Rwanda Geopolitics

Rwanda Geopolitics

In the center of the Great Lakes region, Rwanda was devastated by a bloody civil war which in 1994 sharply awakened the attention of world public opinion. The then secretary of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali spoke of ‘Rwandan genocide’. Once the maximum emergency phase has been overcome, genuine multi-party competition is now hindered by the action of the President of the Republic Paul Kagame, who monopolizes the political system. Many political dissidents operate from abroad, in an attempt to unite to oppose what they consider the dictatorship of the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which came out victorious in the legislative elections in September 2013 with 76.2% of the votes. This result, combined with satisfactory economic data and frequent government reshuffles that ensure loyalty to the president, have reinforced Kagame’s power. In July 2014, in a further rehash of the government, Kagame replaced Prime Minister Pierre Habumuremyi, who has been in office since 2011, with Anastase Murekezi. Kagame will end his second term in 2017 and parliament unanimously voted for a reform to remove the constitutional limit that would not allow him to run again. To implement the change, a referendum passage is necessary which, given the government’s control over the procedure and the weakness of the opposition, appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Former German colony, then subjected to an international mandate entrusted to Belgium and finally, with independence in 1962, linked to the influence of Belgium and especially France, Kagame’s Rwanda and the Anglophone elite of the RPF, formed in the years of Ugandan exile, he made a historic turning point by entering the Commonwealth (November 2010) and thus crowning his full reintegration into the international community.

According to itypeusa, the years of the civil war are at the origin of the current political order of the country. After a long attempt to build national unity through discrimination against the Tutsis, the one-party regime (Mouvement Révolutionaire National pour le Développement, Mrnd), led by Juvénal Habyarimana and supported by the Hutu majority, went into crisis in September 1990, when the RPF launched an offensive from its bases in Uganda. The RPF was made up of Tutsi exiles who, for the most part, had served in the Resistance Army of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Pressed by the Rpf, Habyarimana announced in July 1991 the transition to multi-partyism and opened a long negotiation which, on August 4, 1993, led to the signing of the Arusha peace accords.

On April 6, 1994, the plane on which Habyarimana was traveling together with the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down by a missile: they both died. To date, no light has been shed on the episode that triggered mutual accusations between the RPF and supporters of Habyarimana. In 2006, a French judge concluded that it was Kagame who ordered the downing of the aircraft in order to launch the political and military offensive that would later bring it to power: in response, the Kigali government cut off diplomatic relations with Paris, then reconnected in 2010.

Rightly or wrongly, the shooting down of the presidential plane was taken as a pretext by Hutu extremists to start the massacre of opponents. Between April and July 1994, 800,000, perhaps a million, Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by the gangs of the Interhamwe (Hutu paramilitary organization), while two million Rwandans sought refuge in Tanzania, Burundi and Congo (then Zaire). The United Nations peacekeeping force, deployed following the Arusha Accords, was attacked and, after the killing of some Belgian soldiers, left the country, unable to stop the conflict.

Under the offensive of the Rpf the Rwandan armed forces were quickly defeated and, in 1994, the Rpf put an end to the civil war, establishing a transitional government that led to the presidency of the republic and to the head of the executive two moderate Hutus, respectively Pasteur. Bizimungu and Faustin Twagiramungu. The levers of power, however, remained firmly in the hands of the R pf and, in particular, of the then defense minister Paul Kagame. The rise to power of the Tutsis was crowned in 2000, when Kagame took over the presidency and then was confirmed at the helm of the country with plebiscite results in the elections of 2003 (95% of the votes) and 2010 (93% of the votes).

The international community returned to Rwanda with a massive humanitarian effort as part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (Unamir), which ended only in 1996. The process of reconciliation and social recomposition also passed through the constitution in Arusha, in 1994, of the international tribunal which, under a mandate from the United Nations, prosecuted the creators and planners of the genocide. Thousands of material perpetrators have been identified and tried since 2001 through a system of courts (the gacacas) which finished their work in 2012. The new Constitution of 2003 prohibits any explicit reference to ethnicity in divisive and competitive terms and censorship ethnic control or monitoring practices.

1994 was only the last and most important of the ethnic massacres endured by the Tutsis, but the Hutus are also a community characterized by a history of persecution perpetrated in Burundi, Congo and northern Rwanda. It was the manipulations introduced by colonialism that created a divisive and potentially conflicting sense of identity between two groups sharing the same language, the same social organization and the same religious values.

Today Rwanda is going through a crucial phase for its international relations. Since the RPF came to power in 1994, foreign donors, particularly the United Kingdom and the US, have been generous, providing funds equal to nearly half of annual public revenues. However, after allegations of support by the Rwandan government for the rebel group M23, a pro-Rwandan militia operating east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), some donors have suspended aid.

At a regional level, Rwanda’s relations remain tense with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where, among other things, the militias of the Forces Démocratiques de Libéra; tion du Rwanda (Fdlr), formed by Hutus hostile to the current Rwandan government, take refuge. and against which Kinshasa launched an offensive in February 2015. The relationship with Burundi has deteriorated due to the instability and violence resulting from the third term of president Pierre Nkurunziza, which also constitute elements of political risk for Kigali. In the months following the crisis, over 50,000 refugees fled Burundi to reach Rwanda.

Kenya and Uganda remain allies, committed to regional integration within the East African Community.

Rwanda Geopolitics