Rwanda's politics have long been colored by conflicts between the nation's 2 dominant ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis. In 1959, the Hutu ethnic majority toppled the ruling Tutsi king. After the king fled, the Hutus killed thousands of Tutsis, and more than 150,000 Tutsis fled into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiled Tutsis eventually formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and in 1990 returned to Rwanda to wage war against the Hutu government. This war, along with the assassination of Rwanda's Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana and certain economic upheavals, compounded ethnic tensions which erupted in 1994. The Hutus massacred more than half a million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus (some estimates indicate that the number of dead was closer to 1 million). That same year, the RPF defeated the FAR (the Hutu regime's army) and the Interhamwe (the Hutu militia group that spearheaded the Tutsi genocide) and took military control of the country. The Tutsi ascension to power sparked a massive exodus of Hutus from Rwanda. Once defeated, the Hutus feared Tutsi retribution and approximately 2 million Hutu refugees, including armed members of the ex-FAR and Interhamwe, poured into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the Congo) and trickled into Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda. Most of these refugees have since returned to Rwanda. But the ex-FAR and the Interhamwe remain in the Congo and continue to threaten Rwanda's stability.
In 1991, the primarily Hutu Rwandan government ratified a constitution that provided for a multiparty democracy, a limited executive term, and independent legislative and judicial branches. In 1994, however, the Rwandan Hutu government collapsed and the Tutsi RPF seized power. Once it assumed control, the RPF prohibited all political parties that were determined to have participated in the Tutsi genocide. A multiparty Transitional National Assembly was installed to preside over a 5-year transition from military to civilian rule. In 1995, the Transitional National Assembly adopted a new constitution that was essentially a combination of the 1991 constitution and peace agreements signed after the 1994 war. In 1999, the government extended the transition period for another 5 years because ethnic tensions remained too high to hold elections.
Though still in the transition period, Rwanda held special elections in 2000 that gave Major General Paul Kagame of the RPF the presidency. Kagame received 81 of 86 votes from members of the National Assembly, who represent a variety of political parties. Kagame is expected to rule until regular elections can be held.
There are at least 4 factors that impede Rwanda's economic growth. First, Rwanda's economy depends far too much on foreign aid and will continue to do so for the near future. Currently, 75 percent of the Rwandan government's budget is financed by foreign aid. Second, the government expends a considerable percentage of its resources reintegrating the returning refugees into the folds of Rwandan society. This expenditure continues to divert from the Rwandan economy resources that could improve the country's infrastructure . Third, the government also spends much of its resources supporting rebel groups at war in the Congo. This funding could be diverted to invest in the economy. Fully 25.6 percent of the government's budget went toward the support of the Rwandan Patriotic Army in 2000, according to the U.S. State Department. Finally, Rwanda's prison population has swelled to 100,000, and the government expends considerable sums to house the inmates who were convicted of perpetrating the 1994 genocide.