25 years ago, photos helped show scale of Rwanda’s genocide

25 years ago, photos helped show scale of Rwanda’s genocide

Twenty-five years ago, Rwanda descended into an orgy of violence in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by the majority Hutu population over a 100-day period in what was the worst genocide in recent history.

The massacres, mostly by gangs wielding machetes, swept across Rwanda and groups of people were killed in their homes and farms and where they sought shelter in churches and schools. The mass killings started after a plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, in the capital, Kigali, killing President Juvenal Habyarimana. The killers were encouraged by hate messages broadcast on radio stations. Rwandan police, military and other government authorities did not stop the killings.

Scores of thousands of terrified Tutsis fled Rwanda for neighboring countries including Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. The waves of murders continued until the rebel forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the country. Paul Kagame, who led the rebels, helped re-establish order in the country and served as vice-president and defense minister from 1994 until he became Rwanda's president in 2000. Under Kagame's leadership Rwanda has achieved stability and economic growth, although he is widely accused of being intolerant of criticism and of running a repressive government.

The scale of the killings in 1994 was unimaginable but the reporting and photographs taken at the time, for which AP won Pulitzer prizes, helped to inform the world of the horrors of the genocide.


Refugees who fled the ethnic bloodbath in neighboring Rwanda carry water containers back to their huts at the Benaco refugee camp in Tanzania, near the border with Rwanda on May 17, 1994. With a population surpassing 300,000, aid agencies are having difficulty feeding, treating and sheltering them. (AP Photo/Karsten Thielker)

Reverien Rurangua, who was wounded in a machete attack and evacuated by the Red Cross from Kabgayi, near Kigali, sits on a bed with no mattress at a hospital in Nyanza, some 35 miles south of the capital Kigali, in Rwanda, on June 4, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

The bodies of a woman and her child lie by a church in Nyarubuye parish, which was the site of an April 14 massacre that survivors say was perpetrated by a militia assisted by government gendarmes, about 95 miles east of the capital Kigali, in Rwanda on May 31, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

A Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel walks by the plane wreckage on May 23, 1994, in which Rwanda's late President Juvenal Habyarimana died April 6, 1994 in Kigali, Rwanda. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

A crowd of Rwandan refugees angered by the closing of the border run to the border bridge to force their way into Zaire, Aug. 21, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

Nyabimana (first name unknown), 26, who was evacuated after being found by the Red Cross wandering in Kabgayi, 15 miles southwest of the capital Kigali, shows machete wounds at an International Committee of the Red Cross hospital in Nyanza, some 35 miles southwest of Kigali, in Rwanda on June 4, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

Some of the 334 inmates in a prison who are accused of committing war crimes and participating in the genocide, sit in the prison in Kibungo, Rwanda on Aug. 17, 1994. (AP Photo/Javier Bauluz)

A man lies starving at a makeshift health clinic in Ruhango, about 30 miles southwest of Kigali, Rwanda, Monday, June 6, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

A six-month-old Rwandan baby girl weighing only two and a half kilograms (5.5 pounds) is fed through her nose while she rests in a cardboard box and is attended to by an Israeli doctor at the Israel Defense Forces field hospital in Goma, Zaire, now known as Congo, on July 29, 1994. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Arzt Larma)

A brother and sister of the Bicamumpaca family grimace in pain after being hit by a car which never slowed down on the road halfway between Goma, Zaire, and Kigali, Rwanda, Aug. 5, 1994. The single mother of the children stands by in background. The family was returning to Rwanda from the refugee camps in Zaire when the accident occurred. The children were later taken to a hospital in Kigali and reported in stable condition. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

Babies lay on the floor of a makeshift orphanage in the Kibumba camp near Goma, Zaire, Aug. 3, 1994. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Arzt Larma)

A boy, who survived a massacre in the village of Karubamba in April and whose leg was injured by a machete, rests at a hospital near Gahini, in Rwanda, May 13, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

Displaced Hutu civilians in Cyanika, about 50 miles southwest of Kigali, jump in the air as part of government training of new Hutu militias in Rwanda, June 17, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

A Rwandan Hutu refugee child desperately tries to waken his mother from a diseased sleep in the Munigi camp outside Goma, in Zaire, now known as Congo on July 27, 1994. (AP Photo/Javier Bauluz)

Rwandan refugee children plead with Zairean soldiers to allow them across a bridge separating Rwanda and Zaire where their mothers had crossed moments earlier before the soldiers closed the border, in Zaire, now known as Congo on Aug. 20, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

A Rwandan child too weak to stand in line to receive a vaccination, rests his head at the SOS village orphanage in Ndosho near Goma, in Zaire, now known as Congo, July 28, 1994. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Arzt Larma)

A young orphan, his legs amputated below the knee, rests on a foam cushion near his artificial limbs at an orphanage in Nyanza, near the capital Kigali, Rwanda, June 9, 1994. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

Refugees stream out of the Mugunga refugee camp in eastern Zaire, Nov. 15, 1996, towards the Rwandan border. (AP Photo/Enric Marti)