Landlocked country in central Africa, bounded north by Uganda, east by Tanzania, south by Burundi, and west by the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).
Rwanda has a presidential political system, dominated by the Tutsi-orientated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and supported by the armed forces. Under its 2003 constitution, the head of state and the executive is a president who is directly elected for a 7-year term, which is renewable once. There is a two-chamber legislature, comprising a 26-member upper house, the Senate, and an 80-member lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. Senate members serve 8-year terms and 8 are appointed by the president, 12 are elected representatives of the 11 provinces and the city of Kigali, 4 are designated by the RPF-dominated Forum of Political Organizations, and 2 are academics elected by state and private universities. Deputies to the lower house include 53 elected by local elections, 24 posts reserved for women, 2 elected by the National Youth Council, and 1 elected by the Federation of the Associations of the Disabled. Political parties are banned from denoting themselves as specifically aligned with the Hutu or Tutsi communities, but the Tutsi-orientated RPF is allowed to operate.
The population comprises two ethnic groups: the Hutu majority, dominated (until the late 1950s) by the Tutsi minority; there is also a pygmy minority, the Twa.
Rwanda was linked to the neighbouring state of Burundi, 18911919, within the empire of German East Africa, then under Belgian administration as a League of Nations mandate, and then as a United Nations (UN) trust territory.
In 1961 the Tutsi monarchy was abolished, following a Hutu uprising, and Ruanda, as it was then called, became a republic.
Rwanda achieved full independence in 1962 as Rwanda, with Grégoire Kayibanda as its first president. Fighting between the Hutu and the Tutsi, which had broken out in 1959, resulted in the loss of some 20,000 lives before an uneasy peace was agreed in 1965.
Kayibanda was re-elected president in 1969, but by the end of 1972 the civil warfare had resumed, and in 1973 the head of the Hutu-dominated National Guard, Maj-Gen Juvenal Habyarimana, led a bloodless coup, ousting Kayibanda and establishing a military government. Meetings of the legislature were suspended. Habyarimana formed the Hutu-oriented Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND) as the only legally permitted political organization. A referendum held at the end of 1978 approved a new constitution, but military rule continued until 1980, when civilian rule was adopted.
Throughout the 1980s the Hutu community dominated Rwanda's political system and its army and Tutsis suffered great discrimination. Many fled to neighbouring Uganda, where some joined the guerrilla forces led by Yoweri Museveni, which overthrew the Ugandan dictatorship of Milton Obote, in 1986.
Tutsi fight for power
In 1986, Paul Kagame, a Tutsi who was head of military intelligence in Museveni's Ugandan army, formed, with Fred Rwigema, the Tutsi-oriented Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) with the objective of overthrowing the Hutu regime in Uganda. In 1990 the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda.
In response, the Rwandan government pledged to reform the constitution to allow other political parties to operate, and a power-sharing agreement was signed in September 1992. But this was repudiated in January 1993 by the FPR. After three years of on-off fighting, in August 1993 a peace accord was formally signed by the FPR and Habyarimana, the Arusha accord (as it was signed in Arusha, Tanzania). It provided for the formation of a power-sharing government and the establishment of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to monitor its implementation.
However, neither side abided by the accord and fighting continued. There were inter-ethnic massacres of Tutsis and Hutus by respective forces, which caused 1.5 million to flee their homes for refugee camps.
The situation deteriorated from October 2003, following the outbreak of a Tutsi versus Hutu civil war in neighbouring Burundi, after Burundi's Tutsi-dominated army assassinated Melchior Ndadye, a Hutu. This conflict claimed tens of thousands of lives and spread to Rwanda, where the under-funded UNAMIR was unable to keep the peace.
In April 1994, after President Habyarimana and Burundi's new president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, both Hutus, were killed when their plane was shot down over the Rwandan capital, Kigali. With fears that the FPR was responsible, fighting escalated. Between April and July 1994 over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates were massacred by the Hutu-led army and militia in what became known as the Rwandan genocide. With the Tutsi-led RPF making rapid advances on the capital, Kigali, and controlling the north, south, and east of Rwanda, the interim government fled the capital and Hutu terror bands (machetti
), shot and hacked to death Tutsi civilians in the countryside.
French troops were sent in June 1994 to Rwanda to attempt to protect civilians and evacuate foreign nationals, and a French-controlled safe zone was established in the southwest. But the French were unable to stabilize the situation.
New Tutsi-dominated government
In JulyAugust 1994 the FPR took control over Kigali and the remainder of the country. It announced a ceasefire and formed a transitional government dominated by the Tutsi RPF. It included several moderate Hutus and Pasteur Bizimungu a senior FPR member, although himself a Hutu was appointed president, but the real power was held by the vice-president, Paul Kagame. Hutu-oriented parties were banned from operating.
The RPF's accession to power was accompanied by the flight from Rwanda of 2 million Hutus. Fearing reprisals, many fled to neighbouring eastern Zaire. This caused a refugee crisis. With water scarce and poor sanitary conditions, thousands died in a cholera epidemic at the Goma refugee camp. An international relief effort was subsequently launched, and efforts made to encourage the refugees to return to Rwanda. But many were unwilling to do so because of a justified fear of reprisals, as between 1994 and 1996 the RPF army exacted retribution against the Hutus.
A war crimes tribunal, set up in Tanzania to try individuals suspected of having planned or participated in atrocities during the Rwandan civil war, issued its first indictments in November 1995. The focus of its work was on genocide by Hutus. By April 2000, Rwandan courts had sentenced more than 300 people to death for their part in the 1994 genocide; around 120,000 people still awaited trial. In November 2001, several hundred young people and children were released after years of detention for alleged involvement in the 1994 genocide. However, many thousands of people remained in prison awaiting trial.
In 1996, Rwanda joined forces with Uganda and Laurent Kabila, a left-wing rebel leader in eastern Zaire, to invade Zaire in pursuit of Hutu militia who had fled there. This led to further fierce fighting and Hutu vs Tutsi killings. In 1998, after Kabila had become president of Zaire, which he renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), he ordered the TutsiRwandan army (and the Ugandan army) out of the country.
Their refusal to leave led to a second Congo war (19982002) in which Rwanda and Uganda sought to take over parts of the DRC, but were thwarted by the DRC's army, drawing in support from Angola and Zimbabwe. The conflict claimed over 3 million lives before Rwandan RPF forces left, in 2002.
Civil war also raged in Burundi 19932006, causing instability in Rwanda.
Attempts to rebuild Rwanda
Between 1996 and 1998 there were continued inter-ethnic killings by extremists in Rwanda.
In January 1997 Hutu extremists embarked on a wave of Tutsi killings, apparently in an attempt to wipe out those likely to testify against them before the war crimes tribunal. In August 1997, several hundred Rwandan Hutu militiamen carried out a massacre of refugees in a camp run by the UN refugee agencies housing Tutsis from former Zaire in Rwanda's northwestern region of Gisenyi, slaughtering more than 130 refugees as they slept. In December 1997 suspected Hutu rebels attacked a camp for Tutsi refugees in northwestern Rwanda, killing 271 people. In October 1998 the Rwandan army killed 378 rebels in an operation to clear rebels from the northwest.
In June 1999 Rwanda's government extended its mandate to rule for another four years. President Bizimungu became increasingly critical of the RPF regime and was ousted in March 2000. The legislature elected Kagame president, with Bernard Makuza prime minister. Bizimungu attempted to form an opposition party, but was not allowed to do so and was imprisoned 200207 for treason.
In 2003, the RPF regime held its first elections. Kagame was elected president with 95% of the vote and re-elected with 93% in 2010, after his major opponents were disqualified from participation. Meanwhile the RPF won landslide victories in the 2003 and 2008 assembly elections. After the September 2008 election, it had a majority of female deputies in parliament.
Rebuilding the country's economy has been a gradual process. It was helped by an April 2007 investment and trade agreement with Belgium, a key trading partner, and by development of tourism. But the country has many thousands orphaned and injured permanently by the civil war, and an estimated tenth of the population is HIV positive.
In 2007 Rwanda joined the East African Community and in 2009 the Commonwealth of Nations.
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