The first and second republics

After independence, Rwanda chose Grégoire Kayibanda as president, a Hutu from the centre of the country, candidate of the MDR-Parmehutu (Parti pour l’émancipation Hutu). His government however didn’t appease the interethnic tensions. The power was exclusively concentrated in the hands of the Hutu. The exiled Tutsi made several incursions into the Rwandan territory to destabilize the Hutu power. Thus the cycle of violence was established, as the consequences from every incursion were retaliations from Hutu against Tutsi inside the country. These retaliations caused new waves of exiled, terrorized Tutsi. The new government didn’t really care about the problem of these exiled Tutsi focusing instead on their foreign origin, reducing them to invaders. The Tutsi’s credo: “the power for a superior ethnic group”, gave way to the Hutu’s credo: “Power to the pure Rwandans”.

In his management of the state, president Grégoire Kayibanda favoured the Hutu from his home region, which created a regional divide between the Central and the Northern Hutu, the latter constituting a majority in the army. At the beginning of the 1970s dissensions broke out between the two groups. The Northern Hutu demanded participation in the political running of the country. Faced with these intra-ethnic tensions, the government in place opted for highlighting the Tutsi threat, basing itself on the events that occurred in Burundi, where the Tutsi soldiers in power had massacred, between 1972 and 1973, thousands of intellectual Hutu. This Burundian crisis somehow legitimized the anti-Tutsi policy carried out by president Kayibanda’s government.

Starting in 1973, an anti-Tutsi campaign was triggered in secondary schools, universities and the private and public sectors. Tutsi were chased out of schools and services, some were beaten up and killed. However, there were no judicial proceedings against the culprits of these crimes. On the 5th of July 1973, on the pretence of re-establishing order, the army took over power. The Army Chief of Staff Juvénal Habyarimana, a Northern Hutu, overthrew president Kayibanda. In 1975, he created his own party MRND (Mouvement révolutionnaire national pour le développement). This new party became the sole party in Rwanda.

The first seventeen years of Habyarimana’s government were stable. The president based his policies on what he called the regional and ethnic balance in schools, civil service and private sector. With these policies, the numerical minorities remained of course along with the intellectual, economical and social minorities. The Tutsi paid a heavy tribute to this policy and their social isolation became legal. For example, out of 145 communes, there were no Tutsi burgomasters, within the 11 prefectures; only one Tutsi was designated at the end of Habyarimana’s presidency. It’s worth mentioning that the president of the Republic, who could have applied the ethnic balance recommended, was the one to nominate all these people.

Regarding the regional divide between the Hutu, the second republic created an oligarchy of the North, which systematically controlled all realms of the political, economical and military power. One of the consequences was the relentless marginalization of the Hutu from the centre of the country, and more widely all the populations in the South of the country.

During this period, the government in place however managed to install peace in the country. It stayed mono-ethnic, but the Tutsi inside were no longer massacred. Order and security went hand in hand with a real socio-economical development of the country. The growing agricultural production allowed the country to avoid the famine announced more than once. The country enjoyed the support of Western countries and many exterior organizations. The managed conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi on the one hand, and the economical progress on the other hand, contributed to reassure the international community, which considered Rwanda as a developing ideal in Africa. However, at the end of the 1980s, the climate of political and economical stability started to crumble. The drop in prices of the main exportation products – tin, tea and coffee in particular- caused the quick impoverishment and debt of the country. The Rwandan government was desperately seeking credits, and accepted a structural adjustment program from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to try to correct the economy. It was in this economical crisis context that Rwanda had to face an invasion of the army of the FPR from Uganda, on the 1st October 1990.