In 1994, genocide against the Tutsi people of Rwanda occurred, in which over 1 million people were tortured and murdered over the course of 100 days.
The genocide was a climax of years of Belgian colonisation, in which deep ethnic divisions were created between the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa people. These divisions were formalised by the Belgians through the establishment of identity cards, as a strategy by which to control the country.
Today, more than two decades on, physical, emotional and psychological scars remain. The genocide has not only impacted those who lived through it, but has deeply influenced Rwandan culture and way of life.
Even the next generation, who did not experience the genocide firsthand, carry great anger and disillusionment.
In addition to the tragic loss of life, hundreds of thousands of women were left widowed, almost 300,000 children were orphaned and around 150,000 people were imprisoned. The country's infrastructure was destroyed and a large percentage of the population was left homeless. Many fled Rwanda during the genocide and endured further suffering in refugee camps. Attacks and raids persisted for a number of years, mostly in northern Rwanda, and perpetrators of the genocide continued to live and operate out of neighbouring countries, such as the Congo.
The genocide has crippled the nation of Rwanda, with research within the first two years showing over 75% of the population meeting the full criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is not limited only to those who were victims of the genocide, but is also prevalent in those who participated in the genocide - understanding that the genocide was largely committed by the civilian population under coercion and threat from government forces and community leaders.
Sadly, over the years the incidence of PTSD has not decreased, but rather it appears to be on the rise, as the children and families of direct survivors are also impacted.
PTSD affects the mental and physical health of individuals, as well as seriously impeding their ability to make a living and learn new skills. Therefore, many Rwandans live in extreme poverty, isolated from the world around them and living in constant fear and anxiety.
The release of 100,000 prisoners back into the community in 2006 was a major trigger of PTSD in many survivors and resulted in an increased atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and hatred. As survivors and perpetrators live side by side in the villages where their traumas occurred, tension and hostility is high, and people often consider or carry out ongoing violence.
The tragedy of the genocide in Rwanda is compounded by the failure of the world to intervene and stop the killings.
A special UN peacekeeping force - the UNAMIR, United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda - was on the ground when the killings started on the 6th April, 1994. They were forbidden to intervene, and stood by while the slaughter went on, with thousands dying on that first day.
On the 10th April, 1994, France and Belgium sent troops into Rwanda to rescue their citizens. American civilians were also airlifted out.
No Rwandans were rescued, not even those employed by Western governments in their embassies, consulates and such.
By this time, the International Red Cross estimates that tens of thousands of Rwandans had already been murdered.
On the 21st April, 1994, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to withdraw most of the UNAMIR troops, cutting the force to just 270.
By now, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were dead.
Although disease and more killings in refugee camps continued to claim lives, the genocide was ended when Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) forces captured Kigali in mid-July, 1994.
300,000 children orphaned as a result of the genocide.
535,000 women victims of rape, mostly by HIV-positive men.
150,000 people currently living with AIDS, and 7,800 people dying each year as a result of the disease.
85,000 child-headed households.
59.9% of the total population living below the poverty line (2006).
64.7% of those in rural areas living in poverty (2006).
Current life expectancy is 46 years.
Enrolment rate in rural secondary schools as low as 6%, and dropout rates high, particularly for girls.
Attachment disorders are surfacing in the next generation of children, as parents were unable to provide the necessary love and emotional support.
91% of survivors did not have a chance to bury their relatives or perform mourning ceremonies for their loved ones, causing many to suffer from chronic traumatic grief, in addition to PTSD.
Rwandan society today is characterised by division, distrust, resentment, injustice, fear and suspicion.
Compelled By Love partner with local organisations in Rwanda to provide opportunities for trauma counselling, rehabilitation and reconciliation,
as well as poverty-alleviating initiatives in education sponsorship and
socio-economic enterprise. Click below to learn more.