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How has Rwanda fared in the past two decades since the 1994 genocide? And what does the future hold for this nation of 11 million people? Pambazuka News invites articles for a special issue to be published in April

This April, Rwandans mark 20 years since the genocide in 1994. In just three months, approximately 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus, were butchered in horrific massacres in a genocide while the world watched.

Hundreds of thousands of women were systematically raped, over 300,000 people survived the mayhem and some 650,000 were internally displaced. An estimated 2 million refugees fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

How has Rwanda fared in these two decades since the genocide? And what does the future hold for this nation of 11 million people?

According to President Paul Kagame, whose Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) took Kigali on July 4, 1994 and ended the genocide, Rwanda has achieved ‘unprecedented progress’. Unprecedented (or an equivalent superlative), it turns out, is the preferred appellation in government circles when describing the socio-economic and political progress, peace and stability that have been achieved so far.

‘Today, the Rwandan government is internationally recognized for its achievements in gender equality, reconstruction and reconciliation, universal primary education, access to healthcare and a continuous commitment to culturally based initiatives that deliver results for every Rwandan and the use of technology to improve the lives of every Rwandan,’ the president says.

Many people commend the series of measures taken by the government to transform the killing fields of 1994 into a stable and secure nation. Beyond pursuing the principal architects of the genocide through the special UN-mandated court in Arusha, Tanzania, and through local courts, Rwanda employed the traditional Gacaca court system to promote restorative rather than punitive justice for both genocide survivors and perpetrators.

Property was restored to families of genocide perpetrators, despite pressure on the government to redistribute that property to the survivors.

Some 40,000 prisoners who committed genocide were released due to old age on compassionate grounds. Laws were put in place to forbid revenge killings.

But while the government touts these and other achievements, critics say the genocide changed Rwanda for the worse. The country, they claim, is far less free now than it was prior to 1994. The ruling RPF has exploited the tragedy to exercise absolute control over all organs of the state through repressive laws, intimidation, administrative practices and the use of the security services to frustrate the exercise of the civil and political rights of citizens.

As a matter of fact, most of Rwanda’s dissidents – some of them former high-profile associates of President Kagame – are in exile, in prison or dead.

Critics warn that Rwanda is headed to an uncertain future - given the intensity of state repression of dissent, emasculation of opposition parties, the tight control of key public and private sectors by ethnic Tutsi elites allied to President Kagame and the systematic sidelining of the majority Hutu.

President Kagame himself is evasive on whether he will leave office as required by the constitution when his second term ends in 2017. His re-election in December 2013 by 99.5 percent of the vote as chairman of the RPF and the absence of any serious contender for the top job suggest that the parliament his party controls could change the constitution to make him eligible for a third term.

To commemorate the 20 years since the genocide and to reflect critically on the present situation, in April Pambazuka News will carry a special issue on Rwanda.

Please send us your contribution.


LENGTH OF ARTICLES: Articles are to be written in Microsoft Word, Font: Times, size 12, and between 1000-3000 words

Please submit a two-line biography at the end of your article and send to: [email protected]