After independence from colonial power
Belgium in 1962, Rwanda was characterized for several
decades by how the Tutsis and Hutu people fought for
power. Country-driven Tutsis strived to regain lost
influence, while the Hutus were completely determined
not to let go of the government power they were given.
When a wave of democratization swept across Africa
around 1990 and a Tutsi army invaded Rwanda, extreme Hut
nationalists began to draw up plans for a definitive
solution to the Tutsi issue. In 1994, at least 800,000
Rwandans, the vast majority of Tutsis, were killed in a
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Rwanda. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The Republic of Rwanda was born on July 1, 1962,
after a bloody social transformation, when the Tutsi
minority lost influence to the Hutuma majority (see
Older History). During the first period after
independence, strong tensions prevailed. When exiled
Tutsis tried to regain power in 1963, new massacres were
implemented. Almost all Tutsis in political positions
The country's first president, Hutuer Grégoire
Kayibanda, was ousted in 1973 by Defense Minister
Juvénal Habyarimana. He established a military
government and replaced the ruling Hutu people's
liberation party (Parmehutu) with a new party, the
National Revolutionary Development Movement (MRND). Now
came a time of relative stability and economic growth,
but the repression of the Tutsis persisted.
During the civil war in Uganda in the 1980s,
thousands of fugitive Tutsis participated in the
victorious guerrillas. Strengthened by its success, the
Tutsis formed Rwanda's Patriotic Front (FPR) in 1987,
which invaded Rwanda in 1990.
With the support of Belgian, French and Zairian
(Congolese) soldiers, Rwanda's army halted FPR outside
Kigali. But the war continued and under domestic
political pressure Habyarimana was forced to introduce
multi-party systems in 1991. A coalition government took
office in 1992.
A ceasefire agreement was broken following
disagreement over FPR's influence. After negotiations in
1993, a peace agreement was signed in Arusha, Tanzania,
but even now the formation of a broad unity government
with FPR was delayed. Hutu extremists called for the
murder of those who wanted to implement the agreement.
Young men were recruited to militias such as
Interahamwe ("Those Fighting Together") and the
presidential guard was equipped. Death lists were
compiled of Tutsis and the Hutus who supported the peace
process. Mass media controlled by Hutu extremists spread
a gross propaganda, describing the Tutsis as cockroaches
In October 1993, the United Nations formed a force
called Unamir (United Nations Assistance Mission to
Rwanda) to ensure compliance with the Arusha Agreement.
In January 1994, UN Secretary General Roméo Dallaire
learned that a war of extinction against the Tutsis was
being prepared. He requested permission from the UN to
disarm the militias but was told that it was outside
The genocide is being carried out
Meanwhile, Habyarimana continued to delay the
formation of the government. The delays triggered
violence in Kigali, and at a regional summit in Tanzania
on April 6, 1994, Habyarimana pledged to reform the
When the president's aircraft returned to Kigali on
the same day, it was shot down and all on board were
killed, except Habyarimana, among others, also Burundi's
president. The shooting triggered the mass murder. Among
the first victims was the prime minister from a moderate
hut party. Ten Belgian UN soldiers were killed while
trying to protect her, causing the UN to reduce Unamir
from 2,500 men to 270.
The killing of knives and axes spread quickly across
the country. Many were forced to kill their neighbors.
The population accounting system and ID cards led the
killers on the tracks. Normally safe havens like
churches became death traps when Hutu priests let in the
killers. The dehumanizing media propaganda against the
Tutsis made it easier for extremists to bring ordinary
Hutus with them.
After Habyarimana's death, FPR broke the ceasefire.
When the guerrillas approached Kigali on April 12, 1994,
the government fled first south and then to the
The United States delayed the deployment of a new UN
troop, both for economic reasons and not to risk
American lives. Instead, France sent its own force in
June. FPR protested because France had supported
The French soldiers set up a "protected zone" in the
southwest, where the FPR was not let in and from where
many of those responsible for the genocide with French
help were brought into safety abroad. In mid-July, the
guerrillas expelled the government and the old army to
Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa), where they were followed by a
million civilian hutu. Hundreds of thousands also fled
to Tanzania. At least 800,000 people had been killed by
Unity government is formed
On July 18, 1994, the FPR proclaimed Hutu Pasteur
Bizimungu as president. A unifying government was formed
by most major parties and even the Prime Minister post
went to a Hutu. In November of that year, a Provisional
Parliament was set up with representatives of the major
parties - except for the Hutu extremists - and the
The run-up to the genocide, the shooting down of
President Habyarimana's aircraft, became the subject of
debate at international level in the coming decades.
According to an official 2010 study, the Mutszini
Report, it was the radical Hutus of President
Habyarimana's own circle who were responsible. The
investigation had collected new testimonies from Belgian
military, British ballistics experts had conducted new
investigations and over 500 witnesses had been heard.
The inquiry had been ordered by Tutsier Paul Kagame,
who was the leader of FPR and subsequently became
Rwanda's president from 2010. It was a reaction to a
French judge's allegations that the shooting had taken
place from an area controlled by FPR.
Another investigation, commissioned by a French
court, in 2012 reached the same conclusion as the
Mutszini report. These experts also concluded that the
rocket had been fired from a location that Kagame's FPR
soldiers could hardly access. The new French
investigation was done because the crew of the downed
plane were French.
The Tutsis regain power
After the genocide, Rwandans began rebuilding their
country, which since 1994 on paper is governed by unity
governments between Tutsis and Hutus. In practice, the
country has since been led by Tutsis, whose dominance
was cemented when FPR leader Kagame was named president
by parliament in 2000.
In 2003, the first general elections were held since
the genocide. The elections were formally free and fair,
but in practice the opposition had a hard time making
themselves heard. FPR had almost total power over the
media and the opposition was labeled as stirring. Kagame
received 95 percent of the vote in the presidential
election, while the FPR received three-quarters of the
vote in the parliamentary election. In accordance with
the constitution, a unifying government was formed
between Hutus and Tutsis, but all members of the
government were loyal to FPR.
In the 2008 parliamentary elections, FPR was
practically unthreatened. The only formal opposition
came from the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic
Party, which both cooperated with the FPR. The truly
opposition groups had been exiled. The 2013 election
gave a similar result.
Paul Kagame was re-elected as President in 2010 with
no real opposition. There were formally three
challengers, but their roles were mostly to give the
choice legitimacy in the eyes of the outside world. All
three had some form of bond with the government.
Election observers from the Commonwealth lamented the
absence of opposition votes. They also criticized the
lack of transparency in voting and the problems that
some media encountered.
During the election movement, several people were
killed or injured in grenade attacks in Kigali. Kagame
accused former army chief and diplomat Faustin Kayumba
Nyamwasa of being involved. Nyamwasa, who criticized the
president for financial irregularities, managed to
escape the country before being arrested. A few months
later, Nyamwasa was shot dead in a murder trial in South
Africa. A Rwandan journalist who tried to investigate
the story was murdered shortly thereafter.
A leading Democratic Green Party representative was
also assassinated and a host of other opposers were
subjected to threats and harassment. Victoire Ingabire,
leader of the opposition Democratic Forces (UDF) party
formed in exile in 2006, was arrested when she returned
home to run for election. She was sentenced to eight
years in prison for, among other things, denying the
genocide. The sentence was later extended to 15 years,
after she was also found guilty of conspiracy against
Nyamwasa was later subjected to another attempted
murder and in 2014 his party mate Patrick Karegeya was
murdered in South Africa. Karegeya was previously head
of the intelligence service and was close to Kagame
before meeting with the president and dismissed.
Karegeya, together with Nyamwasa in 2010, had formed
the opposition party Rwanda's National Congress (RNC) in
the United States. The party gathered a number of exiled
Rwandans, several with previously high positions in FPR,
and its operations abroad worried the regime. That
turmoil is believed to have been behind a number of
arrests and prosecutions in 2014 against high-ranking
military, including a retired general and the former
chief of the president's security force.