Rwanda in the 2010’s

Rwanda in the 2010's

According to Countries and Exchange Rates, Rwanda is an east African state, located immediately south of the Equator and between Uganda to the N, Tanzania to the E, Burundi to the S and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West.

After the initial difficulties in establishing and concluding the proceedings against those responsible for the 1994 massacre, the activity of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the national courts and the gacacas – old traditional courts fully operational in 2005 – intensified over the first decade of the 21st century. There were cases of sensational convictions, such as that of Father Athanase Seromba, who confirmed the suspicions of connivance of the Rwandan Catholic Church with the perpetrators of the genocide: fled to Italy and then surrendered to the International Court in 2002, the priest was first sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in December 2006, and then on appeal – in 2008 – to life imprisonment. However, controversial cases of release were not lacking: significant was the release, in February 2007, of 8,000 prisoners believed to be involved in the 1994 genocide; while in the following month of April the former head of state Pasteur Bizimungu returned to freedom – following the granting of presidential pardon.

The parliamentary elections of September 2008 – the second since the entry into force of the new Constitution of 2003 – represented a moment of great importance in the process of democratization and consolidation of the country’s institutions. The consultations, of which international observers noted the overall peaceful development although judging them not in accordance with the standards of democratic elections, saw the victory of the coalition gathered around the party of President Paul Kagame – the Fronte patriotique rwandais (FPR) – with over 78% of the votes and 42 seats, while the Parti social-démocrate (PSD) and the Parti libéral (PL) won 7 and 4 seats respectively. By virtue of the election results and the 24 seats reserved for women through an indirect election mechanism,

In the subsequent presidential elections in August 2010, in a climate characterized by violence, intimidation and arrests – including that of Victoire Ingabire, an important opposition figure – Kagame was confirmed as head of state with over 93% of the votes.

During the years of his presidency, there had been high growth rates, an increase in foreign investment and the start of important infrastructure projects; in foreign policy, the country had also joined the Commonwealth in November 2009 and in the same month it was declared free of anti-personnel mines. The spaces for the opposition had however remained minimal and the Rwanda was still far from the development of a true democratic dialectic.

In January 2012, a French investigation ruled out Kagame’s responsibility in shooting down the plane on which – in April 1994 – the then Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was traveling, an episode that represented the casus belli which was followed by the dramatic massacre of Tutsi and moderate Hutus. The Rwandan government welcomed the new report, which contradicted the guidelines expressed in 2006 by a French court, which blamed the plane crash on Tutsi rebels led by Kagame.

In May 2012, the gacacas were also closed, while in October Victoire Ingabire was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy, terrorism and denial of the 1994 genocide, which was then increased to 15 years.

The parliamentary elections of September 2013 saw the confirmation of the coalition of parties led by the FPR, which won 41 seats against 7 for the PSD and 5 for the PL; the representation of women also rose to almost 64% of the Assembly.

After the break following the accusations against the head of state in 2006, which was followed by the restoration of diplomatic relations in 2009, a new clash took place between Rwanda and France in 2014: Kagame accused France – and with it Belgium – of having had a direct role in the political preparation of the genocide; words to which Paris reacted by not participating in the celebrations for the twentieth anniversary of the massacre.

In 2015, after having tried 93 people, the International Tribunal was preparing to conclude its activity, as only one case remained open on appeal.

Physical characteristics

The territory of the Rwanda is included in the basin of the Kagera river, a tributary of Lake Victoria. The country occupies a series of plateaus (whose altitude varies between 1500 and 2000 m asl) limited to the West by a mountain range that exceeds 4000 m with some peaks (at the NW end the massif of Virunga volcanoes culminates at 4507 m with the Karisimbi) and constitutes the eastern edge of the great fracture of the Rift Valley, occupied, in the central section, by Lake Kivu. To the east, the plateaus slope down slightly, reaching Lake Victoria at over 1100m above sea level in Tanzania.

The country is covered by savannas, while the climate, despite the Rwanda is located at equatorial latitude, is strongly tempered by the altitude. The temperature range is weak (less than one degree between the averages of the hottest month and the coldest month), while rainfall is of the order of 800-1000 mm per year.

Rwanda in the 2010's