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TIMELINE-Rwanda’s genocide sparked by burning ethnic tensions

by Katie Nguyen | Katie_Nguyen1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 2 April 2014 11:30 GMT

The skulls of Rwandan victims rest on shelves at a genocide memorial inside a church at Ntarama just outside Rwanda's capital Kigali, August 6, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

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LONDON, April 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rwanda will mark this month the 20th anniversary of the start a genocide that shattered the tiny central African country.

Here is a timeline of events: 

1959-1961 - Uprising by majority Hutu people against centuries of domination by Tutsi overlords sends thousands of Tutsi refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries.

July 1, 1962 - Rwanda gains independence from Belgium as a Hutu-dominated republic.

December 1963 - Invasion by Tutsi exiles sparks massacre of 10,000 Tutsis and new refugee exodus.

July 5, 1973 - Major-General Juvenal Habyarimana takes power in bloodless coup and ushers in period of reconciliation.

December 1985 - Habyarimana rules out return of refugees, saying tackling over-population is the nation's priority.

October 1990 - Invasion by Uganda-based Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels demanding return of thousands of mainly Tutsi refugees is repulsed and rebel leader Fred Rwigyema killed.

Aug 4, 1993 - The government and RPF sign deal to end years of civil war, allowing for power-sharing and refugees' return. But President Habyarimana is slow in implementing it.

Dec 30, 1993-April 5, 1994 - Transitional government fails to take off. Each side accuses other of blocking its formation.

April 6, 1994 - Habyarimana and neighbouring Burundi's President Cyprien Ntaryamira killed in a rocket attack on their plane. Habyarimana's death triggers genocide, resulting in the massacre of around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. RPF starts new offensive.

April 7, 1994 - Presidential guards kill moderate Hutu Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiwimana who tried to calm tensions.

July 1994 - RPF seizes control of Rwanda after driving 40,000-strong Hutu army and more than 2 million civilian Hutus into exile in Burundi, Tanzania and what was then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).

August 1996 - Rwandan troops, disguised as Zairean rebels, launch invasion of Zaire. Thousands are killed while hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees return to Rwanda.

Dec 27, 1996 - Rwanda's first genocide trial opens at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

June 1997 - Rwandan military strongman Paul Kagame admits his troops invaded former Zaire and helped to install Laurent Kabila as new president there.

1998 - Rwanda switches allegiance to support rebel forces trying to depose Kabila in the wake of Congolese president's failure to expel extremist Hutu militias.

March 23, 2000 - Hutu President Pasteur Bizimungu resigns after falling out with members of his Tutsi-dominated ruling party.

April 17, 2000 - Vice-President Paul Kagame is elected president by members of parliament and ministers.

June 7, 2000 - In Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), fighting between Rwandan and Ugandan forces intensifies again hours after a ceasefire was agreed.

July 30, 2002 - The presidents of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo sign a peace pact aimed at ending Africa's biggest war and years of atrocities.

Sept 17, 2002 - Rwanda begins pulling its troops out of the Democratic Republic of Congo under a peace deal. The last of more than 21,000 troops leave in October.

Aug 25, 2003 - Rwanda holds its first elections since the 1994 massacres. Kagame wins. The opposition rejects the result.

Oct 2003 - President Kagame's ruling RPF party scores a decisive win in the first parliamentary polls since 1994.

March 13, 2004 - Kagame rejects a French newspaper report that accused him of giving direct orders for the 1994 rocket attack that killed Habyarimana and set off the genocide.

March 26, 2004 - Kofi Annan opens a memorial conference on the 1994 Rwanda genocide by accepting institutional and personal blame for the deaths initially ignored by world leaders.

April 7, 2004 - President Kagame lights an eternal flame at the main memorial site at Gisozi on one of Kigali's hillsides as Rwanda marks the 10th anniversary of its genocide.

Jan 14, 2005 - Rwanda says 1 million of its citizens - an eighth of the population - are expected to face charges in traditional or "gacaca" village courts. The hearings begin three days later.

Nov 24, 2006 - Rwanda breaks off diplomatic ties with France in protest at a French judge's call for Kagame to stand trial over the killing of Habyarimana.

Nov 29, 2009 - The Commonwealth admits French-speaking Rwanda as its 54th member. On the same day, France and Rwanda agree to restore diplomatic relations.

Feb 25, 2010 - President Nicolas Sarkozy says France made serious errors of judgment over the 1994 genocide.

July 20, 2010 - Kagame says it is not his responsibility to create a strong opposition, as he launches his re-election campaign at a rally in the national stadium.

Aug 11, 2010 – Kagame is re-elected for another seven-year term.

June 24, 2011 – Former families minister Pauline Nyiramasuhuko becomes the first woman to be found guilty of genocide by an international court.

May 2012 – Rwanda closes its community “gacaca” courts, which tried an estimated 2 million suspects. Up to 65 percent of them were convicted.

Dec 2013 - Rwanda's supreme court extends the jail term of opposition politician Victoire Ingabire to 15 years from eight after she sought to overturn her initial conviction for trying to undermine the state and minimising the 1994 genocide.

April 7, 2014 - Kagame to light a national flame of mourning which will burn for 100 days to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide.


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