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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Pre-colonial Rwanda was a highly centralized Kingdom presided over by Tutsi kings who hailed from one one ruling clan. The king ruled throught three categories of chiefs: cattle chiefs; land chiefs; and military chiefs. The chiefs were predominantly, but not exclusively, Batutsi, especially the cattle and military chiefs. While the relationship between the king and the rest of the population was unequal, the relationship between the ordinary Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa was one of mutual benefit mainly through the exchange of their labour. The relationship was symbiotic. A clientele system called "Ubuhake" permeated the whole society.


In 1899 Rwanda became a German colony. After the defeat of the germans during WW1, subsequently in 1919 Rwanda became a mandate territory of the League of Nations under the administration of Belgium. The Germans and the belgians administered Rwanda through a system of indirect rule. During this colonial era, a cash crop economy was introduced in Rwanda, and this was administered through harsh methods that further alienated the King and his chiefs from the rest of the population.

In 1935 the Belgian colonial administration introduced a discriminatory national identification on the basis of ethnicity. Banyarwanda who possessed ten or more cows were registered as Batutsi wheras those with less were registered as Bahutu. At first, the belgian authorities, for political and practical reasons, favoured the King and his chiefs, who were mostly a Batutsi ruling elite. When the demand for independence began, mainly by a political party - Union Nationale Rwandaise (UNAR) - formed by people from the aforementioned ruling elite, the Belgian authorities hastily nurtured another party called PARMEHUTU that was founded on a sectarian ethnic ideology. Under the Belgian supervision, the first massacres of Batutsi at the hands of the PARMEHUTU occured in 1959. With Belgian connivance, PARMEHUTU abolished the monarchy amidst widespread violence. On July 1st, 1962 Belgium granted formal political independence to Rwanda.


From 1959 onwards, the population of Batutsi was targeted, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, and a population of almost two million Rwandese people in the Diaspora that was to last almost four decades.

The First Republic, under President Gregoire Kayibanda, institutionalised discrimination against Batutsi and periodically used massacres against this targeted population as a means of maintaining the status quo. some Rwandese groups in the diaspora attempted, without success to stage a comeback through armed means.

In 1965 Rwanda was declared a one-party state under MDR/PARMEHUTU, which was the architect of the racist ideology that was to be consolidated in the Second Republic under President Major General Juvenal Habyarimana.

In 1973 President Kayibanda was deposed in a coup d'etat that brought Major General Habyarimana to power. Subsequently, President Kayibanda and many prominent politicians of the First Republic were killed. More Batutsi were killed.

In 1975 President Habyarimana formed the Mouvement Revolutionaire Natinale pour le Developpement (MRND), a single ruling party that was to promulgate in 1978 a sham constitution that repeatedly returned him to office by organising "elections" in which he was the sole candidate.

Both the First and second Republics repeatedly stated that Rwanda was a small, overpopulated country that could not accomodate Rwandese refugees if they were to return. Increasingly, the population across the ethnic lines was marginalised and impoverished while Habyarimana's regime became more violently intolerant. The divisions within the ruling Bahutu clique that culminated in the coup d'etat of 1973 became more heightened in the 1970s and 1980s when the clique talked of Bahutu of the north and Bahutu of the south. Political activities remained banned.


Against a backdrop of entrenched divisive and genocidal ideology, repeated massacres, the persistent problems of refugees in the Diaspora, and the lack of avenues for peaceful political change, the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) was formed in 1979 by some Rwandese in the Diaspora with an objective of mobilising Rwandese people to resolve these problems. Almost a decade later, in 1987, RANU became the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), whose objectives were:

To promote national unity and reconciliation;
To establish genuine democracy;
To provide security for all Rwandese;
To build an integrated and self-sustaining economy;
To eradicate corruption in all forms
To repatriate and resettle Rwandese refugees;
To devise and implement policies that promote the social welfare of all Rwandese and;
To pursue a foreign policy based on equality, peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit between Rwanda and other countries.

Most of the world had never heard of the RPF until October 1st, 1990 - the day the war of liberation against the military dictatorship in Kigali began.

Taking up arms was not an easy decision to make. War has always been the last option in the consideration of the RPF. However, all efforts for peaceful and democratic change in our country had so far proved futile.

It had become apparent that only by taking up arms could anyone wishing to put an end to the dictatorship and the violation of our peoples' fundamental rights hope to succeed. The regime had ammassed a huge coercive state machinery using violence to oppress the people. The taking up of arms against the regime was therefore considered not just a right, but also a patriotic and national obligation.

When the war began, Rwandese peasants and workers, students and intellectuals, men and women from every region and "ethnic" or social group, responded to the call of the Rwandese Patriotic Front to rid our country of dictatorship.

With the beginning of the armed struggle, France, Belgium, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) hurriedly dispatched troops to Rwanda to support the dictatorial regime.


As the war for liberation escalated, RPF still attempted to seek peaceful ways of resolving the conflict. On March 29th, 1991, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the RPF and the then Government of Rwanda signed the N'sele Ceasefire Agreement which provided for, among other things, cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of foreign troops, exchange of prisoners of war and finally, seriuos political negotiations to end the conflict. immediately after signing the agreement, the Government of Rwanda ridiculed the said agreement as the war intensified.

As the regime became more desperate, massacres of Batutsi in various parts of the country became widespread in a delibrate effort of ethnic cleansing. The regime used violence to harass and silence the emerging internal political opposition. Violence was also used to derail the peace process. After a long period of negotiation that took place in arusha, tanzania, the Arusha Peace Agreement was signed on August 4th, 1993.

The Arusha Peace Agreement was preceeded by the signing of the agreement on a new ceasefire, as well as parties agreeing on the following principles:

That there was neither democracy nor the practice of the rule of law in Rwanda;
That a broad-based government of national unity, including parties of different political persuasions was necessary to oversee the transition to democracy;
That the rwandese army was not national in character and that it was necessary to set up a truly national army from among members of the two existing armies;and
That Rwandese refugees have a legitimate inalienable right to return home.

The Arusha Peace Agreement was structured around five pillars:

The establishment of the rule of law;
Repatriation and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced people;
The integration of armed forces;and
Other miscellaneous provisions.
It was particularly the power-sharing arrangements that threatened members of the regime. The Arucha Peace Agreement threatened the basis of their power and privilege, which they had so far enjoyed without serious challenge. Given the fact that they had always relied on the army as the instrument of maintaining their grip on power at any cost, it is clear why they were very opposed to the idea of integration of the armed forces.
The Arusha Peace Agreement was signed on August 4th, 1993 and was supposed to have been implemented within 37 days, beginning with the establishment of the institutions of the presidency, cabinet and the National Assembly. A United Nations force was supposed to oversee this process. RPF honoured all its commitments when in December 1993 it sent 600 of its troops to Kigali, as well as members of the Executive who were supposed to be members of the transitional government. The mind of the regime on the other hand, was focused on the preparation for genocide.
The Arusha Peace Agreement was never implemented although its principal provisions now constitute the Fundamental Law of the Republic of Rwanda.

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