The aboriginal Pygmy inhabitants(Twa), a group of diminutive forest hunters and gatherers, are believed to have lived in the Rwanda region possibly as far back as 30,000 B.C.E. and by the fifteenth century the Hutu and Tutsi had moved in. The Hutus primarily were farmers who lived on hilltops, and the Tutsi were warriors and herders who lived on the hillsides and in the valleys. In the nineteenth century, a feudal-type system evolved, with sharp social divisions in which Tutsis dominated.
In 1895, the Rwandan king accepted German rule to maintain his power, and the area became part of German East Africa. The Germans did nothing to develop the country economically, and retained the indigenous administration system under indirect rule similar to that established by the British Empire in the Ugandan kingdoms.
In 1907 under the German rule, Kigali officially founded but it did not become the capital and functioned as a trade center. By then the Rwandan power was traditionally centred on Huye (Butare) then known as Astrida. After Rwanda’s independence on July 1, 1962, Kigali was chosen as capital of the republic of Rwanda because of its central locatio, its good transport links, industry and trade which blossomed and the city began to grow. It was chosen the capital over the traditional capital in Nyanza, which was the seat of the mwami (king), and Butare, then known as Astrida, the colonial seat of power. At this time, the German colonialists had been granted the colonial concession of Tanzania , Rwanda, and Burundi at the Berlin Conference of 1885 .
In these times Mount Kigali was a site of magical renewal overseen by the Bami (kings) as well as being an important stopover on cross-African caravan trade routes.
After Germany’s loss in World War I (1914-1918), Belgium took over Rwanda and Burundi through the mandate system of the League of Nations but since the administrative tasks for the region were centred in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, Kigali grew slowly throughout this period. Belgian rule was far more direct and harsh than German rule, and favored the minority Tutsi upper class. During this time, Kigali became a regional center.
Rwanda became a United Nations (UN) trust territory administered by Belgium, after World War II (1939-1945).
King Mutara III Charles was assassinated in 1959, and his younger brother became the Abega clan monarch, King Kigeli V. In 1961, Dominique Mbonyumutwa led a coup d’état and overthrew him with the support of the Belgian government.
Gregoire Kayibanda (1924-1976) was the first president from 1962 to 1973, followed by Juvenal Habyarimana, from 1973 to 1994. Habyarimana regarded as a ruthless dictator, was unable to solve increasing social unrest, calls for democracy, and the long-running problem of Rwandan Tutsi refugees. By the 1990s, Rwanda had up to one million refugees scattered around neighboring countries, mostly in Uganda and Burundi .
In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front which was dominated by the Tutsis invaded Rwanda from Uganda. During the fighting, top Rwandan government officials, mainly Hutu, began secretly training young men into informal armed bands called Interahamwe (a Kinyarwanda term roughly meaning “those who fight together”). A radio station that began anti-Tutsi propaganda was launched by the government officials.
The military government of Habyarimana responded to the Rwandan Patriotic Front(RPF) invasion with pogroms against Tutsis, whom it claimed were trying to re-enslave the Hutus. A cease-fire agreement known as the Arusha Accords was signed in August 1993,in Arusha, Tanzania , to form a power-sharing government, but fighting still went on. An underfunded and understaffed peacekeeping force known as the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda(UNAMIR) had to jump in.
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY OF KIGALI, Kigali city pictures, Kigali province, Rwanda
When you look at the streets of Kigali today, it is hard to imagine the horrors that unfolded here during those 100 days of madness in 1994, when an estimated one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were systematically killed by the extremist Hutu militia, the Interahamwe. During the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi, Kigali suffered massive population loss; some of the buildings were damaged in fighting between the former Forces Armées Rwandaises (Rwandan Armed Forces: FAR) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). Other buildings were destroyed simply out of hatred and anger. A period of intense rebuilding has seen Kigali develop and thrive, since then.
Roadblocks were set up at strategic points throughout the city by the militia, and tens of thousands of Rwandans were bludgeoned or hacked to death. The militia followed people that ran to the churches and civic buildings in search of sanctuary and showed a complete lack of mercy or compassion.
While all of this horror took place for days and nights til the end, the UNAMIR stood by and watched, held back by the bureaucrats and politicians who failed to grasp the magnitude of what was unfolding and dithered over whether to get involved or not. In its defence, UNAMIR was bound by a restrictive mandate that prevented it from taking preliminary action, though it has been argued that more deliberate action could have saved untold lives.
After 10 Belgian peacekeepers were murdered at the start of the genocide, the Belgian government withdrew its contingent, leaving UNAMIR to fend for itself with a minimal mandate and no muscle.There was not much that the 250 troops that remained could do but watch, except rescue or protect the few that they could.
Unbelievably a contingent of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was holed up in the parliamentary compound throughout this period, a legacy of the Arusha ‘peace’ process. Like the UNAMIR troops, there was little they could do to stop such widespread killing, though they did put together some spectacular rescue missions from churches and civic buildings around the city. In early July 1994 when the RPF finally swept the génocidaires from power, Kigali was wrecked, much of the city’s buildings were destroyed, and what little of the population remained alive were traumatised. As aptly put by the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Rwanda was dead.
Remarkably there are few visible signs of this carnage today. Kigali is now a dynamic and forward-looking city, the local economy is booming, investment is a buzzword, and buildings are springing up like mushrooms. In fact, so complete is the rebirth of the city that it’s hard to imagine the events of the early 1990s happening here at all, which makes the various monuments and memorials to the genocide even more important.