Political situation Deficits in the area of democracy and the rule of law

After the traumatic experience of the genocide in 1994, stability and security have been the primary goals of the Rwandan government. Despite remarkable economic and social progress, democracy and the rule of law are still underdeveloped.

View of Kigali from the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

View of Kigali from the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

View of Kigali from the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

By endorsing the African Union's Agenda 2063 (External link), Rwanda has committed itself to àgood governance, democracy and the rule of law and respect for human rights. The country has also signed the most important international human rights agreements. Rwanda’s government must now live up to these commitments.


Ambitious goals

The development strategies of the Rwandan government are aimed at significantly reducing the number of poor people and achieving strong economic growth driven by a flourishing service sector, a dynamic industrial sector and a modern, productive agricultural sector.

In its Vision 2050 (External link) the government has formulated the ambitious goal to propel Rwanda into the group of countries with higher middle income by 2035 and into the group with high income by 2050. This, however, would mean that average annual economic growth would have to be well over ten per cent. The government laid out the political, economic and social changes it believes are needed in its National Strategy for Transformation 2017–2024 (External link).

Democracy and human rights

The country's democratic development has so far not kept pace with its socioeconomic development. Freedom of opinion, freedom of the media and freedom of association are severely restricted, the space for civil society and parliamentary opposition is limited. Political opponents of the President are repeatedly abducted and imprisoned illegally.

The presidential and parliamentary elections of the last few years did not meet international democratic standards. The international community criticised, in particular, that opposition parties and candidates had not been admitted to the elections.

The Rwandan constitution bans any reference to ethnic identity in public. Commemoration of the genocide is the only exception. However, the government’s policy of zero tolerance prevents any effective action being taken to address social and political realities. Rwanda is still being governed by a Tutsi minority that holds all key positions, while the majority of people is Hutu (more than 80 per cent of the population). This could potentially lead to conflict in the future.

The government has made progress in its anti-corruption efforts. The non-governmental organisation Transparency International ranked Rwanda 52nd out of the 180 countries listed on the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 and fourth in Africa.

Women's rights

The Rwandan government is a strong advocate for gender equality. The rights of women to own land, to inherit property, to divorce and to be protected against gender-based violence have been legally enshrined.

Although many women in rural areas are still constrained by traditions, women play an important part in decision-making processes in national politics. The constitution requires that at least 30 per cent of seats in Rwanda’s parliament be held by women. Rwanda has a higher proportion of women in parliament than any other country in the world, with 61 per cent of seats held by women. Women hold important positions in the government and the private sector.

Coming to terms with the genocide

Photographs of victims of the genocide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The photos were provided by surviving family members who want to remember their loved ones.

Photographs of victims of the genocide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The photos were provided by surviving family members who want to remember their loved ones.

Photographs of victims of the genocide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The photos were provided by surviving family members who want to remember their loved ones.

In November 1994, the United Nations convened an international criminal tribunal for Rwanda to initiate criminal proceedings and prosecute crimes such as genocide, incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity. Charges were brought against 93 persons, 62 of whom were sentenced. The tribunal was formally closed in late 2015.

In addition to prosecuting perpetrators of the genocide through the regular courts, “Gacaca courts” also played a part in Rwanda in coming to terms with the crimes committed. Gacaca courts are village courts based on Rwanda’s traditional system of law. Although this system of community justice was criticised for not meeting legal standards, it has nevertheless made a decisive contribution to national reconciliation through hearings of the perpetrators, survivors and their relatives. The more than 15,000 Gacaca courts together dealt with around 1.9 million cases. The procedures were officially wound up in 2012.

Role within the international community

The Rwandan government plays an active and constructive role in regional and international organisations. The country is involved in UN peace operations and is committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Rwanda is also advocating an African continent that speaks with a strong voice and assumes ownership. Within the East African Community (EAC) Rwanda is pushing regional integration. Within the African Union, Rwanda’s President Kagame is seen as someone who paved the way for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that was officially launched in January 2021.

As at: 23/02/2022