A History Written in Blood

Joel Stettenheim/Corbis


Paul Kagame leads the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a group of Rwandan exiles—primarily Tutsis—in an invasion of their native country, setting off a civil war.

FE03sidebar-kagame-timeline-1994-plane-shot-down Scott Peterson/Liaison/Getty


A plane carrying the president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, is shot down. His death incites outrage among extremist Hutus who call for the killing of all Tutsis and moderate Hutus. During the next 100 days, about 800,000 people are slaughtered—many cut down by machetes.


After RPF gains control of the country, millions of Hutus, including perpetrators in the genocide, flee to neighboring countries, in particular what is then known as Zaire. To give Hutus representation in Rwanda’s new national unity government, Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, is named president. Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, is appointed vice president, retaining his powers as commander of the Army. Many believe he is the de facto ruler of Rwanda.


The Rwandan Army launches attacks on refugee camps inside the country and in neighboring Zaire, claiming that Hutus are killing Tutsis and are seeking to destabilize the Rwandan government. In one attack on an internally displaced people’s camp in south Rwanda, at least 4,000 are killed; at least 20,000 more “disappear.”

FE03sidebar-kagame-timeline-1996-mobuto-sese-seko David Guttenfelder/AP


Rwanda invades Zaire to overthrow authoritarian President Mobutu Sese Seko, who has been supporting the Hutus in the camps. Hundreds of thousands are killed. After the dictator flees, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a rebel leader supported by Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, is named president, and the country is renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

FE03sidebar-kagame-timeline-1998-kabila Corinne Dufka/Reuters


Rwanda invades its neighbor again, this time to depose Kabila, whom Kagame installed to replace Mobutu. The operation fails, but the Congo conflict develops, ultimately involving many African nations and costing millions of lives.


Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu cedes office to Kagame,who assumes the presidency.

FE03sidebar-kagame-timeline-2001-bizimungo Marco Longari/AFP via Newscom


In a bid for the presidency, Bizimungu establishes the Party for Democratic ­Renewal, which is quickly banned 
on charges of being a radical Hutu 
organization. Bizimungu is later arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison.


In a U.N. report on mining in Congo, the Rwandan government is charged with taking part in the illegal exploitation of gold, diamonds, and other valuable resources in Congo.


A peace accord officially ends the Congo war, though violence continues to plague the eastern part of the country.

FE03sidebar-kagame-timeline-2004-fighting Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty


Fighting resumes between the Congolese Army and pro-Rwandan rebels.


Kagame pardons Bizimungu.

FE03sidebar-kagame-timeline-2010-ingabire Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty


Victoire Ingabire returns to Rwanda after 16 years of exile to run for president. She is promptly arrested and accused of “genocide ideology” for claiming that Hutus were also victims of crimes against humanity. The U.N. releases a report likening crimes committed by Rwanda against the Hutus to genocide.

Reporting by Sarah Begley.

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