Country profile Rwanda

The scale, speed and atrocity of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 tore Rwandan society apart. Nowadays, Rwanda is still trying to heal the enormous psychological and social damage caused by this genocide, so it is particularly relevant to any project attempting to counteract incitement to violence through the media. In the years leading up to the 1994 genocide, several radio broadcasters campaigned to blame the Tutsis for all the country’s problems. Extensive research has gone into explaining the origins, the role and the negative impact of the infamous radio station called Radio Télévision Mille Collines (1,000 Hills Radio and Television). RTLM was the most widely reported symbol of hate radio in the world. Its broadcasts, disseminating hate propaganda and inciting people to murder Tutsis and opponents to the regime, began in July 1993 and greatly contributed to the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands. After Rwandan Patriotic Front troops drove the government forces out of Kigali in July 1994, RTLM used mobile FM transmitters to broadcast disinformation from inside the French-controlled zone on the border between Rwanda and Zaire (today Democratic Republic of Congo), causing millions of Hutus to flee toward refugee camps, where they could be regrouped and recruited as future fighters. All this created the impetus for the Great Lakes Reconciliation Radio project, which began broadcasts in Rwanda in 2004.

Rwanda is facing an array of challenges. Despite the complexity of issues the country is facing, the Rwandan government has implemented sometimes surprisingly progressive policies that seem to have moved the country into a direction where it is undergoing tangible, if uneven, economic development. People generally feel their life is “better” under the present administration than before. This gives a sense of security to the authorities and stability to the country as a whole. However, this partially new-found prosperity is still very fragile. The country is densely populated and has limited land available. However, the population is still growing fast, putting a strain on the resources available. Economic development isn’t going fast enough to solve this problem. Therefore, both authorities and the population at large live in fear of a repetition of the genocide, or on the side of the perpetrators, retribution for it.

The Gacaca village tribunals have provided some closure to the nation’s wounds caused by the genocide but they haven’t been the all-healing popular phenomenon people had hoped for. The proceedings went too fast for many people, and they were sometimes accompanied by insecurity and killing of witnesses. Groups that now need to live side by side still live in fear and mistrust for each other.

According to reports by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (CNLG) and the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (2009) an increasing number of youth is vulnerable to incitement to violence. La Benevolencija and CNLG (National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide) together develop programmes directed at school children. There they find that parents at times negatively impact and manipulate their children and that youth is still highly receptive to authority manipulation.