Rwanda is a land of great diversity and beauty. Popularly known as ‘the land of a thousand hills’, Rwanda has six volcanoes, twenty-three lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the great River Nile.

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There are Seven political parties represented in the Government of National Unity of the Republic of Rwanda. They are: Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR), Parti Social Démocrate (PSD), Parti Libéral (PL), Parti Démocrate Centriste (PDC) Parti Démocratique Idéal (PDI), Parti Socialiste Rwandais (PSR) and Union Démocratique du Peuple Rwandais (UDPR).
All regions, ethnic groups and religions are represented in the Government of National Unity. Women are also represented at cabinet level, in parliament, the civil service and in local and regional government.
The executive arm of government is headed by the President. The President is the Head of State. He also heads the cabinet. The cabinet is the body of ministers responsible for the conduct of national affairs. Ministers are appointed by the President upon consultation with leaders of political parties in the Government of National Unity.
Government departments or ministries are headed by Ministers. Some ministries also have Ministers of State, who are junior Ministers. The ministries are staffed by civil servants who are the main instrument for implementing government policy.

The government of national unity of the Republic of Rwanda was established on July 19th 1994. Two weeks earlier the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA), now Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) had taken control of Kigali and put an end to the genocide that had been planned and executed by the MRND government of Juvenal Habyarimana.

The 1994 genocide resulted in the violent deaths of one million people. Earlier cycles of genocide had occurred, claiming tens of thousands of lives, but failed to attract any interest or concern from the international community. Each life lost over three decades of oppression and genocide represented unfulfilled dreams and the betrayed hope of the people of Rwanda in their leaders and the international community.

The government of national unity inherited a deeply scarred nation where trust within and between communities had been replaced by fear and betrayal, whose economy had ground to a complete halt, where social services were not functioning, and public confidence in the state had been shattered. Almost the entire nation was either internally displaced or had been forced to flee to neighbouring countries by the perpetrators of the genocide.

It was with these enormous challenges that the Government of National Unity set about rebuilding the social, political and economic fabric of Rwanda. Some of the achievements and challenges of the Government are listed below.

The Government of National Unity is committed to ensuring good governance at all levels of public administration. Laws have been passed by the Transitional National Assembly that create checks against the abuse of executive power, mismanagement and corruption. This is a marked departure from the 1962-1994 era.

Institutions have been created and given constitutional powers with which to ensure accountability and transparency. These institutions include the National Tender Board which ensures transparency in the award of government tenders; the Office of Auditor-General which audits all government accounts and expenditure; the Rwanda Revenue Authority which is a semi-autonomous body charged with tax collection.

In addition, the Transitional National Assembly has been empowered as never before to take up its role as a check against the abuse of power, corruption and mismanagement. Government ministers must justify their ministry budgets and account for expenditure to the national assembly.

A Human Rights Commission has also been established to investigate and take action against allegations of human rights violations by the central or local governments and individuals. Given the painful history of Rwanda where violations of human rights and impunity were the rule rather than the exception, the government of national unity has set out to guarantee the rights and liberties of all citizens.

The security situation in Rwanda was extremely unstable in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. Almost the entire population was displaced, creating a volatile situation inside the country. Remnants of the murderous Interahamwe and ex-FAR (former Rwandan army) roamed the country looting property and harassing, raping and killing survivors of the genocide. On the western border, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe carried out cross-border attacks on a daily basis from the DRC. The Prefectures of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri were so badly affected by insurgency between 1994-8 that normal economic and social activity had ground to a halt.

When the government of national unity took office in July 1994, it immediately set out to establish peace and security in all parts of the country. Peace and security were to underpin the political, economic and social recovery of post-genocide Rwanda.

With the exception of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi, peace and security was restored to all other parts of the country by September 1994. The security situation remained volatile in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi because ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia continued to make cross-border attacks from their refugee settlements in the DRC (then Zaire).

When the refugee settlements were dismantled the security situation improved slightly. However, it was only when the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA), now RDF began operations to seek and destroy Interahamwe and ex-FAR bases in the DRC in 1998 that peace and security were fully restored. The two Prefectures have been totally peaceful now since the last quarter of 1998.

The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) has politicized, re-trained and absorbed 15,000 officers and men from the ex-FAR. Recruitment into the army is carried out on the basis of merit. Recruits are drawn from all parts of the country and all ethnic groups. The RDF also has active programmes for rehabilitation of casualties and demobilization. Those due for demobilization are given intensive courses in carpentry, tailoring and animal husbandry at a school in Nyagatare, Mutara. They are also given financial packages to enable them start small businesses and lead productive lives in the community.

The RDF maintains a high standard of discipline and ensures that its officers and men are well trained and equipped to face the challenges that lie ahead for Rwanda. Currently RDF is involved in peace keeping missions in Darfur and Khartoum in Sudan on behalf of the African Union and United Nations respectively. This is a sign of confidence in the ability of the Rwandan Defence Forces by the international community.

Rwanda has had a troubled past caused by internal division. It all began when the colonial administration divided the society along ethnic lines in order to weaken it and thereby make its dominance possible. The post-colonial Kayibanda and Habyarimana administrations intensified this policy of divide and rule, and devised policies to marginalize and disenfranchise large sections of the community.

Upon assuming office, the Government of National Unity began the challenging task of reversing the effects of decades of division. A national commission charged with the responsibility of educating and mobilizing the population for unity and reconciliation was established in 1998. Since then, the Unity and Reconciliation Commission has conducted seminars, debates and courses across the country aimed at fostering these ideals and re-building confidence and trust within and between communities.

Rwanda has already begun harvesting the unity and reconciliation dividends. Across the country, rural and urban communities now live together in greater harmony and mutual respect than ever before. The March 1999 grassroots elections in which all Rwandans voted for leaders on the basis of merit not ethnicity, is a testament of the success of the unity and reconciliation programme.

The 1994 genocide was a carefully planned and executed exercise to annihilate sections of Rwanda. s population that did not agree with the prevailing extremist politics of the Habyarimana regime. One million lives were lost in only one hundred days. It is the fastest and most vicious genocide yet recorded in human history.

The Government of National Unity made it among its highest priorities to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes. Thousands have been arrested and await trial. Others have already been tried and were either released for lack of evidence or convicted and sentenced. It is pertinent to the reconciliation process that the people of Rwanda feel that justice has been done. There can be no reconciliation without justice.

The sheer bulk of prisoners and cases due for trial have placed severe strain on Rwanda. s criminal justice system which had already been crippled by the murder of professionals during the genocide. The Government of National Unity decided to ease pressure on the criminal justice system by categorizing genocide suspects according to the crimes they are accused of. Category 1, the planners and authors of the genocide numbering 2,133, will be tried in the conventional courts. Categories 2-4 where involvement was slightly less serious will be tried in traditional community courts or Gacaca courts. This new process will significantly speed up trials and sentencing, which if restricted to conventional courts would take over 200 years to complete.

The Gacaca courts also have the advantage of involving the community in the trial and sentencing process. The Government of National Unity believes that involving the population in the trials can also contribute significantly to reconciliation.

The government has also made it a priority to strengthen the criminal justice system. Special training has been provided to Magistrates and Judges, while courts around the country have been renovated. A national police force has been created and charged with civil security matters and criminal investigations.

The Government of National Unity is committed to empowering the people of Rwanda to make policy-decisions and to become masters of their destiny. Despite decades of dictatorship, division and state-inspired violence against the people of Rwanda, they have eagerly embraced initiatives by the government to give power back to them.

In March 1999, grassroots elections were held across the country at the Cellule and Secteur levels. The elections were a great success. They demonstrated the success of the unity and reconciliation programme as people voted on the basis of merit, not ethnicity.

In March 2001, the democratization process will move up to the Commune. Officials at this level will be directly elected by the people for the first time in the history of Rwanda.

Rwanda will soon begin the process of drafting a new constitution. The constitution will be based on the views of the people. This will also be unprecedented in Rwanda. s history. In the past, constitutions were written by a handful of legal and political . experts. . Once the new constitution has been promulgated, general and presidential elections will be held.

The Government of National Unity inherited an economy completely destroyed by genocide and mismanagement over three decades. Some regions had been deliberately prevented from realizing their economic potential for purely political reasons. Human resource development was also neglected.

The Government of National Unity immediately set out to create fiscal stability and economic growth. Inflation was brought down from 64% in 1994 to under 5% from 1998-2000. In 1994, annual fiscal revenues were ZERO while today they stand at nearly 70 billion Rwanda francs. The economy has grown steadily at an average of 11%, while gross domestic incomes have grown at an average of 14.3% per annum since 1995.

The government is also implementing structural adjustment programmes which aim to eliminate public sector inefficiency and waste, and strengthen the economy.

Most sectors of the economy have surpassed pre-war productivity levels. The main towns around the country have been experiencing an unprecedented construction boom, evidence of confidence in the economy by investors. Foreign direct investment from South African and the east African sub-region have also reached record highs.

The process of privatization of government enterprises has been underway since 1996. Forty-six (46) enterprises have been put up for privatization, and shareholding in another eighteen (18) enterprises will be sold. So far, twenty-five (25) have been sold to local or foreign investors. Another ten (10) enterprises in the banking, insurance, hotels and coffee and tea processing sectors are due for sale soon.

The government of national unity has also made it a priority to diversify Rwanda. s economic base. Enormous success has been achieved in the horticultural sector.

Neglect of education by the colonial and post-colonial administrations has left Rwanda with one of the lowest skilled populations in the sub-region. In addition to this, an ethnic quota system for entry into schools and the university existed making access to education limited for sections of the population.

On entering office, the government of national unity immediately instituted meritocracy in the education system and put measures in place to address the country. s manpower incapacity.

Since 1994, the number of institutions for higher learning has gone up from one to six in 2000. The total number of students receiving higher education rose from 3,000 to just under 7,000. The number of university graduates between 1963 and 1993 was 2,160. Between 1995-2000, a period of just five years, the Government of National Unity has produced over 2,000 university graduates.

A former military college in the heart of Kigali has been transformed into a modern institute of science and technology. The new Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management (KIST) was established in 1997 to provide technical, skill-based training to 2,500 full and part-time students. The institute also hosts the African Virtual University and conducts business and entrepreneurship courses. Licenses and facilitation have been granted to other institutions and colleges to make more training opportunities available to the population.

The number of secondary schools in Rwanda increased more than 30-fold, from 10 in 1994 to 363 in 2000 while the number of students increased from about 3,000 to approximately 124,000, in the same period.

Similarly, from 1994 to 2000, the number primary schools increased more than one and a half times. The number of qualified teachers rose by 53% between 1994 and 2000. More resources have been made available to build new schools and to develop old ones. In addition, The Government of National Unity plans to introduce universal elementary education soon.

An examinations board has also been introduced to ensure fairness, transparency and uniformity in standards.

The Government of National Unity aims to create a highly skilled and productive workforce that will drive Rwanda towards industrialization and development in the years to come.

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