Republican Rally for Democracy in Rwanda

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Republican Rally for Democracy in Rwanda
Rassemblement Républicain pour la Démocratie au Rwanda
President Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Slogan "A reconciled people in a rule of law."
Founded 3 April, 1995
Dissolved 29 April, 2006
Merged into United Democratic Forces of Rwanda
Ideology Liberal Democracy[citation needed]
Politics of Rwanda
Political parties
Coat of arms of Rwanda.svg
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The Republican Rally for Democracy in Rwanda (French: Rassemblement Républicain pour la Démocratie au Rwanda (RDR)), also known as the Rassemblement Démocratique pour la Retour (Rally for the Return [of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda]), is an unregistered Rwandan political party. Its stated goal is to establish a democratic and free Rwandan Republic.[citation needed] RDR current president is Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.


The "Rally for the Return of Refugee and Democracy in Rwanda" was formed on April 3, 1995 by a group of Rwandan refugees in Mugunga, Eastern region of the then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The creation of the RDR was a response to the outcome of Rwandan civil war and the resulting refugee crisis in the African Great Lakes Region. By August 1994, over two million Rwandan refugees had fled to neighbouring African countries creating an extreme humanitarian crisis. Inside Rwanda, the internally displaced population were at risk of famine.[citation needed] In refugee camps, the presence of former governmental military personnel and Interahamwe, a Hutu extremist group responsible for the Tutsi genocide undermined the welfare of innocent civilian refugees, making the humanitarian relief effort vastly complex.

In October 1994, a group led by Mr. Francis Nzabahimana, a former civil servant, initiated a meeting in Bukavu. The meeting would pave way to the historical gathering of April 1995 which was attended not only by representatives of the refugees from various camps in Africa, but also by the exiled individuals from Europe and North America. For two days of debate, refugees were considering setting up an organization that is able to break the media and diplomatic embargo suffered by refugees. At the end of this first gathering, the refugees published the charter for a peaceful and speedy return of refugees with their prerequisites.[citation needed]

On April 3, 1995 at Mugunga, the was born.[clarification needed] The RDR was intended to be a non-partisan organization that would bring together all the refugee groupings irrespective of political, ethnic, regional or professional background.[citation needed] RDR was an organization that would not compete with the political parties in exile and its action was placed beyond the traditional scope of activities of political parties. While acknowledging and defending the achievements of the multiparty system, the RDR was aware of the limitations and disadvantages of different political parties in exile such as the stifling of political parties within Rwanda by the RPF and its government.[citation needed]

RDR mission was to solely represent the interest of these civilian refugees and to negotiate their return to their homeland in peace and dignity. The long-term goal of the RDR group was to establish true democracy in Rwanda in order to break the decades-old cycle of violence between Hutu extremists and Tutsi extremists, a cycle in which most victims were innocent civilians on each side.

A year later, as refugees spread beyond the African Great Lakes region, with no solution to the refugee crisis in sight, the RDR grew into a political party with branches in Europe and North America. The group’s name has since changed to the Republican Rally for Democracy in Rwanda.

RDR Struggle[edit]

RDR strived to establish itself as the refugees' representative movement to negotiate for their peaceful return. The RDR group was often overshadowed by the existence of the exiled government and Hutu militants who wanted to control refugee camps and access to resources for their military activities. RDR leaders were also faced with the refusal of the de facto Rwandan government to negotiate. The new RPF-led government refused to recognise RDR as legitimate organisation with no association with military movements that were active in camps.

However, the RDR received very controversial support from members of the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces in exile as other Rwandan refugees in the same situation. Notwithstanding the Rwandan Armed Forces's history, its motion was intended to be expression of same support that the RDR received from other refugee organs that supported its goals: peaceful return of refugees.[citation needed] Several other organizations, associations or NGOs also sent messages of support and encouragement to the young RDR.[citation needed]

The RDR struggled through difficult terrain. First, the RPF, which saw in RDR a new political opponent to destroy at any price, was quick to demonize the movement.[citation needed] Secondarily, some members of the exiled government did not accept to lose the role of torch bearer of refugees. Thirdly, RDR had a mission to give to the international community the other side of the story on the tragedy of Rwanda so that refugees could recover their rights.

Even more difficult, RDR struggled to represent refugees when their camps were destroyed and a large number of refugees were forced to return to Rwanda against their will[citation needed], others fleeing deeper into Congolese forests and beyond as a result of the first and second Congo civil wars. RDR disassociated itself from armed groups and insisted on peaceful means to represent exclusively refugees, in alliance with other peaceful Rwandan opposition parties in exile.[citation needed]

RDR alliances[edit]

In September 1998, RDR formed a coalition called The Union of Rwandese Democratic Forces (UFDR) with the Democratic Forces for Resistance (FRD) and the Initiative Group for Reconciliation (GID). UFDR remained convinced that any lasting solution to the war in the DRC, which very unfortunately stems from the Rwandan Civil War, would never end without finding an acceptable solution to all conflicts in other countries of the Great Lakes region, and in Rwanda in particular.[citation needed] In an attempt to create a new platform for cooperation between opposition parties and other associations representing interests of the Great Lakes population, RDR organised a Forum on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region with the Burundian, Congolese and Rwandan diasporas in Amsterdam between 26 and 28 November 2004.

In April 2006, RDR and other parties in and outside the UFDR coalition (FRD, ADR, AJIIR and RDR) initiated the creation of a United Democratic Forces (FDU). RDR leader, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, was elected President of the political platform. FDU has a goal to install the rule of law in Rwanda, underpinned by the respect of democratic values enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights and other international instruments relating to democracy and good governance

The RDR party platform, written on August 13, 1998, outlines the beliefs and goals of the party. This document argues that by struggling for the establishment of a rule of law, justice, democracy, republican values and truth on the Rwandan tragedy, the Rwandese Republic will become more prosperous and peaceful and the goals of true reconciliation and sustainable development and peace will be realized.

The party also argues that Rwanda must respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights and has officially condemned genocide, crimes, and violations of human rights against the Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa.

The party supports regional integration; restored international diplomacy; major economic and social development, including the rapid development of the private sector and civil society, education, and basic healthcare; separation of powers within the government; and power for all people, in all ethnic groups, of Rwanda.

The motto of the RDR is “A reconciled people in a rule of law.” Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is the current president of the RDR.


RDR history is confused with that of other movements that stream from Rwandan refugee camps such as ALIR/PALIR and former Rwandan armed forces.[citation needed] In the book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, author Philip Gourevitch argues that the RDR, founded in the refugee camps of exiled Hutus in Zaire after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, is a shadow organization effectively run by former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) commanders and génocidaires. He criticized Western aid workers who regarded the RDR as a moderate and legitimate organization as naive and ill-informed. Africanist René Lemarchand criticizes the book for its lack of scholarly credentials.[citation needed]