|Saturday, 08 January 2011 08:48|
Pre-colonial Rwanda was a highly centralised Kingdom presided over by Tutsi kings who hailed from one ruling clan. The king ruled through three categories of chiefs: the cattle chiefs; the land chiefs; and the military chiefs. The chiefs were predominantly, but not exclusively, Tutsi, especially the cattle and military chiefs. While the relationship between the king and the rest of the population was unequal and parasitic, the relationship between the ordinary Hutu, Tutsi and Twa was one of mutual benefit mainly through the exchanges of their labour. The relationship between the ordinary people was symbiotic. A clientele system called "Ubuhake"permeated the entire society.
In 1899 Rwanda became a German colony. In 1919 Rwanda became a mandate territory of the League of Nations under the administration of Belgium. The Germans and the Belgians administered Rwanda through a system of indirect rule. During this colonial era, a cash crop economy was introduced in Rwanda, and this was enforced through harsh methods that alienated even more the King and his chiefs from the rest of the population.
In 1935 the Belgian colonial administration introduced a discriminatory national identification on the basis of ethnicity. Rwandans who possessed ten or more cows were registered as Tutsi whereas those with less were registered as Hutu. At first, the Belgian authorities, for political and practical reasons, favoured the king and his chiefs, who were mostly a Tutsi ruling elite. When the demand for independence began, mainly by a political party - Union Nationale Rwandaise (UNAR) - formed by people from the mentioned ruling elite, the Belgian authorities hastily nurtured another party called PARMEHUTU that was founded on a sectarian ethnic ideology. Under the Belgian supervision, the first massacres of Tutsi at the hands of PARMEHUTU occurred in 1959. With Belgian connivance, PARMEHUTU abolished the monarchy amidst widespread violence. On July 1st, 1962 Belgium granted formal political independence to Rwanda.
From 1959 onwards the population of Tutsi was targeted, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, and a population of almost two million Rwandan people in the diaspora that was to last over three decades.
The first republic under President Gregoire Kayibanda institutionalised discrimination against Tutsi and periodically used massacres against this targeted population as a means of maintaining the status quo. Some Rwandan groups in the diaspora attempted, without success, to stage a comeback through armed means.
In 1965 Rwanda was declared a one-party state under MDR/PARMEHUTU, which is the architect of the racist ideology which was to be consolidated in the second republic under President Major General Juvenal Habyarimana.
In 1973 the late President Kayibanda was deposed in a coup d'etat that brought Major General Habyarimana to power. Subsequently, the first President and many prominent politicians of the first republic were killed. More Tutsi were killed.
In 1975 President Habyarimana formed the Mouvement Revolutionaire Nationalepour le Developpement (MRND), a single ruling party that was to promulgate, in 1978, a sham constitution that repeatedly returned him to office by organising "elections" in which he was the sole candidate.
Both the first and second republics repeatedly stated that Rwanda was a small overpopulated country that could not accommodate Rwandan refugees if they were to return. Increasingly, the population across the ethnic lines was marginalised and impoverished while Habyarimana's regime became more violently intolerant. The divisions within the ruling Hutu clique that culminated in the coup d'etat of 1973 became more heightened in the '70s and '80s when the clique talked of Hutu of the north and Hutu of the south. Political activities remained banned.
Against a background of entrenched divisive and genocidal ideology, repeated massacres, the persistent problem of refugees in the diaspora, and lack of avenues for peaceful political change, the Rwandan Alliance for National Unity (RANU) was born in 1979 by some Rwandans in the diaspora with an objective of resolving these problems. Almost a decade later, in 1987, RANU became the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), whose objectives were and remain:
To promote national unity in our country;
To establish genuine democracy;
To provide security for all Rwandans;
To build an integrated and self-sustaining economy;
To eradicate corruption in all forms;
To repatriate and resettle Rwandan refugees living in exile;
To devise and implement policies that promote the social welfare of all Rwandans and;
To pursue a foreign policy based on equality, peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit between Rwanda and other countries.