History of Rwanda

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Human occupation of Rwanda is thought to have begun shortly after the last ice age. By the fifteenth century the inhabitants had organized into a number of kingdoms. In the nineteenth century, Mwami (king) Rwabugiri of the Kingdom of Rwanda conducted a decades-long process of military conquest and administrative consolidation that resulted in a the kingdom coming to control most of area of what is now Rwanda. The colonial powers, first Germany and then Belgium, allied with the Rwandan court, allowing it to conquer the remaining autonomous kingdoms along its borders and racializing the system of minority Tutsi dominance created under Rwabugiri.

A convergence of anti-colonial, anti-monarchist and anti-Tutsi sentiment resulted in Belgium granting national independence in 1961. Direct elections resulted in a representative government dominated by the majority Hutu under President Grégoire Kayibanda. Unsettled ethnic and political tensions were worsened when Juvénal Habyarimana, also Hutu, seized power in 1973. In 1991, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed of 6,000 Tutsi refugees from previous decades of unrest, invaded the country, starting the Rwandan Civil War. The war ground on, worsening ethnic tensions, as the Hutu feared losing their gains. In 1994 the assassination of Habyarimana was the catalyst for the eruption of the Rwandan Genocide, in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. It ended when the RPF conquered the country. Millions of Hutu fled as refugees, contributing to large refugee camps of Hutu in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where there were already refugees from other countries. These were disbanded by an RPF-sponsored invasion in 1996 that replaced the Congolese president and resulted in the First Congo War. A second invasion to replace the new Congolese president initiated the Second Congo War, the deadliest war since World War II and one involving many African nations.


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