Rwanda Essay Introduction

"Ruanda" redirects here. For other uses, see Rwanda (disambiguation).

Republic of Rwanda
Repubulika y'u Rwanda  (Kinyarwanda)

République du Rwanda  (French)

Jamhuri ya Rwanda  (Swahili)

Motto: "Ubumwe, Umurimo, Gukunda Igihugu"
"Unity, Work, Patriotism"

Location of  Rwanda  (dark blue)

– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)
– in the African Union  (light blue)

Capital
and largest city
Kigali
1°56.633′S30°3.567′E / 1.943883°S 30.059450°E / -1.943883; 30.059450
Official languages
Demonym
GovernmentUnitarysemi-presidentialrepublic

• President

Paul Kagame

• Prime Minister

Edouard Ngirente
LegislatureParliament

• Upper house

Senate

• Lower house

Chamber of Deputies
Independence

• from Belgium

1 July 1962
Area

• Total

26,338 km2 (10,169 sq mi) (144th)

• Water (%)

5.3
Population

• 2015 estimate

11,262,564[1] (76th)

• 2012 census

10,515,973[2]

• Density

445[1]/km2 (1,152.5/sq mi) (29th)
GDP (PPP)2017 estimate

• Total

$24.717 billion

• Per capita

$2,090
GDP (nominal)2017 estimate

• Total

$8.918 billion

• Per capita

$754
Gini (2010)51.3
high
HDI (2015) 0.498[5]
low · 159th
CurrencyRwandan franc (RWF)
Time zoneCAT(UTC+2)
Drives on theright
Calling code+250
ISO 3166 codeRW
Internet TLD.rw

Rwanda ( or ( listen); Kinyarwanda: U Rwanda[u.ɾɡwanda] ( listen)), officially the Republic of Rwanda (Kinyarwanda: Repubulika y'u Rwanda; French: République du Rwanda), is a sovereign state in Central and East Africa and one of the smallest countries on the African mainland. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda is in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; its geography is dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year.

The population is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda, although within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people descended from Rwanda's earliest inhabitants. Scholars disagree on the origins of and differences between the Hutu and Tutsi; some believe differences are derived from former social castes within a single people, while others believe the Hutu and Tutsi arrived in the country separately, and from different locations. Christianity is the largest religion in the country; the principal language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by most Rwandans, with English and French serving as official languages. Rwanda has a presidential system of government. The president is Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), who took office in 2000. Rwanda today has low corruption compared with neighbouring countries, although human rights organisations report suppression of opposition groups, intimidation and restrictions on freedom of speech. The country has been governed by a strict administrative hierarchy since precolonial times; there are five provinces delineated by borders drawn in 2006. Rwanda is one of only two countries with a female majority in the national parliament.

Hunter gatherers settled the territory in the stone and iron ages, followed later by Bantu peoples. The population coalesced first into clans and then into kingdoms. The Kingdom of Rwanda dominated from the mid-eighteenth century, with the Tutsi kings conquering others militarily, centralising power and later enacting anti-Hutu policies. Germany colonised Rwanda in 1884 as part of German East Africa, followed by Belgium, which invaded in 1916 during World War I. Both European nations ruled through the kings and perpetuated a pro-Tutsi policy. The Hutu population revolted in 1959. They massacred numerous Tutsi and ultimately established an independent, Hutu-dominated state in 1962. Following a military coup, PresidentJuvénal Habyarimana established a one-partytotalitarian dictatorship in Rwanda and ruled for the next 21 years. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front launched a civil war in 1990. Social tensions erupted in the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000 to 1.3 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The RPF ended the genocide with a military victory.

Rwanda's economy suffered heavily during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, but has since strengthened. The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner. Rwanda is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely, and visitors pay high prices for gorilla tracking permits. Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture, particularly drums and the highly choreographed intore dance. Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country, including imigongo, a unique cow dung art.

History[edit]

Main article: History of Rwanda

Modern human settlement of what is now Rwanda dates from, at the latest, the last glacial period, either in the Neolithic period around 8000 BC, or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of sparse settlement by hunter gatherers in the late stone age, followed by a larger population of early Iron Age settlers, who produced dimpled pottery and iron tools. These early inhabitants were the ancestors of the Twa, aboriginal pygmy hunter-gatherers who remain in Rwanda today. Between 700 BC and 1500 AD, a number of Bantu groups migrated into Rwanda, clearing forest land for agriculture. The forest-dwelling Twa lost much of their habitat and moved to the mountain slopes. Historians have several theories regarding the nature of the Bantu migrations; one theory is that the first settlers were Hutu, while the Tutsi migrated later to form a distinct racial group, possibly of Nilo-hamitic origin. An alternative theory is that the migration was slow and steady, with incoming groups integrating into rather than conquering the existing society. Under this theory, the Hutu and Tutsi distinction arose later and was a class distinction rather than a racial one.

The earliest form of social organisation in the area was the clan (ubwoko). The clans were not limited to genealogical lineages or geographical area, and most included Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. From the 15th century, the clans began to coalesce into kingdoms; by 1700 around eight kingdoms existed in present-day Rwanda. One of these, the Kingdom of Rwanda, ruled by the Tutsi Nyiginya clan, became increasingly dominant from the mid-eighteenth century. The kingdom reached its greatest extent during the nineteenth century under the reign of King Kigeli Rwabugiri. Rwabugiri conquered several smaller states, expanded the kingdom west and north, and initiated administrative reforms; these included ubuhake, in which Tutsi patrons ceded cattle, and therefore privileged status, to Hutu or Tutsi clients in exchange for economic and personal service, and uburetwa, a corvée system in which Hutu were forced to work for Tutsi chiefs. Rwabugiri's changes caused a rift to grow between the Hutu and Tutsi populations. The Twa were better off than in pre-Kingdom days, with some becoming dancers in the royal court, but their numbers continued to decline.

The Berlin Conference of 1884 assigned the territory to Germany as part of German East Africa, marking the beginning of the colonial era. The explorer Gustav Adolf von Götzen was the first European to significantly explore the country in 1894; he crossed from the south-east to Lake Kivu and met the king. The Germans did not significantly alter the social structure of the country, but exerted influence by supporting the king and the existing hierarchy and delegating power to local chiefs.[27]Belgian forces took control of Rwanda and Burundi in 1916, during World War I, beginning a period of more direct colonial rule. Belgium ruled both Rwanda and Burundi as a League of Nations 'mandate' called Ruanda-Urundi; the Belgians also simplified and centralised the power structure, and introduced large-scale projects in education, health, public works, and agricultural supervision, including new crops and improved agricultural techniques to try to reduce the incidence of famine. Both the Germans and the Belgians promoted Tutsi supremacy, considering the Hutu and Tutsi different races. In 1935, Belgium introduced identity cards labelling each individual as either Tutsi, Hutu, Twa or Naturalised. While it had previously been possible for particularly wealthy Hutu to become honorary Tutsi, the identity cards prevented any further movement between the classes.

Belgium continued to rule Ruanda-Urundi (of which Rwanda formed the northern part) as a UN Trust Territory after the Second World War, with a mandate to oversee eventual independence. Tension escalated between the Tutsi, who favoured early independence, and the Hutu emancipation movement, culminating in the 1959 Rwandan Revolution: Hutu activists began killing Tutsi and destroying their houses, forcing more than 100,000 people to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. In 1961, the suddenly pro-Hutu Belgians held a referendum in which the country voted to abolish the monarchy. Rwanda was separated from Burundi and gained independence in 1962. Cycles of violence followed, with exiled Tutsi attacking from neighbouring countries and the Hutu retaliating with large-scale slaughter and repression of the Tutsi. In 1973, Juvénal Habyarimana took power in a military coup. Pro-Hutu discrimination continued, but there was greater economic prosperity and a reduced amount of violence against Tutsi. The Twa remained marginalised, and by 1990 were almost entirely forced out of the forests by the government; many became beggars. Rwanda's population had increased from 1.6 million people in 1934 to 7.1 million in 1989, leading to competition for land.

In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed of nearly 500,000 Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from their base in Uganda, initiating the Rwandan Civil War. The group condemned the Hutu-dominated government for failing to democratize and confront the problems facing these refugees. Neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage in the war, but by 1992 it had weakened Habyarimana's authority; mass demonstrations forced him into a coalition with the domestic opposition and eventually to sign the 1993 Arusha Accords with the RPF. The cease-fire ended on 6 April 1994 when Habyarimana's plane was shot down near Kigali Airport, killing him. The shooting down of the plane served as the catalyst for the Rwandan Genocide, which began within a few hours. Over the course of approximately 100 days, around 800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed in well-planned attacks on the orders of the interim government. Many Twa were also killed, despite not being directly targeted.

The Tutsi RPF restarted their offensive, and took control of the country methodically, gaining control of the whole country by mid-July. The international response to the genocide was limited, with major powers reluctant to strengthen the already overstretched UN peacekeeping force. When the RPF took over, approximately two million Hutu fled to neighbouring countries, in particular Zaïre, fearing reprisals; additionally, the RPF-led army was a key belligerent in the First and Second Congo Wars. Within Rwanda, a period of reconciliation and justice began, with the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the reintroduction of Gacaca, a traditional village court system. Since 2000 Rwanda's economy, tourist numbers, and Human Development Index have grown rapidly; between 2006 and 2011 the poverty rate reduced from 57% to 45%,[57] while life expectancy rose from 46.6 years in 2000 to 59.7 years in 2015.

Politics and government[edit]

Main articles: Politics of Rwanda, Foreign relations of Rwanda, and Military of Rwanda

The President of Rwanda is the head of state,[60] and has broad powers including creating policy in conjunction with the Cabinet,[61] exercising the prerogative of mercy,[62] commanding the armed forces,[63] negotiating and ratifying treaties,[64] signing presidential orders,[65] and declaring war or a state of emergency.[63] The President is elected by popular vote every seven years,[66] and appoints the Prime Minister and all other members of Cabinet.[67] The incumbent President is Paul Kagame, who took office upon the resignation of his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, in 2000. Kagame subsequently won elections in 2003 and 2010, although human rights organisations have criticised these elections as being "marked by increasing political repression and a crackdown on free speech". Article 101 of the current constitution limits presidents to two terms in office, but as of 2015[update] there is a motion underway in the Rwandan parliament to amend this and allow Kagame to run for a third term. The motion, which would require ratification by referendum, was brought following receipt of a petition signed by 3.8 million Rwandans.

The constitution was adopted following a national referendum in 2003, replacing the transitional constitution which had been in place since 1994. The constitution mandates a multi-party system of government, with politics based on democracy and elections.[74] However, the constitution places conditions on how political parties may operate. Article 54 states that "political organizations are prohibited from basing themselves on race, ethnic group, tribe, clan, region, sex, religion or any other division which may give rise to discrimination".[75] The government has also enacted laws criminalising genocide ideology, which can include intimidation, defamatory speeches, genocide denial and mocking of victims. According to Human Rights Watch, these laws effectively make Rwanda a one-party state, as "under the guise of preventing another genocide, the government displays a marked intolerance of the most basic forms of dissent".Amnesty International is also critical; in its 2014/15 report Amnesty said that laws against inciting insurrection or trouble among the population had been used to imprison people "for the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of association or of expression".

The Parliament consists of two chambers. It makes legislation and is empowered by the constitution to oversee the activities of the President and the Cabinet.[79] The lower chamber is the Chamber of Deputies, which has 80 members serving five-year terms. Twenty-four of these seats are reserved for women, elected through a joint assembly of local government officials; another three seats are reserved for youth and disabled members; the remaining 53 are elected by universal suffrage under a proportional representation system.[80] Following the 2013 election, there are 51 female deputies, up from 45 in 2008; as of 2015[update], Rwanda is one of only two countries with a female majority in the national parliament. The upper chamber is the 26-seat Senate, whose members are selected by a variety of bodies. A mandatory minimum of 30% of the senators are women. Senators serve eight-year terms.[84] (See also Gender equality in Rwanda).

Rwanda's legal system is largely based on German and Belgiancivil law systems and customary law. The judiciary is independent of the executive branch,[85] although the President and the Senate are involved in the appointment of Supreme Court judges.[86] Human Rights Watch have praised the Rwandan government for progress made in the delivery of justice including the abolition of the death penalty, but also allege interference in the judicial system by members of the government, such as the politically motivated appointment of judges, misuse of prosecutorial power, and pressure on judges to make particular decisions. The constitution provides for two types of courts: ordinary and specialised.[89] Ordinary courts are the Supreme Court, the High Court, and regional courts, while specialised courts are military courts[89] and a system of commercial courts created in 2011 to expedite commercial litigations. Between 2004 and 2012, a system of Gacaca courts was in operation.Gacaca, a Rwandan traditional court operated by villages and communities, was revived to expedite the trials of genocide suspects. The court succeeded in clearing the backlog of genocide cases, but was criticised by human rights groups as not meeting legal fair standard.

Rwanda has low corruption levels relative to most other African countries; in 2014, Transparency International ranked Rwanda as the fifth cleanest out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and 55th cleanest out of 175 in the world. The constitution provides for an Ombudsman, whose duties include prevention and fighting of corruption.[96] Public officials (including the President) are required by the constitution to declare their wealth to the Ombudsman and to the public; those who do not comply are suspended from office.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has been the dominant political party in the country since 1994. The RPF has maintained control of the presidency and the Parliament in national elections, with the party's vote share consistently exceeding 70%. The RPF is seen as a Tutsi-dominated party but receives support from across the country, and is credited with ensuring continued peace, stability, and economic growth. Human rights organisation Freedom House claims that the government suppresses the freedoms of opposition groups; in its 2015 report, Freedom House alleged that the RPF had "prevented new political parties from registering and arrested the leaders of several existing parties, effectively preventing them from fielding candidates" in elections. Amnesty International also claims that the RPF rules Rwanda "without any meaningful opposition".

Rwanda is a member of the United Nations,African Union, Francophonie,East African Community, and the Commonwealth of Nations. For many years during the Habyarimana regime, the country maintained close ties with France, as well as Belgium, the former colonial power. Under the RPF government, however, Rwanda has sought closer ties with neighbouring countries in the East African Community and with the English-speaking world. Diplomatic relations with France were suspended in 2006 following the indictment of Rwandan officials by a French judge, and despite their restoration in 2010, as of 2015[update] relations between the countries remain strained. Relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were tense following Rwanda's involvement in the First and Second Congo Wars; the Congolese army alleged Rwandan attacks on their troops, while Rwanda blamed the Congolese government for failing to suppress Hutu rebels in North and South Kivu provinces. Relations soured further in 2012, as Kinshasa accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebellion, an insurgency in the eastern Congo. As of 2015[update], peace has been restored and relations are improving. Rwanda's relationship with Uganda was also tense for much of the 2000s following a 1999 clash between the two countries' armies as they backed opposing rebel groups in the Second Congo War, but improved significantly in the early 2010s; as of 2015[update], the two countries enjoy a good relationship.

The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) is the national army of Rwanda. Largely composed of former Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers, it includes the Rwanda Land Force, Rwanda Air Force and specialised units. After the successful conquest of the country in 1994 in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front decided to split the RPF into a political division (which retained the RPF name) and the RDF, a military division which was to serve as the official army of the Rwandan state. Defence spending continues to represent an important share of the national budget, largely due to continuing security problems along the frontiers with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi and lingering concerns about Uganda's intentions towards its former ally. In 2010, the United Nations released a report accusing the Rwandan army of committing wide scale human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the First and Second Congo Wars, charges denied by the Rwandan government.

Administrative divisions[edit]

Main articles: Provinces of Rwanda and Districts of Rwanda

Rwanda has been governed by a strict hierarchy since precolonial times. Before colonisation, the King (Mwami) exercised control through a system of provinces, districts, hills, and neighbourhoods. The current constitution divides Rwanda into provinces (intara), districts (uturere), cities, municipalities, towns, sectors (imirenge), cells (utugari), and villages (imidugudu); the larger divisions, and their borders, are established by Parliament.[120]

The five provinces act as intermediaries between the national government and their constituent districts to ensure that national policies are implemented at the district level. The "Rwanda Decentralisation Strategic Framework" developed by the Ministry of Local Government assigns to provinces the responsibility for "coordinating governance issues in the Province, as well as monitoring and evaluation". Each province is headed by a governor, appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The districts are responsible for coordinating public service delivery and economic development. They are divided into sectors, which are responsible for the delivery of public services as mandated by the districts. Districts and sectors have directly elected councils, and are run by an executive committee selected by that council. The cells and villages are the smallest political units, providing a link between the people and the sectors. All adult resident citizens are members of their local cell council, from which an executive committee is elected. The city of Kigali is a provincial-level authority, which coordinates urban planning within the city.

The present borders were drawn in 2006 with the aim of decentralising power and removing associations with the old system and the genocide. The previous structure of twelve provinces associated with the largest cities was replaced with five provinces based primarily on geography. These are Northern Province, Southern Province, Eastern Province, Western Province, and the Municipality of Kigali in the centre.

Largest cities[edit]

Geography[edit]

Main articles: Geography of Rwanda and Climate of Rwanda

At 26,338 square kilometres (10,169 sq mi), Rwanda is the world's 149th-largest country, and the fourth smallest on the African mainland after Gambia, Swaziland, and Djibouti. It is comparable in size to Burundi, Haiti and Albania. The entire country is at a high altitude: the lowest point is the Rusizi River at 950 metres (3,117 ft) above sea level. Rwanda is located in Central/Eastern Africa, and is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, and Burundi to the south. It lies a few degrees south of the equator and is landlocked. The capital, Kigali, is located near the centre of Rwanda.

The watershed between the major Congo and Niledrainage basins runs from north to south through Rwanda, with around 80% of the country's area draining into the Nile and 20% into the Congo via the Rusizi River and Lake Tanganyika. The country's longest river is the Nyabarongo, which rises in the south-west, flows north, east, and southeast before merging with the Ruvubu to form the Kagera; the Kagera then flows due north along the eastern border with Tanzania. The Nyabarongo-Kagera eventually drains into Lake Victoria, and its source in Nyungwe Forest is a contender for the as-yet undetermined overall source of the Nile. Rwanda has many lakes, the largest being Lake Kivu. This lake occupies the floor of the Albertine Rift along most of the length of Rwanda's western border, and with a maximum depth of 480 metres (1,575 ft), it is one of the twenty deepest lakes in the world. Other sizeable lakes include Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi, Rweru, and Ihema, the last being the largest of a string of lakes in the eastern plains of Akagera National Park.

Mountains dominate central and western Rwanda. They are part of the Albertine Rift Mountains that flank the Albertine branch of the East African Rift, which runs from north to south along Rwanda's western border.[135] The highest peaks are found in the Virunga volcano chain in the northwest; this includes Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda's highest point, at 4,507 metres (14,787 ft). This western section of the country lies within the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion.[135] It has an elevation of 1,500 to 2,500 metres (4,921 to 8,202 ft). The centre of the country is predominantly rolling hills, while the eastern border region consists of savanna, plains and swamps.

Rwanda has a temperatetropical highland climate, with lower temperatures than are typical for equatorial countries because of its high elevation. Kigali, in the centre of the country, has a typical daily temperature range between 12 and 27 °C (54 and 81 °F), with little variation through the year. There are some temperature variations across the country; the mountainous west and north are generally cooler than the lower-lying east. There are two rainy seasons in the year; the first runs from February to June and the second from September to December. These are separated by two dry seasons: the major one from June to September, during which there is often no rain at all, and a shorter and less severe one from December to February. Rainfall varies geographically, with the west and northwest of the country receiving more precipitation annually than the east and southeast.Global warming

Human skulls at the Nyamata Genocide Memorial

Rwanda: A Brief History of the Country

By 1994, Rwanda’s population stood at more than 7 million people comprising three ethnic groups: the Hutu (who made up roughly 85% of the population), the Tutsi (14%) and the Twa (1%).

Prior to the colonial era, Tutsis generally occupied the higher strata in the social system and the Hutus the lower. However, social mobility was possible, a Hutu who acquired a large number of cattle or other wealth could be assimilated into the Tutsi group and impoverished Tutsi would be regarded as Hutu. A clan system also functioned, with the Tutsi clan known as the Nyinginya being the most powerful. Throughout the 1800s, the Nyingiya expanded their influence by conquest and by offering protection in return for tribute.

Ethnic Conflict Begins

The former colonial power, Germany, lost possession of Rwanda during the First World War and the territory was then placed under Belgian administration. In the late 1950’s during the great wave of decolonization, tensions increased in Rwanda. The Hutu political movement, which stood to gain from majority rule, was gaining momentum while segments of the Tutsi establishment resisted democratization and the loss of their acquired privileges. In November 1959, a violent incident sparked a Hutu uprising in which hundreds of Tutsi were killed and thousands displaced and forced to flee to neighboring countries. This marked the start of the so- called ‘Hutu Peasant Revolution’ or ‘social revolution’ lasting from 1959 to 1961, which signified the end of Tutsi domination and the sharpening of ethnic tensions. By 1962, when Rwanda gained independence, 120,000 people, primarily Tutsis, had taken refuge in neighboring states to escape the violence which had accompanied the gradual coming into power of the Hutu community.

A new cycle of ethnic conflict and violence continued after independence. Tutsi refugees in Tanzania and Zaire seeking to regain their former positions in Rwanda began organizing and staging attacks on Hutu targets and the Hutu government. Ten such attacks occurred between 1962 and 1967, each leading to retaliatory killings of large numbers of Tutsi civilians in Rwanda and creating new waves of refugees. By the end of the 1980s some 480,000 Rwandans had become refugees, primarily in Burundi, Uganda, Zaire and Tanzania. They continued to call for the fulfillment of their international legal right to return to Rwanda, however, Juvenal Habyarimana, then president of Rwanda, took the position that population pressures were already too great, and economic opportunities too few to accommodate large numbers of Tutsi refugees.

The Civil War

In 1988, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was founded in Kampala, Uganda as a political and military movement with the stated aims of securing repatriation of Rwandans in exile and reforming of the Rwandan government, including political power sharing. The RPF was composed mainly of Tutsi exiles in Uganda, many of whom had served in President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army, which had overthrown the previous Ugandan government in 1986. While the ranks of the RPF did include some Hutus, the majority, particularly those in leadership positions, were Tutsi refugees.

On 1 October 1990, the RPF launched a major attack on Rwanda from Uganda with a force of 7,000 fighters. Because of the RPF attacks which displaced thousands and a policy of deliberately targeted propaganda by the government, all Tutsis inside the country were labeled accomplices of the RPF and Hutu members of the opposition parties were labeled as traitors. Media, particularly radio, continued to spread unfounded rumours, which exacerbated ethnic problems.

In August 1993, through the peacemaking efforts of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the governments in the region, the signing of the Arusha peace agreements appeared to have brought an end to the conflict between the then Hutu dominated government and the opposition Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). In October 1993, the Security Council established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) with a mandate encompassing peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and general support for the peace process.

From the outset, however, the will to achieve and sustain peace was subverted by some of the Rwandan political parties participating in the Agreement. With the ensuing delays in its implementation, violations of human rights became more widespread and the security situation deteriorated. Later, evidence demonstrated irrefutably that extremist elements of the Hutu majority while talking peace were in fact planning a campaign to exterminate Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The Genocide

On 6 April 1994, the deaths of the Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda in a plane crash caused by a rocket attack, ignited several weeks of intense and systematic massacres. The killings - as many as 1 million people are estimated to have perished - shocked the international community and were clearly acts of genocide. An estimated 150,000 to 250,000 women were also raped. Members of the presidential guard started killing Tutsi civilians in a section of Kigali near the airport. Less than half an hour after the plane crash, roadblocks manned by Hutu militiamen often assisted by gendarmerie (paramilitary police) or military personnel were set up to identify Tutsis.

On 7 April, Radio Television Libres Des Mille Collines (RTLM) aired a broadcast attributing the plane crash to the RPF and a contingent of UN soldiers, as well as incitements to eliminate the "Tutsi cockroach". Later that day the Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers assigned to protect her were brutally murdered by Rwandan government soldiers in an attack on her home. Other moderate Hutu leaders were similarly assassinated. After the massacre of its troops, Belgium withdrew the rest of its force. On 21 April, after other countries asked to withdraw troops, the UNAMIR force reduced from an initial 2,165 to 270.

If the absence of a resolute commitment to reconciliation by some of the Rwandan parties was one problem, the tragedy was compounded by the faltering response of the international community. The capacity of the United Nations to reduce human suffering in Rwanda was severely constrained by the unwillingness of Member States to respond to the changed circumstances in Rwanda by strengthening UNAMIR’s mandate and contributing additional troops.

On June 22, the Security Council authorized French-led forces to mount a humanitarian mission. The mission, called Operation Turquoise, saved hundreds of civilians in South West Rwanda, but is also said to have allowed soldiers, officials and militiamen involved in the genocide to flee Rwanda through the areas under their control. In other areas, killings continued until 4 July 1994 when the RPF took military control of the entire territory of Rwanda.

The Aftermath of the Genocide

Government officials, soldiers and militia who had participated in the genocide fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then known as Zaire, taking with them 1.4 million civilians, most of them Hutu who had been told that the RPF would kill them. Thousands died of water-borne diseases. The camps were also used by former Rwandan government soldiers to re-arm and stage invasions into Rwanda. The attacks were one of the factors leading to the war between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo that took place in 1996. Former Rwandan forces continue to operate in the DRC alongside Congolese militia and other armed groups. They continue to target civilian populations and cause deaths, injury and harm.

The Rwandan government began the long-awaited genocide trials at the end of 1996. The delay was due to the fact that the country had lost most of its judicial personnel, not to mention the destruction to courts, jails and other infrastructure. By 2000, there were over 100,000 genocide suspects awaiting trial. In 2001, the government began implementing a participatory justice system, known as Gacaca, (pronounced GA-CHA-CHA) in order to address the enormous backlog of cases. Communities elected judges to hear the trials of genocide suspects accused of all crimes except planning of genocide or rape. The defendants in Gacaca courts have been released provisionally awaiting trial. The releases have caused a lot of unhappiness among survivors who see it as a form of amnesty. Rwanda continues to use the national court system to try those involved in planning genocide or rape under normal penal law. These courts do not offer provisional release for genocide defendants.

The Gacaca courts give lower sentences if the person is repentant and seeks reconciliation with the community. These courts are intended to help the community participate in the process of justice and reconciliation for the country.

At the international level, the Security Council on 8 November 1994 set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, currently based in Arusha, Tanzania. Investigations began in May 1995. The first suspects were brought to the court in May 1996 and the first case began in January 1997. The UN Tribunal has jurisdiction over all violations of international human rights that happened in Rwanda between January and December 1994. It has the capacity to prosecute high-level members of the government and armed forces that may have fled the country and would otherwise have gone unpunished. The court has since convicted the Prime Minister during the genocide Jean Kambanda, to life in prison. It was also the first international court to convict a suspect for rape as a crime against humanity and a crime of genocide. The court also tried three media owners accused of using their respective media to incite ethnic hatred and genocide. By April 2007, it had handed down twenty-seven judgments involving thirty-three accused.

UN Web Services Section, Department of Public Information, © United Nations

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