hutu armed groups based in the DRC, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), signalled its intention to end the armed campaign against the Rwandan government when the military commander and a hundred other top-ranking officials returned to Rwanda peacefully. While significant, this repatriation accounted for only a small percentage of the tens of thousands of fighters in the DRC. The United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) remained in the eastern DRC, mandated to demobilise, disarm, repatriate and reintegrate the members of the various armed groups, including the Rwandan Hutus.

“The second phase [of demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants], which was launched in 2002 and due for completion in June 2005, aims to demobilise and reintegrate into society another 20,000 RDF soldiers and 25,000 members of armed groups returning from outside the country, according to the World Bank. … Since the second phase of demobilisation began [2002], only 3,641 returnee militias from the DRC have been demobilised and reintegrated into their communities. Thousands more are still roaming in the Congolese jungle.” [IRIN, January 8, 2004]

“A Rwandan court has found 18 people guilty of genocide crimes committed in the country in 1994 and sentenced them to serve various terms in prison. … A leader of the group responsible for the killings, Gitera Rwamuhizi, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to having killed 10 people. The rest were sentenced to terms ranging from seven to 16 years.” [IRIN, December 3, 2003]

“‘We have decided to put down guns. War is not the best solution,’ Paul Rwarakabije, military commander of the Kinshasa-based Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), said on arrival at Kigali airport with several rebel colleagues. … The largely Rwandan Hutu FDLR is estimated by analysts to have between 15,000 and 20,000 guerrillas fighting to topple the Tutsi-led Rwandan government from jungle bases in the east of the DRC.” [Reuters, November 15, 2003]

” … the incumbent president, Paul Kagame, ha[s] won the first presidential elections since the country’s 1994 genocide … Observers said voting passed off peacefully, although a European Union observer raised concerns about allegations of intimidation of opposition supporters during campaigning.” [Guardian Weekly, August 28 – September 3, 2003]

“The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) today confirmed the conviction of Georges Rutaganda for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity, and entered two new convictions for murder as a violation of common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The latter two convictions represented the first instance in which the ICTR has convicted a defendant of a war crime.” [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda – Press Release, May 26, 2003]

“Rwandan President Paul Kagame defended his recent decree releasing up to 40,000 inmates, including thousands of genocide suspects, saying on Saturday the move was necessary for national reconciliation.
…”‘It is not an amnesty that we are giving these prisoners. It is really simply, logically, managing a situation based on the laws already in place,’ he said. ‘The law provides for leniency in the cases of confession.’” [Reuters, March 8, 2003]

2002 In September, Rwanda agreed to pull its estimated 30,000 to 40,000 troops out of Congo in exchange for a commitment on the part of the Congolese government to disarm and arrest Hutu rebels living in the DRC. The struggle for justice and reconciliation following the 1994 genocide took a new turn when traditional “Gacaca” (grassroots) courts were set up to accelerate the process of trying those responsible for the genocide. A number of top military and political figures, as well as individuals accused of inciting genocide through the media, were arrested and await trial in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The ICTR also began considering retaliation crimes committed by the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) against Hutus in 1994.

“The long-awaited trials to be conducted by Gacaca courts – an adapted form of Rwandan traditional participatory justice – are to begin on 18 June to deal with the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists in the country killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days… HRW [Human Rights Watch] said in its report for 2002 that ‘the innovative system [of Gacaca] offered the only hope of trial within the foreseeable future for the tens of thousands now suffering inhumane conditions in prisons and communal lock-ups’.” [IRIN, June 11, 2002]

“The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Carla del Ponte, is currently investigating members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) for crimes allegedly committed against Hutus in 1994, but is “not satisfied” with the level of cooperation received thus far from Rwandan authorities, her spokeswoman, Florence Hartman, told IRIN on Friday.” [IRIN, April 12, 2002]

2001 In March, Rwanda withdrew 200 soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and in September the Presidents of Rwanda and the DRC held talks to find ways to speed up the implementation of the Lusaka Peace Accords. Some 3,000 rebels of the Rwandan Liberation Democratic Forces, based in the DRC, called for a dialogue with the Rwandan government in order to return peacefully and hand over their arms. Within Rwanda a new flag and anthem were introduced to symbolize the country’s hopes for national reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

“The first contingent of Rwandan troops withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrived back in Rwanda. Some 200 troops were transported back by plane after pulling back from positions on the southeastern frontline of Pweto to the town of Manono. Welcoming their return, President Paul Kagame said the withdrawal process had bee initiated ‘within the context of new goodwill towards implementation of the Lusaka agreement. The implication of our troop pull-back is that we are implementing our obligations and we shall continue to do so,’ Kagame said, according presidential office press release.” [IRIN, March 21, 2001]

“Rebels of the Rwandan Liberation Democratic Forces are seeking dialogue with the Rwandan government before they can eventually return home. BBC quoted a spokesman for the 3,000 rebels currently being prepared by the DRC government for their eventual repatriation as saying that a dialogue between them and the Rwandan authorities need to take place before they can return home. The official, Alexis Nshimyimana told BBC that the Hutu rebels had agreed to give up their arms as a goodwill gesture to Rwandan authorities.” [All Africa Global Media, September 4, 2001]

“The Presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, arch foes in Africa’s biggest conflict, will hold talks in Malawi, Malawian government officials said. They said President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joseph Kabila of the former Zaire would meet for two days in Blantyre under the auspices of Malawian President Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi chairs the 14-nation South African Development Community, which mandated him to try to accelerate peace in Congo. The talks are expected to focus on speeding up the implementation of the July 1999 Lusaka Peace Agreement and the withdrawal of foreign forces from Africa’s third largest nation.” [CNN, September, 25, 2001]

“Rwanda’s Government unveiled a new flag and national anthem on Monday as part of its drive to promote national unity and reconciliation after the 1994 genocide. The new national anthem will refer to the Rwandans as one people, rather than to Tutsi, Hutu and Twa…. As for the new flag, the government wants it to represent national unity, respect for work, heroism and confidence in the future.” [BBC News, December 31, 2001]

2000 On February 28, Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema resigned his post amid accusations of financial impropriety and one week later was replaced by Rwanda’s former ambassador to Germany, Bernard Makuza. It took nearly a month before the new government was announced and President Pasteur Bizimungu condemned parliament for the delay and its overall working method. Two weeks later, the President resigned from office, citing ‘personal reasons’ in his letter to the National Assembly. A joint session of the Rwandan assembly and cabinet voted in Acting President Paul Kagame as the new President on April 16. On June 16, the UN Security Council passed a resolution ordering all troops from other countries out of the DRC; it also authorized a force of over 5000 UN observers to monitor a cease-fire. However, those troops will only be deployed when all sides demonstrate they are abiding by the terms of the Lusaka Peace Accord. By early August Rwanda agreed to the unilateral withdrawal of its troops from front-line positions, creating a 125-mile wide corridor from Dekese in western Congo to Moba on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika.

[Sources: IRIN, 28 February 2000; IRIN, 9 March 2000; IRIN, 21 March 2000; Reuters, 14 June 2000; Associated Press, 9 August 2000]

“Rwanda’s President Pasteur Bizimungu, who had been in power since the end of the country’s 1994 genocide, resigned on Thursday after falling out with leading members of his ruling party…On Monday, Bizimungu launched a stinging attack on the central African country’s parliament, saying it had been partisan in its corruption investigations and ignored powerful Tutsis…” [Reuters, 23 March 2000]

“The UN Security Council on Friday passed a resolution ordering all troops from other countries out of the battle-scarred Democratic Republic of Congo starting with Rwanda and Uganda, which have been fighting against each other. In a unanimously adopted French-drafted resolution, the council also called for Rwanda and Uganda to pay for the deaths and damage inflicted on the northern Congolese city of Kisangani, where about 300 people have been killed… The resolution was adopted Friday following a two-day meeting of the warring sides involved in the Congo’s 22-month old civil war…” [CNN, 16 June 2000]

“The Rwandan government on Wednesday released a statement giving details of the proposed disengagement plan for DRC. In the statement, it expressed concern over ‘unnecessary delays’ in the implementation of the Lusaka cease-fire agreement… ‘Rwanda proposes to have a zone that is not less than 200 km wide in a line running from Dekese in the central zone to Moba on the eastern zone,’ the statement said. ‘This will be done in phases, but it will also be on condition that the UN fully undertakes responsibility over the disengagement zone,’ it added. It expressed hope that the UN will live up to its responsibility as stipulated by the Lusaka accord and its own resolutions, and to encourage other signatories to emulate Rwanda’s proposal.” [IRIN, 10 August, 2000]

1999 The first elections since the 1994 genocide were held in March to elect local administrators. In December, an independent report, commissioned by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate UN failures at the time of the genocide, condemned the UN establishment, criticizing big powers for failing to act and highlighting the fundamental weaknesses of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. It described how a number of early warning signals were dismissed and how UN peacekeepers abandoned a group of Tutsis later massacred.

“In December 1999 an independent report which had been commissioned by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to look into UN failures during the genocide, condemned him for ignoring the evidence that a slaughter was planned and for failing to act (indeed, the UN forces had been pulled out of the country) when the killing began. The report also criticised the US and other major powers for ‘deplorable inaction’ while up to a million Tutsis were being murdered. The investigators said that the fundamental failures of the peace-keeping operation in Rwanda were a weak mandate, poor funding, and a lack of political commitment. There had been at least ten clear warnings of a planned genocide, which the UN had dismissed. The UN Security Council also came under criticism. Countries whose soldiers or aid agents had been murdered were reluctant to maintain a presence, and the UN had been pulled out, abandoning the victims when they most needed help. Of one such departure from a group of Tutsis taking refuge in a school, the report said ‘The manner in which the troops left, including attempt to pretend to the refugees that they were not leaving, was disgraceful’ – most of the 2000 Tutsis were massacred the same day. Kofi Anna responded by admitting a ‘systematic failure’, and his own ‘deep remorse’.” [Peace Pledge Union, 2000]

“The second day of voting is underway in nationwide elections in Rwanda – the first since the genocide in 1994. A high voter turnout was recorded on the first day of the local poll on Monday, despite heavy rain throughout the country. The local elections will replace appointed local officials with 10-member elected executive committees at the cell and sector levels, two of Rwanda’s smallest administrative units. The Rwandan leader, Major-General Paul Kagame, admits that the elections are a test of what progress has been made: “After five years I think we’ve been educating our people on certain values. ‘I’m not sure things have gone so well, but I think we have made some progress on that. We experiment on this process and see what comes out,’ he said” [BBC News, March 30, 1999]

1998 Genocide trials continued very slowly in 1998. In September, The UN war crimes tribunal became the first international court to convict someone for genocide when former Mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu was found guilty of inciting the murder of 2,000 Tutsis and of sexual crimes. February brought the news that former peacekeeping General Romeao Dallaire’s pleas to the UN for more troops and a mandate to stop the killing in the 1994 Hutu led Genocide attempts fell on deaf ears, including Kofi Annan who was in charge of UN African operations at the time. Dallaire had received a document written by a Hutu leader which outlined in exacting detail the Hutu genocidal plans. The RTLM state radio station also was “inciting people to kill, explaining how to kill, telling people who to kill,” in the words of Dallaire.

“During 1997, 322 persons were judged on charges of genocide, a rate which if unchanged would result in fewer than 5 percent of the detainees being tried within their lifetimes. Authorities set a goal of 5,000 persons to be tried in 1998 and began prosecuting larger groups of defendants together, including one group of fifty-one persons. This practice speeded disposition of cases, but also produced confusion and logistical problems that seemed likely to prejudice the rights of some defendants. By the end of October 1998, it appeared that the courts would fall short of the goal of 5,000.” [Human Rights Watch World Report, 1999]


Rwanda has suffered sporadic conflict since 1959 as rival Hutu and Tutsi ethnic/social groups have competed for control of the central government. In October 1990, the predominantly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded from Uganda, demanding democracy and the right for refugees from earlier violence to return to Rwanda. The 1993 Arusha peace accord provided for the creation of a transitional government composed of President Juvénal Habyarimana’s National Revolutionary Movement for Democracy and Development (MNRD), the RPF, and Rwandan opposition parties. The accord collapsed in April 1994 when a plane carrying Habyarimana (and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira) was shot down. An extraordinary orgy of killings followed, attributed mainly to Hutu attacks on Tutsi civilians. In mid-1994, the RPF, also accused of reprisal killings, managed to take control of the country and hundreds of thousands fled, including former government soldiers and Interahamwe militia responsible for the civilian massacres. After Zairian rebels (with support from the RPF) overran Rwandese refugee camps in eastern Zaire in late 1996, more than one million Zaire-based and Tanzania-based refugees returned to Rwanda. As many as 200,000 remained missing, with some assumed to be dead from hunger, disease, or military attacks. Trials of the thousands of genocide suspects held in Rwanda jails began at the end of 1996 and continued through 2000 at a rate that could take many years to complete. In September 1998, the UN war crimes tribunal became the first international court to convict for genocide when former Mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, from the central village of Taba, was found guilty of inciting the murder of 2,000 Tutsis. That same month Rwanda’s former prime minister, Jean Kambanda, also was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity by an international court and became the highest ranking official to ever face such charges, be convicted and sentenced. In 2002, traditional “gacaca” courts began operating in Rwanda to speed up the process of trying those responsible for the genocide and the UN war crimes tribunal began investigating crimes committed against Hutus in 1994 by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). First deployed in 1999, the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has assisted in the demobilisation and repatriation of thousands of Rwandan fighters based in the DRC.

“The former Rwandan prime minister, Jean Kambanda, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity. Kambanda has pleaded guilty at a United Nations war crimes tribunal in Tanzania to his part in the murder of 500,000 Rwandans. It is the first time an international court has sentenced a suspect for crime of genocide. Kambanda, 42, who held office during the massacres in Rwanda in 1994 was accused of attending meetings where massacres of the Rwandan Tutsi minority were encouraged. Chief Judge Laity Kama said,’Jean Kambanda abused his authority and the trust of the population. Nor has he expressed contrition, regret, or sympathy for the victims in Rwanda even when given the opportunity.’ Kambanda, a Hutu, was accused of: inciting massacres, ordering roadblocks to help round up of Tutsis, and distributing weapons for slaughter. A life sentence is the maximum that can be imposed by the UN tribunal, based in Arusha, Tanzania. In Rwanda itself, convicted prisoners have been executed by firing squad.” [BBC, September 4, 1998]

“An investigation sanctioned by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on Friday blamed the UN Security Council under the guidance of the US, Belgium and France for the death of up to 800,000 Rwandans in the 1994 genocide. DPA news agency quoted the report entitled ‘Rwanda, the Preventable Genocide’, as saying that the Catholic and Anglican hierarchies in Rwanda and the governments of France and Belgium, all had a role in the massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the Hutu-led government in Kigali ‘because of their strong support for the Hutu’. It said the Security Council was ‘led unremittingly by the US and simply did not care enough about Rwanda to intervene appropriately’. ‘What makes the Security Council’s betrayal of its responsibility even more intolerable is that the genocide was in no way inevitable,’ it said. ‘The facts show, however, that the American government knew precisely what was happening, not least during the month of the genocide,’ the report said. According to AFP, the report said Rwanda had the right to financial reparations from the international community because it did not prevent the massacres. The investigation was carried out by an International Panel of Eminent Persons led by former Botswana president Ketumile Masire.” [IRIN, 7 July 2000]

“Five cases of utmost importance have been waiting a long time to be heard –– one dealing with the media, two involving the military, and two involving former ministers and political party leaders. These trials are crucial to revealing important truths about the preparation, launch and execution of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The media case is the only one that is actually underway. The first military case, that of Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, who is suspected of being one of the masterminds and organisers of the genocide, opened in a strictly symbolic fashion on 2 April 2002 but will not properly start until September. None of the other three cases are on the tribunal calendar, and they seem unlikely to be heard for a year.” [International Crisis Group, August 1, 2002]

Arms Sources:

China, Israel, and South Africa were reported as arms suppliers to the Rwandan armed forces before 1994 and to the RPA since. The RPA also received training from the US and Uganda and weapons from Romania and Slovakia. Other weapons for the RPA were secured from Belarus and Russia via indirect routes. The rebels reportedly received weapons from the DR Congo (Zaire), Zimbabwe, and East European sources. A 1994 arms embargo which had been imposed on the Rwandan government by the US was lifted in 2003; however, arms transfers to non-governmental entities within Rwanda remained under ban.

[Sources: The Military Balance, 2000/2001; IRIN, February 3, 2000; Washington Post, September 1, 1999]

“The United States on Wednesday lifted a nine-year-old embargo on weapons sales to Rwanda but kept in place a ban on such transfers to non-governmental entities in the African nation.” [Agence France Presse, July 30, 2003]

“A British company that supplied arms to Rwanda during the country’s civil war has been linked to the former army chief arrested in Britain on suspicion of genocide. Investigations following the tragic events of 1994 show that soldiers in the provinces where Tharcisse Muvunyi was a senior commander used military equipment which was almost certainly supplied by Mil-Tec an Isle of Man company which arranged the shipment of more than 3.3 million pounds of hardware to Rwanda.” [IRIN, 10 February 2000]

“The on-going civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which US Secretary of State Madeline Albright described as ‘Africa’s first world war,’ is being fueled mostly by weapons from the United States…the weapons, including fighter aircraft, combat helicopters, battle tanks and heavy artillery, have come mostly from Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Poland, Kazakhstan and Ukraine…

“Under the current US International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme, the US provided about 7.9 million dollars in outright grants to sub-Saharan Africa in 1998, increasing it to 8.1 million in 1999 and 8.5 million in 2000…”[InterPress Service, 26 January 2000]

Spread the Word