Military Strategies During the Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London


Rwanda is a primary location site for conducting genocide studies ever since the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, also referred to as the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Over the past twenty-six years, academic researchers and journalists have conducted in depth research and analysis of the genocidal massacres. Much of this research focuses on the events during the genocide between genocide perpetrators, Hutu extremists known as the Interahamwe, and the Tutsi victims. During a one-hundred-day period, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed with this critical event only ending with the removal of genocidal forces by the mostly Tutsi rebel group, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). Its military wing, the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) were militarily responsible for combating Forces Rwandaises de Défense (FAR) in the larger conflict of the Rwandan Civil War (1990-1994) which had raged on since October 1990. However, the final months of the conflict witnessed not only military confrontations between the two military actors but the addition of genocide forces wishing to kill Tutsis and any Hutus who defied their extremist Hutu supremacy beliefs. Numerous cease-fires accumulating into the 1993 Arusha Accords, which provided hope for Tutsis and moderate Hutu groups of political reforms and a secure civil society. However, the assassination of Hutu President, Juvénal Habyarimana on the night of April 6th began a new dynamic within the conflict of genocidal massacres that complicated terms of peace and would reignite the Civil War within days. While the genocide is well researched within scholarly and journalistic publications, there is a significant gap in how the military campaigns between the opposing military forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) against the Forces Rwandaises de Défense (FAR) impacted the rate of killings.

Military Strategies During the Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda will specifically ask:
- Whether the current understandings within genocide studies incorporate the military history of the Rwandan Civil War and how the military battles between the FAR and RPA impacted the rate of killings within Rwanda's capital city of Kigali.
- How does the current Rwandan military, the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), which composes much of the same RPA military commanders and soldiers from the Civil War and genocide reflect on its historical narratives of being the primary sole actor who saved lives during the genocide? And how does this historical narrative influence current RDF perceptions of promoting Rwandan security?
- Whether the military battles during the final months of the Civil War are included or absent in national discussions of the genocide, during the annual Kwibuka genocide commemorations?

Through a collaboration with the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), this research will collect testimonies from genocide survivors, perpetrators and former military officials who fought during the conflict to create an understanding of the movements of military forces and place them within the context of major genocide locations throughout Kigali. Working mostly within Kigali, Rwanda the principal investigator, Dr Jonathan Beloff, will collect qualitative data through semi-structured interview methods. Data analysis through Discourse Analysis and Triangulation will help triangulate the movement of military forces, genocide perpetrators and where Tutsis and moderate Hutus were saved from the targeted killings. Collaborating with the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) creates the opportunity for shared knowledge exchange that will greatly benefit Rwandan education on the nation's genocidal history.
Description Tuft University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Tufts University asked me to present to a group of 10 students for their Tufts Rwanda Fellowship course. I lectured to the students over Zoom on Rwandan history,r refugees and current instability in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. These students will be travelling to Rwanda in May 2023 for a multiweek period.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023