The Face of Genocide

During the Rwandan civil war in 1994, hundreds of thousands of the minority Tutsi community and moderate Hutus were killed in an organized genocide committed by right-wing Hutus. Tutsi rebels eventually overthrew the Hutu power, sending a million Hutus, fearful of revenge, in a mass exodus into Zaire (now the Congo) and Tanzania.

Two years later, in 1996, in a move to overthrow their own government, Zairian rebels stormed the largest or the Rwandan refugee camps, Kibumba Camp, outside Goma. Rebels sought out and executed Hutu fighters and in the process thousands of unarmed civilians were massacred as the Kibumba Camp collapsed. With nowhere else to go, the Rwandan refugees predominantly of the Hutu tribe began making their way back home to face old friends and neighbors who the genocide had been perpetrated against.

Rwandan Hutu refugees pass the decaying bodies of rebels and refugees killed in the early fighting outside of Goma, Zaire – now the Congo. ©Thomas James Hurst
There is no shortage of machine guns and grenade launchers in the Congo, and boys learn at an early age the power and horror these weapons can create. ©Thomas James Hurst
A man points to an area where aid workers can find more dead and dying.  Aid organizations worked quickly to gather dead for immediate burial in the hopes of stopping a deadly outbreak of disease. ©Thomas James Hurst
A child dashes past a line of Rwandan refugees waiting to load into the back truck for their return to their villages back in their home country. Nearly a quarter of a million people mostly Rwandan Hutus have been living in the Kibumba camp outside Goma. Rwandan Hutus militia are believed to have killed more than a million of their fellow countrymen, but are from the Rwandan Tutsi tribe. ©Thomas James Hurst
A Rwandan boy screams in terror after being separated from his mother in the chaos to flee the fighting in what today is the Congo.  After two years in exile inside Zaire (Congo), hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus began the journey back to the villages from which they fled. ©Thomas James Hurst
Thousands of Rwandan refugees returning from two years of exile in neighboring Zaire camp for the night along the roadside. ©Thomas James Hurst
The legs and body of a Rwandan woman who died trying to return home goes virtually unnoticed to those who still have so far to travel. ©Thomas James Hurst
An old man and a young boy travel the road home. ©Thomas James Hurst
Passengers on a bus leaving Zaire watch as other refugees prepare to board. ©Thomas James Hurst
The wide eyes of a baby look back as its mother rushes forward to a waiting truck. ©Thomas James Hurst
A 13-year-old member of Zaire’s Mi-Mi (“my-my”) Tribe poses with his bicycle and AK-47 assault rifle. ©Thomas James Hurst
A father and son reunite in the Rwandan village they had lived in before fleeing to Zaire in 1994.  Separated amid the chaos of their escape, each believed the other had been killed two years earlier. ©Thomas James Hurst
Two old friends, each of a different tribe, walk home together after being newly reunited. ©Thomas James Hurst