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Rwanda -- History

Pre-Colonial History Twa, Hutu and Tutsi are the three peoples who inhabit Rwanda. The Twa, who number less than 1% percent of the population and are pygmies. They preferred living in the forests where they lived by hunting and gathering. The Twa gave way when the Hutu arrived in the region and moved deeper into the forests.

The origins of the Hutu is unclear probably arriving in what is present day Rwanda and Burundi from the 5th to the 11th century. The were small-scale agriculturists whose social structure was based on the clan. Kings, or Bahinza, ruled over limited clan groups. The Hutu believed that the Bahinza could cause rain, protect crops from insects and cattle from decease. The Bahinza derived their power and status from this belief. The Tutsi first migrated into the area around the 14th century. It was probably not one large, sudden invasion but a slow process that was mostly peaceful. The Tutsi used their ownership of cattle, advanced combat skills to achieve economic, political, and social control over the Hutu. Eventually, land ownership was taken away from the Hutu and became the property of the Tutsi king, or Mwami.

Over time, Hutu-Tutsi relations took the form of a client-patron contract called the ubuhake. At first, the agreement meant that Hutu could use Tutsi cattle in exchange for personal and military service. Over time ubuhake became a feudal-type class system through which land and cattle, and therefore power, were in the hands of the Tutsi minority. The Hutu indentured themselves to a Tutsi lord giving him agricultural products and personal service in exchange for the use of land and cattle.

At the apex of the class system was the Tutsi king, the Mwami. The Mwami was considered to be of divine origin. A myth tells of three children born in heaven fell to earth by accident, and one of these children, Kigwa, founded the most powerful Tutsi clan. The Mwami trace their lineage to this divine founder. In the middle of the 16th century, Mwami Mibambwe I Mutabazi was able to centralize the monarchy and reduced the power of neighboring chiefs. Early in the 19th century, Mwami Kigeri IV established the borders that were in place when the Germans arrived in 1894.

European Exploration and Annexation Several European explorers came close to Rwanda in the 19th century, but none penetrated into Rwanda. Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke in 1855 passed close to Rwanda in their search for the source of the Nile. Henry Morton Stanley, in 1876, also came into this region but did not go into Rwanda.

The 1885 Conference of Berlin declared the area that later became Rwanda and Burundi would be under German influence and control. It was 9 years after this conference that the first European traveled into Rwanda. This was the German Count von Götzen who later became the governor of German East Africa.

Rwanda and Burundi were located at the juncture of three empires and became the object of a diplomatic fight for possession. The Belgians and Leopold II, the Germans, and the British wanted possession of the territory. However, by 1910, and agreement handed control of Rwanda and Burundi to the Germans.

German Colonial Rule The Germans ruled indirectly through the political structure created by the Mwami. The Germans also conducted military operations against Hutu chiefs in the North that had not come under the Mwami's control. In the 1920s and 1930s the Germans ordered extensive coffee planting; they began to collect tax in cash, not in agricultural products in order to force the plantation of coffee. At his time the first missionaries also arrived in Rwanda. The White Fathers established missions and schools as early as 1903.

During World War I, the Belgians gained control of Rwanda and Burundi. After the war, on August 23, 1923,the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and Burundi under Belgian supervision.

The Belgian Administration Under Belgian administration, the power of the Mwami was curtailed. They modified the ubuhake system and eliminated the paying of tribute. With the formation of the United Nations the Belgian mandate changed. The Belgians retained trusteeship but were required to integrate the Rwandans into the political process. This lead to limited political representation in the government. In 1952, Belgian implemented the Ten-Year Development Plan, a series of broad socioeconomic reforms in order to promote political progress and social stability; however, this program subsequently granted the Tutsi minority political, economic and social domination over the Hutu majority. In 1959, after seven years of escalating civil unrest between the Hutu and Tutsi, the Belgian administrators declared a state of emergency and called in ground forces and paratroopers from the Congo to restore order. In the same year, administrators called for the new election of communal councils in hopes of diffusing the imbalance of Tutsi power. With the support of the UN General Assembly, the Trusteeship Council recommended that the future success of the region depended on the formation of a single united Rwandan-Burundi State. Following the premature election of 1960, Belgian authorities granted de facto recognition to the republican Rwandan State in order to avoid more social unrest. Belgium, according to the UN General Assembly, was still accountable for fulfilling their Trusteeship agreement and was asked to supervise elections to ensure the establishment of stabile transitional governments in both Burundi and Rwanda. However in April of 1962, both countries decided that a political union was impossible due to the unresolvable long-standing historical antagonism between their two republics.On June 27, 1962, the General Assembly voted to terminate the Belgian Trusteeship Agreement, and days later Rwanda attained independence.

Post-Independence: In 1962 Rwanda became independent, with Gregoire Kayibanda, leader of PARMEHUTU, as president. A new constitution was ratified. Soon after, in 1963, the Tutsi invaded Rwanda but were repelled. In retaliation, over 12,000 Tutsis were massacred by the Hutu, while countless Tutsis fled the country. The following year, the economic union of Rwanda and Burundi was terminated; Rwanda introduced its own national unit of currency, the Rwanda franc. In, 1969 Kayibanda was reelected to a second four-year term. Kayibanda's presidency came to an end in 1973 when he was overthrown in a bloodless coup led by Major General Juvenal Habyarimana. The constitution of 1962 was partially suspended, and the National Assembly dissolved. At the Bujumbura Conference of 1974, Zaire, Burundi and Rwanda agreed to cooperative action in defense and in economic affairs. In 1975, Habyarimana launched Le Movement Revolutionaire National pour le Development (MRND) as the nation's sole political party and he was, in single-party legislative balloting, reelected president in 1983 and 1988.

The Civil War began in 1990 when between 5,000 and 10,000 rebel Tutsi invaded Rwanda from neighboring Uganda; Habyarimana and the rebels agreed to a cease-fire on March 29, 1991. On June 6, 1991, the president signed a new Constitution legalizing opposition parties. The MRND changes its name to the Mouvement Républicain National pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRNDD). In October Dr. Sylvestre Nsanzimana, the former deputy Secretary-General of the OAU, was appointed to the new post of prime minister. On November 7, seven parties were legalized. On December 30, the new Parti Démocrate Chrétien (PDC) joined the MRNDD in a coalition government formed by Dr. Nsanzimana. The leading opposition parties, MDR, PSD, LP and PSR, refused to participate in talks concerning their cooperation in the coalition unless a prime minister was elected from a party other than the MRNDD.

On February 11, 1992President Habyarimana began new talks with the newly legalized opposition parties, now numbering 12, on forming a multiparty government. In March the MDR, PL, and PSD reached an agreement with the president on forming "a transitional government," on entering into debate on the issue of the National Conference, on general elections, on the refugee problem, and on opening talks with the RDF. The government signed an agreement at Arusha on July 14 and a cease-fire to begin on July 31. On September 18, a joint document was signed at Arusha on a political settlement that including power sharing among the parties. Agreement on presidential power in the proposed transition period was reached on October 12. With several political matters unsettled, a partial protocol was signed on October 31, providing for an executive cabinet headed by a prime minister and a president with reduced powers. After a three-day meeting of the ministers of the Interior and Justice of Rwanda and Burundi, the two sides agreed on November 24 on several measures including the control of refugee activities, actions against arms trafficking, the completion of border demarcation and appealed to the media for restraint.

Even though, in 1993, the government and the RPF sign an agreement on power sharing at Arusha on January 10, ethnic violence broke out in February, resulting in hundreds of deaths among both Hutus and Tutsis. With Tanzania's mediation, the government and the RPF agreed to a new cease-fire beginning March 9; the accord further stipulated the departure of foreign troops from Rwanda and their replacement by a UN-OAU force. A UN Security Council resolution reached in June established the Uganda-Rwanda Observer Mission (UNOMUR). The Rwandan government and the RPF signed a new peace agreement on August 4 at Arusha. Hopes for peace were soon disappointed, as obstacles to peace arose. Opposition to the deal grew among the Hutu majority, initially led by the CDR, which refused to participate in the proposed interim assembly. The CDR set up a broadcasting station, Radio/TV Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which denounced the Arusha agreement. The UN Security Council voted on October 5 to establish a new force for Rwanda in accordance with the Arusha agreement.

When President Juvenal Habyarimana and the President of Burundi were killed on their return to Kigali from Dar es Salaam in 1994, ethnic violence erupted again with a vengeance. Allegedly, their aircraft was shot down from the ground, by persons still unknown. A short time after the crash, organized murders began in Kigali, mostly of Hutu opponents of the MRNDD and CDR, but included many Tutsis as well. The government fled to Gitarama and the RPF approached the capital. Thousands were killed in Kigali by April. The killing of Tutsis then spread to other parts of Rwanda and continued unabated for weeks. The Rwandan government forces were no match for the RPF and were forced steadily to retreat.

In mid-June, the French government announced that 2,500 French troops would be sent into Rwanda to set up a `safe zone' in the south-west, with the goal of preventing further deaths. The Security Council approved the French intervention, called Operation Turquoise, on June 22. French forces first landedin Zaire, then crossed into Rwanda and set up the `safe area' on the south-western Zaire border. By this time it was estimated that half a million people had been killed in a period of only a few weeks On July 4, the RPA completed the capture of Kigali and also took Butare, Ruhengeri, and Gisenyi. Except for the French-occupied zone, the RPF now controled all of Rwanda, and France promised to hand over the zone to UN forces.

On July 17, the RPF announced that one of its leaders, Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, had been chosen to be President of Rwanda. The next day, the RPF declared that the war was over. Though the fallen regime continued to maintain that it was still Rwanda's rightful government and pledged to renew the war, a measure of stability was gained when other countries quickly recognized the new government.

On November 25, a new Transitional National Assembly of 70 representatives was inaugurated in Kigali in accordance with the Arusha accord. The MRNDD was excluded, its seats distributed among other parties.

Early in December, a panel of three African jurists, Atsu Koffi Amega of Togo, Haby Dieng of Guinea, and Salifou Fomba of Mali, presented a study of the murder of Tutsis to the UN. It concluded that "[o]verwhelming evidence points to the fact that the extermination of Tutsi by the Hutu was planned months in advance. The massacres were carried out mainly by Hutus in a determined, planned, systematic and methodical manner, and were inspired by ethnic hatred." It also argued that there were "serious reasons to conclude that Tutsis also carried out massacres, summary executions, violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity with regard to Hutus."

Early in1995, on January 7, President Bizimungu met with the presidents of Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, and the Prime Minister of Zaire to discuss Rwanda's domestic difficulties and the problem of refugees.

On January 11 there was an attack on the RPA by the army of the former government. In March about 2.5 million Hutu refugees remained in Zaire, Burundi, and Tanzania, either from reluctance or inability to return. New refugees were still leaving Rwanda to join them. Hutu refugees were unwilling to return to Rwanda even when thousands left Burundi camps in late March, for fear that they would be attacked by Tutsis in Burundi, where an internal crisis had arisen in which Tutsi extremists were thought to be closely allied to the RPF leadership in Kigali.

On February 22, the UN Security Council decided that the International Tribunal for Rwanda should convene at Arusha; it called on governments throughout the world to arrest suspects. Later, the OAU Committee for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution met at Tunis on April 20-21 and called for the rapid institution of a tribunal. Within Rwanda, judicial proceedings began; a massive number of arrests, as high as 23,000, quickly clogged an inadequate legal and penal system. Many detainees died in custody from illness and overcrowding, at rates as high as 300 per week. In April 1995, a new Rwandan political organization, the Rassemblement pour le Retour de la Democrate au Rwanda (RRD, was inaugurated at Bukavu in Zaire, claiming to represent the Hutu refugees. It maintained that it was distinct from the MRNDD, but its leadership was kept secret. In December, the International Tribunal on Rwanda made its first formal indictments for genocide, charging eight unnamed local officials in Kibuye with the crime.

Genocide trials began in Rwanda in December 1996. By June 31, 1997, 142 cases had been tried. Eight defendants were acquitted and 61 sentenced to death. International human rights organizations denounced the trials as unfair, mainly on grounds that most defendants did not have access to adequate legal representation and had been unable to cross-examine witnesses. In late 1996, the Alliance des Forces Democrates pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) led by Laurent Kabila broke up the main Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire. In May 1997, Kabila assumed power in Zaire, changing the country's name to the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the end of the year, RPA and Angolan troops remained in Rwanda.

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