Rwanda: Where minority leads and women rule
The population of Rwanda is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa.
Rwanda has been a unified state since pre-colonial times, and the population is drawn from just one ethnic and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda; this contrasts with most modern African states, whose borders were drawn by colonial powers and did not correspond to ethnic boundaries or pre-colonial kingdoms. Within the Banyarwanda people, there are three separate groups, the Hutu (84% of the population as of 2009), Tutsi (15%) and Twa (1%).
The Twa are a pygmy people who descend from Rwanda’s earliest inhabitants, but scholars do not agree on the origins of and differences between the Hutu and Tutsi. Anthropologist Jean Hiernaux contends that the Tutsi are a separate race, with a tendency towards “long and narrow heads, faces and noses”; others, such as Villia Jefremovas, believe there is no discernible physical difference and the categories were not historically rigid. In precolonial Rwanda the Tutsi were the ruling class, from whom the Kings and the majority of chiefs were derived, while the Hutu were agriculturalists.
The current government discourages the Hutu/Tutsi/Twa distinction, and has removed such classification from identity cards.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has been the dominant political party in the country since 1994. The RPF has maintained control of the presidency and the Parliament in national elections, with the party’s vote share consistently exceeding 70%. The RPF is seen as a Tutsi-dominated party but receives support from across the country, and is credited with ensuring continued peace, stability, and economic growth.
Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Freedom House, claim that the government suppresses the freedoms of opposition groups by restricting candidacies in elections to government-friendly parties, suppressing demonstrations, and arresting opposition leaders and journalists.
The constitution mandates a multi-party system of government, with politics based on democracy and elections. However, the constitution places conditions on how political parties may operate. Article 54 states that “political organizations are prohibited from basing themselves on race, ethnic group, tribe, clan, region, sex, religion or any other division which may give rise to discrimination“.
The government has also enacted laws criminalizing genocide ideology, which can include intimidation, defamatory speeches, genocide denial and mocking of victims.
According to Human Rights Watch, these laws effectively make Rwanda a one-party state, as “under the guise of preventing another genocide, the government displays a marked intolerance of the most basic forms of dissent“.
Amnesty International is also critical, saying that genocide ideology laws have been used to “silence dissent, including criticisms of the ruling RPF party and demands for justice for RPF war crimes“.
Faith Mukakalisa, a Rwandan legislator, was appointed to the position by the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), during its 126th sitting held in Kampala, Uganda early this month.
“The proportion of women in parliaments is 0.5% worldwide, and at this rate, gender equality will not be attained unless something is done to change this trend,” she said.
The legislator attributed her rise to the position to Rwanda’s distinguished success in gender promotion, particularly in the lower chamber of Parliament where women representation stands at 56.3%, the highest in the world.
The lower chamber, the Chamber of Deputies, has 80 members serving five-year terms. Twenty-four of these seats are reserved for women, elected through a joint assembly of local government officials; another three seats are reserved for youth and disabled members; the remaining 53 are elected by universal suffrage under a proportional representation system. Following the 2008 election, there are 45 female deputies, making Rwanda the only country with a female majority in the national parliament.
The upper chamber is the 26-seat Senate, whose members are selected by a variety of bodies. A mandatory minimum of 30% of the senators are women. Senators serve eight-year terms.
- Rwanda – that’s in Africa, isn’t it? (theglobeandmail.com)
- Genocide trial to be held in Rwanda for first time (dailystar.com.lb)
- You: Rwanda: Kagame’s dilemma (search.japantimes.co.jp)
- Imagine there are no Hutus or Tutsis (mondoweiss.net)
- Genocide Suspect Transferred to Rwanda (voanews.com)
- No High Court Ruling on Rwandan Genocide Law (voanews.com)
- Rwandan genocide suspect Leon Mugesera denied trial in French (vancouversun.com)
- Windsorite’s war crimes trial starts (windsorstar.com)
- Serving Kagame (thislandpress.com)