In 1994, Rwanda suffered a tragedy that left over one million of its citizens dead as a result of war and genocide. The war and genocide resulted in immense suffering to millions more. The war and genocide have had far-reaching repercussions for both Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa as a whole.


kmRwanda‟s recovery from the ravages of war and genocide is generally regarded as a rare success story in post-conflict reconstruction. Visitors to the country are impressed by its economic growth, security situation and cleanliness, as well as the orderliness of its people and the efficiency with which its institutions conduct business. To its passionate friends, Rwanda is a shining example of democratisation, reformation, and an effective and efficient government.


Supporters of the Rwandan government largely attribute Rwanda‟s success in post-war reconstruction to President Paul Kagame. The rebel general-turned-civilian politician cultivates a cult-image as the sole hero of the country‟s achievements. President Kagame is perceived by most outsiders as both invincible and indispensable to national and regional stability.


There is, however, more to Rwanda and Paul Kagame than new buildings, clean streets, and efficient government than President Kagame‟s famous friends in high places in Europe and America care to admit. Rwanda is essentially a hard-line, one-party, secretive police state with a façade of democracy. The ruling party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), has closed space for political participation. The RPF does not tolerate political opposition or open competition for power. The government ensures its monopoly of power by means of draconian restrictions on the exercise of the fundamental human rights of citizens. The press, civil society and opposition parties are deprived of freedom to operate freely. President Kagame and the ruling party that he leads depend on repression to stay in power.


State institutions, especially law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and security services, serve to protect the RPF‟s, and ultimately Kagame‟s power monopoly instead of protecting the fundamental human rights of citizens. Repression has again become particularly acute in recent months. There have been assassination attempts, killings and enforced disappearances of members of the press and political opposition within and outside Rwanda. Purges of political enemies, real and imagined, within the ruling party government continue unabated. These purges have now been extended to the military. A climate of fear and terror has enveloped the nation.

Rwanda is in crisis. The situation that prevails raises serious questions about the country‟s future. Are the country‟s development achievements sustainable? Can Rwanda continue to be peaceful while the government continues to be repressive and the majority of the people consider the government illegitimate? How do we balance individual freedoms and the requirement for a stable community? How should citizens respond when rulers mistake the state to be their personal estate and deprive their subjects of their inalienable rights? Should they resist peacefully or take up arms? If armed conflict is ill-advised, given its potential to cause human suffering, how else then can citizens reclaim their rights to hold the government accountable? What strategies would help Rwanda avoid violent conflict that appears inevitable and to set it on the path towards peaceful resolution of the problems that drive conflict in Rwandan society?


The challenges that faced Rwanda in the aftermath of the war and genocide


Rwanda endured destructive war during the period 1990–1994. The war culminated in the 1994 genocide and massacres. The genocide was planned and spearheaded by the government of the day. The war and genocide had very devastating consequences for Rwandan society. The genocide not only led to the suffering and death of a very large number of people (the number of the dead alone exceeds a million); it also resulted in virtual destruction of the country.


The war and genocide decimated the country‟s human capital. A significant part of the country‟s work force was killed during this period. Millions of citizens, including the majority of the personnel of state institutions, fled to exile after the fall of the rump government that had organised the genocide. Rooting and wanton destruction of both public and private property was widespread. Economic production ground to a halt. Institutions of the state ceased to function both as a result of the massacres and exile of their personnel as well as lack of infrastructure and equipment. By the end of the genocide, the public had lost all confidence in the state and its institutions as guarantors of public safety and security. By far the worst damage that the genocide inflicted on the country was the further destruction of of the already strained relations of mutual trust, tolerance and peaceful co-existence among the country‟s two major communities. The genocide ruptured relations between the Hutu and Tutsi communities at the individual, community and national level and left Rwandan society deeply and bitterly polarised along lines of ethnicity. Not only was Rwanda unstable internally, it also faced dangerous external threats. The forces that had led to the implementation of the genocide had re-grouped upon arrival in exile and were re-organising, re-arming, and making preparations to invade Rwanda and re-capture power.


As a result of the above and other challenges, the reconstruction of Rwanda in the aftermath of the war and genocide was a very difficult task. The principal challenges that faced the government that took power in the aftermath of the war and genocide included the following:


(a) Restoration of law and order;

(b) Organising the provision of humanitarian assistance to the population;

(c) Re-establishing and strengthening institutions of government to drive the reconstruction of the country;

(d) Encouraging and facilitating the peaceful repatriation, resettlement and re-integration of refugees;

(e) Laying a foundation for sound economic recovery and development;

(f) Establishing democracy and the rule of law; and

(g) Identifying and implementing strategies to promote national unity and reconciliation as foundations for sustainable peace and stability.


The status of political governance in Rwanda today


President Kagame has received numerous awards from foreign organizations crediting him with success in many areas, including fostering reconciliation in the aftermath of genocide, promoting peace, and reform of government. This section discusses the status of governance in Rwanda. The section seeks to prove that the image of Rwanda as a democratising, reforming and stable post-conflict country that President Kagame and his government and supporters portray it to be does not reflect the real situation. Rwanda is a one-party dictatorship under President Kagame. President Kagame has effectively corrupted the founding ideals of the RPF. Through RPF, President Kagame denies the people of Rwanda the opportunity to exercise their fundamental human rights, particularly the right of political participation. President Kagame is both corrupt and authoritarian. He uses repression to ensure his continued monopoly of power. State institutions violate the most fundamental human rights of the people, including the right to life and the integrity of the person, to keep the President Kagame in power. State security institutions enjoy impunity for grave human rights violations against critics and opponents of the government. President Kagame‟s abuse of the institutions of the state to support his quest for absolute power and economic gain is criminalising the fabric of the Rwandan state.


Destruction of the RPF as a democratic people’s movement.


The state of governance in Rwanda cannot be discussed in isolation from the character of the RPF and the quality of its leadership because of the very dominant role that the RPF in general and President Paul Kagame have played in the politics of post-genocide Rwanda. The RPF assumed control of government at the end of the genocide and civil war because it was the only opposition group with the military capacity to take on the organisers and perpetuators of the genocide.

At the end of the genocide, the RPF briefly cohabited in a coalition government with other organizations that had opposed the Habyarimana dictatorship. Since late 1995, the RPF has progressively assumed exclusive control of the state.


The RPF was originally established as a people‟s movement whose goal was to bring together under one umbrella, individuals and groups of different political backgrounds and ideological beliefs that shared a minimum political platform to promote democracy in Rwanda. From its founding in 1979 as the Rwandese Alliance for National Union (RANU) to its capture of state power in 1994, the RPF professed a commitment to the vision of a free, democratic order under an accountable government. The organisation not only permitted but encouraged open debate and inclusiveness in decision-making. As a rebel movement in the opposition, RPF not only preached, but also practiced internal unity, internal democracy, and a commitment to reconciliation of the Rwandan people. During the 1990–1994 war, the RPF reached out to and sought to build alliances with other like-minded groups to broaden the political base of forces struggling to end dictatorship in Rwanda.


The RPF is no longer the democratic, inclusive and principled organization that its founders and early leaders and members intended it to be. The organization has now become a caricature of its former self. All major decisions affecting the organization are made by the party leader, President Paul Kagame. Organs of the party are merely rubber stamps that serve to legitimise decisions already made by the party leader and his very few close advisers behind the scenes. The party, like the rest of the country, is engulfed by fear, held hostage to President Kagame‟s arbitrary and repressive rule. The culture of internal democracy and consensual decision-making that were at the core of the philosophy of the RPF before it came to power has ended. The concept of collective leadership that was crucial to maintaining accountability and legitimacy within the organization has ceased.


The RPF has, over time, been transformed into a vehicle to serve the political and economic interests of one person - the party president. President Kagame does not tolerate dissenting views within the RPF. The RPF has ceased to be a people‟s movement led by a democratically minded leadership. President Kagame has terrorised his peers and other members of RPF into submission to his will. The RPF has become President Kagame‟s fiefdom, a personal instrument for perpetuating autocratic rule.


Rwanda as a de facto one-party state.


The prime objective of the struggle of the RPF, as well other groups that rose up during the late 1980s and early 1990s to take on the challenge of opposing the Habyarimana dictatorship, was to establish democracy in Rwanda. The RPF‟s management of the affairs of Rwanda since the genocide and civil war has led to reversing, rather than consolidating, the gains that the struggle for democracy had achieved prior to the genocide. In 1991, the Habyarimana regime (under pressure from the military struggle of the RPF, domestic opposition and the international community) introduced reforms that made it possible for opposition groups not only to operate freely, but to participate in coalition governments pending democratic elections. Power-sharing was also a core tenet of the Arusha Peace Agreement. Rwanda‟s 2003 Constitution reiterated the requirement for power- sharing.


In practice, the RPF has progressively reduced the space for other political forces to operate in the country. The 1995 ousting of Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu and other critical ministers started a trend towards progressive consolidation of the RPF‟s monopolistic control of the machinery of the state. The RPF has, since then, striven for unrivalled political supremacy in Rwanda. The organization exercises absolute control over all organs of the state. It has achieved this political supremacy not through an open and free process of competition with other political forces, but through repressive laws, administrative practices and the use of the security services to frustrate the exercise of the civil and political rights of opponents. The RPF has paid only lip service to constitutional provisions relating to the right of political participation, inclusion and power-sharing.


Not only is the opposition excluded from participating in government; it is effectively barred from undertaking any activities inside the country at all.The RPF enjoys unchallenged power in Rwanda. Rwanda is far less free now than it was prior to the genocide.


State and separation of powers


The political system of the Rwandan state lacks mechanisms of checks and balances that are essential for good governance and genuine democracy. The President has absolute control over the executive branch of government. The Executive, in turn, completely dominates other organs of government. Branches of government other than the Executive are deprived of their autonomy and legitimacy. The independence of the judiciary is compromised.




Rwanda has invested heavily in rebuilding its justice system since the genocide. Rwanda carried extensive reforms that ostensibly seek to create an impartial, independent and effective judiciary. The government has carried out a restructuring of its entire justice system, creating new justice sector institutions that are better organised, staffed by better-qualified personnel and better resourced. The government has also introduced new laws that sought to make legal processes more efficient and expeditious. New laws have been introduced to regulate the conduct of trials of cases that may be transferred from the tribunal and other national jurisdictions. The reforms that the country has undertaken have helped to improve the quality of Rwanda‟s justice system. Whereas most of the judges who conducted genocide trials prior to recent reforms had no legal education, all the judges of the courts are now qualified lawyers, as are the prosecutors. The bar has grown exponentially in terms of numbers. The skills of the personnel have been further enhanced through various training programs.


However, the functioning of the justice system is constrained by one very important factor, namely lack of judicial independence.


The judiciary enjoys nominal independence under the constitution and laws of Rwanda. In practice, the judiciary does not enjoy independence. The independence of the Rwanda judiciary is compromised. The President, through the control that he exercises over the Senate Chamber of the legislature, controls most senior judges (including the Supreme Court) and through them, the rest of the judiciary. Most of the members of the judiciary are members of the RPF. The RPF compels its members who have been appointed to the judiciary to continue to owe allegiance to the party; to participate in some activities of the party and to pay financial contributions to the party‟s campaign and daily operation.


The judiciary is particularly vulnerable to outside interference in cases involving political issues. The President, his close advisers and security services personnel frequently coerce members of the judiciary to make judicial decisions to suit the interests of the government. Instead of being the protector and defender of citizens‟ fundamental human rights, the judiciary has become one of the main tools by which the government perpetuates authoritarian rule by persecuting opponents and critics. Law enforcement and judicial institutions rarely investigate, prosecute and prosecute human rights abuses by the security forces, and when they do, proceedings are undertaken to protect rather punish perpetrators. Judicial and law enforcement authorities are used to persecute government critics and opponents through tramped up charges of genocide, revisionism, genocide ideology, corruption, terrorism and more recently, immoral conduct. Victims of political motivated prosecutions are not allowed bail pending conclusion of investigations. The police and security services routinely re-arrest persons who are granted bail or acquitted by the courts. Victims of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture, and malicious prosecutions have no opportunity to receive redress.


Lack of an independent and impartial judiciary has many implications. It promotes impunity. It compels critics and opponents of the regime to flee the country, as they can not expect justice in cases fabricated by the government to persecute them. Lack of an independent and impartial judiciary is probably the greatest constraint to the development of democracy in Rwanda. The absence of an independent and impartial justice system contributed to perpetuating injustice, instability, and conflict in Rwandan society. Without an independent judiciary, a cornerstone of the rule of law, it is difficult to create and sustain social and economic progress.




The Reform of the Rwandan Parliament is imperative. The process of electing the Rwanda legislature and the legal framework that regulates its operation nature serve to entrench autocratic rule. The Rwandan Parliament does not derive its legitimacy from the electorate. RPF) and the parties allied to it lack fair, transparent and democratic mechanisms for choosing candidates to represent them. The process by which parties chose candidates is flawed and corrupt. Individuals are put on lists through unclear and undemocratic ways. The electorate have mechanism for holding members of the legislature accountable. The fact that legislators do not have specific constituencies, undermines development, as legislators do dot have specific communities to which they are required to account. Because of the corrupt ways in which they are appointed, legislators are not independent. Instead of becoming representatives of the people, legislators act as party functionaries for fear of being dismissed.


Members of the legislature are not accountable to the electorate and serve to promote the interests of and discredited party functionaries who influence their placement or retention on the party lists. Debates in parliament are not based on the social – economic conditions occasioned by peoples‟ problems and aspirations. A significant proportion of legislators are always recalled before end of their terms purely as a result of internal party intrigues which have no relationship with the performance of legislators or the views of the electorate. The turn over of the legislature is so high that it affects the effectiveness of the institution. Consequently, there is constant fear by parliamentarians to expose excesses or failures of government officials. As a result, parliament is unable to exercise over-sight over or to control government performance as required by law. The legislature merely serves the purpose of rubber stamping decisions making by cabinet, acting as attack dogs of the regime by harassing opposition leaders and ridiculing cabinet members who have fallen out with Paul Kagame.


Democratisation and the rule of law


The ousting of opponents of the RPF from government in the summer of 1995 set a pattern of intolerance for political opposition that has only grown worse with the passage of time. Throughout the period of transition (1994–2003), the RPF continually devised strategies to weaken, disable and destroy political opposition. Political parties other than the RPF were prohibited from operating during this period. An attempt by former President Pasteur Bizimungu, perhaps the only person who could have challenged the RPF during the elections, to set up a new party, was stopped. The former President and other promoters of the proposed party were arrested and imprisoned on what are widely considered to be trumped up charges. The RPF also orchestrated the banning of the MDR, the only one among existing political parties that was considered capable of mounting a credible challenge to the RPF during the elections that were scheduled to take place in 2003.


Prior to the 2003 elections, the police, security services and the military increased repression of potential opponents of the RPF. Genuine opposition parties were denied registration and security agencies made it difficult for independent candidates to register. In addition, the RPF had a monopoly of the government-owned media. The government used intimidation, smear campaigns and insults to silence opponents, whether they were international NGOs, civil society, newspapers or political parties. Intimidation against government opponents went to the extent of making threats of physical violence including death. In one speech, the RPF President threatened that those opposed to the government would be „wounded‟ and „ground to dust.‟


The political transition that Rwanda begun after the genocide has, instead of leading to democracy, resulted in the legitimization and consolidation of authoritarian rule. Rwanda is now a very authoritarian regime with a façade of a democracy.


The Constitution and other laws that the RPF introduced in 2003 made it not just difficult, but virtually impossible for the opposition to form political parties and to compete for political power, thereby creating a situation of electoral authoritarianism.


While the 2003 Constitution and other laws allow political parties to be established, the reality is that Kagame abhors political opposition. The Kagame government exercises zero tolerance of political opposition. The RPF uses repressive means to retain power. A plethora of official and informal state security institutions strictly enforce restrictions on the exercise of the right to political participation.


Rwanda holds regular elections, but their outcome is pre-determined because of the legal, administrative and physical obstacles that the RPF has put in place to deny opposition to compete for power. There is no meaningful competition for political power between the RPF and other political parties and thus no real opportunity to change the government through elections. Elections are systematically manipulated and heavily conditioned by the RPF in order to ensure its victory. Elections are usually rigged so massively at local levels that the RPF is usually compelled to “doctor” the results a second time to give the satellite or proxy parties that serve to give the RPF some legitimacy enough votes to meet the threshold requirements for representation in Parliament. The repression that the RPF has used to entrench itself in power continues to this day. People who are perceived as posing a potential challenge to the RPF in Rwandan politics are subjected to persecution that makes their political activities impossible.


Persecution of real or imagined opponents of the government has included constant police surveillance, assaults, arrests, illegal detention, torture, and politically motivated prosecutions, such as those of Pasteur Bizimungu, Col. Patrick Karegeya, Charles Ntakirutinka, Alfred Kalisa, Stanislas Biseruka, Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda.


Other Rwandans perceived as opponents of the RPF (such as Judge Augustine Cyiza and Dr Leonard Hitimana) have become victims of extra-judicial killings and involuntary disappearances.


Some who have fallen out with Kagame and his regime and have fled into exile still meet death in mysterious circumstances. Former Interior Minister Seth Sendashonga and Deputy Theoneste Lizinde were gunned down in Nairobi, Kenya.


Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Army Chief of Staff, has recently survived an assassination attempt. Killings of opposition politicians and other critical voices continue. Journalist Jean Rugambage and Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, Vice President of the Democratic Green Party, both of whom were recently murdered, are the latest high profile victims of the widespread state-inspired violence. Many people continue to flee the country due to this state-inspired violence ( see annexe for a partial list of senior political and military leaders who have fled the country since 1994).


The explicitly violent and repressive way in which the RPF deals with opposition and critical civil society has turned Rwanda back into a de facto one-party dictatorship. Freedom of expression is severely limited. Critical voices in civil society and the media have been silenced, and the regime has become even more repressive since the end of the transition in 2003.


The law guarantees freedom of the press, but the media remains tightly controlled by the government. Media outlets are either state-controlled, co-opted or constantly under siege. The government has used the curbs on the media to suppress criticism or dissent. The security services sometimes co-opt independent journalists by bribing them with money. Journalists who refuse to toe the line or be co-opted have often been subjected to threats and intimidation. The Kagame government uses trumped up criminal charges to intimidate journalists who express dissenting or critical views. For example, all journalists of the Umurabyo newspaper have been arrested and slammed with charges attracting long imprisonment terms. Some journalists have either been killed (Jean Leonard Rugambage of the newspaper Umuvugizi newspaper being the latest example) or have become victims of involuntary disappearance. Others have had to flee into exile to escape persecution. Several newspapers have been banned outright.


The threats, intimidations and other persecution at the hands of the security services have created a climate whereby journalists exercise self-censorship in order to avoid the wrath of the security services. Freedom House has reported “Rwandan media are officially censored and constrained by fear of reprisals. Journalists interviewed admitted that they censor their own writing and that the authorities have made it clear that certain topics cannot be discussed.” The government has justified the restrictions on media by referring to the genocide; it argues that the restrictions are necessary to prevent ethnic strife and to ensure national stability. The international media watch dog Reporters Sans Frontieres has branded Paul Kagame as one of the world‟s most virulent „predators‟ of press freedom


The government passed legislation to punish sectarianism and discrimination. The government has, since 2003, used accusations of “sectarianism,” “divisionism,” and “spreading of genocide ideology” to curtail political opposition and civil society work, most specifically human rights work. These crimes are not properly defined in the relevant legislation. The government has exploited the ambiguity of the anti-sectarian legislation to limit freedom of expression and to persecute individual opponents (including leaders of political parties such as Victoire Ingabire) and critical members of civil society. Charges of sectarianism have been levelled against the Liberal Party for its advocacy on behalf of survivors of the genocide.


The government exercises intense control over the non-governmental sector by both overt and covert methods. Civil society as a whole operates under very tight restrictions. Civil society groups which do not toe the government line are not allowed to operate freely. Civil society organizations speak publicly and influence decision-making only when their views are in line with those of the RPF and the government. Independent human rights organizations, in particular, have been a target of the security services. Human rights groups have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and persecution of such intensity that most of them have ceased operations and their members have been driven to exile.


Marginalization and exclusion of the Hutu community


The authoritarian character of the government is compounded by its narrow political base. The Rwanda state has all the trappings of a democratic system of government, but real power lies in the hands of the President and a small group of military officers and a handful of civilians. As will be elaborated on later in this paper, Rwanda has two parallel governments, an informal one and a formal one. The formal government is controlled by the informal one. The President and the inner circle of his close associates that monopolises political power and marginalizes and excludes the rest of the people of Rwanda from political participation constitute the informal government. The membership of the informal government that effectively controls the Rwandan state comes exclusively from the Tutsi minority group.


All Rwandans, regardless of ethnicity, are victims of the authoritarian character of the government that rules Rwanda. The core group that controls the Rwandan state does not represent or even act in the best interests of the entire Tutsi community. There are many in the Hutu community who are beneficiaries of the political system that prevails in Rwanda. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the Rwanda government is dominated by the Tutsi minority. The Tutsi constitute the inner circle that wields real power in Rwanda. The Tutsi are disproportionately represented in institutions of the state responsible for the coercive use of power. The Tutsi dominate the command of the military and security institutions. The control of these institutions is crucial to sustaining the Kagame dictatorship. The Tutsi are also disproportionately represented in the key civilian appointments that the President Kagame and his inner circle make at all levels of government. The perception of majority of the Hutu population is that the government is dominated by the Tutsi and that the government discriminates against them. The RPF has failed to establish an inclusive political order, but has instead entrenched authoritarian, minority rule.


Space for political participation has narrowed even further, instead of expanding, since the 2003 elections. Lack of space for political participation has disenfranchised the Hutu majority. The RPF, under Paul Kagame, has failed to expand its popular base. The Hutu community is marginalised from a meaningful share of power. The Hutu who serve in government are only surrogates of the RPF who lack legitimacy in their community. They are kept in office, often for very brief periods, for the sole purpose of giving the government an appearance of embracing political pluralism. The Hutu community perceives the RPF as an instrument of political domination by the minority. The government is not considered legitimate by the majority of the population in general, and the Hutu community in particular.


National unity and reconciliation


Promoting national reconciliation was the foremost priority of Rwandan society in the aftermath of the genocide. Post-genocide Rwanda has adopted a wide range of policies and undertaken many initiatives (in the justice domain as well as other areas) to promote national unity and reconciliation. The non-legal initiatives that the government has undertaken with a view to promoting national unity and reconciliation include the restoration and maintenance of public security; the abolition of identity cards classifying citizens by ethnicity and the prohibition of references to ethnicity in official documents; the repatriation and resettlement of more than two million refugees and about a million internally displaced persons; the re-integration of thousands of members of the former government army into the military; the enactment of legislation to punish the propagation of discrimination and sectarianism; the introduction of public service recruitment and management policies based on merit rather than patronage; the introduction of merit-based admission to educational institutions; the establishment of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and the Demobilisation and Re-integration Commission; the undertaking of many anti-corruption programs; and the adoption of a national poverty reduction program. Rwanda has also sought to use justice to promote reconciliation. Accountability for the genocide has been pursued through both the ordinary criminal justice system as well as Gacaca Courts.


Most objective observers agree that whereas the above initiatives to ensure peaceful co-existence have been worthwhile, genuine reconciliation remains elusive. Several factors have acted as a hindrance to the process of national reconciliation. These factors include President Kagame‟s pursuit of absolute power, his intolerance for political opposition, persecution of opponents and critics of the RPF, exclusion of the Hutu community from a meaningful share of power and the failure the selective and partisan nature of the processes of accountability for past human rights violations that Rwanda has undertaken.


As a result of the policies that the RPF has pursued since it took control of government, Rwandan society remains deeply divided.


The politics of ethnicity remain intractable in Rwanda. The majority of the Hutu middle-class that was ousted from power in 1994 remains in exile, un-reconciled to the new political order, biding time and hoping for a regime change. Some armed insurgents continue to wage war against the Rwandan state from their sanctuaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo, sixteen years after the genocide. The externally-based unarmed opposition calls for dialogue on how to resolve the country‟s continuing crisis, but the government says that the conflict has been resolved and there is no need for negotiation of a settlement. The majority Hutu population inside Rwanda feel marginalised and excluded by the government, and they question the legitimacy of the government. The Tutsi community itself is fearful and divided over the direction and future of the country. The Kagame government has failed to engage and lead Rwandan society in genuine reconciliation.


The social conditions of post-genocide Rwanda remain constructed in terms of ethnic identity. The reconciliation that the Rwanda government envisions is politically constructed on the terms of the RPF and President Kagame‟s, which are insufficient for ensuring the long-term stability of Rwanda. The marginalization and exclusion of the Hutu population has very profound implications for the long-term stability of Rwanda and the security of its population.


There cannot be genuine reconciliation in Rwanda until the grievances of the Hutu community over the issues of political participation, as well as the guarantees for the minorities, equal citizenship before the law, access to resources and accountability for human rights abuses are addressed.


State human rights practices


Rwanda has a history of human rights violations stretching back decades. Rwandans experienced particularly horrendous violence, including genocide, during the 1990s. The general human rights situation in Rwanda has improved as armed conflict within Rwanda‟s borders decreased. However, the human rights records of state security services remain a matter of grave concern. Rwanda remains a very tightly controlled society. The government relies on repression to enforce its control of the population. The security services of the state regard dissent and criticism of the government as treason. Some in the security services have a licence to kill and maim innocent citizens or to make them disappear without a trace.


An atmosphere of palpable fear (far exceeding the worst that was experienced even during the notorious dictatorship of President Idi Amin of Uganda, where many Rwandese had sought asylum) has enveloped the country. Rwanda has degenerated into a criminal state. Victims of human rights violations committed against persons considered to be opponents of the government do not have an opportunity for seeking redress from the courts. Agents of the state are, to this day, still able to commit grave human rights abuses (killings, torture, and disappearances) without fear of being held accountable. In fact, impunity for human rights violations is now far more deeply entrenched than it has ever been in Rwanda‟s history.


President Kagame‟s security services have taken the level of state repression against political opponents a step further, by extending the sphere of operations of the murderous networks beyond Rwanda‟s borders (as demonstrated by Deo Mushayidi‟s kidnapping in Burundi, the assassination attempt against General Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa, and attempts to kidnap journalist Dominique Makeli and Jean Bosco Gasasira in Uganda


Paul Kagame’s leadership: An assessment


No person has exerted as much influence on the developments in post-genocide Rwanda as much as Paul Kagame. Until 2000, Paul Kagame wielded strong influence over Rwanda‟s affairs by virtue of his position as Vice President of the Republic, Commander in Chief of the RPA and President of the RPF.


Since 2000, Paul Kagame has governed Rwanda as an absolute ruler. The reconstruction of post-genocide Rwanda is generally cited as an example of a phenomenal success story, and President Paul Kagame is hailed as its sole hero. President Kagame actively cultivates a cult-image as a brilliant visionary with exceptional strategic thinking skills, with impeccable credentials as a reformer to match. This image has been crafted through a combination of an elaborate public relations strategy and repression that muzzles voices that hold governments in other countries accountable. President Kagame muzzles domestic opponents and critics through unapologetic terror. He silences voices in the international community (especially leaders of western governments) by invoking their failures over the 1994 genocide.


The image of Paul Kagame‟s leadership that public relations advisers (including well-paid lobbyists in some of the major capitals of the world) and foreign friends seek to portray of of President Kagame dwells exclusively on Rwanda‟s successes. President Kagame is often celebrated by some western political, business and civil society leaders for visionary leadership, success in reconciling Rwandans, and economic policies that promise transformation similar to the experience of the Asian tiger economies. In these accounts, Rwanda is portrayed as a united, strong, peaceful, stable, and growing nation with the potential to become a model for the rest of Africa and the world.


Few of Rwanda‟s bilateral and multi-lateral partners are willing to confront the true content and form of President Kagame‟s leadership that should be a matter of concern, and to discuss the implications of shortcomings of President Kagame‟s leadership. Yet, discussion of the disparity between prevailing perceptions about President Kagame‟s leadership and the reality of post genocide Rwanda‟s governance cannot be avoided indefinitely. Perceptions about Rwanda shape the policies of outsiders (governments, international organizations and civil society) on Rwanda. These policies, in turn, have implications for Rwanda‟s future and the fate of her people. What is the reality of President Kagame‟s leadership for the people of Rwanda?


The RPF has registered many achievements since 1994. Its army is generally credited with having stopped the genocide, although there are genocide survivors who do not share this view. Its government re-established law and order, restored essential social services, repatriated and resettled millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, and established effective state institutions, that have rescued Rwanda from the brink of becoming a failed state. The government has, with the often grudgingly acknowledged assistance of the international community, helped to spur economic recovery. President Kagame rightly deserves his share of credit for Rwanda‟s progress in reconstruction after the war and genocide.


In spite of positive developments cited in the previous paragraph, the general pattern and trend of Rwanda‟s development has been negative. As indicated in the section of this paper that discusses the status of governance in contemporary Rwanda, Rwanda has failed to transition to good governance and democracy. The RPF manipulated the transition process to entrench its monopoly of political and economic power. Rwanda is a one-party authoritarian state, controlled by President Kagame through a small clique of Tutsi military officers and civilian cadres of the RPF from behind the scenes. The majority Hutu community remains excluded from a meaningful share of political power. State institutions are as effective as they are repressive. The government relies on severe repression to maintain its hold on power.


President Kagame uses the coercive instruments of the state (the military, security services and police) to sustain himself in power against the will of the people. State security officers continue to commit grave human rights abuses to suppress all political opposition and critics of government. Impunity for gross human rights abuses is worse than it was prior to the genocide. Rwanda remains deeply divided along ethnic lines. As a result of these and other factors, Rwanda remains unstable and prone to violent, identity-based conflict. President Kagame equally bears responsibility for these negative aspects of the process of reconstruction of Rwanda since 1994.

Rwanda is less free today than it was prior to the genocide. There is less room for political participation than there was in 1994. Civil society is less free and effective. The media is less free. The Rwanda government is more repressive than the one that it overthrew. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who fled the country in 1994 remain in exile because of the repressive environment that prevails in the country. Large numbers of citizens continue to flee the country each year. Rwandan entrepreneurs continue to relocate to neigbhoring countries, out of fear of resumption of armed conflict in coming years. Rwanda‟s much acclaimed progress in economic development is not sustainable. Rwanda has a democratic deficit. A society that does not discuss or debate issues affecting its people will sooner or later seek to break out of enforced silence and to assert its rights, sometimes by resorting to reciprocal violence as a means of last resort to confront an entrenched dictatorship. Rwanda also remains very unstable and vulnerable to violent conflict. The development of physical infrastructure in an environment marked by mistrust, fear and social polarisation does not equate with sustainable development.




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