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Lesson plans for ages 12-14 in History: The Rwandan Crisis 1994

Teaching Tools, 2 March 2007

© UNHCR/C.Bowers
1.2 million Rwandans sought safety and shelter in Zaire.

LESSONS 1 and 2: How did the Rwandan crisis start?


  • A large map of Africa should be installed where all the students can see it clearly.
  • Class sets of "Great Lakes Chronology", Refugees, no, 110 (Geneva, UNHCR, 1997), p. 8.


To test entry behaviour, the students are asked the following questions:

  • Where is Rwanda? (a country in Central Africa)
  • Why was Rwanda in the news in the 1990s? (e.g. there had been fighting between the different people who live there)
  • Who are the Hutus and Tutsis? (the two main groups of people who live in Rwanda)

For the first part of the lesson, students receive a copy of the Activity Sheet: Rwanda and its neighbours, and commence to fill in the sheet during the class discussion.

Tasks for the Activity Sheet

  • Write in the names of the countries of the Great Lakes Region:
    - Country 1: Rwanda
    - Country 2: Burundi
    - Country 3: The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire)
    - Country 4: Tanzania
    - Country 5: Uganda
  • Write within each country, where possible, its population composition:
    - Rwanda: 85% Hutus, 14% Tutsis, 1% Twa (pygmies)

The main ethnic groups are the Kikongo, Luba, Mongo, ethnic Rwandans and Bwaka.

Tanzania: 120 or so ethnic groups.

Uganda: Over 20 ethnic groups

Reading in class: Students spend class time reading "Great Lakes Chronology", Refugees, no, 110 (Geneva, UNHCR, 1997), p. 8 and The State of the World's Refugees: In Search of Solutions, (Oxford, OUP, 1995), p. 32-33.

The following questions could be answered by students during their reading time, or afterwards:

  • Who were the Interahamwe?
  • What is genocide?
  • What event precipitated the genocide of over 800,000 Tutsis by the Interahamwe?
  • The Rwandan Patriotic Front, who subsequently entered Rwanda and formed a new government is dominated by which ethnic group?
  • Who fled to Tanzania and Zaire in great numbers in fear of revenge attacks from the RPF?
  • Who else fled to the refugee camps besides women and children?