Rwanda SSR Snapshot


Key Statistics

Population: 11.7 million (World Bank, 2013)

Capital: Kigali

Official Languages: Kinyarwanda, French, English (Kiswahili used in commercial hubs)

Major Ethnic Groups: Hutu (80%), Tutsi (19%), Twa (1%). NOTE: This is an estimate; the Rwandan government has banned ethnic monitoring, and has removed ethnicity from identity documents.

GDP per Capita (current US dollars): 797 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

GDP per Capita PPP (current international dollars): 1,761 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

Security Sector Stats

Active Armed Forces: 33,000 (Military Balance, 2014)

Police Force: 110,000+ officers, 19 percent female (The New Times Rwanda, 2012Rwanda National Police, 2012)

Small Arms: 58,000 small arms in hands of civilians (both illicit and licit), and 9,880 firearms held by the military and 12,686 firearms held by police forces (Gun Policy, 2015)

Military Expenditure: 1.1% of GDP (World Bank, 2013)

If you notice any information that needs to be updated in this SSR Country Snapshot, please let us know!

Rwanda is a conflict-affected country that is highly dependent on external support for its security sector reforms. Reforms officially started in 1993.

SSR Snapshot: Table of Contents

1. SSR Summary

2. Key Dates

3. Central SSR Programs/Activities

4. Key Funding Commitments

5. Major International Donors

6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders

7. Key Domestic Government Actors

8. Central Challenges

9. For More Information

1. SSR Summary

Rwanda is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The population of Rwanda is divided into three ethnic groups, the majority Hutu (80%), the dominant minority Tutsi (19%), and the Twa (1%). While the government currently maintains a ban on ethnic politics in Rwanda, these divisions have played a deciding factor in the country’s history. Although the country’s transitional period ended in 2003 with a new constitution and national elections, the winning Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party, which is dominated by the Tutsi, has been widely criticized for suppressing democratic freedom and opposition in order to ensure stability (Wilén, 2012).

Officially, SSR began in Rwanda when the Arusha Peace Agreement took effect in 1993. However, those priorities changed dramatically following the Genocide that took place in 1994. Much of Rwanda’s security reforms post-genocide have focused on the prosecution of individuals responsible for the genocide, and ensuring that the genocide can never be repeated. Specifically, with external support the Government of Rwanda has sought to enhance the capacity of its justice system to build the rule of law and meet the demand for prosecution, to train and professionalize its new police force, and to demobilize thousands of soldiers and reintegrate them into Rwandan society. Many of these programs are in their final stages, and are planned to expire in 2013/2014.

While Rwanda is still highly dependent on external support for its security sector reforms, it has retained a great deal of local ownership over those reforms. This is largely due to the ongoing tension between the Rwandan government, and the international community that is still held responsible for failing to prevent the genocide. Many of the reforms have improved the capacity of the Rwandan security sector, however, significant challenges remain. With the Gacaca courts officially closed, the capacity of the court system will now be tested as it will be responsible for continuing the prosecution of those responsible for the genocide.  As well, significant security concerns such as small arms trafficking, border skirmishes with Hutu rebels in neighboring countries, and the ongoing situation in the DRC will exert pressure on the RNP and the armed forces, testing their capacity.

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2. Key Dates

  • October 1, 1990: RPF enters Rwanda, civil war begins.
  • August 4, 1993: Arusha Peace Agreement signed.
  • April 6, 1994: Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana assassinated, precipitating the genocide.
  • July 4, 1994: RPF seizes Kigali.
  • November 8, 1994: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda created.
  • January 1997: Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Programme formed.
  • June 16, 2000: Rwanda’s three police forces merged, Rwanda National Police formed.
  • June 2002: Gacaca Courts began as a pilot project.
  • May 26, 2003: Constitution of Rwanda adopted via referendum
  • August 25, 2003: First presidential election, Paul Kagame elected.
  • 2008: Justice Sector Support Programme begins.
  • June 18, 2012: Gacaca Court system closed.

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3. Central SSR Programs/Activities:

Reform of the Justice Sector: The UNDP Justice Sector Support Programme “aims at strengthening the capacity and the efficiency of the key institutions of the justice sector” (UNDP, n.d.). Specifically, the programme targets the Ministry of Justice, the National Service of Gacaca Jurisdictions, the Supreme Court, and the Rwanda National Police.

Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Program (RDRP): DDR in Rwanda has entered its 3rd  phase, which will last from August 1, 2009 to June 30, 2013. The program aims to demobilize up to 5,500 combatants from armed groups, including approximately 500 child soldiers (ISSAT, 2013). There will be a further demobilization of 4,000 members of the Rwandan Defence Forces (ISSAT, 2013). Each combatant receives an initial sum of RwF 60,000 (approximately US$ 95). Individuals become eligible for a Recognition-of-Service Allowance after one month, the amount of which is a function of their former rank (ISSAT, 2013). There is also a “reintegration” grant of RwF 120,000 designed to assist individuals in setting up a livelihood for themselves. All members of armed groups and the RDF receive this grant three-months after demobilization.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): The ICTR was created in 1994 by UNSC Resolution 955, citing the mandate provided to the Council by Chapter VII of the UN Charter (threats to peace). The purpose of the Tribunal is to prosecute those persons responsible for the genocide and any other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1994 (ICTR, n.d.). Currently, the ICTR has completed 75 cases; a further nine suspects are still at large (ICTR, n.d.).

Gacaca Courts: Historically, the Gacaca courts were informal community tribunals convened to resolve civil disputes. However, after the genocide state authorities estimated that more than 700,000 people had taken part in the genocide (Le Mon, 2007). With the court system in ruins, the government took this traditional civil arbitration and transformed it into an informal criminal court. Their purpose was to punish crimes committed during the genocide, establish a history of what took place, eliminate the culture of impunity that existed prior to the genocide, and promote reconciliation (Le Mon, 2007). Participation in the Gacaca court system was mandated for all adult Rwandans who were not accused of crimes. The Gacaca Court system was officially closed in 2012 on the 10th  anniversary of their creation (UNDP, 2012).

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4. Key Funding Commitments

US$ 3,000,000 from the Government of Japan, and US$ 412,251 from the United Nations Development Programme for the creation of the Rwanda Peace Academy (RPA) (UNDP, 2012). The RPA is a project of the Ministry of Defence, and offers training and research programs relevant to post-conflict challenges. The academy aims to enhance regional capacity for conflict prevention and management, and post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding.

US$ 1.3 million from the UNDP for the Justice Sector Support Programme (UNDP, 2012). In general the programme focuses on creating a justice system that is effective and enables the full  protection of human rights. Specifically, the programme seeks to strengthen the review and drafting of law; enhance citizens’ knowledge of the justice system and their fundamental rights and freedoms; enhance the justice system’s accessibility to vulnerable groups; and, to strengthen the justice sector by improving coordination between judicial institutions and law enforcement. Before the Gacaca courts were closed, they were a focus of the JSSP.

Funding for the Rwandan Demobilization and Reintegration Program totals US$ 53 million, and is made up of contributions from the following sources (RDRP, 2011):

  • The World Bank: US$ 27 million
  • Multi-Donors Trust Fund: US$ 14.4 million
  • Government of Rwanda: US$ 2.7 million
  • Department for International Development (DFID): US$ 8.8 million
  • Germany – Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbrau: US$ 2.7 million

In 2010, the Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program (TRDP) provided a grant of US$ 4.4 million to the RDRP to fill the project’s financing gap (TDRP, 2013).

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5. Major International Donors

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6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders

Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program (TDRP)A multi-donor initiative to support the reintegration of former combatants into civilian life. The program currently covers seven countries in Africa: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP): Comprises 15 member civil society organizations. These groups have united under a single umbrella organization in order to maximize their influence in policy-making. A full list of RCSP members can be found here.

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7. Key Domestic Government Actors

Rwanda Peace Academy (RPA)The RPA offers training and research programs relevant to post-conflict challenges in Africa; its goal is to enhance regional capacity for conflict prevention and management. In 2012, the RPA hosted a SSR course that drew 30 participants from regional military, police, and civilian institutions in nine countries (RPA, 2012).

Rwandan National Police: The RNP was created in 2000 by merging the three forces that existed prior to the 1994 genocide; the Gendarmerie Nationale, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defence; the Communal Police, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs; and the Judicial Police, which was operated by the Ministry of Justice. The RNP has been the target of intense reforms to professionalize its officers, enhance gender equality within its ranks.

Ministry of Justice: The Ministry of Justice is responsible for providing legal representation and advice to the Government of Rwanda and its institutions, coordinating national legislation, and ensuring the effectiveness and accountability of legal institutions, and the provision of legal services to the public.

Ministry of Internal Security (MIS): The MIS is responsible for protecting security and the rule of law. It also operates the Rwanda National Police and the national prison system.

Supreme Court of Rwanda: According to article 144 of the Constitution of Rwanda, the Supreme Court is the highest jurisdiction in the country. Additionally, article 145 assigns the Supreme Court the responsibility of coordinating the various other Courts and Tribunals in Rwanda, as well judicial independence (RoR, 2011)

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8. Central Challenges

Small arms trafficking: The political instability in neighboring countries, in addition to porous borders and unregulated trade mean that there are a lot of unregulated weapons circulating in Rwanda. These weapons have enabled armed robberies as well as a series of grenade attacks that began in 2010 (Reuters, 2013)

The situation in the DRC: The presence of Hutu militias and former genocidaires  in the eastern DRC require a strong military presence from Rwanda, putting a strain on the country’s military. Allegations of RDF involvement in the conflict in the DRC have also created problems for the Government of Rwanda.

Allegations of anti-democratic behavior: The RPF government has been widely criticized for engaging in authoritarian practices. For example, military and police officials are often involved in threatening or imprisoning journalists who criticize the government or who publish proof of government mismanagement or corruption. Such problems threaten the legitimacy of the security sector.

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9. For More Information

Wilén, N. (2012). “A Hybrid Peace Through Locally Owned and Externally Financed SSR-DDR in Rwanda?” Third World Quarterly 33 (7): pp. 1323-1336

This article provides a critical analysis of SSR and DDR in Rwanda; in the process it provides a description of the priorities for SSR and some of the reforms that have taken place.

Takeuchi, S. (2011). Gacaca and DDR: The disputable record of state-building in Rwanda (JICA-Ri Working Paper 32). Retrieved from

This paper uses Rwanda as a case study to explore the balance between SSR and statebuilding. Specifically, the paper argues that state-building has taken priority over SSR.

Freedom House (2011). Countries at the Crossroads, 2011. Retrieved from report/countries-crossroads/2011/Rwanda

The Countries at the Crossroads reports by Freedom House provide detailed analysis of many aspects of democratic governance; of particular interest here is the section on the rule of law. The 2011 report provides plenty of information regarding the Gacaca Courts, and reforms to the military, police, and the judiciary.

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Centre for Security Governance

The Centre for Security Governance (CSG) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to the study of security transitions in fragile, failed and conflict-affected states, a process also known as security sector reform (SSR). A registered charity based in based in Kitchener, Canada, the CSG maintains a global network of research fellows from a variety of backgrounds, including practitioners, research analysts and academics, and partner organizations from the public and private sector engaged in SSR issues.

The CSG seeks to enhance the effectiveness of donor assistance and support to SSR programs through its research, events, training and direct policy advice. Committed to innovation, the CSG employs various technological tools to advance its impact and reach, most notably long-distance training and conferencing platforms. Supporting promising analysts and academics as well as advancing new ideas and approaches are also core values of the centre. Through its active engagement with SSR donors and recipients on the ground in fragile and conflict-affected states, the CSG endeavours to translate research, advice and training into tangible improvements in SSR policy and programming.