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This contains the overall historical context of refugees from Rwanda.
Divisiveness was planted during Belgium's occupation of Rwanda. After independence, this divisiveness flourished under an extremist government and led to a genocide.During their occupation of Rwanda from 1916 to 1962, Belgium split people into 2 tribes—Hutu (the majority) and Tutsi (the minority)—based on facial feature measurements. The Belgians put only Tutsis in positions of power. When Rwanda became independent in 1962, an extremist Hutu government took power. Then, in 1994, tension between the tribes reached a boiling point, and the systematic mass murder of Tutsis began. As 800,000 Tutsis were being killed over a 100 day period, there was no foreign intervention or aide. BBC Africa's Victoria Uwonkunda summarizes how and why the genocide occurred.
The genocide came to end when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of the country. Soon after, in 2000, Kagame became Rwanda's leader. He is currently on his third term as president.
Kagame has led an amazing time of progress for Rwanda.After the genocide, he urged people to reconcile and create peace. This was largely successful, and the economy, education, public health, and community engagement has greatly improved. The Congressional Research service report "Rwanda in Brief", shares some of the recent improvements Rwanda has made. It states:
Human development gains since the genocide have been dramatic in relative terms. According toThe international community highly praises Kagame for these accomplishments, but they also acknowledge the increasingly authoritarian nature of the government. In Rwanda, freedom of the press is severely limited, political opposition is squashed, dissidents are murdered, and undesirable populations—like street children and sex workers—are arbitrarily detained. The Al Jazeera documentary, "Kagame | People & Power" offers insight into these practices.
the World Health Organization (WHO), from 1990 and 2016, life expectancy increased from 48
to 66 years; the child (under five) mortality rate fell from 152 to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births;
and the maternal mortality rate decreased from 1,300 to 290 deaths per 100,000 live births.48
Through a donor-backed national community-based health insurance system, Rwanda provides
near-universal health coverage for basic primary care, with the cost fully or partially subsidized
based on income level.49 As of 2015, about 39% of Rwandans reportedly lived below the poverty
line, compared to 56% in 2006 and 78% in 1994.50
Many people fled Rwanda in the 1990's. Today, Rwanda receives refugees from nearby countries.In 1994, Rwandans fled their homes to escape ethnic violence. As the RPF came to power and stopped the violence, the perpetrators also fled the country. Most people went to neighboring countries or other parts of the country where they lived in refugee camps or with relatives. According to the UNHCR:
Some 1.7 million Rwandan Hutu refugees fled the country. Some refugees fled because they feared RPF retribution. Other refugees were forced to leave Rwanda by their own hard-line political leaders.Watch this video by Al Jazeera about Rwandan refugees:
Today, there are not many people fleeing Rwanda—aside from journalists and political dissidents. Instead, refugees come to the country from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya.
- This is a great documentary that gives an overview of Rwanda's recent history. It showcases the Rwandan government's victories and wrongdoings, particularly in relation to President Kagame.
- Gregory Warner does a great job exploring contemporary gender roles in Rwanda. He focuses on the elevation of women in public life and the continued discrimination in the home.
- BBC Africa's Victoria Uwonkunda gives a good summation of how and why the genocide occurred.
“Rwanda: Events of 2019.” hrw.org, Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/rwanda.
“Rwanda: A Year On, No Justice for Refugee Killings.” hrw.org, Human Rights Watch, 23 Febuary 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/23/rwanda-year-no-justice-refugee-killings.
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“Africa: Rwanda.” The World Factbook, cia.gov, Central Intelligence Agency, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/rw.html.
“Political Map of Rwanda.” nationsonline.org, https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/rwanda_map2.htm.
“Rwanda: In Breif.” fas.org, Congressional Research Service, 14 May 2019, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44402.pdf.
United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Rwanda , 1 January 1999, https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8cc38.html
Pereira, Martim Empis Gray and Casilda Gil de Santivanes Finat. “Rwandan Refugees Head Home After a Generation in Angola.” unhcr.org, UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency, 22 August 2016, https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/stories/2016/8/57bad29d4/rwandan-refugees-head-home-generation-angola.html.
“Rwanda: A Year On, No Justice for Refugee Killings.” hrw.org, Human Rights Watch, 23 Feburary 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/23/rwanda-year-no-justice-refugee-killings.
Neiman, Sophie. “Refugees: Rwanda helps hundreds, but thousands more languish in Libya.” africanarguments.org, African Arguments, 7 November 2019, https://africanarguments.org/2019/11/07/refugees-rwanda-hundreds-thousands-languish-libya/.
“Rwanda, Protecting their rights: Rwandese refugees in the Great Lakes region.” amnesty.org, Amnesty International, 2004, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/92000/afr470162004en.pdf.
“Rwanda: Investigate Killings of Refugees.” amnesty.org, Amnesty International, 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AFR4798662019ENGLISH.pdf.
Abouzeid, Rama. "REMAKING RWANDA: Tragedy and necessity have created opportunities that seemed unimaginable. The challenge now: to make them last." National Geographic, vol. 236, no. 5, Nov. 2019, p. 82+. Gale Academic OneFile, https://link-gale-com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/apps/doc/A608114654/AONE?u=colu44332&sid=AONE&xid=66e09633.
United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, “U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Rwanda”, 1 January 1999, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8cc38.html.