April 10, 1994 – A week of sharp contrasts. In Rwanda, news reports of mass killings between ethnic groups; the Hutus and Tutsis – and the scenes of unconscionable atrocities raging in the name of hatred and revenge. About 85% of Rwandans are Hutus but the Tutsi minority has long dominated the country. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and tens of thousands of Tutsis fled to neighboring countries, including Uganda. A group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990 and fighting continued until a 1993 peace deal was agreed.
On the night of 6 April 1994 a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi – both Hutus – was shot down, killing everyone on board. Hutu extremists blamed the RPF and immediately started a well-organized campaign of slaughter. The RPF said the plane had been shot down by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide. Neighbors killed neighbors and some husbands even killed their Tutsi wives, saying they would be killed if they refused.
At the time, ID cards had people’s ethnic group on them, so militias set up roadblocks where Tutsis were slaughtered, often with machetes which most Rwandans kept around the house. Weapons and hit-lists were handed out to local groups, who knew exactly where to find their targets.
The Hutu extremists set up a radio station, RTLM, and newspapers which circulated hate propaganda, urging people to “weed out the cockroaches” meaning kill the Tutsis. The names of prominent people to be killed were read out on radio.
Even priests and nuns have been convicted of killing people, including some who sought shelter in churches.
At the time of this broadcast (ABC World News This Week), the carnage was only starting and the world wouldn’t find out until ater just how horrifying and brutal this episode in the life of a country would be.
There was other news – earlier in the week it was announced the Nirvana leader and co-founder Kurt Cobain had committed suicide, stunning the music world and millions of fans in the process.
The subject of decent healthcare for Americans was in the news – President Clinton went to bat, taking the case for a reworked healthcare system to the public and in some cases, getting surprising results.
And the subject of AIDS took over French television this week. A telethon featuring a wide range of talent as well as doctors and those suffering from the disease came together in an effort to bring awareness to the French public. All French TV stations were carrying the telethon.
And that’s just a tiny portion of what went on this week, the week ending April 10, 1994 as reported by ABC Radio’s World News This Week and Hourly News.