The Big Question: How is Rwanda coping with the aftermath of genocide?

Why are we asking this now?

One of the eight fugitives named as ringleaders of the genocide in which around 800,000 people are thought to have died in Rwanda in 1994 has been arrested this week in Uganda.

Idelphonse Nizeyimana was the head of intelligence at Rwanda's elite military training school throughout the 100 days of bloody murder. The violence, which was well organised and methodically executed, was directed against the minority Tutsi people by the majority Hutus, who make up 85 per cent of the population.

The lengthy indictment against Mr Nizeyimana accuses him of drawing up and executing a plan to wipe out the Tutsis and setting up special military units to carry out the slaughter. He is also charged with ordering the establishment of roadblocks across the land at which Tutsis were stopped and slaughtered with machetes. Troops under his command rampaged through the University of Butare to wipe out the Tutsi intelligentsia.

What happened to the other major suspects?

Twenty-three are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha, Tanzania. The court has so far convicted 34 people and acquitted six. Eight trials have yet to begin. Mr Nizeyimana will appear before the judges soon. The court is due to wind up by the end of this year. The Rwandan government of President Paul Kagame, whose Tutsi-dominated rebel movement brought an end to the genocide, wants Mr Nizeyimana extradited to stand trial in its own courts. They have condemned the UN tribunal for being inefficient, corrupt and not doing enough to protect witnesses. But it has had significant successes, not least when the former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed, in his testimony before the court, that the genocide had been openly discussed in cabinet meetings.

What about those who did the actual killing?

Some 120,000 people were arrested after the genocide. They filled Rwanda's prisons to overflowing. Several thousand were tried in Rwanda's criminal courts. But in 2003 President Kagame realised that, at current rates of progress, it could take 100 years to bring them all to trial. It released 20,000 individuals charged with lesser crimes. A year later it released another 30,000 arguing that they had already spent longer in jail than they would have if they were found guilty. To cope it set up gacaca courts. The name came from the small lawn where village elders congregate to solve disputes in traditional community courts.

Like the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa?

In some ways. Suspects were taken to the villages which were the scenes of their alleged crimes. There they were confronted directly by their accusers. A key gacaca requirement was that the accused had to ask forgiveness from their victims, or their relatives. But suspects did not have access to lawyers. And the trials were not overseen by qualified judges but by elders respected by local people for their integrity. Some criticised the process because many of the killers seemed more anxious to say what they thought the government wanted to hear – rather than providing the truth about what actually happened in many of the more grisly incidents. And some witnesses were killed by the perpetrators before they could give evidence.

So is it just cosmetic?

Certainly, 15 years on, the genocide continues to loom large over Rwanda. Just a few months ago the Education Minister, Jean d'Arc Mujawamaria, told the Rwandan parliament that research in 32 schools by a committee of MPs had revealed that ethnic hatreds were bubbling up once again.

Despite frequent visits by government officials, preaching against the evils of ethnic division, Hutu students constantly found new ways to harass their fellow pupils – writing slogans on toilet walls, putting rubbish in the beds of genocide survivors, tearing their clothes, destroying their school books, mattresses and kit bags.

But the gacaca system has enabled 12,000 courts to deal with almost a million cases, an outcome which the international pressure group Human Rights Watch adjudged was worthwhile despite its legal shortcomings. The Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, recently told a New Yorker journalist: "Nobody will tell you he is happy with the gacaca," but "gacaca gives us something to build on". The outcome might not be reconciliation but it is co-existence, even if it may remain uneasy for another generation.

What fruits has all this borne?

As it struggles to rebuild itself Rwanda still depends on foreign aid for half its budget. But President Kagame has pioneered new models for using the assistance designed to help recipients become self-reliant. Mr Kagame is unapologetically authoritarian. Critics accuse him of suppressing internal opposition and dissent more ruthlessly than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe. But unlike Mr Mugabe he has brought political, social and economic stability to his country. Today Rwanda is one of the safest and the most orderly countries in Africa. Its GDP has virtually tripled in the last decade. Tourism is booming. Foreign investment is being attracted. New homes, office blocks, hospitals and clinics, shopping centres, hotels, schools, transport depots and roads are being built everywhere. It has an efficient mobile phone and broadband internet service in the cities which is moving rapidly into the countryside.

It has, for Africa, a good health service and a steadily improving education system. Its anti-corruption unit is regarded as a model in the developing world. It is the only government on earth where the majority of MPs are women. And soldiers are almost nowhere to be seen.

What is the outlook?

Western governments, who now provide the bulk of Rwanda's aid, have rallied to help President Kagame. And so they should, since they were indirectly responsible for the plight of the country. It was the former colonial power, Belgium, which drove a wedge between Hutu and Tutsi – who speak the same language and follow the same traditions – by preferring the Tutsis over their fellows. Then the French government supported some of the worst excesses of the Hutu regime. And the United States and others turned a blind eye to the mass slaughter despite being alerted to what was going on by UN peacekeepers. The international community actually withdrew UN troops as the murdering began.

It took more than three decades to teach ethnic division in Rwanda. It may well take just as long to heal it.

Is peace finally taking root in Rwanda?

Yes...

* Rwanda has taken giant steps, through its gacaca courts, to promote co-existence between its peoples.

* Most of those convicted during the genocide have now been released and re-integrated into the community.

* The government is so confident of social stability that it has abolished the death penalty.

No...

* Ethnic divisions between the Hutus and Tutsis are once again bubbling rancorously below the surface.

* Hundreds of thousands of Hutu rebels are still at large across the border in Congo.

* Rwanda's Tutsi-led government has twice invaded its neighbour, saying it wants to wipe out the Hutu forces.

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Are you a Teacher interested in Special Needs?

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified Teacher w...

**ESOL**

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job:* The Tutor will prepar...

Qualified Teaching Assistant Jobs in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: Qualified Teaching Assistant Jobs in B...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album