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Rwanda grave markers

In 100 days, from April to July 1994, between 500,000 and one million Rwandans, predominantly Tutsis, were massacred when a Hutu extremist–led government launched a plan to wipe out the country’s entire Tutsi minority and any others who opposed its policies. Learn more about the history of the Rwandan genocide.

International Decision Making in the Age of Genocide: Rwanda 1990–94

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in 2014, the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide launched an initiative to examine the failure of the international community to prevent or effectively respond to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and to explore whether and how the tragedy might have been averted.

In partnership with the National Security Archive at The George Washington University, the documentation and oral history initiative examined pivotal moments in the Rwandan genocide when international action could have made a difference. These turning points have been released as “electronic briefing books” containing a selection of annotated documents, photographs, and eyewitness testimony. Read a New York Times article (external link) about the UN Security Council documents made available through the project.

The initiative culminated in a conference co-sponsored with The Hague Institute for Global Justice and in cooperation with the National Security Archive from June 1 to 3, 2014, that brought together architects of the 1992–93 Arusha Accords; the leadership of UNAMIR, the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda; four former members of the UN Security Council; senior officials from the United Nations, Africa, the United States, and Europe; and former diplomats, human rights activists, academics, and journalists present in Kigali before and during the genocide.

This rare convening of former officials and eyewitnesses addressed the lead-up to the genocide between October 1990 and April 1994, examined newly declassified documents, and asked such questions as whether the international community might have been able to foresee and prevent the gathering catastrophe in Rwanda, how decisions were made once the genocide began, and what lessons might be learned from this tragedy.

Explore the conference findings.