Timeline of Events in Rwanda and Burundi


1890s: Germany claimed Ruanda and Urundi (Burundi)

1919: Germany lost Ruanda-Urundi to Belgium under the League of Nations mandate system. Both Germany and Belgium ruled through the traditional system of Tutsi nobles, headed by the Mwami.

1950s/late: Belgium created local government to prepare Rwandans and Burundians for self-government

1950s: (Burundi) Tutsi prince Louis Rwangazore founded a multi-ethnic party, the Union for National Progress (UPRONA)

1959: (Rwanda) The Tutsi Mwami died and riots broke out with the Hutu majority fighting against the Tutsi aristocracy

1961: (Rwanda) Before the violence had entirely died away, the first pre-independence elections were held and won by the Hutu Emancipation Movement, known as PARMEHUTU


1962: (Rwanda) Rwanda and Burundi became independent from Belgium as separate countries, even though both were ethnically and cultural united. Burundi's first government was controlled by Tutsi while the first Rwandan government was Hutu.

1962: (Burundi) Prince Rwagazore was assassinated, but his party UPRONA led the first independence government with King Mwambutsa IV's collaboration

1962-1963: From bases in western Uganda, Tutsi refugees called the Inyenzi launched attacks into Rwanda.

1963-1964: (Rwanda) More violence caused 10s-100,000s of Tutsi to flee to Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania. Thei numbers grew to 200,000-1,000,000, and they failed to integrate into their new countries. The Rwanda government refused to allow them to return.

1965: (Burundi) Multi-ethnic government broke down during the first elections after Hutu politicians won control of both houses of parliament. King Mwambutsa abolished the legislature before it could meet and the (Hutu-dominated) army revolted. The army coup was crushed by Tutsi officers led by Michel Micombero. King Mwambutsa IV fled the country and his son Ntare V assumed power. Micombero dismissed Ntare and authorized reprisals that resulted in about 5,000 Hutu deaths. Micombero set up a "Government of Public Safety" modeled after the French revolutionary government that included extraordinary police powers for a strong, centralized government.

1969: (Burundi) There was a major purge of Hutu elite.

1972: (Burundi) Uganda's Idi Amin assisted Micombero to arrest Ntare V (who later died while in custody in Burundi). Citing riots that killed 2000 top Tutsi officials, Micombero declared martial law. Educated Hutu were targeted and between 80,000 and 500,000 died, while more than 100,000 Hutu fled to neighboring countries and did not return. Meanwhile, France, China and Libya increased their military aid to the Burundi government, and a report by the International Commission of Jurists and the International Leaugue of the Rights of Man identified systematic human rights abuses by the government against Hutu citizens.

1973: (Rwanda) General Juvenal Habyarimana seized power in a military coup. He was a northern Hutu.

1974: (Burundi) Micombero revised the constitution to create a one-party state under UPRONA.

1975: (Burundi) Although the UN Commission on Human Rights opened prosecution against Burundi officials for human rights violations against Hutu citizens, the case later was dropped.

1975: (Rwanda) Habyarimana declared a one-party state under the MRND as a way to overcome ethnic divisions. A system of quotas was devised to limit Tutsi participation in civil service jobs

1975/07/18: (Rwanda) France signed its first "Technical Military Assistance Agreement (TMAA) with Rwanda.

1976: (Burundi) Micombero was overthrown by a military coup led by Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, but power remained in the hands of a Tutsi elite composed of army, civil servants and UPRONA.

1985: (Burundi) Bagaza widened repression against opponents of the government to include the Catholic Church.

1987: (Burundi) Bagaza was overthrown by Pierre Buyoyo in another military coup.

1987: (Rwanda) coffee prices collapsed, crushing the Rwandan economy

1988: (Burundi) There was more ethnic violence in Burundi when the army killed 5-25,000 Hutu in reprisal for Hutu murders of several Tutsi in the north. Roughly 60,000 Hutu fled to Rwanda and another 100,000 became homeless in Burundi.

1989: (Rwanda) Coffee prices declined another 50%, and since coffee in Rwanda was produced by many small-scale family production units, the effects spread throughout the economy. World Bank reforms called for austerity measures that further reduced family purchasing power.

1990s/early: (Rwanda) Drought hit several regions of Rwanda. since depressed coffee prices had cut earnings for several years, some people were unable to buy food and several hundreds died.

1990/10/01: (Rwanda) A civil war began when the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, composed mainly of people who fled in 1959-1960 and their descendants, invaded from Uganda. Many Rwandans saw this as an attempt to reimpose the colonial-era government. France increased its military support to the Rwandan government. More than 700,000 people were made homeless and the government increased its repressive measures in order to stifle opposition.

1991: (Burundi) The Revolutionary Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People (PALIPEHUTU) launched further attacks, starting a new round of violence.

1991/late: (Burundi) Buyoyo increased Hutu participation in government. Although Hutus dominate ministerial posts, final power rested with the the all-Tutsi Military Committee of National Salavation.

1992/03: (Rwanda) Habiyarimana formed a multiparty government headed by prime minister Dismas Nsengiyaremye.

1992: (Burundi) A new constitution opened the way for multi-party elections.

1993: (Burundi) Scheduled elections failed to occur when more large-scale violence broke out. About 175,000 refugees fled from Burundi into Rwanda.

1993/08/04: (Rwanda) Second invasion of Rwanda from Uganda by Rwandan Patriotic Front troops.

1993/08/04: (Rwanda) The Arusha Peace Accord was signed but never implemented due to opposition from hard-line members of Habyarimana's government.

1993/10/05: (Rwanda) The United Nations authorized a peacekeeping force (UNAMIR) to monitor the Arusha Peace Accord process.

1994/04/06: (Rwanda) A French Mystere-Falcon aircraft was shot down, killing Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi. A UN investigation based on Belgian sources blamed the shooting on the Rwandan presidential guard, who immediately spread out through Kigali to hunt down pro-democracy politicians. Among the dead were democratic politicians and Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a Hutu and one of the first African women vice-presidents. Food aid distribution to 700,000 refugees in the north ceased.

1994/04/07: (Rwanda) Violence broke out and made headlines in the West. Armed gangs of thugs were responsible for atrocious killings of minority Tutsis including many women and children.

1994/04/08: (Rwanda) The Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsi rebel movement based in Uganda) launched an offensive against the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Government forces launched counter-operations that targeted Tutsis. 190 French soldiers landed and secured the Kigali Airport without notifying the UN. Theodore Sindikubwabo declared himself president of an interim Rwandan "Hutu Power" government.

1994/04/09: (Rwanda) 400 more French troops arrived in Kigali.

1994/04/12: (Rwanda) The RPF ordered the remaining French and Belgians to get out of Kigali.

1994/04/14: (Rwanda) The French completed the evacuation of 1,361 people including 450 French nationals and 178 Rwandan officials or their families.

1994/04/21: (Rwanda) Ignoring widespread violence, the UN Security Council voted to reduce its force in Rwanda (UNAMIR) from 2,500 to 270 soldiers.

1994/05: (Rwanda) US President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive (PDD 25) which required a clear statement of American interests, the approval of Congress, availability of funds, a specific date for withdrawal, and an agreed-upon command and control structure the requirement for the commitment of American military resources overseas.

1994/05/16: (Rwanda) The UN Security Council voted to expand its force in Rwanda UNAMIR to 5,500 troops.

1994/07/18: (Rwanda) The RPF declared a unilateral ceasefire, but by then more than 800,000 were dead and many more were refugees.

1994/06/14: (Rwanda) French President Mitterand announced a new effort in Rwanda called Operation Turquoise.

1994/06/20: (Rwanda) The French agreed to ship a military force to Rwanda via Goma and Bukavu (Zaire) and the border post at Cyangungu at the southern end of Lake Kivu.

1994/07/03: (Rwanda) Kigali fell to RPF forces.

1994/07/10: (Rwanda) Ruhengiri fell to RPF forces.

1994/07/13: (Rwanda/Congo) Gisenyi fell to RPF forces. In the next four days, an unprecedented 1.2 million people crossed the border into Zaire where UN staff (UNHCR) had made preparations for only about 50,000 refugees.

1994/07/19: (Rwanda) The new RPF government was sworn into office in Kigali. 1994/07/end: Cholera broke out in the refugee camps along Zaire's Lake Kivu shoreline.

1994/08/02: (Rwanda) The new prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu announced plans to prosecute up to 30,000 people for the genocide.

1994/08/21: (Rwanda) Operation Turquoise ended and French troops left.

1994/08/28: (Rwanda) The first Canadian troops arrived in Kigali.

1994/11/03: (Congo) Security was so bad in the refugee camps in eastern Zaire that fifteen NGO workers announced their intent to withdraw. Other NGOs did the same.

1995/01/10: (Congo) The UN Secretary General authorized the UNHCR to use a Zairean security forces with international advisors in refugee camps. The first hundred Zairean troops were drawn from the Presidential Guard, and by the end of April, the force numbered 1,513.

1995/01/23-27: (Rwanda) The OAU Secretary-General reported that the PRF government was largely abiding by the Arusha Accord.

1995/02: (Burundi) First OAU meeting in Bujumbura to address Rwandan refugee problem.

1995/09/09: (Burundi) Second OAU meeting in Bujumbura to address Rwandan refugee problem.

1996/10: (Congo) The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo begins the Zaire civil war.

1997/03: (Congo) The fall of Kisangani.

1997/05/17: (Congo) The fall of Kinchasa.