Background Briefing

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The Immediate Crises: Internal Opposition and War

Internal challenges

Habyarimana set up a one-party state where tight central control was joined with an initially successful push for economic development. But by the late 1980s—after a decade-and-a-half in power—his political control was eroding and the economy was in trouble.  Pressed by international donors to allow greater space to the political opposition, Habyarimana permitted the establishment of multiple political parties in 1991. The chief contenders in this newly opened arena were parties led by other Hutu, particularly one harking back to the first republic and drawing its backing from central and southern Rwanda.

The war

In October 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a movement led by children of Tutsi who had fled the 1959 revolution, attacked Rwanda from Uganda. They claimed they were fighting for the right of Tutsi refugees to return home and for the overthrow of a repressive government. The Rwandan government army, with French military assistance, pushed the RPF back over the border within the first month of combat. In 1991, however, a reorganized RPF began a guerilla war, attacking Rwanda from bases in Uganda. In June 1992 RPF troops won a substantial foothold in Rwandan territory, and this was followed shortly afterwards by the start of protracted negotiations between the RPF and the Rwandan government, producing the Arusha Accords that were concluded in August 1993 and were intended to end the war.

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