Nationalism plays an important role in Rwandan history. It once connected people together to gain independence from foreign colonialism, but it became the source of violence, conflict, and bloodshed afterwards, and it finally led to one of the bloodiest and most horrifying incidents in human history. The Rwandan genocide was a planned extermination action carried out by the Hutu against the Tutsi in order to wipe them out. The current president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, however, is not using nationalism to justify his authoritarian rule.

In 1959, the Hutu overthrew the Tutsi, and tens of thousands of the Tutsi fled to neighbouring countries like Uganda. They formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front. The new Hutu government had fought wars with the RPF from 1990-1993. The Hutu, including a lot of government officials, came to the conclusion that the Tutsi caused all the problems. So they started training armed military men to get ready to wipe out the Tutsi. On April 6th in 1994, Juvénal Habyarimana, the Rwandan president, who was a Hutu that agreed to a United Nations-enforced peace agreement with the RPF, was killed in a plane accident. His plane was shot down by a missile from unknown origin. This incident set the genocide into motion. Hutu extremists blamed the Rwandan Patriotic Front for murdering the president, and they started the well-planned slaughter at once; while the RPF claimed that the plane was shot down by the Hutu themselves to find a good excuse to start the massive killing. But the missile soon became irrelevant, because the Hutu extremists saw a great chance to put their extermination plan into action. The genocide was cruel and bloody, and the Interahamwe was killing about 8000 Tutsi every day. 

Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, used to be  the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. He was sworn into office on September 12, 2003, and he portrayed himself as a Rwandan rather than a Tutsi. He also tried to downplay the ethnic strife within the country. A major focus of his presidency was to build national unity and the country’s economy. In the 2010 reelection, some opposition media were repressed, and several individuals, including an independent journalist and an opposition party leader were murdered. But Kagame vowed that neither himself or his regime was involved in these killings. Under this situation, several opposing parties were not able to field candidates. Some candidates were facing arrests, and others were excluded from participating in the election. In the end, Kagame had been reelected with 93 percent of the vote, and voter turnout was reported as more than 95 percent. Kagame kept working on rebuilding the country and promoting economic growth and social conditions in Rwanda. However, there is also criticism of his intolerance of political dissent and media freedom, as well as Rwanda’s continued involvement in conflicts in neighboring countries. In a referendum held in 2015, voters approved amendments to the constitution that would allow Kagame to serve a third seven-year term; in addition, he would be eligible to serve two five-year terms after that, giving him the potential to hold the office until 2034. 

Rwanda was in ruins when Mr Kagame’s RPF took power after the genocide but its economy is now growing at an average of 7% a year, and poverty levels have fallen.As for his African peers, most of them appear to hold him in high regard, as he has been given the task of spearheading efforts to reform the African Union.“Without an African Union that delivers, the continent cannot progress, and we face the likelihood of yet another decade of lost opportunity,” Mr Kagame said in a report tabled at a meeting of African leaders in January.

It seems that Paul Kagame’s authoritarian rule is doing the country good, but it also faces a lot of criticism. Kagame has indeed contributed a lot to rebuild and to make Rwanda a better place for his people, and his approval rate remains high among the people of Rwanda.

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