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Rwanda Stage 3


President Habyarimana’s assassination led Rwanda into 100 days of horrific violence. More than 800,000 Rwandans died.

April 1994 - July 1994


Presidential assassination and retaliation

On 6 April 1994, a plane carrying the Hutu president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down. This assassination led to an explosion of violence. Rwandan military members and extremist Tutsi and Hutu groups began to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus. During the next 100 days, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans died.

Rwandan Patriotic Front strikes back

The Rwandan Patriotic Front, led by future Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, launched a major offensive on April 8. Its goal was to end the genocide and rescue its troops in parts of Rwanda. These efforts took time, however, and the widespread killing continued for three months.

A compromised mandate

The duties of Canadian and other UN peacekeepers in Rwanda were extremely challenging. At first, Canada had only two senior officers—Major-General Dallaire and his principal aid Major Brent Beardsley. Once the genocide began, more CAF members became involved.

The limitations they had to work under made the situation even harder. The UN troops’ rules of engagement for UNAMIR were very restricted. Peacekeepers were only allowed to attempt the peaceful resolutions of disputes. This meant soldiers could only fire their weapons in self-defence. As a result, UN forces could not prevent the worst of the horrific violence as the genocide raged around them.

Operation SCOTCH

On April 9, the CAF launched Operation SCOTCH. Its initial mission was to use transport planes to evacuate Canadian, Belgian and other foreigners trapped in Rwanda. They also flew orphans to safety and delivered humanitarian aid to the country.

Canada’s Airlift Control Element personnel supported other UNAMIR operations, as well. Canada began evacuating many foreign peacekeepers when the UN decided the situation in Rwanda was too chaotic to remain. The air mission was extended as UNAMIR continued to need its services. CAF planes defied the dangerous fighting. They brought in needed food, fuel, water and humanitarian supplies. This ongoing link to the outside world was a key symbol of hope in a country that had descended into chaos. By the time Operation SCOTCH wrapped up in October 1994, around 350 CAF members had taken part in it.

The world watches the horror

Media reports from Rwanda in April 1994 allowed the world to see the horrific situation. Television images showed the thousands of dead and countless refugees fleeing the country. The limits of what the UNAMIR peacekeepers could do were frustrating. The UN decision to withdraw many peacekeepers also reduced how they could help. Meanwhile, UN efforts to negotiate an end to the violence failed.

The genocide ends

On 23 May 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the presidential palace in Kigali. By July, the worst of the killing finally came to an end. A ceasefire began and the Rwandan Patriotic Front established a new government in Rwanda. The situation in the country remained uneasy, as violence continued. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of its citizens and the suffering of many refugees left Rwanda in great need of help.

Classroom materials

Classroom materials main page

Lesson plan: 12-18

Humanitarian aid tree

Lesson plan: All ages

Peace and Freedom WebQuest

historical sheet


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