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The 'new Rwanda': 1994-present

The 'new Rwanda': 1994-present

Political developments

In July 1994, a transitional 'Government of National Unity' as well as the 'National Assembly of the Transition' was established under the presidency of Pasteur Bizimungu. Based on the 1993 Arusha Accords, the new government sought to overcome the divisive politics of the past and establish a political structure founded on the principles of democratization, inclusiveness, decentralization, justice, rule of law, and respect for human rights. At present, eight political parties are represented in the government: the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF); Rwandan Democratic Movement (MDR); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Liberal Party (PL); Christian Democratic Party (PDC); and the Islamic Democratic Party (PDI). The new political landscape of Rwanda is nonetheless dominated by two large parties - the RPF and the MDR. In early 2000, Paul Kagame was unanimously elected president by the National Assembly.

Over the last eight years, the transitional government has made substantial progress in bringing about stability and development on the political, economic, and social fronts. The legacy of the civil war and genocide was a devastated country which, beyond recovering from the human tragedy, required massive rehabilitation to physical infrastructure, economic and social services, and institutional capacity. In addition, the country has had to cope with the return of 3 million refugees. Ongoing structural problems continue to pose a massive challenge, as do the high incidence of poverty; huge numbers of child- and female-headed households; lack of skilled human resources; environmental degradation and recurrent droughts; obstacles to trade such as high transport costs and unfavourable terms of trade; high HIV/AIDS prevalence; housing shortages; and livestock depletion. Nevertheless, with substantial support from the international community, which shifted its attention from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction and long-term development in 1995, services have resumed and economic growth has risen steadily.

Reconciliation lies at the heart of government policy and a number of actions have been implemented to further political reform. Several commissions were established in 1999, most notably the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, which has organized various nationwide and local consultations, including two National Summits on Unity and Reconciliation held in October 2000 and October 2002; and the National Human Rights Commission, established to examine human rights violations and promote human rights awareness.

Advances have also been made towards democratization. Decentralization has been furthered with the passing of a decentralization law in 2001, dividing the country into 106 districts and 11 provinces. Local elections were held in 1999, and district elections in 2001. A Constitutional Commission was set up in 1999 to undertake a national consultation in order to prepare a new constitution. This will lay down the nature of the electoral system; the division of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government; and set out decision-making procedures and the legal framework of the country. In November 2002 Rwandans came together to debate a draft of this constitution. The constitution is due to be submitted to a national referendum in 2003, paving the way for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2003.

Despite these moves, and the government's adherence to principles of good governance and to furthering the democratization process, the recent political situation in the country has not been without controversy. The legitimacy of the local elections in 1999 was criticized by some for the failure to use secret ballots - voters lined up publicly behind the candidate of their choice (Uvin 2001). Concerns have been voiced over restrictions on the activities of rival political forces to the RPF and the concentration of power in the hands of a small group. There are also concerns about human rights abuses, in particular in the north of the country.

Human Rights Watch
'Rwanda: The Search for Security and Human Rights Abuses'
Norwegian Refugee Council update on Rwandan IDPs
Amnesty International on disappearances and killings in northern Rwanda
WRITENET 'Rwanda update to end February 1998'
S. da Camara, 'The European Union's Political and Development Response to Rwanda', 2001
World Bank
Overview of the government line on political and social developments since 1994
Emergency Recovery Programme
Official website of the government of Rwanda
United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network, Nairobi (IRIN)
A. Inyumba, 'Resorting Human Dignity and Reconciling the People of Rwanda', 2002
Human Rights Internet
'Rwanda Commission on Human Rights', 2001
UNHCR's 'Situation of Human Rights in Rwanda', March 2001
Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs
United Nations Development Programme
'Local Governance and Poverty Reduction in Rwanda' per cent20V per cent20Rwanda per cent20CP.pdf
International Crisis Group
'Consensual Democracy in Post Genocide Rwanda: Evaluating the March 2001 District Elections', October 2001
Constitutional Commission
'National Program For Strengthening Good Governance For Poverty Reduction In Rwanda', March 2002

War with the Congo

The governance situation has impacted on relations with external donors, many of whom have consequently been reluctant to provide direct financial support to the government (Uvin 2001). However, most controversy about the new Rwandan government surrounds its military action in the Congo.

In 1996, in a bid to halt incursions into Rwanda by armed groups operating out of refugee camps in eastern Congo, Rwanda allied with Uganda and the Congolese opposition led by Laurent Kabila to oust the regime of Mobutu. Kabila eventually took power and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). However, the Rwandese armed groups remained in the DRC and stepped up their incursions into Rwanda. In August 1998, Rwandan and Ugandan forces entered the DRC to support a new Congolese rebel movement against their former ally. In August 1999, the various African governments who had rallied to support the two sides and the rebel groups signed the Lusaka Agreement to stop the war and provide the framework for peace.

Progress in implementation of the Lusaka Accord has been slow, and Rwandan troops remained active in eastern DRC until a bilateral agreement was signed between Rwanda and the DRC in July 2002 in Pretoria that provided for the disarming of the Rwandese armed groups in the DRC and the withdrawal of Rwandese troops from the DRC.

Particularly damaging during this war has been the impact on relations between Rwanda and Uganda, who had previously been close allies, especially seen in the help that Uganda gave the RPF in organizing their return to Rwanda in 1990. The fighting between the armies of Uganda and Rwanda in Kisangani, Congo, in 1999 and 2000 heralded serious damage to relations between these two states, although with the mediation of the United Kingdom relations have now improved somewhat.

Since 1997 a demobilization and reintegration programme has been underway to demobilize many RPA troops, including ex-FAR (Forces Armées Rwandaises) troops who had been absorbed into the RPA under the Arusha Agreement. Since the cessation of hostilities with the DRC, a new programme has been approved by the World Bank to support this process.

OneWorld's special coverage of the war per cent3A per cent2F per cent2Fwww per cent2Eoneworld per cent2Eorg per cent2Fdispatches per cent2Fcongo per cent2Ffront per cent2Eshtml
C. André and L. Luzolele Lola, 'The European Union's aid policy towards countries involved in the Congo war: lever for peace or incitement to war?', May 2001
'DRC-Rwanda: Text of the Pretoria Memorandum of Understanding'
International Crisis Group
'Rwanda/Uganda: A Dangerous War of Nerves', December 2001
'Uganda and Rwanda: Enemies or Friends?', May 2000
Rwandan Government site
Communiqué of 18 October 2002
'Reintegration and Reconciliation'
UNICEF's report on demobilization of child soldiers
World Bank

Rwandan national development policy

Since 1994, the government has implemented a number of macro-level policies aimed at facilitating the transition from conflict and emergency to stability and sustainable development. The substantial involvement of donor agencies in preparing these documents is evident.

Rwandan government
Policy Framework Paper (1998-2001)
Public Investment Programme (1999-2001)
Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) in Rwanda (2000-2) (

The poverty reduction strategy paper

The most significant recent policy paper which the government has produced is the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) which was adopted in June 2002. The PRSP lays down the detailed short- and long-term development plans of the government, as well as a very good assessment of the state of Rwanda with regard to poverty. Various surveys and case studies were carried out to inform the process. The PRSP approach represents the latest strategy by the international community (most notably the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) to address macro-economic development problems in developing countries by seeking to base development strategies in locally-owned processes. It is a necessary step to procuring substantial development assistance, as well as being eligible for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), for which Rwanda became eligible in December 2000.

Although the PRSP is considered to be both produced and owned by the Rwandan government, the process of its preparation is essentially determined by external forces. A key factor in the PRSP process is consultation with various members of the political community and civil society organizations. While welcomed as an innovative approach, the reality of this consultation has come in for a great deal of criticism.

World Bank
'Rwanda: Joint Staff Assessment of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper'
Press Release, December 2000:
Strategic Partnership for Africa
'Institutionalising the PRSP Approach in Rwanda', 2001
'Support for Poverty Measurement and Analysis in Rwanda', 2001
'Debt Relief for Rwanda: an opportunity for peace-building and reconstruction', March 1999
ActionAid report, 'Inclusive Circles Lost in Exclusive Cycles', 2002
E. Zuckerman, 'Engendering Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs): why it reduces poverty and the Rwanda case' per cent20papers/3_3_Zuckerman.pdf

Innovative policy approaches: gacaca, imidugudu, and ubudehe

Although the general thrust of government policy in many ways reflects an adherence to approaches present in many developing countries, and promoted by the international financial institutions (IFIs) and the donor community, a number of innovative national development strategies have been developed by the government to address Rwanda's specific development challenges, particularly in the field of justice and social integration.

Post-genocide Rwanda faces massive challenges with regards to the justice process. Not only was the judicial system in tatters both physically and in terms of human resources, but there were hundreds of thousands of potential suspects who had participated to a greater or lesser extent in the genocide. Today, over 100.000 alleged perpetrators of genocide languish in overcrowded prisons. To deal with this problem, a system has been devised to classify offenders. The most serious crimes for organizers and planners of genocide are being tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which was set up in Arusha, Tanzania, in 1994.

However, to deal with lesser crimes, there has been recourse to the traditional gacaca system, which has been revised into law accordingly. This system hinges on confession and repentance, and seeks not only to try those accused of genocide-related crimes, but also to foster reconciliation within communities. There has been a great deal of international support for establishing the gacaca, of which the first courts were held in June 2002, but some concerns have been raised about the integrity of the system.

More controversial has been the 'villagisation' programme, known as imidugudu, which was introduced by the government to tackle the problem of resettling and housing returning refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and those left homeless after the genocide. Written into law in 1997, this policy has been shrouded in controversy over site locations, selection of beneficiaries, quality of housing, provision of services, participation, and most importantly, issues of forced relocation. Nevertheless, the government is still keen to maintain this policy of establishing grouped settlements, but seems to have taken on board some of the earlier criticism and is emphasizing the importance of provision of adequate infrastructure and real community participation.

Another tradition upon which the government has sought to build is ubudehe, the concept of communal action. As part of the decentralization programme, sub-district levels ('cellules') will receive annual funding to carry out community action plans which are to be defined, managed, and undertaken by the cellule but aimed specifically at poverty-reducing developmental activities. A pilot study has been carried out in the Butare province.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Global Policy
'Rwanda to Resurrect Traditional Justice System'
International Crisis Group
University of California -- Berkeley
A. Forges, 'The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 16 March 2002'
S. Gabisirege and S. Babalola, 'Perceptions About the Gacaca Law in Rwanda: Evidence from a Multi-Method Study', April 2001
Rwandan government
Gacaca Schedule
Amnesty International
'Gambling with Justice', 2002!Open
'Land Use and Villagisation in Rwanda', 1999
S. Jackson, 'Relief, Improvement, Power: Motives and Motifs of Rwanda's Villagisation Policy'
Human Rights Watch
'Uprooting the Rural Poor in Rwanda', 2001
World Bank
PRSP, page 71 and Annex A
'Ubudehe to Fight Poverty'
'The Government of Rwanda's Approach to Poverty Reduction and Decentralization'

Relations with the international donor community

Since 1994, Rwanda has depended heavily on external assistance to underwrite the reconstruction and stabilization process, with approximately 18 per cent of Rwanda's gross national income deriving from foreign aid. The national development policies outlined above have all been prepared with substantial input from the donor community.

Nevertheless, relations between Rwanda and the donor community vary dramatically, with donors differing greatly in their perceptions of the incumbent Rwandan government, most noticeably during the Congo war and over political governance issues (Uvin 2001). While some donors work very closely with the Rwandan leadership, in particular the United Kingdom, which provides a great deal of budgetary support, others, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, prefer to provide more indirect support, as they are concerned that basket funds could be diverted for military purposes. This situation may change now that Rwandan military forces have withdrawn from the DRC.

Since 1994, the key bilateral donors to Rwanda have been the UK, the USA, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Among the many multilateral donors active in Rwanda, the following are among the most important in terms of volumes of support provided: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the European Union, the African Development Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNHCR, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme. A large number of international NGOs are also active in Rwanda, although the government clamped down on the activities of many in 1996, and has subsequently sought greater control over their activities.

Given the large number of donors active in Rwanda, the government is seeking to establish greater control over aid flows and to coordinate the activities of donors through the Central Project and External Finance Bureau (CEPEX).

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
DFID Country Strategy Paper 1999
Other Donor Countries
The Netherlands
World Bank
International Monetary Fund
United Nations Development Programme
European Union
African Development Bank
Food and Agriculture Organisation
International Fund for Agricultural Development
World Food Programme
Central Project and External Finance Bureau (CEPEX) ;
Last updated Aug 17, 2011