I read an assertion that as high as over 70% of Rwanda's Tutsis were killed in the Rwanda genocide. Yet immediately after the genocide the anti-government Tutsi rebel group NPF successfully defeated the government and seized the power. In the aftermath many Hutus fled the country. Even more, the new Tutsi-led government succeeded to defeat DR Kongo in a bloody war.

I wonder if there was such great hatred between Hutus and Tutsis with Tutsis being a minority and 70% of this minority exterminated, how they could win the civil war and secure the power?

How this new government could be be successful to secure loyalty of the army so to defeat Kongo in the aftermath?

Why the Hutus who were the majority in the country fled it in the aftermath of the Tutsi takeover?

It seems that the Hutu government was defeated in immediate consequence of the genocide. How killing the Tutsi could harm the Hutu effort to win the civil war?

  • 4
    Tutsi and Hutu tribes are not bound inside one country. Nov 23, 2012 at 7:55
  • 16
    70% is consistent with the figures of the Rwandan government, but please next time give us a clue where you've read what. "I read an assertion" is extremely vague.
    – yannis
    Nov 23, 2012 at 12:11
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    I believe @Sardathrion is correct; the forces that overthrew the Hutus in Rwanda were the Tutsi diapora in neighbouring regions, who were galvanised to war by the genocide.
    – Semaphore
    Nov 18, 2014 at 3:01
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    The DR Congo might be huge country with significant natural riches but it's long been a dysfunctional country. The central government does not control much, failed to reign in countless small militias and the country was a playground for the armies of neighbouring countries. The Congolose army never was a very formidable opponent so that part of the equation isn't a big mystery. In fact, some of these militias were more of a problem for the RPF than the official Congolese army.
    – Relaxed
    Aug 22, 2016 at 21:42

4 Answers 4


This question raises interesting questions. However, there are some confusions in the question. And I respectfully disagree with some of the factual and opinion content of the answers previously posted.

Nearly all factual aspects of the conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu during the post-independence period are contested. This is regrettable since much of the factual material has become settled by historical research and some of the judgements of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It is important to be cautious about accepting many views on the facts, since many people have hidden agendas and axes to grind. My answers below are based, with the exception of that in respect of the Congo, on the facts set out by the much respected, late Dr. Alison des Forges of Human Rights Watch, who appeared as an expert witness in nearly all ICTR cases. Her various testimonies are available online, as is her 800 plus page account: “Leave None to Tell the Story”.

First, some brief background is necessary to make sense of the questions and responses.

By the late 1980s, the Rwandan diaspora was estimated to number about 600,000 people. Most of them lived in countries next to Rwanda. In Uganda, Rwandan refugees created the RPF in early 1988. The RPF was prepared to use force to enforce the return of refugees. It was dominated by second generation refugee Tutsis, many of whom had developed sophisticated military skills in the Ugandan National Resistance Army. The RPF rejected the ethnic divisions reinforced by the ex-colonial masters. Paul Kagame had been deputy head of military intelligence for the NRA, and he assumed command of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) , the fighting arm of the RPF. The RPF also recruited Hutus and appointed a Hutu as president of the RPF. On February 8, 1993, when the government was avoiding negotiations, the RPF broke a 1992 ceasefire and launched an attack along the northern front and pushed the government army back. With the assistance of French troops, the RPF advance was halted. The RPF agreed to withdraw to its original position.

Negotiations resumed. This time the French indicated that, unless, the government negotiated in good faith, they would not continue to fight the government’s battles, and the donor community threatened to withdraw financial support. On August 4, 1993, the government and the RPF signed a final agreement. A power-sharing transitional government was to be formed in which the government’s Hutu supporters were to lose considerable power. A new Rwandan army was to be made up of 60% government and 40% RPF personnel. An RPF force was allowed to enter the capital to protect their leaders in the proposed new government. When this happened, some Tutsis were emboldened to come out in open sympathy for the RPF and some went for training to the RPF base at Mulindi, in northern Rwanda. Many Hutus in the army and Hutus in the political arena were actively hostile to the agreement. Then, in November 1993, President Habyarimana denounced the accords as “nothing but a scrap of paper.” Dr. des Forges states that genocide planning by a small group of Hutu extremists started over a year before it began.

From January 1993, when planning for Hutu civilian self-defence began, through March 1994, Dr. des Forges states that “Rwanda imported more than half a million machetes, enough for every third Hutu adult male. This was about double the number imported in previous years.” According to the only local manufacturer of machetes, the company sold an unusually high number of the machetes in the second half of 1993 to two employees connected with extremist Hutu parties. During 1993, the government military distributed firearms to militias and the civilian self-defense programmes that it had initiated. After October 1993, distribution of firearms, grenades, and machetes increased.

I understand the questions to be:

… with Tutsis being a minority and 70% of this minority exterminated, how they could win the civil war and secure the power?”

The fighting by the RPF was carried on by soldiers from the diaspora with some recruits from inside Rwanda. The massacre of the civilian population inside Rwanda did not – simply in terms of numbers – affect the capacity of the RPF to fight.

How this new government could be successful to secure loyalty of the army so to defeat Congo in the aftermath?”

The new RPF government, after July 1994, created a new army based on its core invading force together with new recruits. The RPF had always made a special point of recruiting whenever it could from the Hutu community as well as the Tutsi community, since it had an ideology of rejection of ethnicity. [That does not mean that ethnic Tutsis did not dominate within their ranks. It did.] In the Congo, the situation was complicated by expatriate Rwandans from both communities, and the Hutu refugees and their armed forces who were the specific target of the government effort. The Rwandan government forces received significant assistance from sympathisers in the Congolese community of a semi-Tutsi background. [It is a complicated story and it would take a considerable amount of space to set out the full story.]

Why the Hutus who were the majority in the country fled it in the aftermath of the Tutsi takeover?”

The Hutu expected to be targeted by the RPF after their victory. Additionally, the French Operation Turquoise enabled a safe zone to be created that allowed a corridor for evacuation – this was used not only by genocidaires to escape, but also Hutu civilians who expected massacres by the RPF invaders. These massacres did occur, and this accelerated the exodus.

It seems that the Hutu government was defeated in immediate consequence of the genocide. How killing the Tutsi could harm the Hutu effort to win the civil war?”

The genocide was motivated by its perpetrators as targeting supporters of the invading RPF. And Dr. des Forges testified that “By early April, the RPF had some 600 cells throughout the country, 147 of them in Kigali. With each group counting between six and twelve members, this made a total of between 3,600 and 7,200 persons… The greatest number, some 700 to 1,400, were in the capital but few of them had firearms.” But the genocide was directed at all Tutsis and moderate Hutus, not a minute proportion of the population who supported the RPF. Did the genocide have a negative impact on the capacity of the government forces to fight the RPF? This is a matter of opinion and a judgement call. On balance, I do not think so, but on this, reasonable people can differ. First, the killing of moderate Hutu opponents of extremist Hutu power, and the Belgian UN peacekeepers in the first stages of the genocide probably removed any chance of international intervention that might have delayed the RPF victory. Second, the diversion of resources from the battlefield was not a key feature of the genocide. Most of the killers were Hutu militia, civil-defence personnel, communal policemen, and male civilians. Killings attributable just to the conventional military after the initial bloodletting by the army [especially the Presidential guard] were not a principal feature of the genocide. The RPF victory was reasonably quick, and it is unlikely that the killing by the militia, police, and civilian elements had a significant impact on the outcome. The RPF was by far the superior force in terms of tactics, strategy, leadership and morale by late 1993, and that is the most significant factor in the victory. UN Force commander, Romeo Dallaire, deals with the relative merits of the forces in his work: "Shake Hands with the Devil".

You are referred to the work and testimonies of Alison des Forges, Linda Melvern, Philip Reyntjens, Andre Gichoua, Romeo Dallaire and Francois-Xavier Nsanzuwera.

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    This looks like a very good and detailed answer, but I have one doubt: if the RPF goal was to remove discrimination, why then "but also Hutu civilians who expected massacres by the RPF invaders. These massacres did occur"?
    – o0'.
    Apr 15, 2015 at 10:03

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (tutsi rebels) forces just won a shooting war that was quite distinct to the genocide. They'd fought with the Hutu authorities to a standstill in 1993 and fully possessed the capability (nothing to do with the civilians under hutu rule) to restart the conflict in response to the events of 1994.

If anything the genocide helped the RWF as it allowed them to take advantage of deteriorating social order in the government held parts of the country.

I found the wikipedia articles on the genocide and the rwf really helpful.


Some historical and verifiable facts are needed here: Rwandan army was created by Belgians in 1959 just before Congo DRC became independant as the Belgian's Congolese army then called Force publique until then army for Belgian Congo and Rwanda Urundi ceased to operate in the later country. This new Rwandan army created by Belgians was exclusively made up of Hutus as Rwandan Tutsis were clamoring for independance. Not a single Rwandan Tutsi was ever recruited or taught in Belgian and French military academia. To this day. Rwandan Tutsis might have held some middle political positions during Belgian colonial rule but not a single military one. You can verify records in Belgium and France and even writings of Belgian Colonel Logiest, the very first head of Rwandan army in his assisted revolution book where he mock Tutsis who fought with spears against his new Hutus army equipped with machine guns in 1959! Recruiting exclusively from one ethnic group was a feature of Belgian colonialism as even in nearby Congo only first the Batetela then the Bangala from West Congo were recruited into the Belgian's Congolese army. Hence getting armed for every tribe in the area has become a question of life and death and the persistence of armed conflicts in a Eastern Congo. It was a shock not only for Rwandan Hutus but Belgians and French to see armed Rwandan Tutsis. This has opened a new chapter not only in Rwandan affairs but whole Great Lakes region.


In the Rwandan wars equipment and ammunition was a bigger factor than population. The Hutus are the more rural and less educated populance of the country, so they were always the oppressed ones. European powers gave weapons and technology to the Tutsi. In general, it is easier to support a smaller, more sophisticated group, than a larger, dumber group.

The massacres occurred in 1994 when various geopolitical factors led to supply of the Hutus. You will read stories of how the French gave weapons to the Hutus, but most of these stories are just nonsense. The real culprit was China, who supplied the Hutus with like 1 million machetes plus food and other equipment, supposedly for agricultural purposes. The Hutus found a much better use for the machetes: chopping up Tutsis. The scale of the massacre has been significantly exaggerated in the Western press (you are dealing in GLOBAL GEOPOLITICS, remember).

Motives here are complex--remember you are dealing in global geopolitics, a complicated subject. But the simplistic way to look at it is that the Tutsis were the clients of rich European capitalists and the Hutus were supported by the Communist Chinese who had no love for mineral seeking Belgium mining companies.

To squash the rebellion, all the Europeans had to do was send a few tonnes of automatic weapons and ammunition to the Tutsis. 50-caliber machine guns are more effective weapons than machetes.

The bottom line is that the Chinese and Indians both are making a LOT more money in Rwanda now than they were in 1990. Also, a critical factor is access to the Congo. China has a lot of interests in the Congo, but to get the goods out of the Congo, it has to go through Rwanda. Once again, the issues here are really complicated. Just reading some nutty statistic like "70% of the Tutsis were killed" in Time magazine (which is just completely false), will not give you the info you need to understand what is going on there.

How can I know, you might ask? Answer: start by identifying every major mine in Congo and Rwanda, and then find out where the production of those mines is going. Once you have a DETAILED itemization of those interests, you will start to not only understand WHY things happened in the past, you will be to predict whats going to happen in the future.

  • Interesting! But u say the West should give weapons to Tutsies to stop the genocide. But had not they have the weapons already especially given the army was pro-Tutsi? Also on which side was the government? I thought it were Tutsi who rebelled but u are speaking about Hutu rebels...
    – Anixx
    Nov 18, 2014 at 0:14
  • The government of Rwandan has always been Tutsi dominated. They are the educated classes. Even when Kayibanda was head of state, most key posts were occupied by Tutsi's. The Hutus were just the nominal "elective" leaders voted into power by the Hutu majority. The reality is (and was) that Rwanda has ALWAYS been operated by the Tutsi's because they do everything. They run every shop, they run all the schools, they are the mechanics, the lawyers, the businessmen. They run the entire country. The Hutus are just farmers, and even then many are just sharecroppers on Tutsi farms. Nov 18, 2014 at 1:04
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    How then it came that the army did not prevent genocide and why there were tutsi opposition rebels?
    – Anixx
    Nov 18, 2014 at 2:39
  • @Anixx You got me. Obviously the Tutsi's were underarmed in 1994. The so-called Tutsi "rebels" were a small group of Tutsi soldiers from Burundi who were part of an effort to stage a coup when the Hutus started to take action against them. They murdered the Hutu PM and thought they could just cakewalk over the Hutus--obviously a miscalculation. However, they of course won in the end. Just look at the situation now: Tutsi PM, Tutsi's control everything, army, school, government, everything. The 1994 uprising was just that: an uprising that failed. Nov 18, 2014 at 3:06
  • Your answer undersells the impact of Tutsi diaspora in neighboring Uganda and Burundi. It also (IMO) undersells the organizational competence of Kagame and his inner circle in the RPF. Your point on "follow the money" has merit. Aug 23, 2016 at 13:24

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