Reflections on the 1994 Rwandan Genocide

Christelle, a member of CMB’s People of Color Affinity Group, is a proud Rwandan-American with first-hand experience of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. She’s grateful for, and celebrates the courage and resilience of, the family members, friends, neighbors, and classmates who survived, and lights a candle to those whose lives were cut too short at the hands of hate.

About a 3 min. read.

Christelle Kamaliza
Sr. Insights Consultant

Thirty years ago, on April 7th, 1994, the Genocide against the Tutsis started in Rwanda and within a span of just 100 days, 800k to 1 million people of the Tutsis ethnic minority were brutally killed by armed forces from the Hutu ethnic majority, one of the darkest and tragic events in recent history. One may think how such inconceivable travesty could unravel, but history has shown the Rwandan genocide, or any other genocides for that matter, do not occur out of thin air.


Similar steps of genocide ideology often follow a pattern that can be observed in historical genocides and mass violence. It all started with identification and classification steps taken by the Belgian colonists in 1926 that promoted an “us” vs. “them” mentality. Then over a few decades, dehumanization of the Tutsis minority, propaganda and hate speech, isolation, and segregation followed. By 1990, the majority Hutu regime at the time was overtly coordinating preparation and planning operations, polarizing communities to fuel extremism, intolerance, and violence to what ultimately culminated in the 1994 atrocities.

The intricacies of the Rwandan Genocide were that it was done within groups that shared a common ancestry, language, culture, and customs. Overnight, neighbors became enemies, family members betrayed their own, all while the international community failed to intervene effectively or swiftly while victims begged for help.

The Path to Healing

As a nation, the journey towards full recovery and reconciliation was long and is ongoing to this day. Women, many of whom were widowed and orphaned during the genocide, became powerful contributors and decision makers in politics and economic rebuild. Today, Rwanda is the first country in the world with female majority in parliament, with 61% in the Chamber of Deputies and 37% in the Senate, and one of the top 10 fastest economies in Africa (World Bank Report).

Women also became instrumental in peace building and reconciliation by leading Gacaca courts, which were community-based tribunals aimed at promoting truth-telling, accountability, and healing at the grassroots level. Justice and reconciliation are a major pillar to start healing a broken society.

On an individual level, genocide survivors carry a lot of wounds to this day, both visible and invisible, affecting their mental and wellbeing, even 30 years later. Every survivor’s story is different, but the majority suffer to varying degrees: psychological trauma and triggers, survivor’s guilt and physical health consequences to name a few. Those who were children then also risk passing on transgenerational trauma to their children. In the workplace, genocide survivors experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as hypervigilance, and avoidance behavior, trust issues, along with emotional distress which can affect their ability to cope with work-related stressors. In addition, interpersonal dynamics may impact communication styles, and conflict resolution strategies. These symptoms can interfere with their ability to concentrate, stay focused on tasks, and effectively manage stress in the workplace. If you know of any friends, family, or colleagues of Rwandan descent (such as members within the CMB community), this can be helpful in informing your daily interactions with this individual(s)—especially around this day of remembrance.

Minority health and mental health is in crisis across the world, and Rwanda is no exception. Roughly 25% of Rwandan citizens struggle with PTSD and one in six people suffer from depression. According to the Rwanda Mental Health Survey (RMHS) in 2023, mental health conditions are significantly prevalent among the youth in Rwanda, with rates ranging from 10.2% to about 20%. The RMHS findings revealed that a significant proportion of Rwandans aged 14 to 25 are struggling with psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, and trauma, among others. Nationally, there are three specialized mental health centers and four national hospital mental health departments. However, there is a bigger need for smaller counseling centers, like Never Again Rwanda’s Mental Wellness Center to serve the country’s growing population of 13 million.

The healing journey for the survivors is long and it also involves remembering and honoring genocide victims and educating future generations about the importance of preventing such atrocities. On this 30th commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsis, we honor families, friends, neighbors, classmates whose lives were cut short 30 years ago, and we celebrate all the survivors who persevere and choose life every single day.

For more information and to learn more about the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsis, visit Never Again, an organization dedicated to genocide remembrance and awareness, which rallies under the #neveragain hashtag.

Christelle Kamaliza
Sr. Insights Consultant