On April 6, 1994, an airplane was shot down on its descent into Kigali carrying Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira, killing all on board. Genocidal killings began the following day; soldiers, police, and militia quickly executed key Tutsi and moderate Hutu leaders, then erected checkpoints and barricades and used Rwandans' national identity cards to systematically kill Tutsi. These forces recruited or pressured Hutu civilians to arm themselves with machetes, clubs, blunt objects, and other weapons to rape, maim, and kill their Tutsi neighbors and to destroy or steal their property. The breach of the peace agreement led the RPF to restart its offensive and rapidly seize control of the northern part of the country before capturing Kigali in mid-July, bringing an end to the genocide. During these events and in their aftermath, the United Nations (UN) and countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Belgium were criticized for their inaction, including failure to strengthen the force and mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) peacekeepers.

The genocide had a lasting and profound impact on Rwanda and its neighboring countries. The pervasive use of war rape caused a spike in HIV infection, including babies born of rape to newly infected mothers; many households were headed by orphaned children or widows. An estimated 500,000 - 1,000,000 people were killed during the 100 day carnage .

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