Ethnicity in Rwanda – Who Governs the Country?

Unfortunately I lost many old posts from my blog in a WordPress upgrade. I am re-posting some of them now.

One of the Wikileaks cables from 2008 that came out of the US embassy in Kigali addressed the subject of who governs Rwanda; you can view it here. It says in part:

An analysis of the ethnic breakdown of the current Rwandan government shows Tutsis hold a preponderant percentage of senior positions.  Hutus in very senior positions often hold relatively little real authority, and are commonly “twinned” with senior Tutsis who exercise real power.  The military and security agencies are controlled by Tutsis, generally English speakers who grew up as refugees with President Kagame in Uganda.  The 28-member cabinet is evenly split among Tutsis and Hutus, but most key ministries are in the hands of Tutsis (Hutu ministers do head Health and Agriculture, ministries which affect the lives of most Rwandans).  While the Rwandan government (GOR) presents itself as a champion of national unity and equal opportunity, de-emphasizing ethnic identity and ostensibly opening positions throughout society to those of skill and merit, political authority in the country does not yet reflect this ideal.  Ethnic identity is still keenly felt and lived, and ordinary Rwandans are well aware of who holds the levers of power.  The long-term stability of Rwanda depends upon a government and ruling party that eventually shares real authority with the majority population. 

[…]

President Kagame is a Tutsi.  So, too are the  important Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice,  Infrastructure, Local Government, and Information.  Close Kagame confidant, Chief of Defense Staff General James  Kabarebe, is Tutsi, as are the chiefs of the army and air  force, the military district commanders. and the heads of the  Rwanda National Police and the National Security Service  (although some Rwandans joke that short-statured Air Force  Chief Muhire is Twa).  Indeed, all are English speakers who  grew up in Uganda.  Some major positions are held by Hutus,  but their actual authority often appears limited, and they  are widely perceived to be “twinned” with more powerful Tutsi  colleagues. 

[…]

For all the government’s exhortations to Rwandans to abandon ethnic identities and work in common on national goals, a policy that in fact has much to recommend it, the  political reality is self-evidently otherwise.  People remain  keenly committed to their ethnic identities, and everyone is  aware of which person holds which position and to which group  he belongs.  While the practical end-point for such a project  may be years away. if this government is ever to surmount the challenges and divides of Rwandan society, it must begin to  share real authority with Hutus to a much greater degree than  it does now.

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