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Rwandan Genocide and Boko Haram Crisis

Rwandan Genocide and Boko Haram Crisis

Beginning on April 7, 1994 and lasting until mid-July of an equivalent year, the Rwandan Genocide was the government-mandated killing of Tutsis and Hutu political moderates. Having commenced within the capital city of Kigali, the violence spread rapidly throughout the Rwandan countryside where, in but 100 days, an estimated 20 percent of the Tutsi population of Rwanda was slain.

In 1959 a Belgian-backed Hutu coup d’état deposed the Tutsi monarch, King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, prompting an estimated 130,000 Tutsi civilians to escape to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda amid anti-Tutsi violence by the Hutu. Proclaiming their right to return, in 1987 Ugandan Tutsi refugees formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), including a formidable military wing.

When the RPF army invaded northern Rwanda on October 1, 1990, the Rwandan war ensued. When no clear victor emerged, Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, under intense international pressure to barter with the RPF, signed the primary of the Arusha Accords with the RPF in August of 1992.

The Arusha Accords initiated an instantaneous cease-fire, also as a power-sharing arrangement in his government. Yet while promoting peace to the planet to avoid sanctions, Habyarimana simultaneously advocated violence against Tutsis so as to take care of popular support among his increasingly-radicalized Hutu supporters.

In February of 1993 the RPF violated the Arusha cease-fire, killing many Hutu civilians. This violence destroyed the delicate alliance between the RPF and Hutu groups against Habyarimana’s government. Appealing to Hutu youth enraged over these atrocities, the government-operated Radio Télévision Libre Mille-Collines (RTLM) began broadcasting anti-Tutsi and pro-Hutu Power rhetoric.

On October 21, 1993 neighboring Burundi’s first democratically-elected president Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was assassinated by members of the Tutsi-dominated Burundi military. Consequently, ethnic relations in Rwanda dramatically deteriorated. Then, on April 6, 1994, Rwandan President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down by unknown assailants, triggering the genocide.

Within hours of the attack, death orders were issued by the RTLM, the Kangura newspaper, and other government-run media in Rwanda, leading to the systematic killing of prominent Tutsi politicians within the capital city of Kigali. The murderous rampage then spread to the countryside, where during a little over three months an estimated 800,000 Tutsi men, women, and youngsters were indiscriminately raped, tortured, and killed by Rwandan Hutu militiamen. Though United Nations (UN) peacekeeping troops were initially deployed, they were withdrawn because the violence precipitously escalated.

The genocide led to July 1994 when armed Tutsi rebels invaded from neighboring Burundi, defeating the Hutus and halting any longer killing. At the time of the massacre, the Hutu comprised around 85% of the entire Rwandan population

Boko Haram Crisis

It is on record that Boko Haram has been operating under the name Shabaab Muslim Youth Organization with Mallam Lawal because the leader since 1995 but leadership of the group shifted to Mallam Mohammed Yusuf when Mallam Lawal left Nigeria to continue his education in Saudi Arabia. It is the leadership of Mallam Mohammed Yusuf that allegedly opened the group to political influence and recognition .

By implication, therefore, Mallam Mohammed Yusuf is that the one that officially founded Boko Haram in 2002 in the city of Maiduguri with the aim of building Sharia government in Borno and neighbouring states. Boko Haram grew out of a gaggle of radical Islamist youth who worshipped at the Al-Haji Muhammadu Ndimi Mosque in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, within the 1990’s. Its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, began as a preacher and leader within the youth wing of Shababul Islam of Ahl-Sunnah, a Salafi group.

His literal interpretation of the Quran led him to advocate that aspects of western education he considered in contradiction to that holy book, like evolution, the large bang theory of the universe development and elements of chemistry and geography should be forbidden, in Hausa. While critical of the government, Yusuf was involved in official efforts to introduce and implement Sharia in several northern states in the 2000s.

The failure to realize this fully helps to elucidate Muslim youths’ anger with government deception and insincerity and therefore the involve an authentic Islamist revolution. Boko Haram’s principal goal is to make a strict Islamic state within the north that it believes would address the ills of society, including corruption and bad governance.

The sects core beliefs are strict adherence to the Quran and the Hadith (sayings of prophet Muhammed), and their interpretation as sanctioned by Ibn Taymiyyah. Abu Qaqa, the group’s best known spokesman, explained that the group’s agenda is to destabilize Nigeria and take her back to the pre-colonial period when the shariah was practiced.

Within the early stages, the Boko Haram sect was widely known to possess mobilized its membership from women and youngsters, school dropouts and unemployed university and polytechnic graduates, most of who tore their certificates. The rationalization is that unemployment, underdevelopment and therefore the general hopelessness pervading the society was caused by government which imposed western education on them and did not manage the resources of the country to their benefits. Therefore, “western education is sin”; and this is often the interpretation of Boko Haram in Hausa Language.

Although from the outset the sect’s mission was to impose Sharia on Nigeria, the leadership went about its preaching and interpretation of the Quran as a recipe for violence and an affront to constituted authority. Serious concerns over its violent tendencies grew only after the death of Yussuf while in police custody, as well as his father in-law and sect financier, Ustaz Buji Foi, and therefore the incarceration of members by state authorities.


It is pertinent to notice that Yussuf adopted a non-violent approach in his campaign but hoped to realize his objectives through constant preaching in Mosque and forming alliances with politicians especially Sherrif Lawal. It cannot be ruled out that there have been attacks during the leadership of Yussuf but most of the attacks were mild compared to the well-coordinated virulent terroristic attacks after his death. Although Yussuf allegedly drew inspiration from radical Islamist, Ibn Taymiyya, he reportedly resisted a number of his follower’s relentless campaign for the outright rejection of secularism and therefore the use of violence because the major instrumentality for the achievement of their objective.

Against this backdrop, BBC online, June 22, 2012, opined that the sect’s current level of radicalization and terrorism is probably, a function of the death of its initial leadership and therefore the subsequent clampdown by the state of the taciturn psychopath, Abubakar Shekau a Kanuri native who once boasted “I enjoy killing anybody that Allah commands me to kill-the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams”. Gilbert  posited that the new leadership turned to the utilization of lethal weapons such as: rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), anti-tank missiles, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), surface-to-air missiles, armoured tanks, A-K 47 assault rifles, also as machetes and daggers for the aim of meting outmayhem to the Nigerian state, which have adversely affected her economy considering the high rate of loss of lives and properties.

Furthermore, the very fact that the northern politics and therefore the alliances formed between politicians especially in Bornu and Yobe states with the late Boko Haram leader Yussuf and therefore the failure of the political leaders to honour agreements reached, implanted the violent approach adopted by the group. There have been attacks and counter attacks by political supporters within the sect which gradually resulted to divisions within the sect.

Furthermore, the killing of Yussuf by the police and therefore the alleged counter attacks by the Boko Haram groups was an extended awaited opportunity by those against the non-violent approach by Yussuf like Abubakar Shekua, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnami to use their proposed violent approach to realize their objectives.

The death of Yussuf gave rise to different violent sect groups who constructed a “state within a state” with a cupboard, its own religious police, and a bigger farm, and attracted more and more people under its roof by the offering welfare handouts, food and shelter. Most of these attracted by the group were refugees from the wars over border in Chad and jobless Nigerian youths domiciled in Northern Nigeria. Its funding at this level of operation came from wealthy businessmen and politicians within and out of doors Nigeria.

It is pertinent to state unequivocally that the Boko Haram sect under the leadership of Yussuf and Abubakar Shekau took advantage of the failure of the Nigerian government within the least levels in the north (Local, State and Federal government) to supply basic welfare schemes to criticize western education and beat up support for their false Islamic teachings.

They thus exploited the lacuna created by the high unemployment level, non-availability of basic infrastructure and therefore the general high poverty line within the area to their benefit through the deliberate strategy of providing some welfare packages to the citizenry. Consequently, they used food, money and employment to draw in youths to their fold and created the impression that their fundamentalist Islamic viewpoint of societal organization is best and more profitable than the western capitalist mode of production.

Eventually, they succeeded in garnering support from the youths whom they recruited as suicide bombers and fighters under the leadership of Shekau who took over after the untimely death of Yussuf in police custody in 2009. The operation of Boko Haram has since continued to date.


Read also: Columbia University 2022 ISHR Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) Fellowship

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