Between April and July 1994, over 1 million Rwandan people, mainly Tutsi and some Hutu in the opposition, were killed by the genocidal regime. So many people were involved in the killing. Those who planned and organised the genocide include the late President Major General Juvenal Habyarimana, who was killed by his own entourage, the Presidential Guard, the National Gendarmerie, the Rwanda Government Forces (Army), the MRND-CDR militia (Interahamwe), local officials, and some in the general Hutu population.
Preparation to carry out genocide by these groups involved the training of the militia, the arming of both the militia and some sections of the population, the establishment and widespread use of a hate radio called Radio Television Libre de Mille Collines (RTLM), and the distribution of lists of those who were to be targeted. Repeatedly, these groups prevented the establishment of the Arusha Peace Accords.
When genocide began, the United Nations had a peace-keeping force – the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) – in Rwanda of about 2500 troops. The first reaction of the United Nations, and indeed of the other nations that had their own nationals in Rwanda, was to withdraw their troops and their nationals respectively. In the circumstances the RPF had to fight again in order to stop the genocide.
The Armed Struggle
Most of the world had never heard of the RPF until October 1st, 1990- the day the war of liberation against the military dictatorship in Kigali began.
Taking up arms was not an easy decision to make. War has always been the last option in the consideration of the RPF. However, all efforts for peaceful democratic change in our country had so far proved futile.
It had become apparent that only by taking up arms could anyone wishing to put an end to the dictatorship and the violation of our peoples’ fundamental rights hope to succeed. The regime had amassed a huge coercive state machinery using violence to oppress the people. The taking up of arms against the regime was therefore considered not just a right, but a patriotic and national obligation.
When the war began, Rwandan peasants and workers, students and intellectuals, men and women from every region and “ethnic” or social group, responded to the call of the Rwandan Patriotic Front to rid our country of dictatorship.
With the beginning of the armed struggle, France, Belgium and Zaire hurriedly dispatched troops to Rwanda to support the then dictatorial regime.
The Search for Peace
As the war of liberation escalated, RPF still attempted to seek peaceful ways of resolving the conflict. On the 29th of March, 1991, in Zaire, the RPF and the then Government of Rwanda signed the N’sele Ceasefire Agreement which provided for, among other things, cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of foreign troops, exchange of prisoners of war and, finally, serious political negotiations to end the conflict. Immediately after signing the agreement, the Government of Rwanda ridiculed the said agreement as the war intensified.
As the regime became more desperate, massacres of Tutsi in various parts of the country became widespread in a deliberate effort of ethnic cleansing. The regime used violence to harass and silence the emerging internal political opposition. Violence was also used to derail the peace process. After a long period of negotiation that took place in Arusha, Tanzania, the Arusha Peace Agreement was signed on August 4th, 1993.
The Arusha Peace Agreement was preceded by the signing of the Agreement on a new ceasefire, as well as parties agreeing on the following principles:
i) That there was neither democracy nor the practice of the rule of law in Rwanda;
ii) That a broad-based government of national unity, including parties of different political persuasions was necessary to oversee the transition to democracy;
iii) That the Rwandan army was not national in character and that it was necessary to set up a new truly national army from among members of the two existing armies; and
iv) That Rwandan refugees have a legitimate inalienable right to return home.
The Fall of the Genocidal Regime
On July 4th, 1994, the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali, fell to the forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the armed wing of the RPF. The members of the so-called Provisional Government (established after the plane crash that claimed the lives of the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi), the armed groups, and many people who were involved in genocide, fled mainly to DRC (then called Zaire) and to Tanzania. Over 3 million refugees fled to Tanzania and DRC.
On July 19th, 1994, RPF established a Government of National Unity with four other political parties, with a Prime Minister from one of these parties as the head of government business. These parties are the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic Party, and the Republican Democratic Movement. Weeks later, the National Assembly was nominated by the four above-mentioned parties plus three other smaller parties, namely, the Islamic Party, the Socialist Party, and the Democratic Union for Rwandan People, in addition to the RPF. In this Parliament with 70 seats, RPF has only 6 representatives.
Two years after the establishment of the government, almost 4000 elements from the army of the previous regimes were integrated into the new national army, RPA.
The Cabinet, the National Assembly, and other institutions of government have not, for the first time, been established on the basis of ethnicity. They are not “Tutsi-led” or “Tutsi-dominated”, as the enemies of the government have quite often alleged. It is the first time in the history of Rwanda that inclusive institutions are being established deliberately to fight the politics of division that have polarised the Rwandan society for so long, thereby sowing the seeds of genocide.
Seven Years of Progress
Seven years after the 1994 genocide, the Government of Rwanda began the difficult task of rebuilding the country. In 1994, no schools, hospitals, factories and government departments were functioning. Public utilities like telephones, electricity and water were also not functioning. There was total displacement of the population, both internally and externally. There was no civil service and the government’s administrative capacity had collapsed. Civil servants had either been killed during the genocide or had fled the country. Survivors of genocide were still scattered all over the country and traumatized. Genocide had further polarised the Rwandan society.
The Government of National Unity and the Rwandan people, with some support from the International community, have registered progress in the difficult process of moving from emergency to long-term development.
The first challenge that the government faced was to stabilize the country and create conditions that would enable the whole population to enjoy peace and security.
About three-and-a half million Rwandan refugees have been repatriated and resettled. this is a phenomenal repatriation record in world refugee history. The process of reintegration of refugees and members of the former government army (Ex-FAR) has further promoted reconciliation. About 15,000 elements of ex-FAR have been integrated into the Rwandan National Army, the RPA, at various command levels, as well as within the rank and file.
In promoting reconciliation, a Unity and Reconciliation Commission was established to consolidate the government policy of redressing the legacy of divisive politics that has been a prominent feature of Rwanda for many decades. The commission continues to raise public awareness through civic education initiatives (Ingando). Furthermore, there has been extensive dialog, which, took place under the leadership of the President of Rwanda, touched on unity and reconciliation, justice, democratization, security and economy.
The Government of national Unity has made progress in building the justice system from scratch. Following the enactment of the Genocide Law, trials have taken place to bring to justice the genocide suspects. So far, (…) have been convicted and (…) acquitted. Currently, there are over 120,000 genocide suspects in overcrowded prisons. About 12 million Rwanda francs are spent annually on looking after these prisoners. To deal with this caseload expeditiously, the government has initiated a participatory form of justice (GACACA) that draws from the experience of traditional pre-colonial Rwandan society. This was operational by the end of the year 2000.
Through a Genocide Survivors Fund, the government provides support in education, shelter, health, and income-generating activities to the most vulnerable amongst the survivors. About 5% of government revenue collected each year(approximately 4 billion Rwanda francs) is contributed to this fund. Donations from the public or private sector, as well as from the international community are welcome.
A Human Rights Commission has been established to promote the rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights of citizens.
On the political front, the Government of National Unity has made progress in maintaining the inclusiveness of the broad-based government as an indispensable component of the new political dispensation. A policy of decentralisation has been initiated to involve people in grassroots communities in decision-making. This will enhance their participation in activities to transform their poor conditions. Local elections have already taken place at the cell and sector levels. Elections at the commune and province levels took place at the end of the year 2000.
A Legal and Constitutional Commission has been established to consult all Rwandan citizens on what kind of Constitution Rwanda should have at the end of the transition period.
Transparency and accountability within government institutions have been identified and promoted as critical ingredients necessary for effective and efficient government. To that effect, a number of institutions have been established, namely the National Examinations Board, the National Tender Board, the Auditor General’s Office and the Rwanda Revenue Authority. In addition, government will further require public officials to declare their assets in accordance with a National Leadership Code of Conduct.
On December 31st 2001, Rwanda unveiled the new National Flag, the Coat of Arms and the National Anthem.
Economic recovery has been consistent since 1994 when real GDP declined by 50% and inflation stood at 65%.
Security has been restored to all the 12 administrative provinces of Rwanda. Undoubtedly, this is a peace dividend from Rwanda’s involvement in the DRC.
Rwanda has been welcomed to join the East African Cooperation (EAC), in pursuit of greater cooperation and economic integration. Rwanda is also an active member of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA).