Last Updated: Thursday, 26 November 2015, 08:53 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Rwanda

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Rwanda, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 27 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Government attempts to end genocide trials continued in Rwanda. Nearly fifteen years after the genocide that killed three-quarters of the Tutsi population, the government is concentrating on the economic development of the country. During 2008, most of the serious genocide cases were shifted from conventional courts to community-based gacaca courts. Rwandan troops re-engaged in ethnic conflict in January 2009, when hundreds of troops entered Democratic Republic of Congo to back a DRC operation against Rwandan Hutu rebels in the east of the country. According to IRIN reports, a government spokesman, Lambert Mende, said that the operation's aim was to 'disarm the Interahamwe' and repatriate them 'voluntarily or by force'.

The Batwa in Rwanda still struggle for any kind of formal recognition. Given the country's past, the Rwandan government does not recognize ethnic groupings. According to a 2008 MRG report, recent historical evidence has suggested that the Hutu/Tutsi ethnic differentiation was the product of a colonial perspective. The Batwa maintain that their case is different, arguing that Batwa identity cannot be conflated with Hutu and Tutsi identity, and that their distinct history and culture sets them apart. As in Burundi, there is a lack of formal census data but rough estimates put the Batwa population at around 33,000 in Rwanda. A director of the Girubuntu programme, which runs infant and primary schools in Rwanda, explains: 'We don't count them. We can do it if there is a need, but there has not been any need to count who is Batwa, who is what, because we are trying to counter discrimination.'

In 2007, the principal organization representing the Batwa in Rwanda had to change its name from CAURWA (Community of Indigenous People of Rwanda) to COPORWA (Community of Rwandese Potters) to adhere to the government's rule on not allowing formal recognition of distinct ethnic or indigenous groups. This was a setback for activists, and in the last year they have reported continuing discrimination. COPORWA particularly noted discrimination in rural schools, which lack the policy of non-discrimination and tolerance found in some Kigali schools.

According to the Ministry of Education, Rwanda has one of the highest primary net enrolment ratios in the region (92 per cent in 2004). But there is no mention of the Batwa in the government's education strategies. The Ministry for Local Government's (MINALOC) Good Governance, Community Development and Social Affairs programme has a system to identify vulnerable members of the community and through this could support Batwa in light of their economic, rather than ethnic status. Similarly, educational support is provided for Batwa children through a scheme aimed at helping poorer children through school. This scheme uses lists compiled by Batwa welfare organizations, although there are no statistics available on exactly how many Batwa children have been assisted. Some Batwa community members would like to see a dedicated grant system, based on the model used to support genocide survivors, so that school leavers can go on to university.

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