It took just 100 days in 1994 for 800,000 Rwandans to lose their lives. They were slaughtered by ethnic Hutu extremists whose targets were members of the minority Tutsi community and anyone they considered political opponents irrespective of ethnic origin. Leon Mugesera an academic embroiled himself as part of the widespread slaughter with a speech given two years earlier which many have identified as a precursor of the violence.
The Hutu’s actually made up 85% of Rwandans but the Tutsi minority had dominated the country for the most part. In 1959, the Hutus worked to change that; overthrowing the Tutsi monarchy and forcing thousands of Tutsi’s to flee to neighboring countries. A group of Tutsi’s who had been in exile however formed a rebel group called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and invaded Rwanda in 1990, fighting systematically until a peace deal was brokered and signed in 1993.
The academic, Leon Mugesera was playing a political role in 1992 as an official in Rwanda’s ruling Hutu party due to a Rwandan stipulation that saw every scholarship holder mandated to serve the government for five years. It was this that led to his giving the incendiary speech that has led to his current conviction. He had told more than 1,000 party members that they needed to kill Tutsi’s and dump their bodies in the river. Following this speech, the Rwandan Minister of Justice, Stanislas Mbonampeka, issued an arrest warrant against him for inciting hatred. He had fled Rwanda with his family first to the Rwandan army and then to Quebec City in Quebec, Canada.
On the night of 6th April 1994 when a plane carrying then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira, both of whom were Hutu’s was shot down, the Hutu extremists again got angry, blaming the RPF, they immediately launched a campaign of slaughter. Leon Mugesera had already taken up residence in Canada by that time. Despite this fact, many viewed his 1992 speech to be a vital momentum for the things that the Hutu’s did during that period. Musegera though has maintained that the speech had merely been taken out of context.
He was extradited back to Rwanda from Canada four years ago and has now been jailed for life over the 1994 genocide.