10 Years On - The Story of Rwanda
a presentation by Dr Alfred Ndahiro
Communication & Public Relations advisor to the President

   The Immediate Aftermath of the 1994 Genocide
   Acheivements in Post-Genocide Rwanda

continued from RWANDA BEFORE & AFTER

        Peace and security
        National Unity and Reconciliation
        Accountability for genocide
        Prosecutions before ordinary courts
        Communal justice system (Gacaca)
        Health and Social affairs
        Accessibility to health services
        Education services
        Governance reforms
        Economic governance and reforms
        Empowering the Youth and Women

   Challenges to the Government of Rwanda

Peace and security

The first challenge, and probably the biggest, that confronted the new Government of National Unity was to stabilize the country, restore law and order, and create conditions that would enable the people of Rwanda to live in peace and feel secure, following the traumatic events they had just experienced. While this posed the biggest challenge, it has also proved to be the most important achievement in the last ten years. In the words of H.E. Paul Kagame, "against the backdrop of decades of bad governance, the achievements of the Government of National Unity stand out very clearly. The biggest achievement we have made is that we have achieved stability - social, political and economic stability - which Rwanda had not experienced for a very long time".

To achieve peace and stability, a number of strategies were put in place: in the first place refugees were repatriated, starting with the old caseload of 1959 and, subsequently, the new refugees of 1994 were repatriated and resettled. To that end, nearly three-and-a-half million Rwandan refugees have been repatriated and resettled since 1994. Property occupied by the returning 1959 refugees was returned to their lawful owners who had left after the 1994 genocide. The soldiers of the former regime (ex-FAR) who lay down their arms were integrated into the RPA to form a new national army, the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF). Since 1994, about 15,000 elements of the Ex-FAR have been integrated into the Rwandan national army at various command levels, as well as within the rank and file. This has not only enhanced peace and stability, it has also further accelerated the process of reconciliation, which is the subject of the following section.

National Unity and Reconciliation

At the heart of the success of the Government of National Unity lay the philosophy of unity and reconciliation. Since the 1994 genocide, national unity and reconciliation have been regarded as the only sure way of transforming Rwanda and guiding the country to lasting peace. To this end, a National Unity and Reconciliation Commission was established in March 1996 and was given the responsibility, amongst others, of sensitising all Rwandans about the need and importance of unity and reconciliation, of conducting civic education, and fostering community initiatives, geared towards fostering the unity and reconciliation of the Rwandan people.

The Commission has held regular consultative meetings with citizens of all categories and has facilitated debates at national level with the aim of promoting unity and reconciliation among Rwandans. Every year a national summit has been organised in which Rwandans from within the country and those from the Diaspora have gathered to share and exchange views on how best Rwanda can forge ahead. More specifically, this summit examines the extent to which justice, unity and reconciliation have been achieved.

While unity and reconciliation provided the necessary basis for Rwanda to forge ahead, despite the tremendous challenges, it was also necessary to ensure that there was justice for the victims of genocide.


The rule of law cannot be realized in the absence of a credible judicial system. The Government of National Unity has made the establishment of an independent, impartial and effective judicial system a topmost priority.

At the end of the genocide in 1994, Rwanda¹s system of administration of justice had practically ceased to exist. Most judges, prosecutors, and policemen had either died during the genocide or fled the country in its aftermath. The infrastructure of judicial instructions lay in ruins. All equipment had either been damaged or looted. The Government of National Unity had to rebuild the judicial system from scratch by recruiting new personnel, undertaking training, rehabilitating infrastructure and providing necessary equipment to judicial infrastructure.

Furthermore, the Government undertook far-reaching reforms which gave independence to the judiciary for the first time. The executive relinquished its role in the running of the judiciary for the very first time in the history of the country. This was done by enacting a law establishing an independent council composed exclusively of judges and entrusted with the responsibility to appoint, discipline and remove from office members of the judiciary and deal with all matters affecting their careers.

Prior to 1994, there was no association of legal practitioners. Any person, whether he or she had legal training, could apply for and be granted permission to appear before courts and represent clients. In its efforts to promote the better functioning of the country¹s legal system, the Government of National Unity passed a law which established the Bar Association for the very first time. The bar is now making a vital contribution to the development of the legal system. That said, the judicial system in Rwanda is still beset by problems of mismanagement, incompetence of personnel, and cumbersome procedures which delay or defeat the process of justice.

In recognition of these shortcomings, and in an effort to resolve them, the Government of National Unity established the Law Reform Commission and instructed it to give top priority to legislation to reform the judicial system. The recommendations of the Law Reform Commission were largely adopted by the government and have been implemented by the new constitution. Appropriate legislation to give effect to the provisions of the new constitution on the reform of the judicial system has already been drafted and will be enacted in the very near future. The far-reaching reforms of the judicial system which the new constitution has effected will make the judicial system more efficient and sensitive to the protection of the rights and interests of the population.

Accountability for genocide

The most pressing issue which the Government of National Unity had to deal with upon assuming office in 1994 was the question of accountability for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law which had been committed between 1990 and 1994.

The Government of National Unity decided from the very beginning to deal with the issue of accountability for genocide within the framework of the rule of law, believing that only the rule of law would help to heal the bitter divisions within our society and ensure peace, democracy and respect for human rights which the Rwandan people had for so long been deprived of.

In other words, the manner in which the prosecution of genocide in Rwanda was undertaken was dictated by a variety of considerations: the demand of the surviving victims of genocide for justice; the necessity for accountability as a tool for eradicating the culture of impunity; the desire to make the rule of law the cornerstone of a new society being built in Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide and the necessity to fashion a response to the genocide that would consolidate peace, promote reconciliation and facilitate the reconstruction and development of the country.

Prosecutions before ordinary courts

The Government in the first instance tried to deal with the genocide caseload in the framework of ordinary courts.

The law which was passed in 1996 to pave the way for the prosecution of the genocide caseload attempted to address the above considerations by creating specialized chambers within existing courts to deal exclusively with genocide and related cases, retaining the concept of personal accountability for crimes committed, categorization of suspects according to the degree of responsibility, providing incentives to join a confession and guilty plea programme in order to expedite the processing of the caseload awaiting trial, and abolition of capital punishment for the majority of the perpetrators of the genocide.

Ordinary courts have over the past six years tried more than 6500 of genocide cases expeditiously. However, it soon became evident that the classical system of justice was not adequately meeting the challenge of promoting unity and reconciliation, as the wider society outside the legal profession did not always have an opportunity to participate in the judicial proceedings.

Communal justice system (Gacaca)

A new legislation on the traditional participatory forms of justice at the community level (Gacaca) was adopted to speed up the trials of caseloads, to help in revealing the truth about genocide and reconciling the Rwandan people.

The overwhelming number of suspects of genocide in various Rwandan prisons and the delicate nature of the crimes they committed, necessitated a return to traditional justice. With over 120,000 prisoners, there was no way a poorly equipped judicial system could handle the backlog of cases. Yet justice is an important component of the reconciliation process. It is in this context that the government of Rwanda decided to set up a traditional, participatory form of justice that was used in Rwanda in the pre-colonial days, which involves the community. It was adopted to speed up the trials of caseloads, to help in revealing the truth about genocide and in the reconciliation of the Rwandan people. Gacaca is based on the administrative structures already in place, the cellules, sectors Akagari and Umurenge and on the categorization of genocide suspects according to the crimes of which they are accused.

On January 1st 2003, suspects of genocide who were supposed to be released in accordance with the Gacaca Organic law were granted provisional liberty. These included those who had confessed their crimes, those who were terminally sick and the elderly, and those who had been imprisoned while they were minors.

The operation of Gacaca courts throughout the country are being monitored and supervised by a co-ordination department set up within the Supreme Court. A programme of Œsensitisation¹ has been taking place and the Gacaca courts have been in session.

Health and Social affairs

Rwanda has made significant progress in the improvement of health and the socio-economic situation of its citizens. The fight against HIV/AIDS has been given priority by the Rwandan leadership. Rwanda like many other African countries has adopted a multi-sectoral approach to the fight against the AIDS pandemic. Numerous sensitisation campaigns by political leaders, the media and other groups including the youth have taken place. A national network for people living with AIDS exists and these same people are getting more and more involved in the battle against the scourge. A national AIDS Commission (CNLS) was established in 2000 and is composed of members from all walks of life (government, private sector, civil society and parliament), and each province has a branch of the AIDS Commission.

Over the last three years, resource mobilization for the fight against HIV/AIDS has improved because of various advocacy campaigns, spearheaded by the President and the First Lady. Multi-lateral organizations, including the World Bank have provided funding in the fight against HIV/AIDS. For example USD 30.5 million was allocated to Rwanda in form of a grant for a five year period in their programme called MAP ( Multi-sectoral AIDS Project). Rwanda was among the first three countries to receive the World Bank fund as a grant. Rwanda was also among the first 40 countries to receive a grant from the United Nations Global Fund. The Rwandan Global fund project on integrated VCT has been awarded 14 million USD for a three year period.

Besides these initiatives, Rwanda has been identified by the UNAIDS as having one of the best pilot programs for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission in Africa.

Government has also facilitated access to drugs for HIV and for opportunistic infections. Currently anti-retroviral drugs are on the list of Essential drugs. This implies that such drugs must be available and accessible to the population at all times, including the survivors of genocide, who contracted the AIDS virus during the genocide. Besides, Government efforts to negotiate with manufacturing companies have helped to reduce the price of HIV drugs from USD190 per month in 1999 to USD 60 per month this year.

The Government of National Unity has also continued to take care of the most needy survivors of the 1994 genocide. Through a Genocide Survivors¹ Fund, the government provides support in education, shelter, health and income generating activities for the most vulnerable amongst the survivors. About 5% of GDP (approximately 4 billion Rwandan francs) is allocated to this fund. Donations from members of the public or private sector, as well as from the international community, are welcome. During the academic year 2001/2002, the Survivors¹ Fund (FARG) provided scholarships to 33,431 students in secondary schools while another 5,000 were supported by USAID. In 2000, about 70,000 genocide survivors received free medical care. The support to survivors also covers rehabilitation of their houses.

Accessibility to health services

Over the last three years, health insurance schemes have been created and the Government allocated to them 700 million FRW. In 2002, the Ministry of Health registered 60 such health mutual societies (mutuelles de sante¹). This number increased to 88 in 2003. These health insurance schemes have greatly reduced the high cost related to health care for families and communities, particularly those living in the countryside. It is anticipated that they will allow the population to be self sufficient and will constitute one strategy to fight poverty, one of the biggest challenges facing the country.

Besides the health insurance schemes, government has been able to renovate health centres as well as construct new hospitals. For instance according to the Ministry of Health, 11 health centres and 2 district hospitals were constructed in the last three years. The health budget has also doubled since 2000 from 3,660 billion Frw to 7,615 billion Frw.

Education services

Close to 100% of primary school age now attend school. The days of rationing how many people will access university education as was the case with the previous regime are over. Rwanda today has over six Universities with a total enrolment of above ten thousand compared to 1994 when total enrolment was below one thousand.

Institutions such as the National Examination Council, National Curriculum Development Centre, General inspectorate of Education, the Department of Research and Planning in Education are some of the institutions that have been established since 1994. Higher institutions of learning that were established between 1994 and 2003 include Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management (KIST), Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), Kigali Health Institute (KHI). It is important to note that the Government of Rwanda has placed ICT at the centre stage in her socio-economic transformation, which is why it is emphasized in the education police of the country.


Good governance and respect for human rights are inseparably tied. The gross violations of human rights which the people of Rwanda have been subjected to in the past were inevitable consequences of dictatorial government. The political leadership at all levels of the country historically took a leading role in organizing the periodic atrocities which took place and were individually responsible for most of the day to day abuses to which the citizens of the country were subjected.

The Government of National Unity has instituted far-reaching changes in the way the county is politically governed. It has established a system of decentralized government whose objective is to empower communities at grassroots level and to give them a say in how they are governed. The government has also initiated a process of democratization which shortly will culminate in presidential and parliamentary elections.

The outcome of this process of democratisation is to put in place accountable government institutions which are freely elected by the people themselves and are accountable to the electorate. There is no doubt that the changes in the way the country is governed which have been implemented will lead to further enhancement of respect for human rights in Rwandan society.

Governance reforms

Since 1994, the Government of National Unity has been involved in diverse but interconnected processes whose overall aim is to ensure good governance, accountability and the rule of law, the absence of which has been the primary cause of the tragic experiences our country has gone through.

The government of Rwanda has implemented programmes of socio-political reforms, aimed at improving good governance and empowering the population through decentralization and democratisation. Laws on fiscal decentralization were enacted in 2001 and a decree creating the Common Development Fund (CDF) for Districts and Towns was adopted in 2002 and mechanisms for the distribution of the state resources at all levels have been provided. The Electoral Commission was strengthened to organize and oversee the election activities. Elections at district level were held in March 2001 to ensure broad participation in the political and economic reforms at grassroots level and in March 2002, elections were held to renew the mandate of the cell and sector leaders who had been elected in 1999.

A Constitutional making process has been carried out in a participatory framework and the draft of the Constitution was presented to a conference composed of about 700 people. A referendum on the new constitution took place on Monday 26th 2003. Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held in August and September, 2003.

Economic governance and reforms

As previously mentioned, existing economic, social and legal institutions needed to be re-established and rehabilitated, while others needed to be set up to take care of the new situation. Rwanda¹s economy was shattered by the events of 1994. Over the last nine years, however, a lot has been achieved with regard to reviving the economy. Cabinet has approved a draft for our Vision 2020, which provides the country with a roadmap for development until year 2020. A national Similarly, an Investment Strategy was designed and adopted by cabinet on September 23, 2003. It aims to improve the prioritisation of investment in Rwanda.

As it has been observed, to understand Rwanda¹s present, it is vital to glimpse a little into its past.

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Rwanda¹s economy sustained some minimum growth of about 3 percent per annum while the rest of Africa was on a downward spiral. Rwanda¹s benefit from the chaos in the neighbouring countries of Uganda and DRC was temporary. As Rwanda¹s Minister of Finance, Dr. Donald Kaberuka has observed, the chaos that engulfed Uganda under Iddi Amin, and the crisis of state collapse in Mobutu¹s Zaire provided the government of Rwanda an opportunity to have access to smuggled coffee from these two neighbours and export a quantity that the country was not producing. So this was the good performance based on someone else¹s misfortune rather than sustainable government policies.

Rwanda¹s economy was in decline from 1985 as real GDP growth failed to keep in tune with population growth. Total flow of foreign aid was 80% of the growth domestic product ( GDP ), as there was a large number of donors and donor programs.

It is no wonder therefore that most of the infrastructure in Kigali today was built after 1994. Prior to 1994, tax to GDP ratio was estimated at 6%, indicating that there was little to tax in spite of growth. In fact, bilateral donors‹France and Belgium , were helping Rwanda¹s balance of payment position.

It is in this context that the government of Rwanda has sought to restructure the economy and return to growth. To turn away from control, government started a process of economic reform, regulation and state command to market policies.

Rwanda began the process of recovery in earnest in 1995. In 1995 for instance, growth in real GDP was 35.2%; 1996, 12.7%; 1997, 13.8%; 1998, 9%; 1999, 7.6%; 2000, 6% ( this was due to drought); 2001, 6.8%; 2002, 9.9%. Rwanda¹s growth in the ratio of tax to GDP has equally been impressive: 1995, 6.8%; 1996, 9.3%; 1997, 10.4%; 1998, 10.6%; 1999, 10%; 2000, 9.7%; 2001, 11.4%; 2002, 13%.

Despite this however, all is not well for Rwanda¹s economy. The foreign debt stands at USD 1.3 billion. Rwanda has benefited from the IMF and World Bank sponsored Highly indebted Poor Countries ( HIPC ) debt relief initiative to the tune of USD 850million, which is about USD 640million in Net Present Value ( NPV ) terms.

The Government of Rwanda is looking more into policy incentives to promote exports. Rwanda¹s exports earning are a meagre USD 100 million from trade in goods and services plus another USD 100 million in unrequited transfers. Rwanda import bill stands at USD 280 million. A Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) was in November 2000 officially adopted by Cabinet. The overall objective of this is to reduce poverty from the current head count ratio of 60% to 30% by the year 2015.

Government continues to adopt measures to increase revenues and rationalize the tax system, including the successfully introduced VAT in 2001.

Besides all these initiatives and strategies, a number of institutions have been created. These include the Rwanda Revenue Authority, the National Tender Board, the Inspector General of Finance and Audit ( IGA ). The Public Accounts Division in the Ministry of Finance has been revived.

On February 25, 2003, the Cabinet approved the creation of an autonomous National Bureau of Statistics ( NBS ). All these measures are aimed at consolidating the policy of good governance, which is the cornerstone of the new administration.

Empowering the Youth and Women

The Youth and women empowerment has been a priority of the Government. The election of their representatives up to national level and their representation in the National Transitional Assembly. A comprehensive action plan to eliminate gender disparities was adopted by Government in 2000.

In the area of promoting gender equality, Rwanda now holds the world record after Sweden, with a 48.8 parliamentary representation for women! This has come about as a result of a concerted effort by government to remove legal hindrances and traditional chauvinistic beliefs that have all along worked in concert to ensure that women were denied education and positions of leadership. Civil society has equally been given place of pride, working with government to complement and trust each other so as to work for the common good of the country.

Challenges to the Government of Rwanda

While the achievements made over the last nine years appear impressive, given the daunting task that the people of Rwanda were faced in 1994, the challenges of recovery remain equally daunting. There are still serious social, economic, and political challenges facing the people of Rwanda today. Among the challenges the people of Rwanda face is that of coming to terms with the consequences of genocide, whose impact has been far reaching. Apart from a deep ethnic divide caused by the genocide, there are fears and anxieties, especially among genocide survivors, who continue to bear marks of trauma. The genocide deeply bruised Rwandan society by creating tens of thousands of orphans and widows. Many households are today headed by single women or by children-survivors of genocide. In 1996 a socio-demographic study carried out by UNICEF found that 35% of families were headed by women. The genocide also affected the elderly who lost their traditional family support. New estimates on poverty levels indicate that 60% of Rwanda¹s population live below poverty line. Female-headed households still form a significant proportion of 34% and remain the most vulnerable family structures.

The poverty situation has certain implications for the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially among women and children. According to the "households living conditions survey", women¹s experience of poverty in Rwanda is different in some ways and more acute than that of men due to a number of gender based forms of exclusion. For instance, according to UNICEF, though women play a much greater role in agriculture ( 93% of farmers being women ), the imbalance in traditional male-female power relations make it more difficult for women to own land. They have limited access to and control over other assets such as fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and credit and extension services ( National Gender Policy, 2000: 7).

Other challenges to Rwanda include, as was mentioned above, a shortfall on her export earnings. Current account deficit is also very high. It is 17% of GDP while foreign aid between 1995 and 1997 was 37% of GDP. Today, foreign aid is 19% of GDP, representing an impressive reduction but still very high level of dependence. The 1994 genocide also led to the breakdown of social networks and relations that ensure cooperation and support within communities.


Even as early as 2000, only six years after the genocide, international observers were hailing Rwanda for the progress the Government had made in the reconstruction and stabilisation of the country. Ambassador Stephen Lewis, then a member of the International panel appointed by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to investigate the genocide, stated after undertaking the study: Œyou never quite see the world in the same way againŠIt is remarkable how well [Rwanda] is doing despite a genocide just six years ago. It deserves massive assistance from the rest of the world, particularly from those countries who betrayed it when it needed the world most¹.

So, despite the enormous challenges that Rwanda still faces, ten years on, Rwanda is a budding democracy. Good governance is taking root and the people are able now to look to the future with hope and optimism. The rights of everyone are respected and the people know that the leadership of the country is their responsibility and that, through decentralization, they have a stake in this leadership. Most importantly, the citizens have been mobilized to understand that it is in their power to fight ignorance and poverty, to nurture self-respect and build a self-sustaining country, not to depend on outside assistance for everything.

Rwanda has worked hard to promote good bilateral and multilateral relations with different countries, in spite of her inability to have many diplomatic missions. She has nonetheless been able to make her case of genocide understood by a formerly apathetic, sometimes even hostile, international community.

There is no doubt that, as a consequence of our astute management of our conflict, Rwanda is now an oasis of security in Africa, a significant achievement, given the instability that has characterised our region for so long. We are building a society anchored on the rule of law and we are nurturing a new outlook that is Rwandan, and not ethnic, and cultivating a culture of inclusive and democratic politics in a decentralised framework that allows people in their communities to have a stake in governance.

We are confident that this will enable us to build a strong and secure basis for security in Rwanda as a precondition for long-term peace, security, stability and development.


Reader says high school students will benefit from reading Alfred Ndahiro's presentation about the history of Rwanda

Reader plans to discuss the article "10 Years On - The Story of Rwanda" with her Grade 12 students


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com