When the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of the country in 1994, ending the genocide, the economy and infrastructure were in ruins. An estimated 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, had been slaughtered. Three million Hutu refugees fled to neighbouring countries, among them the perpetrators of the genocide, who turned themselves into a rebel force menacing Rwanda's borders. While up to 20,000 Hutu rebels remain in DRC, 4,000, including their leader, have now voluntarily disarmed. Most refugees have come home and access to education and health services has rapidly increased.
Despite multi-party elections in 2004, the ruling RPF so far remains the only political force. For the RPF, Rwanda's violent recent history means democracy must be balanced with certain controls if further conflict is to be avoided. The second-largest party after the RPF was banned in 2004 – accused of trying to promote ethnic divisions. But critics say the RPF-led government is using the past to justify a de facto one-party state.
The government has made significant efforts to promote unity among Tutsis and Hutus. However, ethnicity is still a potentially divisive issue. As a rebel movement fighting the previous regime, the RPF had its base among Tutsi exiles in neighbouring Uganda. And perceptions remain that the RPF-led government is Tutsi dominated. Tutsis occupy the most important positions in the army and in the civil administration, and are the greatest beneficiaries of the important posts in the economy. There are fears that a sense of political and economic exclusion will lead to growing resentment among Hutus.
Rwanda has more people per square kilometre than any other African country, and its increasing rural population is farming progressively smaller parcels of land. Some analysts fear a potentially explosive mix – between this growing rural poverty and urban resentment at lack of political freedoms. Unless there is some way for voices of dissent to be legitimately expressed, the tendency to resort to violence will increase. Analysts suggest that the way in which the RPF government responds to demands for greater political freedom, and more equitably shared economic opportunities, will determine how far Rwanda's current stability is maintained in the long term.
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