To what extent has international assistance aided the post-genocide transition period in Rwanda? How does the approach adopted by donors impact upon development outcomes? This paper by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations describes the build up o the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the response from the international community. It examines the effectiveness of assistance in three specific areas: elections, human rights and the media.
The Rwandan population consists of three groups: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa, with a long history of ethnic exclusion and discrimination. A form of democracy was established following the 1959 revolution, however, it was based on an ethnic division viewing Hutu as the legitimate Rwandan population. These social and structural problems culminated in the 1994 genocide, where almost one million people were killed. The county was left in a state of chaos, with the destruction of infrastructure, institutions and social capital.
In the post-genocide period a new relationship was established between the international community and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The assistance had the following impact on elections, human rights and the media:
- Assistance given for the elections in 2003 took place amongst controversy between the government and human rights organisations.
- Critics denounced unfair elections, however, donors argued that the elections were a reasonable starting point for democratisation given Rwanda’s social and political context.
- Human rights issues can be split into the first four years post-genocide and the second period beginning in 1999.
- The United Nations Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (UNHRFOR) was dispatched at the end of 1994.
- Both the UNHRFOR and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have been criticised for wasting resources, lack of professionalism and inefficiency although overall both institutions had a stabilizing effect.
- The media played a large role in inciting the genocide, consequently the international community did not rush to support this sector. Significant assistance was provided by the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) and UNESCO.
- In 1999 a press group, RIMEG, was created with two independent weekly newspapers (in English and Kinyarwanda). However, the media remains highly fragile due to lack of resources, professionalism and harassment by the Government.
The impact of assistance during the post-genocide period has been varied; human rights is the only area with significant and tangible results. The following recommendations are made to the government and the donor community:
- To the government: Creation of a framework for enabling democratic governance through the exercise of rights and freedoms.
- There should be a permanent, critical and constructive dialogue between government and civil society.
- Laws on discrimination should be given precise legal boundaries. Government communication should be improved with strengthened and multiplied exchanges.
- To the donor community: Donors should take into account Rwanda’s political and social context and local realities when developing and implementing plans.
- Reinforcing independent youth organisations and local NGOs should be prioritised, building capacity and professional development. In addition, NGO openness and democratic behaviour should be encouraged.
- Donors should support a co-operative structure for private newspapers, journals and magazines. Long-term vision statements should be included for funded projects.
- Donors should be more transparent, incorporate ongoing project evaluation and be responsible for prompt disbursal of funds.