Rwanda History Timeline

According to Homosociety, Rwanda is located in central Africa and is known as the land of the 1000 hills due to its position between 2 mountain ranges. It borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

Originally, the country was mainly inhabited by the Hutu and Tutsi tribes as well as twa / pygmies.

The country has since ancient times been inhabited by the ethnic groups hutu (bantu) and tuas (pygmies), but in the 15th century this highland where 2 large African rivers – Congo and Nile – originate, was invaded by the warrior and cattle people watusi ( Tutsis) who came from Ethiopia.

The landscape is characterized by a mountainous terrain, a myriad of rivers, lakes and a rich fauna.

The population is concentrated in the highlands, where subsistence farming is practiced. The low-lying areas are characterized by overgrazing, which has led to loss of natural vegetation and erosion. 90% of the country’s energy consumption is covered by wood, which has led to deforestation and erosion.

The country is still in the process of building the democratic structures after the genocide. This applies to both political structures and the mass media. However, it is not a process without problems. There are still reports of journalists disappearing, and in 2006 the government shut down Radio France International for a period when it reported critically on President Kagame and the RPF.

Read more about the genocide in Rwanda here. And here at


1895 – Rwanda becomes a German colony and is part of German East Africa. After the collapse of Germany after World War I, the colony passed to Belgium, which administered it from the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

1959 – Three years before the independence of Belgium, the majority, the Hutus, overthrow the ruling Tutsi king. Over several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed and about 150,000 were forced to flee to neighboring countries.

1961 – After a bloody civil war, the Belgian colonial administration decides to withdraw. Parmehutu won the UN-monitored elections, proclaimed the year after the Republic of Rwanda and broke with neighboring Burundi.

1962 – Civil war breaks out again. It cost 20,000 lives and led to the expulsion of 160,000 Tutsis from the country.

1973 – July 5. Faced with the threat of a new civil war, Colonel Juvenal Habyarimana overthrew President Kayibanda. Habyarimana had until then been Minister of Defense. He now disbanded Parmehutu, imprisoned Kayibanda (who died shortly afterwards) and initiated diplomatic efforts that reconciled Rwanda with neighboring countries, but whose relations had been strained under the “presidential monarchy” of his predecessor.

1982 – A massive and violent expulsion of Rwandan refugees begins in Uganda, while their homeland does not allow them to return. Entire villages were burned down by the Ugandan army, leaving 10,000 people homeless or without food.

1985 – In Natursyn, Leif Bugge tells about his visit to the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda and about the meeting with Dian Fossey, the heroically famous gorilla scientist who was found murdered on December 26 in his camp, by an unknown person. It is believed that she was killed because she tried to prevent the killings of gorillas and other animals in Africa. The endangered mountain gorilla in the Central African mountain forests is one of the most famous of the world’s endangered mammal species. The story of the last mountain gorillas contains a lot of tragedy and drama, but also a moral about the coexistence between animals and humans.

1986 – Uganda’s President Musenevi declares that those Rwandans who have resided in the country for more than 10 years will automatically be granted Ugandan citizenship.

1988 – Relations between Rwanda and Uganda improve, and both presidents sign a declaration confirming brotherhood.

1990 – September 30. Fred Rwigyema led a revolt, and invaded the country from Uganda. He was a senior officer belonging to the Tutsi minority. President Habyarimana called on Belgium, France and Zaire for help, and troops from those countries played a crucial role in repelling the rebel offensive, although fighting also took place in the capital. An intervention by Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens in October created a ceasefire between the parties.

1991 – At the end of January, 600 soldiers from the Rwandan People’s Front enter the country from Uganda, but a month later they are repulsed. France continues to send military advisers and weapons, and the army grows from 5,000 to 28,000.

1992 – A ceasefire is reached, but war soon breaks out again. In March, at least 300 Tutsis were executed and another 15,000 were forced to flee the Mugesera region. The leaders of the two main opposition parties, the Democratic Republican Movement and the Liberal Party, blamed the incidents on the government, and especially on the ruling party militia of young Hutus.

1993 – February 3. RPF attacks violently, occupying Ruhengeri and then moving towards the capital. Hundreds of French troops are being sent to Rwanda along with large stockpiles of ammunition to provide support to government forces.

1994 – In April, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira were both killed in a mortar attack on their plane as they returned to Kigali after attending a peace conference in Tanzania. The assassination attempt was a signal of a genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over the next three months. When the massacre began, France, the United States and Belgium decided in April to send troops to “guarantee security and evacuate the foreigners in the country”. The French troops took control of the airport in Kigali, to guarantee the evacuation of the 600 Frenchmen in the capital.

1994 – July. The Tutsi rebels overcame the Hutu regime and the genocide ended in July. About 2 million Hutus fled to neighboring countries as they feared reprisals. Most have returned later. After the conflict, the UN set up the International Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes, etc.

1995-96 – During the riots, mass graves were discovered almost every week, while the violence of the new Rwandan army – based on RPF troops – and the Hutum militias cost new lives. Many of the militia’s victims were witnesses who had seen what happened in 1994 – such as Hutu officials accused of “collaboration”.

1997 – In February, Amnesty International condemns the killings of dozens of civilians – both Hutus and Tutsis – as well as the killings of four UN officials in the city of Cyangugu.

1998 – April. Despite a request for pardon from both the Pope and the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, 22 people responsible for the genocide were executed at a number of strategically selected sites where the most extensive massacres had taken place. Among the four executed in Kigali were the Kigali auxiliary attorney general, Silas Munyagishali, the former deputy chairman of the Democratic Republican Movement, Froduald Karamira, and Elie Nhimiyimana, who had organized the massacre in the Kigali district of Gikondo. Amnesty International described the executions as a “brutal parody of justice that undermines any hope of reconciliation in Rwanda after the genocide by simply continuing the spiral of violence”.

1998 – Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu declares to the press: “We do not hold a grudge against Europeans, but we must not forget, after all, that they are the ones responsible for the chaos that exists here in the region”. Bizimungu thus joined the critics and the condemnations made by human rights organizations against France, Belgium and the United States for being responsible for the genocide for their actions and lack thereof. Clashes between government forces and the Hutu militia Interahamwe in the northwestern corner of the country continue throughout the year, leaving hundreds dead.

1999 – October. Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema – one of the few Hutus in government – was accused of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars of international aid to his own projects, such as the construction of schools in his home region.

1999 – November. The UN officially apologized to Rwanda for its inability to prevent the genocide.

2000 – February. The charges against Prime Minister Rwigema created an impossible situation. Both the press and the rest of the public accused him of fraud with public funds and of having given permission for landfilling of hazardous waste on the outskirts of Kigali.

2000 – In March, Rwigema is replaced by Barnard Makuza – a Hutu from the same party as him. That same month, President Bizimungu resigned. The reason was that he had not succeeded in getting any of his supporters admitted to the new government.

2000 – March. A published UN report accused Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Togo of supporting the Angolan guerrilla UNITA. At the same time, Belgium was accused of lacking interest in controlling the trade in diamonds illegally exported there from Angola. The Rwandan government disagreed with the report’s accusations and threatened to sue the world organization. In another report, the UN blamed Kagame for the 1994 assassination attempt on Habyarimana that triggered the genocide.

2000 – April. With 81 out of 86 votes, Parliament elected Paul Kagame new president.

2001 – The Democratic People’s Republic of Congo President Kabila is assassinated while Rwandan troops control most of the country.

2003 – Rwanda is the country in Africa that recorded the highest population growth this year, but at the same time lives 60% below the poverty line.

2004 – On April 7, Kagame inaugurated a 10-year celebration of the 100-day massacre in 1994. On the 24th of the same month, he violated the 2002 peace agreement with Congo when he ordered his troops to attack the country.

2004 – June. Former President Pasteur Bizimungu was sentenced to 15 years in prison for inciting violence in collaboration with criminals.

2004 – October. 400 Rwandan soldiers were sent as peacekeepers to Darfur, Sudan.

2005 – March 23. The Oscar-winning film “ Hotel Rwanda ” (English wikipedia) with Don Cheadle in the lead role as the Rwandan Paul Rusesabagina, who in 1994 in Kigali, protected over 1000 people who had sought refuge from the genocide, premiered in Denmark. He suddenly became manager when all foreign bosses had left. He bribed the leaders of the Hutu militia with whiskey and money, and managed to provide food and water for the guests – the latter from the swimming pool – until they were evacuated. His efforts have been immortalized in the film, which, however, was shot in South Africa, and the hotel also forms the setting for several books about the country and the genocide. Here is the Hotel’s official website.Paul Rusesabagina has been criticized for the film’s exaggeration, as well as for profiting from its fame.

2006 – March. The World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank decided to forgive the foreign debt of 13 African countries – including Rwanda. The waiver came into force on July 1st.

2006 – June. Joseph Serugendo, who was a member of the board of Radio Televisión Libre during the 1994 genocide, was sentenced to 6 years in prison for his participation and logistical support for the transmission of radio and television messages directing the genocide.

2007 – April. Bizimungu was pardoned by President Kagame and set free.

Rwanda History