The night of the 6th of April 1994, the plane carrying president Juvénal Habyarimana and his Burundian homologous, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was gunned down in Kigali, while it was returning from Dar-es-Salaam (in Tanzania) where the regional summit of the Chiefs of State was held. The same night, the Rwandan presidential guard started the massacres, targeted with the systematic exterminations of all Tutsi and Hutu opponents, named without any distinction as accomplices of the enemy. Still in a civil war, which was kicked off less than four years prior by the FPR-Inkotanyi troops, Rwanda descended into the horror of genocide. Hutu extremists will describe this as a spontaneous self-defence reaction of the Hutu people, after the assassination of their president by the FPR-Inkotanyi and its accomplices. In reality, the genocide was the result of a deliberate political choice made by an extremist Hutu group, wanting to hold on to power after a series of military and political successes by the FPR-Inkotanyi.
The massacres were ordered by Hutu extremists, composed essentially of soldiers and policemen, but also by people in charge of the civil administration and the militia Interahamwe – created in 1991 by the political party of Habyarimana. An interim government was put in place the 9th of April 1994 and supervised the proceedings of the massacres, a vast number of its ministers taking on high-profile roles. Through the radio and the press, under its control, this government managed to create a propagandist machine aiming to mobilize the Hutus by stirring up their hate against the Tutsi community. This machine managed to spread violence, dehumanize the victims, even delivering them to their executioners. Thus, from the first hours of the 7th of April 1994, all over Rwanda, Tutsi realized the scope of the danger weighing on their lives. A large number of them got rid of their homes and belongings to flee the extermination. They tried to find refuge in different public places, such as churches, hospitals, schools, stadiums, public buildings or heading toward hills or steep mountains, forests and swaps.
In some regions, the massacres began straight away. In others, the killers waited for the targeted people to gather in large numbers in places of refuge. Thus, the month of April 1994 was the start of a massive systematic extermination operation of thousands of Tutsi and Hutu opponents. That month, and the next three, was indisputably the darkest period in the history of Rwanda. Political and military authorities, supposed to protect the population and re-establish peace and order in the whole country, were directly involved in the massacres. Their deeds led to hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens to follow suit.
Putting aside its intensity, the genocide committed against the Tutsi was characterized by an extreme atrocity: the victims were massacred with handcrafted tools, such as machetes, which became the sad symbol of this genocide. The killers were for the part close to the social community of their victims, talking the same language, sharing the same culture, the same neighbours, friends, even the same relatives. This collective betrayal, as well as the breakup of the family, friendly, professional and neighbouring links, still to this day remains a mystery.