Timeline: Moving forward 25 years after the Rwandan genocide


Before the 1994 genocide

Twenty-five years ago this spring, more than a million people were killed in the Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi. But the seeds of division between Hutus and Tutsis, the country’s two largest ethnic groups, can be traced back decades. In 1919, Belgian colonists arrived in Rwanda and created ID cards identifying people by their ethnicities. The colonists considered Tutsis, who traditionally were cattle herders, to be above Hutus, who were known as farmers, and provided the Tutsis with more economic opportunities. In 1959, during a Hutu revolt against the colonial rule, thousands of Tutsis were killed. After Rwanda became independent from Belgium in 1962, Hutus took power. As years went on, some Tutsis who had fled to Uganda formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front, led by a man named Paul Kagame.

A boy looks off into the distance over a valley where many were killed during the genocide. Luanne Dietz/ Starbucks

April 6, 1994
President Juvenal Habyarimana is killed

Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, is in a plane that is shot down the night of April 6, 1994. Hutus blame the Tutsi. Tutsis say it was Hutus looking for a reason to trigger what came next. To this day, the true cause of the crash isn’t entirely clear.

After Habyarimana’s plane goes down, calls go out over government-sponsored radio stations for Hutus to kill “the cockroaches,” or Tutsis.

April 7, 1994 to July 1994
100 days of bloodshed, 1 million killed

Over the course of 100 days, a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus who opposed the genocide, are killed. Neighbor rises up against neighbor as the Hutus, the country’s largest ethnic group, attack Tutsis.

July 1994
End of the genocide

The Rwandan Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame, defeats the extremist Hutu forces and ends the genocide. Pasteur Bizimungu becomes president of Rwanda.

1996
First genocide trial begins

Rwanda’s first genocide trial opens at the International Criminal Tribunal for those accused of participating in the genocide. Due to the high number of those accused, community courts, called gacaca, are later formed across Rwanda.

On the last Saturday of each month, community members all across Rwanda come together to work on a service project, called Umuganda. Here, in a rural village in the Gekenke District of Rwanda, neighbors work on fixing a road that was closed by a mudslide. Melissa Lyttle for Starbucks
During Umuganda, neighbors work to help each other rebuild. Together, they choose a project and unite around it. Melissa Lyttle for Starbucks
Everyone who is able-bodied and between the ages of 18 and 65 is expected to participate in Umuganda. Melissa Lyttle for Starbucks

1998
Steps toward reunification

Umuganda, where communities and neighbors come together once a month to work on a community project is re-introduced in Rwanda to encourage unity. On the last Saturday of the month, continuing to present day, all able-bodied people between the ages of 18-65 are required to spend three hours working together on a project.

2000
Paul Kagame becomes president

Hutu President Pasteur Bizimungu resigns after falling out with members of his Tutsi-dominated ruling party. Vice President Paul Kagame is elected president by members of parliament and ministers.

That same year, Kagame announces Vision 2020, a framework to help reduce poverty by focusing on specific goals, including agricultural transformation.

Starbucks launches Global Farmer Fund, and begins providing access to credit for coffee farmers at reasonable terms. This soon evolves into a commitment to provide $50 million to coffee communities around the world by 2020. Rwanda goes on to become one of the countries to receive funds.

Coffee cherries, harvested by the women of Hingakawa. Melissa Lyttle for Starbucks

2001
Investing in coffee

The United States Agency for International Development begins investing in coffee’s infrastructure in Rwanda, providing financing for co-ops to build washing stations, provide training and more.

2004
Abakundakawa coffee cooperative forms; genocide memorial opens

The Abakundakawa Cooperative, comprised of men and women in the Rushashi area who grow coffee, is formed. In the years to come, Starbucks develops a relationship with the cooperative.

Also in 2004, the Kigali Genocide Memorial opens, featuring photos of those killed and special exhibits. Today, it serves as the final resting ground for the remains of 250,000 people killed in the genocide.

The women of Hingakawa spread coffee beans to dry in the sun. Melissa Lyttle for Starbucks

2008
Hingakawa women’s coffee co-op opens

A group of women from Abakundakawa form their own, women-led cooperative called Hingakawa. It begins with 160 women, each required to have at least 100 coffee trees. It is comprised of women whose husbands had been killed during the genocide and those whose husbands participated in the killings. In addition to helping provide an income to women, it also provides a way for them to connect across past divisions to find common ground. In the years to come, Starbucks will develop a relationship with Hingakawa.

The Starbucks Foundation awards a 3-year, $1 million grant to CARE to support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs for coffee communities in Rwanda.

2009
Starbucks Farmer Support Center comes to Rwanda

Starbucks opens a Farmer Support Center in Kigali, Rwanda, where agronomists working one-on-one with farmers in the field help improve the quality and profitability of their crops, as well as support co-ops and suppliers.

2012
End to gacaca court trials

Rwanda officially closes its gacaca courts, which had tried 2 million people accused of crimes during the genocide. About 65 percent of them were found guilty.

A cow is donated through the Send a Cow program, during a visit to Dukendakawa Cooperative in the mountains of Rwanda. Joshua Trujillo / Starbucks

2014
Coffee + Cows

Inspired by a Starbucks partner’s visit to Rwanda, Starbucks stores in the UK begin an annual Coffee + Cows campaign to raise money for Send a Cow, which provides training, tools, seeds and livestock to farmers in Rwanda.

2016
Rwanda joins Sustainable Coffee Challenge

Rwanda becomes one of the first countries to join the Sustainable Coffee Challenge – a global collaborative effort by Conservation International and Starbucks aimed at making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product.

Starbucks offers Hingakawa Reserve coffee in the U.S. for the first time.

A young girl stands to receive offerings during a church service in the Gakenke District. Younger generations in Rwanda are being empowered to take leadership roles and be an active part of their community. Melissa Lyttle for Starbucks

2018
Grants to support empowerment of women and girls

The Starbucks Foundation announces a new goal of empowering 250,000 women and girls in coffee, tea and cocoa growing communities by 2025. Three grants made to Days for Girls, Send a Cow, and World Relief totaling more than $1 million will support programs around women’s leadership, access to finance, and healthy homes in Rwanda.

2019
Rwanda coffee at Starbucks

Hingakawa coffee to be sold in the summer of 2019 at select Starbucks stores in the Asia Pacific and Latin American markets.

The Starbucks Passport Series will include Starbucks Blonde Roast Rwanda coffee in U.S. Starbucks stores over the summer.

April 7, 2019
25th anniversary

Commemorations will be held around the world in April, marking the 25th anniversary of the genocide.

Vestine walks with her uncle past the genocide memorial grave site where her mother and other family members are buried. In March, her brother’s remains were relocated here. During the genocide, Vestine’s mother and siblings were killed in front of her before she was able to escape. Melissa Lyttle for Starbucks

Sources: United Nations, Government of Rwanda, Kigali Genocide Memorial, Thompson-Reuters Foundation News, BBC, Rwanda Governance Board, Genocide Survivors Foundation, AllAboutRwanda.com, Conservation International, Starbucks

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Message to Starbucks partners: Safety in our stores

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