Rwanda is a small landlocked country in East-central Africa which is home to approximately 12 million people (2013 estimate). There are three main social groupings in the country – the majority Hutu (84%), the minority Tutsi (15%), and the much smaller Twa (1%). There are also South Asian, Arab and European minority groups.

Until 1895 an independent Tutsi monarchy ruled the nation, however in this year the country became a German province. After the end of the World War One Belgium took control of Rwanda under a League of Nations mandate. The Belgians initially relied on the traditional hierarchy and social structures including leaving the Tutsi King, who was recognised by both Hutus and Tutsis, to run the country. Under Belgian rule ethnic identity cards were introduced in 1926. Seven years later a census was carried out and identity cards became compulsory. Ethnic identity was now fixed from birth and was recorded on identity cards.

In 1957 the Hutu manifesto was published which denounced the Tutsis and their perceived dominant position in Rwandan leadership. When the King died in 1959 the Hutus, supported by the Belgians, rose up against the Tutsi leadership. Thousands of Tutsis were murdered and more fled to neighbouring countries. The first municipal elections held in Rwanda took place in 1960 and saw a Hutu majority being elected. In 1961, following the abolition of the monarchy Tutsis were attacked again. In 1962 Rwanda was granted independence from Belgium and George Kayibanda from the Hutu nationalist party came to power.

The years following independence saw repeated massacres of Tutsis. There were also attacks on Hutus by Tutsis, who formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) while in exile. Tutsis also saw themselves denied political representation as the nation became a one-party State. Tutsis were denied jobs in the public service under an ethnic quota system which allocated them only 9% of available jobs. Tensions were further inflamed by increasing pressures on the Rwandan economy, resulting in rising levels of poverty and discontent.

In October 1990 RPF rebels invaded Rwanda in the hope of creating a power-sharing agreement with President Habyarimana, the longstanding totalitarian Hutu President. They were opposed by Government forces which were equipped and trained by France and Zaire. In March 1991 a ceasefire was declared. Despite this local attacks on Tutsis continued and the Rwandan Army trained civilian militia – the Interahamwe.

After a three year civil war negotiations led to the Arusha Accords in 1993. The President and the RPF signed up to a power sharing agreement.