This year’s project country, Rwanda – a country in central-eastern Africa – has about 11 million inhabitants. The country is the size of Hedmark county and is one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
- How has Rwanda’s history behaved in the last hundred years?
- What are the characteristics of today’s Rwanda?
- Why do Norwegian schoolchildren earn money for young people in Africa?
- What is the goal of International Week?
2: Rwanda – History
We begin our story at the Berlin Conference in 1884-5. The great powers rolled out the map there and divided Africa in between. Rwanda first ended up in German hands, but was given as war booty to Belgium after World War I. Belgian ethnologists distinguished between two major ethnic groups, Hutus and Tutsis . Tutsis were traditionally believed to be cattle drivers, Hutu farmers.
One way the Belgians distinguished between the ethnic groups was that they looked at the number of cows a person owned . Over ten cows: tutsi. Under ten cows: hutu. Hutus at this time amounted to approx. 85 percent of the population, while the Tutsis were assigned the most attractive positions within the Belgian colonial bureaucracy. Many have pointed to the arbitrary division into ethnic groups that the Belgians stood for as a colonial power.
In 1959, hostilities flared up between the two groups, the Hutus revolted and demanded to participate in politics. In 1962, Rwanda became an independent state , and the Hutus took power. In the decades that followed, the Tutsi population was systematically oppressed. Large flows of Tutsi refugees moved to neighboring countries, especially Uganda. In 1973, the army chief, Juvénal Habyarimana, seized power in Rwanda in a military coup
. Habyarimana created a one-party state and deliberately used the ethnic divides to build its Rwanda, as a country located in Africa according to lawschoolsinusa.com. The repression of Tutsis continued, and it was further decided that Tutsis who had fled were not allowed to return.
In 1987, the “Rwandan Patriotic Front” (RPF) was created by exiled Tutsis in Uganda with a desire to participate in Rwandan politics. In the 1990s, plans for a final “solution” to the conflict were made by Habyarimana and his followers, namely the extermination of the Tutsis.
The pretext for implementing the plans came on April 6, 1994. President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down over Kigali, and the Hutus mobilized immediately. That same evening, the Prime Minister, her family and several moderate members of the government were killed, and the genocide was underway. Several parties point to the important role played by national media in whipping up a hatred against the Tutsis.
Over the next 100 days, between 800,000 and 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu militias. The world community refrained from interfering, despite a standing UN force in Kigali . The RPF took up the fight when they intervened from outside and put an end to the genocide when they won the capital, Kigali. The leader of the RPF was named Paul Kagame , and is currently President of Rwanda.
3: Rwanda: economy, demography, democracy
Under Kagame, conditions have improved considerably in Rwanda. In 1994, the country was one of the poorest in the world. Today, the government’s stated goal is to become a middle-income country by 2020 and at the same time become independent of development assistance. Aid currently accounts for half of the country’s state budget.
Skeptics therefore believe that many of the plans are too ambitious. Kagame has taken many steps to fight corruption, with great success. Primary school has been done for free, and high school will eventually be. The authorities have set themselves the goal of becoming the region’s ICT center and expanding the internet throughout the country. The heaviest criticism of the authorities concerns the lack of freedom of expression.
As part of the reconciliation process , the authorities have passed a number of laws whose purpose is to “fight genocide ideology”. The most striking thing about these laws is that they are no longer allowed to refer to themselves as Hutu or Tutsi. In addition, the regime has passed several rather hovering laws about what else they put in the term “genocide ideology”. Some believe that the Kagame regime, through these laws, is gagging political opposition and political dissidents.
At the same time, it is difficult to talk about any real opposition in Rwanda at all, since Kagame has won the last election with well over 90 percent of the vote. The only observation of international observers in the elections has been that the authorities are manipulating the support of the small parties to become higher. In this way, the regime can hope to get other representatives into parliament than almost only representatives from Kagame’s party. This may be an attempt by the government to counter international criticism.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also noted that journalists and the media do not have real freedom to print what they want without the risk of reprisals. The largest media institutions are controlled by the state.
These restrictions on freedom of expression also affect young people in the country. When the tolerance for alternative perceptions of how the country should be governed is low among adults, it is more difficult for young people to influence.
Rwanda had a gross domestic product (GDP) of about $ 2.5 billion in 2006, and had a GDP growth of over 5 percent the year before. The most important export products are raw materials such as tea and coffee. Based on the goal of becoming a middle-income country, a natural goal will be to build a sustainable industry. There has been little development in this area. Industry accounted for only about 14 per cent of total value creation (GDP) in 2010.
Rwanda has a very young population – over 50 percent of the population is under 18 years old. This shows how important education will be for the country to achieve the goals it has set. Today, they offer nine years of free primary school, but in high school and university, students have to pay tuition fees. Despite the fact that primary school is free, students have to buy school uniforms and most of the stationery and school books themselves. For many, this is a big expense, for some even too big.