Rwanda is a small landlocked country in East-central Africa, with a population of around 12 million people, its population is predominately young, rural and Christian, it is ranked 159th out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index ( Australia is ranked 2nd), the local language is Kinyarwanda and is spoken by all people, many people also speak English and French.
Rwanda is now stable and secure, it has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and is a popular destination for tourists. However, many challenges remain, extreme poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, food insecurity, regional instability and conflict and the legacy of Genocide Ideology.
As the Mustard Seed Institute works in the realms of reconcilation, peace building and agriculture we have included more information about these issues below, to provide a context for readers.
The Genocide Against the Tutsis in 1994
The Genocide took place over a three-month period, from April to July 1994. In these three months, over a million people were slaughtered, usually by machetes and homemade weapons. The killers and the victims were Rwandans, neighbors killed neighbors, and even family members killed other family members. The killers were organized into militia groups, known as the Interahamwe, ‘those who work together’. The Rwandan army assisted the militia groups in the killings. The Genocide was highly organized and methodical. The Genocide took place all over Rwanda. Many people fled to Churches, thinking they would be safe; the Churches became mass slaughterhouses. No one was safe from the killers, Tutsi women were brutally raped and children and babies were mercilessly murdered.
The ideology behind the Genocide was based on perceived ethnic differences between Hutu and Tutsi Rwandans. There were stereotypes spread through government propaganda about the characteristics and physical appearance of each ethnic group. The Hutu Majority government spread hatred against the Tutsis amongst the population and the Tutsi community was severely discriminated against. The Genocide was a culmination of decades of government mandated Genocide ideology.
The Genocide was stopped when the rebel movement, Rwanda Patriotic Front, invaded the Rwanda from Uganda and overthrew the government and took over the country. The killers and a large proportion of the population fled to Eastern DR Congo.
Today, the government is led by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who has adopted a policy of reconciliation, and the concept of ‘Ndi Munyarwanda’ that states everyone is a ‘Rwandan’ not an ethnic identity, and spreading Genocide ideology is now illegal.
Every year Rwandans commemorate the Genocide in what is called the ‘Kwibuka Period’, from April to July ceremonies are held all over the country to remember the victims of the Genocide and comfort survivors. Memorials and mass graves exist in all provinces.
The International community failed to intervene to prevent the Genocide, even though they were aware of the mass killings.
Internationally available Movies and Books about the Genocide:
Sometimes in April
Shooting Dogs/Beyond the Gates
Rwanda is a predominately rural society, with 80% percent of the population involved in subsistence agriculture. Rwanda is a very small country, with a relatively large population for its tiny geographic size. Most Rwandans own small plots of land, and grow just enough produce to feed themselves, they may have a few animals, such as some goats, chickens or a cow, to supplement their diets. There is an absence of large-scale commercial agriculture in Rwanda; it is rare to find a farmer who owns several hectares of land. The country currently faces issues of food insecurity and rising food prices and it is estimated that 40% of Rwandan children in rural areas are malnourished. However, Rwanda is blessed with a high rainfall, fertile soils and a moderate sunny climate, with the implementation of new agricultural innovations, Rwanda’s’ agricultural sector could become much more productive and the rural population much healthier and prosperous.