Paul Kagame

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Paul Kagame
President of Rwanda
Assumed office
24 March 2000
Prime MinisterBernard Makuza
Pierre Habumuremyi
Preceded byPasteur Bizimungu
Personal details
Born(1957-10-23) 23 October 1957 (age 55)
Tambwe, Ruanda-Urundi
(now Nyarutovu Village, Buhoro Cell, Ruhango Sector, Ruhango District, Southern Province, Rwanda)
Political partyRwandan Patriotic Front
Spouse(s)Jeannette Nyiramongi
ChildrenIvan, Ange, Ian and Brian
ReligionRoman Catholicism[1]
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Paul Kagame
President of Rwanda
Assumed office
24 March 2000
Prime MinisterBernard Makuza
Pierre Habumuremyi
Preceded byPasteur Bizimungu
Personal details
Born(1957-10-23) 23 October 1957 (age 55)
Tambwe, Ruanda-Urundi
(now Nyarutovu Village, Buhoro Cell, Ruhango Sector, Ruhango District, Southern Province, Rwanda)
Political partyRwandan Patriotic Front
Spouse(s)Jeannette Nyiramongi
ChildrenIvan, Ange, Ian and Brian
ReligionRoman Catholicism[1]

Paul Kagame (pron.: /kəˈɡɑːm/ kə-GAH-may; born 23 October 1957) is a Rwandan politician who has been the sixth President of Rwanda since 2000. Previously he was Vice-President of Rwanda and Minister of Defense from 1994 to 2000, and during that time he was considered Rwanda's de facto leader even before becoming President.

Kagame rose to prominence as the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), whose military victory over the incumbent government in July 1994 effectively ended the Rwandan genocide. Under his leadership, Rwanda has been called Africa’s “biggest success story”[2] and Kagame has become a public advocate of new models for foreign aid designed to help recipients become self-reliant.[3] However, President Kagame's rule has been criticized for his domestic policies, which have been described as authoritarian. In addition Kagame has been accused of war crimes during Rwanda's invasion of the DR Congo in 1996, and of having led a subsequent proxy war against the DR Congo by arming the CNDP until January 20, 2009.[4]

Kagame has been funding the CECAFA Club Cup since 2002, and because of that the cup has been known as the Kagame Interclub Cup since then.


Early life

Kagame was born in October 1957, the youngest of six children,[5] in Tambwe, Rwanda-Urundi, a village located in the modern Southern Province of Rwanda.[6] His father, Deogratias, was a Tutsi with family ties to King Mutara III, but who chose to pursue an independent business career rather than maintain close ties to the royal court.[5] Kagame's mother, Asteria Rutagambwa, was also a Tutsi from the family of the Queen.[5] At the time of Kagame's birth, Rwanda was a United Nations Trust Territory; long-time colonial power Belgium still ruled the territory, but with a mandate to oversee independence.[7][8] Tension between Tutsi and Hutu had been escalating through the 1950s, culminating in the 1959 Rwandan Revolution. Hutu activists began killing Tutsi, forcing more than 100,000 to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.[9][10] Kagame's family abandoned their home, living for two years in the far north east of Rwanda and eventually crossing the border into Uganda. They moved gradually north, and settled in the Nshungerezi refugee camp in the Toro sub-region in 1962.[5] It was around this time that, as young boys, Kagame first met with his future comrade, Fred Rwigyema.[11]

Kagame's early years in primary school were spent with other Rwandan refugees in a school near the refugee camp, where they learnt English and began to integrate into Ugandan culture.[12] At nine years old, he moved to the respected Rwengoro Primary School, around 16 kilometres (10 mi) away, graduating with the best grades in the district.[13] He subsequently attended Ntare School, one of the best schools in Uganda, and also the alma mater of future Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.[13] The death of his father in the early 1970s, and the departure of Rwigyema to an unknown location, led to a decline in Kagame's academic performance and an increased tendency to fight those who belittled the Rwandan population.[14] He was eventually suspended from Ntare and completed his studies without distinction at Old Kampala Secondary School.[15]

After finishing his schooling, Kagame made two visits to Rwanda, in 1977 and 1978. He was initially hosted by family members of Rwandan classmates in Uganda, but upon arrival in Kigali he made contact with members of his own family.[16] He kept a low profile on these visits, believing that his status as a well connected Tutsi exile could lead to arrest; on his second visit he entered the country through Zaire rather than Uganda to avoid suspicion.[16] Kagame used his time in Rwanda to explore the country, familiarise himself with the political and social situation and to make numerous connections who would prove useful to him in his later activities.[16]

Military career, 1979–1994

Ugandan Bush War

Kagame served under Yoweri Museveni in the Ugandan Bush War and later in the Ugandan national army

In 1978, Fred Rwigyema returned to western Uganda and met with Kagame.[17] During his absence, Rwigyema had joined the rebel army of Yoweri Museveni, which was based in Tanzania and aimed to overthrow the government of Idi Amin.[17] Rwigyema then returned to Tanzania and fought in the 1979 war in which Museveni's army, allied with the Tanzanian army and other Ugandan exiles defeated Amin.[18] Following Amin's defeat and inspired by Rwigyema, Kagame and other Rwandan refugees pledged allegiance to Museveni, who was a Cabinet member in the transition government.[19] Kagame travelled to Tanzania where the Tanzanian government, aiming to protect the new Ugandan regime, trained him in espionage and information collection.[20]

In late 1980, a general election was held in Uganda which was won by former incumbent Milton Obote. Museveni disputed the result, so he and his followers withdrew from the new Ugandan government. In 1981, Museveni formed the rebel National Resistance Army (NRA); Kagame and Rwigyema joined as founding soldiers, along with thirty eight Ugandans.[21][22] The army's aim was to overthrow the Obote's government, in what became known as the Ugandan Bush War.[22][23] Kagame and Rwigyema joined the NRA aiming to ease conditions for Rwandan refugees persecuted by Obote and also to gain military experience for a putative future invasion of Rwanda.[24] Kagame specialised in intelligence gathering and he rose to a position close to Museveni.[25] The NRA, based in the Luwero triangle, fought the Ugandan army for the next five years and continued the war despite Obote's deposition in a 1985 coup and subsequent peace talks.[26] In 1986 the NRA captured Kampala with a force of 14,000 soldiers including 500 Rwandans, and formed a new government.[27]

After Museveni's inauguration as President, he appointed Kagame and Rwigyema as senior officers in the new Ugandan army; Kagame was the head of military intelligence.[28][29] They spent the next three years working overtly for the Ugandan army, while also covertly building a network of Rwandan refugees within the army's ranks intended as the nucleus for any putative attack on Rwanda.[30]

Rwandan Civil War

In the late 1980s Rwanda's President Habyarimana and Ugandan army members criticised Museveni over his appointment of Rwandan refugees to senior positions.[31][32] Museveni therefore demoted Kagame and Rwigyema from their official positions in 1989.[31] Kagame and Rwigyema remained de facto in senior positions, but began to accelerate their plans to invade Rwanda.[33] They joined an organisation called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a refugee association which had been operating since 1979, first as the Rwandan Refugee Welfare Foundation, then as the Rwandan African National Union (RANU), before becoming the RPF in 1987.[34] Rwigyema became the RPF leader shortly after joining and, while still working for the Ugandan army, began to plan the invasion.[35]

In October 1990, Rwigyema led hundreds of RPF rebels into Rwanda at the Kagitumba border post, advancing 60 km (37 mi) south to the town of Gabiro.[36] Paul Kagame was not present at the initial raids, as he was taking a course at the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, United States. The RPF suffered a significant reversal on the third day when Rwigyema was killed. Rwigyema's death, and the deployment of French and Zairian armed forces, threw the RPF into confusion and by the end of October they had been pushed back into the far northeast corner of the country.[37][38]

The Virunga Mountains, Kagame's RPF base from 1990–1991

Following Rwigyema's death, Kagame returned to Africa and took command of the RPF forces, which had been reduced to fewer than 2,000 troops.[39] Kagame and his soldiers moved west, through Uganda, to the Virunga mountains, a high altitude area in which the Rwandan army could not attack them.[40] From there, he rearmed and reorganised the army, and carried out fundraising and recruitment from the Tutsi diaspora.[41] Kagame restarted the war in January 1991, with a surprise attack on the northern town of Ruhengeri. The RPF captured the town, benefiting from the element of surprise, and held it for one day before retreating back to the forests.[42]

For the next year, the RPF waged classic hit and run style guerrilla war, capturing some border areas but not inflicting or suffering any major defeats.[43] In June 1992, following the formation of a multiparty coalition in Kigali, Kagame announced a ceasefire and began negotiations with the Rwandan government in Arusha, Tanzania.[44] Meanwhile, extremist groups formed and began intimidating Tutsi, and in January 1993 engaging in large scale violence and killing across north western Rwanda.[45] Kagame responded by launching a major attack, gaining a large swathe of land across the north of the country.[46] Negotiations continued in Arusha, however, and an agreement was signed in August 1993, which gave the RPF positions in a Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG) and in the national army.[47][48] The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), a peacekeeping force, arrived in the country and the RPF were given a base in the national parliament building in Kigali, for use during the setting up of the BBTG.[49]

Rwandan Genocide

On 6 April 1994, President Habyarimana's plane was shot down near Kigali Airport, killing Habyarimana and the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, as well as their entourage and three French crew members.[50][51] It is unknown who carried out the attack; many historians, such as Gerard Prunier,[52] as well as a 2012 report by French judges,[53] believe it was a coup d'etat by extreme Hutu members of Habyarimana's government and was planned as part of the Genocide; others, such as a 2006 report by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière allege that Kagame and the RPF were responsible.[54] Following Habyarimana's death, a military committee led by Colonel Theoneste Bagosora took immediate control of the country.[55] Under the committee's direction, the Interahamwe and the presidential guard began to kill opposition politicians and prominent Tutsi;[56] within 24 hours all moderate leaders had been killed,[57] including prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana.[58] The killers then began targeting the entire Tutsi population, beginning the Rwandan Genocide.[59]

On 7 April Kagame warned the committee and UNAMIR that he would resume the civil war if the killing did not stop.[60] The RPF troops stationed in the national parliament building began fighting during the night, after being attacked,[61] and on 8 April Kagame began an attack from the north on three fronts aiming to link up quickly with the isolated troops in Kigali.[62] An interim government was set up but Kagame refused to talk to it, believing that it was just a cover for Bagosora's rule.[63] Over the next few days, the RPF advanced steadily south, capturing Gabiro and large areas of countryside to the north and east of Kigali.[64] They avoided attacking Kigali or Byumba at this stage but conducted maneouvres which aimed to encircle the cities and cut off supply routes.[65] The RPF also allowed Tutsi refugees from Uganda to settle in the areas controlled.[65]

Throughout April there were numerous attempts by UNAMIR to establish a ceasefire but Kagame insisted each time that the RPF would not stop fighting unless the killings stopped.[66] In late April the RPF secured the whole of the Tanzanian border area and began to move west from Kibungo, to the south of Kigali.[67] They encountered little resistance, except around Kigali and Ruhengeri.[63] By 16 May they had cut the road between Kigali and Gitarama, the temporary home of the interim government, and by 13 June had taken Gitarama itself, following an unsuccessful attempt by the RGF to reopen the road; the interim government was forced to relocate to Gisenyi in the far north west.[68] As well as fighting the war, Kagame was recruiting heavily to expand the army; the new recruits included Tutsi survivors of the Genocide and refugees from Burundi, but were less well trained and disciplined than the earlier recruits.[69]

Having completed the encirclement of Kigali, Kagame spent the month of June fighting for the city itself.[70] The government forces had superior manpower and weapons, but the RPF were still gradually gaining territory as well as conducting raids to rescue civilians from behind enemy lines.[70] According to Roméo Dallaire, the force commander of UNAMIR, this success was due to Kagame being a "master of psychological warfare";[70] he exploited the fact that the RGF were concentrating on the Genocide rather than the fight for Kigali, and capitalised on the government's loss of morale as it lost territory.[70] The RPF finally defeated the RGF in Kigali on 4 July,[71] and on 18 July took Gisenyi and the rest of the north west, forcing the interim government into Zaire and ending the Genocide.[72] At the end of July 1994, Kagame's forces held the whole of Rwanda except for a zone in the south west which had been occupied by a French led United nations force as part of Operation Turquoise.[73]

Marriage and children

Jeannette Kagame

Kagame married Jeannette Nyiramongi, a Tutsi exile living in Nairobi, Kenya in Uganda on June 10, 1989. [74] Kagame had requested his relatives to suggest a suitable marriage and they recommended Nyiramongi. Kagame travelled to Nairobi and introduced himself, persuading her to visit him in Uganda. Nyiramongi was familiar with the RPF, and its goal of returning refugees to Rwanda, so held Kagame in high regard.[74]

The couple have four children:[75]

Vice President and Minister of Defence

The post-Genocide Rwandan government took office in Kigali in July 1994;[79] it was based loosely on the Arusha accords, but Habyarimana's party was outlawed and the RPF took over the positions it had been assigned.[80] The military wing of the RPF was renamed to the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and became the national army.[81] Paul Kagame assumed the dual roles of Vice President and Minister of Defence while Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu who had been a civil servant under Habyarimana before fleeing to join the RPF, was appointed President.[82][83] Bizimungu and his Cabinet had some control over domestic affairs, but Kagame remained commander-in-chief of the army and was the de facto ruler of the country.[84][85]

Domestic situation

Vice President Kagame with United States Secretary of Defense William Perry in July 1994

The infrastructure and economy of the country had suffered greatly during the Genocide; many buildings were uninhabitable and the former regime had carried with them all currency and moveable assets when they fled the country.[86] Human resources were also severely depleted; over 40 per cent of the population had been killed or had fled,[86] while many of the remainder were traumatised; most had lost relatives, witnessed killings or participated in the Genocide.[87] The army, controlled by Kagame, maintained law and order while the Government began the work of recreating the country's structures.[88][89] NGOs began to move back into the country but the international community did not provide significant assistance to the new regime; most international aid was routed to the refugee camps which had formed in Zaire following the exodus of Hutu from Rwanda.[90] Kagame strove to portray the government as inclusive and not Tutsi dominated; the indication of a citizen's ethnicity was removed from national identity cards and the government began a policy of downplaying the distinction between Hutu, Tutsi and Twa.[88]

During the Genocide and in the months following the RPF victory, RPF soldiers killed many people they accused of participating in or supporting the Genocide.[91] Many of these soldiers were recent Tutsi recruits from within Rwanda, who had lost family or friends and sought revenge.[92] The scale, scope and source of ultimate responsibility of these killings is disputed; Human Rights Watch, as well as scholars such as Gerard Prunier, allege that the death toll might be as high as 100,000,[93] and that Kagame and the RPF elite either tolerated or organised the killings.[94] Kagame himself, in an interview with journalist Stephen Kinzer, acknowledged that killings occurred but stated that they were carried out by rogue soldiers and that it was impossible to control.[95] The RPF killings gained international attention with the 1995 Kibeho Massacre, in which soldiers opened fire on a camp for internally displaced persons in Butare Province.[96] Australian soldiers serving as part of UNAMIR estimated at least 4,000 people were killed;[97] the Rwandan Government's estimate of the number killed was about 338.[98]

In addition to this controversial retribution by RPF soldiers, the Government began applying legal justice for crimes committed during the Genocide.[99] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, operating under a United Nations mandate, was set up in Arusha to judge the most senior leaders responsible for the Genocide. However, the Tribunal did not prosecute the thousands of ordinary citizens who had participated in the Genocide. The Rwandan Government was determined to prosecute all suspected perpetrators, to end the "culture of impunity" that it blamed for the Genocide. Between 1994 and 2000 120,000 suspects were arrested; the prisons were overcrowded and the courts could not process all the cases - by 2006 only 10,000 of those arrested had been tried.[100] The Government therefore introduced Gacaca, a village court system based on traditional Rwandan justice. The Gacaca process allowed for faster processing of cases, but lacked many safeguards and principles of international criminal law.[101]

The unity government suffered a partial collapse in 1995. The continuing violence, along with the appointmenting of local government officials who were almost exclusively RPF Tutsi caused serious disagreement between Kagame and senior Hutu government members, including Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu and Interior Minister Seth Sendashonga.[102] Twagiramungu resigned in August, then Sendashonga and three others were fired the next day.[102] Pasteur Bizimungu remained President but the make up of the new government was predominantly RPF Tutsi loyal to Kagame.[103] Twagiramungu and Sendashonga moved abroad to form a new opposition party shortly after leaving the government.[104]

Refugee crisis and insurgency

Following the RPF victory approximately two million Hutus fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries, in particular Zaire, fearing RPF reprisals for the Genocide.[105] The camps were set up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) but were effectively controlled by the army and government of the former Hutu regime including many leaders of the Genocide.[106] This regime was determined to return to power in Rwanda and began rearming, killing Tutsi residing in Zaire and launching cross border incursions in conjunction with the Interahamwe paramilitary group.[107][108] By late 2006 the Hutu militants represented a serious threat to the new Rwandan regime and Kagame launched a counteroffensive.[109]

Kagame's first move was to support a rebellion against Zaire by the Banyamulenge, a Tutsi group living around Bukavu.[110] With Rwandan army support the Banyamulenge defeated local security forces and began attacking the refugee camps in the area. At the same time, Kagame's forces joined with Zairian Tutsis around Goma to attack two of the camps there.[110][108] Most refugees from the attacked camps moved to the large Mugunga camp, but in November 1996 the Rwandan army attacked that too causing an estimated 800,000 refugees to flee.[111] Many returned finally to Rwanda despite continuing to fear the RPF, while others ventured further west into Zaire.[112]

Despite the disbanding of the camps, the defeated forces of the former regime continued a cross-border insurgency campaign from North Kivu.[113] The insurgents maintained a presence in Rwanda's north-western provinces and were supported by the predominantly Hutu population, many of whom had lived in the refugee camps before they were attacked.[114] In addition to supporting the wars in the Congo, Kagame began a propaganda campaign to bring the Hutu to his side.[115] He integrated former FAR soldiers into the national army and appointed senior Hutu to key local government positions in the areas hit by insurgency.[115] These tactics were eventually successful; by 1999 the population in the north west had stopped supporting the insurgency and the insurgents were mostly defeated.[116]

Congo Wars

Although his primary reason for military action in Zaire was the dismantling the refugee camps, Kagame also began planning a war to remove long time dictator President Mobutu Sese Seko from power.[108] Mobutu had supported the genocidaires based in the camps and was also accused of allowing attacks on Tutsi within Zaire.[117] Together with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Kagame supported the newly created Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL), an alliance of four rebel groups headed by Laurent-Désiré Kabila which began waging the First Congo War.[118] The AFDL, helped by Rwandan and Ugandan troops, took control of North and South Kivu provinces in November 1996 and then advanced west, gaining territory from the poorly organised and demotivated Zairian army with little fighting.[119] By May 1997 they controlled almost the whole of Zaire except for the capital Kinshasa; Mobutu fled and the AFDL took the capital without fighting.[120] The country was renamed to Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kabila became the new President.[121]

Kagame and the Rwandan government retained strong influence over Kabila following his inauguration and the RPA maintained a heavy presence in Kinshasa.[122] Congolese in the capital resented this, as did many in the eastern Kivu provinces where ethnic clashes were increasing sharply.[123] In July 1998 Kabila fired his Rwandan chief-of-staff, James Kabarebe, and ordered all RPA troops to leave the country.[124] Kagame accused Kabila of supporting the ongoing insurgency against Rwanda from North Kivu, the same accusation he had made about Mobutu.[125] He responded to the expulsion of his soldiers by backing a new rebel group, the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) and launching the Second Congo War.[126] The first action of the war was a blitzkrieg by the RCD and RPA, led by Kabarebe; this blitzkrieg made quick gains, advancing in twelve days from the Kivu provinces west to within 130 kilometres (81 mi) of Kinshasa.[127] The capital was saved, however, by the intervention of Angola and Zimbabwe on Kabila's side.[128] Following the failure of the blitzkrieg, the war developed into a long term conventional war which lasted until 2003 and led to the loss of an estimated three million lives.[129]

Although Kagame's primary reason for the two wars in the Congo was Rwanda's security, there is evidence that he also gained economic benefit by exploiting the mineral wealth of the eastern Congo.[130] The 2001 United Nations Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo alleged that Kagame, along with Ugandan President Museveni, were "on the verge of becoming the godfathers of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo".[131] The report also claims that the Rwandan Ministry of Defence contained a "Congo Desk" dedicated to collecting taxes from companies licensed to mine minerals around Kisangani and that substantial quantities of coltan and diamonds passed through Kigali before being sold on by contacts on the Congo Desk.[132] Kagame dismissed the report, stating that its allegations were unsubstantiated, that it was politically motivated and that if solid evidence against Rwandan officers were presented they would be dealt with very seriously.[133]



In the late 1990s Kagame began to disagree publicly with Bizimungu and the Hutu-led government.[134][135] Kagame accused Bizimungu of corruption and poor management,[136] while Bizimungu felt that he had no power over appointments to the cabinet and that the National Assembly was acting purely as a puppet for Kagame.[137] Bizimungu resigned from the presidency in March 2000.[138] Historians do not agree on the precise circumstances of Bizimungu's departure; American author Stephen Kinzer contends that "one of the president's friends called Kagame with the startling news that the president was preparing to resign"[139] while Gérard Prunier states that Bizimungu was forced to resign, having denounced the National Assembly and attempted to sow discord within the RPF.[137] Following Bizimungu's resignation, the Supreme Court ruled that Kagame should became acting President until a permanent successor was chosen.[140]

Kagame had been de facto leader since 1994 but had focussed more on military, foreign affairs and the country's security than day-to-day government. By 2000 the threat posed by cross-border rebels was much reduced and when Bizimungu resigned, Kagame decided to seek the presidency himself.[134] The transitional constitution was still in effect which meant the President was elected by government ministers and the national assembly rather than through a national election.[141] The RPF selected two candidates, Kagame and RPF secretary general Charles Murigande; the ministers and parliament then elected Kagame by eighty-one votes to three.[142] Kagame was sworn in as President in April 2000.[143] A number of Hutu politicians, including the Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema, left the government at around the same time as Bizimungu, leaving a Cabinet dominated by those close to Kagame.[144] Bizimungu started his own party following his resignation, which was explicitly forbidden by the Arusha Accords.[145] He was subsequently arrested and convicted of corruption and inciting ethnic violence; he remained in prison until 2007, when he was pardoned by Kagame.[146]

New Constitution

Between 1994 and 2003 Rwanda was governed by a set of documents combining President Habyarimana's 1991 Constitution, the Arusha Accords, and some additional protocols introduced by the transitional government.[147] As required by the Accords, Kagame set up a Constitutional Commission to draft a new permanent Constitution.[148] The Constitution was required to adhere to a set of fundamental principles including equitable power sharing and democracy.[149] The Commission sought to ensure that the draft Constitution was "home-grown", relevant to Rwanda's specific needs and reflected the views of the entire population; they sent questionnaires to civil groups across the country and rejected offers of help from the international community, except for financial assistance.[150]

The draft constitution was released in 2003; it was approved by the Parliament, and was then put to a referendum in May of that year.[151] The government gave the referendum a high profile, which meant that ultimately 95% of eligible adults registered to vote and the turnout on voting day was 87%.[152] The constitution was overwhelmingly accepted, with 93% voting in favour.[152] The constitution provided for a two house parliament, an elected President serving seven year terms, and multi-party politics.[152] The constitution also sought to prevent Tutu or Hutsi hegemony over political power.[152] 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".[153] According to Human Rights Watch, this clause along with later laws enacted by Parliament 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".[154]

Election Campaigns

Presidential election, 2003

President Kagame in March 2003.

Following the adoption of the new Constitution in May 2003, the Government set dates for the first elections held under the new law. The Presidential poll was set for 25 August 2003[155] In May, the Parliament voted to ban the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), following a parliamentary commission report accusing the MDR of "divisive" ideology.[156] The MDR had been one of the coalition parties in the transitional government of national unity and was the second largest party in the country after the RPF.[157] Amnesty International criticised this move, claiming that "the unfounded allegations against the individuals mentioned in the report appear to be part of a government-orchestrated crackdown on the political opposition".[158]

The RPF selected Paul Kagame as its presidential candidate, to run for his first full term following his three year transitional presidency.[159] His main challenger was Faustin Twagiramungu, who had been Prime Minister from 1994 to 1995, when he resigned and moved to Brussels after a disagreement with Kagame. Twagiramungu had intended to run as the candidate for the MDR, but instead sought the presidency as an independent following the party's banishment.[160] Twagiramungu returned to the country in June 2003 and began campaigning in August.[160][161] Two other candidates also planned to run; they were Alvera Mukabaramba, a medical doctor and former MDR member running for the newly formed Party for Progress and Concord (PPC), and Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira, an independent and former member of parliament who cited belief in God as a central part of his campaign.[162] Mukabaramba pulled out one day before the election, accusing Twagiramungu of ethnic propaganda and advising her supporters to vote for Kagame.[163] The election went ahead on 25 August with Kagame, Twagiramungu and Nayinzira as candidates.[164]

Kagame declared victory in the election on 26 August, after partial results showed him with an almost insurmountable lead;[164] his win was later confirmed by the National Electoral Commission.[165] The final results showed that Kagame received 95.1% of the vote, Twagiramungu 3.6% and Nayinzira 1.3%; the voter turnout was 96.6%.[165] The campaign, election day and aftermath were largely peaceful; however an observer from the European Union (EU) raised concerns that opposition supporters may have been intimidated by the RPF.[166] Twagiramungu rejected the result of the election and also questioned the margin of victory, saying "Almost 100 per cent? That's not possible".[166] Twagiramungu filed a petition at the Supreme Court to nullify the result but was unsuccessful.[167] The EU observer also questioned the result, citing "numerous irregularities" but praised the election overall describing it as a "positive step".[168] Kagame himself, in an interview with journalist Stephen Kinzer, acknowledged that the opposition had been weak but believed the result was genuine. He told Kinzer "they wanted security first of all. Even people who didn't know the RPF program in detail saw us as the party that would guarantee that".[169] Kagame was sworn in on 12 September to begin his seven year term.[170]

Presidential election, 2010

Kagame's first term expired and new elections were held in 2010.[171] Having served one term as elected president, Kagame was entitled to serve for one further term.[172] The election campaign began publicly in January 2010 when Victoire Ingabire, a Hutu who had been living abroad for some years, returned to Rwanda and announced her candidacy for the presidency.[173] Ingabire caused some controversy in the country following her arrival, with comments relating to the genocide.[174] The government accused her of breaking the country's strict laws regarding Genocide denial, and she was arrested in April 2010.[174] She was released on bail, but was prohibited from running in the election.[173]

In May, President Kagame was officially endorsed as the RPF's candidate for the election, at the party's national congress.[175] Kagame then became the first candidate to be accepted when he presented his electoral papers in July.[173] Three other candidates registered successfully for the election; they were Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of the Social Democratic Party,[176] Prosper Higiro of the Liberal Party,[177] and Alvera Mukabaramba of the Party for Progress and Concord.[178] Two other contenders failed to get official documents through and did not get accepted into the race. Human Rights Watch described Kagame's three opponents as "broadly supportive of the RPF" and claim that most Rwandans would not describe them as "real" opposition, while those who criticised the RPF were barred from the election.[179]

In the run up to the election there was some violence and a number of incidents involving prominent opposition and media figures. In February there was a grenade attack in Kigali which killed two people. Rwandan prosecutors blamed Kayumba Nyamwasa, a dissident General who had become a critic of Kagame.[180] Nywamwasa fled to Johannesburg, South Africa, and in June he survived a shooting in the city. Nyamwasa alleged that it was an assassination attempt, a charge Rwanda denied. Days later, journalist Jean-Léonard Rugambage, who claimed to have uncovered the regime's responsibility in the attempted murder was shot dead.[181] In July, the vice-president of the Democratic Green Party, André Kagwa Rwisereka was beheaded in Butare. There is no concrete evidence linking Kagame with the attacks, but it was sufficient for the United Nations to demand an investigation.[182]

Kagame was declared the winner of the election, according to results released by the National Electoral Commission on 11 August.[183] Kagame received 93.08% of the vote, with second placed Ntawukuriryayo polling 5.15%. The turnout was 97.51% of registered voters.[184] Opposition and human rights groups said after the results that the election was tainted by repression, murder and lack of credible competition. Kagame responded saying "I see no problems, but there are some people who choose to see problems where there are not."[185] The election was largely peaceful although there was a further grenade attack in Kigali hours after the election commission announced Kagame's victory, injuring about 20 people. Media reports indicated the attack may have been politically motivated and connected to earlier attacks in the same area.[186]

Domestic policy

Vision 2020

In the late 1990s Kagame began actively planning methods to achieve national development. He launched a national consultation process[187] and also sought the advice of experts from emerging nations including China, Singapore and Thailand.[188] Following these consultations, and shortly after assuming the presidency, Kagame launched an ambitious programme of national development called Vision 2020.[188] The major purposes of the programme were to unite the Rwandan people and to transform Rwanda from a highly impoverished to a middle income country.[187] The programme consists of a list of goals which the government aims to achieve before the year 2020.[188] These include reconstruction, infrastructure and transport improvements, good governance, improving agriculture production, private sector development and health and education improvements.[187]


Rwanda's economy has grown rapidly under Kagame's presidency, with per-capita GDP (PPP) estimated at $1,430 in 2012,[189] compared with $567 in 2000.[190] Annual growth between 2004 and 2010 averaged 8% per year.[191] Kagame's economic policy is based on liberalising the economy, privatising state owned industries, reducing red tape for businesses,[191] and transforming the country from an agricultural to a knowledge-based economy.[192] Kagame has stated that he believes Rwanda can emulate the economic development of Singapore since 1960,[193] and achieving middle income country status is one of the central goals of the Vision 2020 programme.[187] Kagame's economic policy has been praised by many foreign donors and investors, including Bill Clinton and Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz;[194][195] however, the Congolese government and human rights groups have accused Rwanda of illegally exploitating Congolese minerals;[196] according to the London Daily Telegraph this exploitation plays an "important part" in the success of Rwanda's economy.[194]

Rwanda is a country of few natural resources,[197] and the economy is heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture; an estimated 90% of the working population farms.[198] Under Kagame's presidency, however, the service sector has grown strongly. In 2010, it became the country's largest sector by economic output contributing 43.6% of the country's GDP.[198] Key tertiary contributors include banking and finance, wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transport, storage, communication, insurance, real estate, business services and public administration including education and health.[199] Information and communications technology is a Vision 2020 priority, with a goal of becoming an ICT hub for Africa;[192] the government has completed a 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi) fibre-optic telecommunications network, intended to provide broadband services and facilitate electronic commerce.[200]. Tourism is one of the fastest-growing economic resources and became the country's leading foreign exchange earner in 2011.[201] In spite of the genocide's legacy, Kagame's achievement of peace and security means the country is increasingly perceived internationally as a safe destination;[202] in the first half of 2011, 16% of foreign visitors arrived from outside Africa.[203] The country's mountain gorillas attract thousands of visitors per year, who are prepared to pay high prices for permits.[204]

Rwanda ranks highly in several categories of the World Bank's ease of doing business index. In 2009, the country topped the list of reformers,[191] and was 8th on the 2012 rankings for ease of starting a business;[205] the Rwanda Development Board asserts that a business can be authorised and registered in 24 hours.[191] The country's overall ease of doing business index ranking is 52nd out of 185 countries worldwide, and 3rd out of 46 in Sub-Saharan Africa.[206] The business environment and economy also benefit from relatively low corruption in the country; in 2010, Transparency International ranked Rwanda as the 8th cleanest out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and 66th cleanest out of 178 in the world.[207]

Education and health

Kagame has made education a big priority for his administration, allocating 17% of the annual budget for the sector.[208] The Rwandan government provides free education in state-run schools for nine years: six years in primary and three years following a common secondary programme.[209] Kagame also announced during his 2010 re-election campaign that he plans to extend this free education to cover the final three secondary years.[175] Kagame credits his government with improvements in the tertiary sector; the number of universities has risen from 1 in 1994 to 29 in 2010,[210] and the tertiary gross enrolment ratio increased from 4% in 2008 to 7% in 2011.[211] From 1994 until 2009, secondary education was offered in either French or English; due to the country's increasing ties with the East African Community and the Commonwealth, only the English syllabi are now offered.[212] The country's literacy rate, defined as those aged 15 or over who can read and write, was 71% in 2009, up from 38% in 1978 and 58% in 1991.[213]

Kagame's government is seeking to improve the health situation in Rwanda as one of the Vision 2020 priorities. It has increased funding, with the health budget up from 3.2% of national expenditure in 1996 to 9.7% in 2008.[214] It also set up training institutes including the Kigali Health Institute (KHI),[215] and in 2008 effected laws making health insurance mandatory for all individuals;[216] by 2010 over 90% of the population was covered.[217] These policies have contributed to a steady increase in quality of healthcare and key indicators during Kagame's presidency. In 2010, 91 children died before their fifth birthday for every 1000 live births, down from 163 under five deaths for every 1000 live births in 1990.[218] Prevalence of some diseases is declining, including the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus[219] and a sharp reduction in malaria morbidity, mortality rate, and specific lethality.[220] Despite the improvements, there remains a shortage of qualified medical professionals in the country, with only two doctors and two paramedics per 100,000 people,[221] some medicines are in short supply or unavailable,[214] and the country's health profile remains dominated by communicable diseases, including malaria, pneumonia, and HIV/AIDS.[222][220]

Foreign policy

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kagame (right) with Congolese President Joseph Kabila (left) at a peace summit with Thabo Mbeki, and George W. Bush in 2002

The Second Congo War, which began in 1998, was still raging when Kagame assumed the presidency in 2000. Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Chad had committed troops to the Congolese government side,[223] while Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi were supporting rebel groups.[224] The RCD had split in 1999 into two factions: the RCD-Goma, supported by Rwanda, and the RCD-Kisangani, which was allied to Uganda.[225] Uganda also supported the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), a rebel group from the north.[225] All these rebel groups were at war with Kabila's government in Kinshasa, but were also increasingly hostile to each other.[225] Various peace meetings had been held, culminating in the July 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement which was signed by Kabila, Kagame and all the other foreign governments;[226] the rebel groups were not party to the agreement, however, and fighting continued.[226] The RPA continued to be heavily involved in the Congo War through 2000, fighting battles Ugandan army in Kisangani and against Kabila's army in Kasai and Katanga.[227][228]

In January 2001, Kabila was shot dead inside his palace.[229] The Congolese government claimed Kabila had been killed by a rogue bodyguard, who was himself killed at the scene.[230] However, a report published in French newspaper Le Monde, Kabila was killed by the kadogo, an army of highly loyal child soldiers known he had assembled during the First Congo War; the kadogo had suffered badly during the battles in Kasai and Katanga, were poorly paid and had become alienated by Kabila.[230] Kabila's son Joseph was appointed President and immediately began asserting his authority by dismissing his father's cabinet and senior army commanders,[231][232] assembling a new government, and engaging with the international community.[233] The new government provided impetus for renewed peace negotiations and in July 2002 a peace agreement was reached betewen Rwanda, Congo and the other major participants, in which all foreign troops would withdraw and RCD-Goma would enter a power-sharing transitional government with Joseph Kabila as interim President until elections could be held.[234] By the end of 2002 all uniformed Rwandan troops had left Congolese territory.[235]

Despite the agreement and subsequent ceasefire, relations between Kagame and the Congolese government have remained tense. A 2003 United Nations report alleged that Rwanda was using demobilised soldiers to continue its illegal exploitation of Congolese minerals.[235] Meanwhile, Kagame blamed Kabila for failing to suppress Hutu rebels in North and South Kivu provinces.[236] Two major insurgencies have occurred in the eastern provinces: the first, from 2005 to 2009 was led by Congolese Tutsi Laurent Nkunda,[237] while the second, carried out by the March 23 Movement (M23) began in 2012 and is still continuing as of 2013. Human Rights Watch allege that both insurgencies were supported by Rwanda, a charge Kagame denies.[238]

Uganda and East African Community

Kagame spent most of his childhood and young adult years living in Uganda, and has a personal relationship with President Yoweri Museveni dating back to the late 1970s;[19] they fought together in the Ugandan Bush War and Kagame was appointed head of military intelligence in Museveni's national army following the NRA victory in 1986.[28] When the RPF soldiers abandoned the Ugandan army and invaded Rwanda in 1990 Museveni did not explicitly support them but it is likely that he had prior knowledge of the plan.[239] Museveni also allowed the RPF safe passage through Ugandan territory to the Virunga mountains after their early defeats in the war,[240] and revealed in a 1998 heads of state meeting that Uganda had helped the RPF materially during the Civil War.[241] Following the RPF victory the two countries enjoyed a close political and trade relationship.[242]

Rwanda and Uganda were allies during the First Congo War against Zaire, both countries being instrumental in the setting up of the AFDL and committing troops to the war.[243] The two countries joined forces again at the beginning of the Second Congo War, but relations soured in late 1998 as Museveni and Kagame had very different priorities in fighting the war.[244] In early 1999 the RCD rebel group split into two, with Rwanda and Uganda supporting opposing factions,[244] and in August the Rwandan and Ugandan armies battled each other with heavy artillery in the Congolese city of Kisangani.[227] The two sides fought again in Kisangani in May and June 2000, causing the deaths of 120 soldiers and around 640 Congolese civilians.[245] Relations slowly thawed through the 2000s and by 2011 the two countries enjoyed a close friendship once more.[246]

In 2007, Rwanda joined the East African Community, an intergovernmental organisation for the East Africa region comprising Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. The country's accession required the signing of various agreements with the other members including a defence intelligence sharing pact, a customs union and measures to combat drug trafficking.[247] The countries of the Community established a common market in 2011, and plan further integration including moves toward political federation and a possible single currency.[248][249]


France maintained close ties with President Habyarimana during his years in power, as part of its Françafrique policy.[250] When the RPF launched the Civil War in 1990 Habyarimana was immediately granted assistance from French President François Mitterrand.[251] France sent 600 paratroopers, who effectively ran the government's response to the invasion and were instrumental in regaining almost all territory the RPF had gained in the first days of the war.[252] France maintained this military presence throughout the war, engaging Kagame's RPF forces again in February 1993 during the offensive that doubled RPF territory.[253] In the later stages of the 1994 Genocide, France launched Opération Turquoise, a United Nations mandated mission to create safe humanitarian areas for protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians in danger; many Rwandans interpreted it as a mission to protect Hutu from the RPF, including some who had participated in the Genocide.[254] The French remained hostile to the RPF and their presence temporarily stalled Kagame's advance in south western Rwanda.[255]

France continued to shun the new RPF government following the end of the Genocide and the withdrawal of Turquoise.[256] Diplomatic relations were finally reestablished in January 1995, but remained tense as Rwanda accused France of aiding the genocidaires, while France defended its interventions.[257][258][259] In 2006, French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière released a report on the assassination of President Habyarimana which concluded that Kagame had ordered the shooting of the plane; Bruguière subsequently issues arrest warrants against nine of Kagame's close aides.[260] Kagame denied the charges and immediately broke off diplomatic relations with France.[261] Relations began to thaw in 2008,[262] and diplomacy was resumed in late 2009.[263] In 2010 Nicolas Sarkozy became the first French President to visit Rwanda since the Genocide, admitting for the first time that France made "grave errors of judgment".[264] Kagame reciprocated with an official visit to Paris in 2011.[265]

United States and United Kingdom

Since the end of the Genocide in 1994, Rwanda has enjoyed a close relationship with the English speaking world, in particular the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK). The two countries have been extremely supportive of the RPF programme of stabilisation and rebuilding, donating large sums each year in budget support.[266] As President, Kagame has been critical of the West's lack of response to the Rwandan Genocide and the UK and US have responded by admitting guilt over the issue: Bill Clinton, who was President of the United States during the Rwandan Genocide has described to his failure to act against the killings as a "personal failure".[266] During the 2000s, Clinton and UK prime minister Tony Blair were highly praiseful of the country's progress under Kagame, citing it as a model recipient for international development funds, Clinton referring to Kagame as "one of the greatest leaders of our time".[266] Both Clinton and Blair have maintained support for the country beyond the end of their terms of office, Clinton via the Clinton Global Initiative and Blair through his role as an unpaid advisor to the Rwandan government.[267]


As president, Kagame has also been critical of the West's lack of development aid in Africa. Kagame believes that Western countries keep African products out of the world marketplace. In contrast, he has praised China, saying in a 2009 interview that "the Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies."[268]

Human rights

In June 2006, the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch described what they called "serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Army".[269]

Kagame at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Earth Made of Glass, a documentary he appeared in about the Rwandan genocide.

According to The Economist, Kagame "allows less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe", and "[a]nyone who poses the slightest political threat to the regime is dealt with ruthlessly".[270] He has been accused of using strict laws against stirring up ethnic hatred, or "divisionism," to stifle dissent.[271]

In spite of intimidation against opposition journalists, publications - both domestic and foreign - fiercely critical of Kagame are often sold freely in Kigali. Adam Hochschild, in a New York Times book review of Jason Stearns' book "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters," wrote, "[h]ow this media-savvy autocrat has managed to convince so many American journalists, diplomats, and political leaders that he is a great statesman is worth a book in itself."[272]

The United States government in 2006 described the human rights record of the Kagame government as "mediocre", citing the "disappearances" of political dissidents, as well as arbitrary arrests and acts of violence, torture and murders committed by police. US authorities listed human rights problems including the existence of political prisoners and limited freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.[273]

Reporters Without Borders listed Rwanda in 147th place out of 169 for freedom of the press in 2007,[274] and reported that "Rwandan journalists suffer permanent hostility from their government and surveillance by the security services". It cited cases of journalists being threatened, harassed and arrested for criticising the government. According to Reporters Without Borders, "President Paul Kagame and his government have never accepted that the press should be guaranteed genuine freedom."[275]

In 2007 Kagame granted permission for Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor to travel and film through Rwanda, and then invited them and their camera crew to meet him at his Rwandan estate.

In 2010, the BBC reported that a Rwandan website, Umuvugizi (Kinyarwanda for 'the Spokesperson'), was shut down by the government.[276] In 2011, Kagame took issue with a British journalist on Twitter after the journalist's tweets asserted that Kagame is "despotic."[277]

Honors and accolades

The decoration is awarded exclusively to personalities of the rank of Head of State in recognition of outstanding achievement or to express esteem.

See also


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External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Augustin Bizimana
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Emmanuel Habyarimana
New officeVice President of Rwanda
Position abolished
Preceded by
Pasteur Bizimungu
President of Rwanda