Rwanda entered independence following a transition marked by violent internecine conflict. The conflict was stoked by the departing colonial rulers as they sought to place control of the levers of state in the hands of an ethnic majority, which they had hitherto marginalised in favour of a minority they now sought to exclude. It carried on into the country's post-colonial politics. For nearly three decades Rwanda's postcolonial rulers presided over an ethnocracy that perpetuated the negative colonial legacy of ethnic division. They systematically practiced a politics of exclusion and repression that placed the country's long-term stability under threat, eventually led to civil war, and culminated in the genocide of 1994. After the genocide and the defeat and overthrow of the ancien regime of ethnic supremacists, the new ruling elite (most of whom had spent nearly three decades in exile or been born there) embarked on re-building a collapsed state and re-ordering the country's politics. The last 14 years have witnessed deliberate efforts to re-orient the country away from three decades of politics of division and exclusion under the First and Second Republics, towards a system which privileges national reconciliation and unity, equity, and inclusion. This paper examines developments in post-1994 Rwanda against the background of pre-1994 politics and society, and the factors that led to and facilitated the war that culminated in the genocide and eventual overthrow of the Second Republic. It provides insights into the efforts and achievements made by the new ruling elites in pursuit of long-term peace and stability. A great deal, however, remains inadequately explored, including political organisation and the role of political parties, economic reform and management, and the reform and management of the security sector, all of which are the focus of on-going research.
Working Paper No. 28 (series 2), 2008, London, UK; Crisis States Research Centre, 42 pp.