Rwanda: Relations between Hutus and Tutsis (2019–July 2021) [RWA200731.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

Rwanda has two main ethnic groups: a minority Tutsi and a majority Hutu (PBS 7 Apr. 2019; Encyclopedia Britannica 10 Mar. 2021). According to sources, the Hutu [or Bahutu] represent 84 percent of the population, while the Tutsi [or Batutsi] comprise 15 percent (Political Handbook of the World 2021, 1391; MRG Oct. 2020).

In 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Front patriotique rwandais, RPF) came to power after the Rwandan genocide [now officially called the "1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda" (UN 26 Jan. 2018) or the "Genocide against the Tutsi" (US 30 Mar. 2021, 32)] that claimed the lives of approximately half a million Tutsis (HRW 21 June 2021) or about three quarters of the Tutsi ethnic minority (Reyntjens 19 Nov. 2019; US 30 Mar. 2021, 32). Sources estimate that between 750,000 – 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu [or Hutu sympathizers and Twas (VOA 10 Apr. 2018)] were killed (PBS 7 Apr. 2019; VOA 10 Apr. 2018; US 30 Mar. 2021, 32) in 100 days (PBS 7 Apr. 2019).

According to sources, after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, the RPF was "overwhelmingly" (Reyntjens 19 Nov. 2019) or "primarily" (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 357) composed of Tutsis (Reyntjens 19 Nov. 2019; Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 357). Sources indicate that many of the RPF's members had been living in exile (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 357; PBS 7 Apr. 2019).

According to Filip Reyntjens, a professor of African law and politics at the University of Antwerp, the RPF considers that before the colonisation, Hutus and Tutsis were not "ethnic labels," but rather categories referring to "wealth and status" (Reyntjens 19 Nov. 2019). In a 2019 article published in the Journal of Modern African studies, Gretchen Baldwin [1] states that a taboo exists in Rwanda around explicitly categorising individuals as part of an ethnic group (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 359). Other sources indicate that it is illegal to ask if someone is Hutu or Tutsi (PBS 7 Apr. 2019) or to talk about ethnicity [in politics (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. B4)] (BBC 4 Apr. 2019; Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. B4).

2. Legislation and Government Policies
2.1 Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda

The Constitution of Rwanda of 2003 provides the following on protections against discrimination:

Article 15: Equality before the law

All persons are equal before the law. They are entitled to equal protection of the law.

Article 16: Protection from discrimination

All Rwandans are born and remain equal in rights and freedoms.

Discrimination of any kind or its propaganda based on, inter alia, ethnic origin, family or ancestry, clan, skin colour or race, sex, region, economic categories, religion or faith, opinion, fortune, cultural differences, language, economic status, physical or mental disability or any other form of discrimination are prohibited and punishable by law.

Article 46: Maintaining of good relations with others

Every Rwandan has the duty to respect and consider his or her fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at safeguarding, promoting and reinforcing mutual respect, solidarity and tolerance. (Rwanda 2003, bold text in original)

The Constitution also provides the following regarding the survivors and memorial sites of the genocide:

Article 50: Welfare of needy survivors of the genocide against Tutsi

The State, within the limits of its means and in accordance with the law, has the duty to undertake special actions aimed at the welfare of the needy survivors of the genocide against Tutsi.

Article 52: Preservation of memorial sites of the genocide against Tutsi

The State and everyone have the duty to preserve and safeguard memorial sites of the genocide against Tutsi. (Rwanda 2003, bold text in original)

Freedom House indicates that the Constitution of Rwanda [article 80] calls on the President of Rwanda to ensure "'representation of historically marginalized communities'" through his appointees in the Senate (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. B4). However, since asserting one's ethnic identity [in politics (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. B4)] is prohibited, sources report that the level of representation of different ethnic groups is unclear in the senate (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. B4) or in parliament (London Feb. 2020, 23-24).

2.2 Law N˚ 59/2018 of 22/8/2018 on the Crime of Genocide Ideology and Related Crimes

The Rwandan legislature has also prohibited and criminalized "genocide ideology" and denial, along with the minimization and justification of the genocide (art. 6 and 7), disposition or degradation of evidence related to the genocide (art. 8), stealing or destroying the body of victims of the genocide (art. 9) and damaging memorial sites of genocide victims (art. 10), through Law N˚ 59/2018, which provides the following:

Article 4: Genocide ideology

A person who, in public, either verbally, in writing, through images or in any other manner, commits an act that manifests an ideology that supports or advocates for destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, commits an offence.

Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five (5) years and not more than seven (7) years, with a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) [C$633] and not more than one million Rwandan francs (FRW 1,000,000).

Article 5: Denial of genocide

A person who, in public, commits an act intended to:

  1. state or indicate that the genocide is not genocide;
  2. distort the facts about genocide for the purpose of misleading the public;
  3. affirm that there was double genocide in Rwanda;
  4. 4º state or indicate that the genocide was not planned;

commits an offence.

Upon conviction of any of the acts referred to in Paragraph One of this Article, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five (5) years and not more than seven (7) years, with a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) and not more than one million Rwandan francs (FRW 1,000,000). (Rwanda 2018)

Sources indicate that crimes of genocide ideology and denial can be reported to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) via a toll-free number (The New Times 3 Apr. 2021; Rwanda n.d.a) or by going to a nearby RIB station (The New Times 3 Apr. 2021).

2.3 Rwanda's National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (Commission nationale de lutte contre le génocide, CNLG)

The CNLG was created in 2007 "to prevent and fight against genocide, genocide ideology, fight against minimization and denial of the genocide and overcoming consequences of genocide against Tutsi" (Rwanda 2021, preamble and art. 6). The CNLG also works with the ministry responsible for matters related to the memory of the genocide (Rwanda n.d.b).

According to a press release on the CNLG's 2019/2020 annual report and 2020/2021 action plan, the CNLG has completed the following:

  • Delivered 282 lectures in schools, 2 in transit centres, and 12 in prisons.
  • Published articles on the CNLG website and on social media, as well as a monthly electronic newsletter.
  • Conducted research on the preparation and execution of the Genocide against the Tutsi, as well as published several research books.
  • Received and advocated for a total of 109 complaints before the pertinent institutions.
  • Paid respect for more than 250 genocide victims that were laid to rest at the Kigali Genocide memorial center.
  • Continued the search for bodies, including identifying a total of 24,523 during the year 2019/2020 and provided decent burial to 808 bodies.
  • Advocated and sought aid for 11 student genocide survivors who had not received scholarships by securing admissions in higher learning institutions.
  • Helped 40 genocide survivors in accessing legal representation from the Rwanda Bar Association (Rwanda 19 Oct. 2020).

In July 2021, the cabinet, chaired by President Kagame, approved the creation of a new ministry to be called the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement, which will harmonize the functions of the CNLG and National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) [2] (The New Times 14 July 2021; APA 15 July 2021).

2.4 Government Policies and Programs

According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020, since coming to power in 1994, the RPF has abolished the policies of the former government that had "created and deepened" ethnic differences and has removed all references to ethnicity in official discourse (US 30 Mar. 2021, 32). Moreover, since 1994 the Rwandan government has a policy focused on promoting national reconciliation and unity, including by rejecting ethnic classifications (US 30 Mar. 2021, 32; Reyntjens 19 Nov. 2019). Sources indicate that a program called Ndi Umunyarwanda or [translation] "We are all Rwandan" was launched (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 363; Rwanda [2020], 1) in 2013 by the NURC to strengthen "national unity by cultivating a sense of respect and dignity of all Rwandans to be proud of their Rwandannes" (Rwanda [2020], 1).

In addition, the Rwandan government has removed ethnic categories from national identity cards (VOA 10 Apr. 2018; US 30 Mar. 2021, 32) and textbooks (VOA 10 Apr. 2018). According to the US Country Reports 2020, ethnic quotas in education and government employment were eliminated, and social or political organizations based on ethnic affiliation were banned (US 30 Mar. 2021, 32).

According to sources, Rwandan must participate each month in a community services program called Umuganda (PBS 7 Apr. 2019; DW 17 Apr. 2020), which means "'coming together for a common purpose'" and is mandatory for everyone between 18 and 65, Hutu and Tutsi (PBS 7 Apr. 2019). According to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the goal of Umuganda is to create a "national sense of citizenship" that is not based on ethnicity and some examples of community service which are performed include villagers cleaning an area in the community or fixing a road; people who do not participate can receive a fine of US$6 (PBS 7 Apr. 2019).

In addition, sources detail how each year the country remembers those that were killed during the genocide with [100 days of official (Baldwin 7 Apr. 2021)] commemoration, known as Kwibuka (Baldwin 7 Apr. 2021; The New Times 3 Apr. 2021). According to Baldwin, this annual event "is characterized by an explicit acknowledgement and public discussion of ethnic identity" and includes public speeches, memorial programming and burials (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 355).

Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI) 2020, which "assesses the transformation toward democracy and a market economy as well as the quality of governance in 137 countries," indicates that the ethnic divide plays a "lesser role" in self-identity among young people and that "the alienation between the upper and middle strata on one side and the poor masses on the other has become increasingly relevant" (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020, 2, 7).

3. Relationship Between Hutus and Tutsis

Based on information provided by an executive of the [state (Devex n.d.)] Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in a 2017 interview, Baldwin states that genocide survivors still face social marginalisation and "violent retaliation by those who 'would finish what they started'" (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 360). Baldwin writes that the centering of survivor identity during the commemorations has resulted in a blurring of "'Tutsi'" with "'survivor'" and the passing down of survivor identity to Tutsi youth; this in turn has created the conditions for a "'survivor nationalism'" which has exacerbated social tensions between ethnic groups in Rwanda (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 355, 356-357). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In various interviews conducted in 2017 with genocide survivors by Baldwin, Tutsi interviewees expressed that they feel "more unsafe" during commemoration than they do the rest of the year (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 368). According to the New Times, a private media organization in Rwanda (The New Times n.d.), crimes of genocide ideology increase during the Kwibuka commemoration week (The New Times 3 Apr. 2021). Xinhua News Agency indicates that, according to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), "[a]t least" 69 Rwandans were arrested over alleged genocide ideology crimes during the 2019 commemorations (Xinhua News Agency 16 Apr. 2019). The same article cites an RIB spokesperson appearing on Rwandan national television (RTV) as stating that "[m]ost" of the cases include verbal insults directed at genocide survivors, hacking livestock and destroying crops belonging to survivors (Xinhua News Agency 16 Apr. 2019). The same source indicates that Eastern Rwanda was the "most serious area" with 27 cases, followed by southern Rwanda (25), and the capital city of Kigali (10) (Xinhua News Agency 16 Apr. 2019). The RIB spokesperson added that there were 72 reported cases of genocide ideology crimes during the 2019 commemoration, compared to 72 in 2018, and 114 in 2017 (Xinhua News Agency 16 Apr. 2019). According to the New Times, the RIB received 530 cases of genocide denial and related crimes in 2020, compared to 537 in 2019, 542 in 2018, and 497 in 2017 (The New Times 3 Apr. 2021). Information on the disposition of reported cases could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), talking about the actions of the RPF during the 1994 genocide is a "red line most in Rwanda do not dare to cross" (HRW 21 June 2021). The same source reports that the various laws which have been enacted to prevent and punish hate speech have "restricted free speech" and imposed "strict limits on how people can talk about the genocide" (HRW 4 Apr. 2019). Sources indicate that a person who posted videos talking about the genocide [and the RPF actions during that period (RFI 1 June 2021)] was arrested in May 2021 (HRW 21 June 2021; RFI 1 June 2021) for "denying and justifying the genocide, instigating divisions, and fraud" (HRW 21 June 2021).

3.1 Impact of Government Policies and Legislation

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an independent Rwandan policy researcher and public affairs commentator stated, without providing further details, that despite the mechanisms which exist to prevent systematic discrimination, there still exists bias at the individual level between ethnic groups (Policy Researcher 29 July 2021). However, according to BTI 2020,

[a]s a result of the genocide, the Gacaca trials, the land conflicts and the strict political control, there is very little trust between the poor rural and urban Hutu, middle-class Hutu, returned Tutsi refugees and their descendants and those who survived the genocide. The gap between the poor and the new administration increases the feeling of powerlessness and general passivity among the vast majority of the poor population. Many see themselves increasingly excluded from economic participation because of agricultural reform, discriminatory treatment of small traders and casual workers or strict state regulations on housing, sanitation and other sectors. However, the narrowing inequality gap between Hutu and Tutsi at the community level because of the government's development programs over the last 15 years has helped improve interethnic relations, especially in rural areas. (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020, 15-16).

For more information on the Gacaca trials, as well as the reparations and compensation which was awarded by the courts in the prosecution of persons convicted of genocide abuses, see Response to Information Request RWA104968 of October 2014.

According to the US Country Reports 2020, "[s]ome individuals claim that the government's reconciliation policies and programs have failed to recognize Hutu victims of the genocide or crimes committed by the RPF … whereas others noted the government focused positive attention on Hutus who risked their lives to save Tutsis" (US 30 Mar. 2021, 32).

Freedom House reports that the prohibition on the discussion of ethnicity has made it "nearly impossible" for disadvantaged groups to promote their interests and organize independently (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. B4).

According to L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde [3], Rwanda's language policy of favouring English [4] as the country's second language is motivated by the special interests of a ruling elite and that by replacing French with English, the Kagame government is seeking to [translation] "favour the anglicized Tutsi minority" that currently rules Rwanda (L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde 15 Apr. 2019, Sec. 2.3). Similarly, Freedom House states that English-speaking Tutsis are "overrepresented" in government and "often accused of receiving preferential treatment for high-ranking jobs and university scholarships under the pretext of an affirmative action program for 'genocide survivors'" (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. F4). The same source also reports that members of the Hutu majority face "unofficial discrimination" when they apply for public employment or scholarships (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. F4). Freedom House adds that the promotion of gender equity in politics "largely" privileges English speaking Tutsis over French speaking Hutus and rural Tutsis, since women have "little practical ability" to enter politics outside of the RPF (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. F4, B4). Additional information on access to employment and education, and information on access to housing and health services could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] Gretchen Baldwin is a graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a policy analyst at the International Peace Institute (Baldwin 24 Oct. 2019, 355).

[2] The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) was created in 1999 to "promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans" (The New Times 14 July 2021).

[3] L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde is a website authored by Jacques Leclerc and hosted by the Chair for the Development of Research on French-Speaking Culture in North America (Chaire pour le développement de la recherche sur la culture d'expression française en Amérique du Nord, CEFAN) at Université Laval; it presents the language situations and policies of different states and territories around the world (L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde n.d.).

[4] According to L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, it is estimated that 5 percent of the Rwandan population are proficient in French, compared with 2 percent in English (L'Aménagement linguistique dans le monde 15 Apr. 2019, Sec. 2.3).

References

Agence de presse africaine (APA). 15 July 2021. "Rwanda to Introduce New Ministerial Portfolio for National Unity, Civic Engagement." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2021]

L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. 15 April 2019. Jacques Leclerc, associate member of the Trésor de la langue française au Québec (TLFQ), Université Laval. "Rwanda (République du Rwanda)." [Accessed 18 Aug. 2021]

L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. N.d. Jacques Leclerc, associate member of the Trésor de la langue française au Québec (TLFQ), Université Laval. "Page d’accueil." [Accessed 18 Aug. 2021]

Baldwin, Gretchen. 7 April 2021. "Rwanda's Government Now Uses the Annual Genocide Remembrance as a Political Tool." The Washington Post. [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Baldwin, Gretchen. 24 October 2019. "Constructing Identity Through Commemoration: Kwibuka and the rise of Survivor Nationalism in Post-Conflict Rwanda." The Journal of Modern African Studies. Vol. 57, No. 3. [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Bertelsmann Stiftung. 2020. "Rwanda Country Report." Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI) 2020. [Accessed 16 Aug. 2021]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 4 April 2019. "Rwanda Genocide: 100 Days of Slaughter." [Accessed 20 July 2021]

Deutsche Welle (DW). 17 April 2020. Antonio Cascais. "20 Years Under Rwanda's 'Benevolent Dictator' Paul Kagame." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Devex. N.d. "Rwanda Broadcasting Agency." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2021]

Encyclopedia Britannica. 10 March 2021. "Rwanda." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Freedom House. 3 March 2021. "Rwanda." Freedom in the World 2021. [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 21 June 2021. Lewis Mudge. "Justice Is Unfinished Business in Rwanda." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 4 April 2019. "Rwanda: 25 Years On, Solidarity With Victims." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

London, Nicole. February 2020. Women in the Rwandan Parliament: Exploring Descriptive and Substantive Representation. Master's Dissertation. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), United Kingdom. [Accessed 11 Aug. 2021]

Minority Rights Group International (MRG). October 2020. "Rwanda: Peoples." World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. [Accessed 28 July 2021]

The New Times. 14 July 2021. Bertrand Byishimo. "Cabinet Creates New Ministry in Charge of National Unity." [Accessed 11 Aug. 2021]

The New Times. 3 April 2021. Lavie Mutanganshuro. "RIB Warns Against Genocide Ideology Ahead of Kwibuka27." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

The New Times. N.d. "About Us: Our Company." [Accessed 11 Aug. 2021]

Policy Researcher, Kigali. 29 July 2021. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Political Handbook of the World 2020-2021. 2021. "Rwanda." Edited by Tom Lansford. Thousand Oaks: CQ Press. [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). 7 April 2019. Benedict Moran and Jorgen Samso. "Rwanda Builds New National Identity 25 Years After Genocide." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Radio France internationale (RFI). 1 June 2021. "Rwanda : un youtubeur très critique du gouvernement arrêté." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2021]

Reyntjens, Filip. 19 November 2019. "How Inclusive Is Rwanda's Reconciliation Project?" Good Governance Africa (GGA). [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Rwanda. 2021. Law N° 015/2021 of 03/03/2021 Governing the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide. [Accessed 11 Aug. 2021]

Rwanda. 19 October 2020. National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG). "CNLG Tables 2019/2020 Report and 2020/2021 Action Plan Before Parliament." [Accessed 11 Aug. 2021]

Rwanda. [2020]. National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC). Assessment of Ndi Umunyarwanda in the Reconciliation Progress. [Accessed 27 Aug. 2021]

Rwanda. 2018. Law N° 59/2018 of 22/8/2018 on the Crime of Genocide Ideology and Related Crimes. [Accessed 27 Aug. 2021]

Rwanda. 2003 (amended 2015). Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda. Comparative Constitutions Project. [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Rwanda. N.d.a. Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB). Home page. [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Rwanda. N.d.b. National Commission for the Fight against Genocide. "About Us: Overview." [Accessed 28 July 2021]

United Nations (UN). 26 January 2018. General Assembly. "General Assembly Designates 7 April International Day of Reflection on 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, Amending Title of Annual Observance." (GA/12000) [Accessed 29 July 2021]

United States (US). 30 March 2021. Department of State. "Rwanda." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020. [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Voice of America (VOA). 10 April 2018. Edward Rwema. "Rwanda's Hutus, Tutsis Learn to Be Neighbors Again." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Xinhua News Agency. 16 April 2019. "69 Rwandans Arrested Over Genocide Ideology During Mourning Week." [Accessed 22 July 2021]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at an American university; Human Rights Watch; professor in public policy at a university in Rwanda.

Internet sites, including: African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes; Agence France-Press; Al Jazeera; Amnesty International; Cairn.info; Canadian Forces College; ecoi.net; The Economist; Factiva; Franceinfo; Global Voices; The Guardian; Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs; Le Matin; London School of Economics and Political Science; The New York Times; Sociological Mail; University of Minnesota; UN – Refworld, ReliefWeb.