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Rwandan Patriotic Front

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Rwandan Patriotic Front
Front Patriotique Rwandais
PresidentPaul Kagame
Secretary-GeneralWellars Gasamagera
FounderFred Gisa Rwigyema
FoundedDecember 1987
Political positionBig tent
Colours  Sky blue
Chamber of Deputies
36 / 80
Party flag

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF–Inkotanyi; French: Front patriotique rwandais, FPR)[1] is the ruling political party in Rwanda.

The RPF was founded in December 1987 by Rwandan Tutsi in exile in Uganda because of the ethnic violence that had occurred during the Rwandan Hutu Revolution in 1959–1962.[2][3] In 1990, the RPF started the Rwandan Civil War in an attempt to overthrow the government, which was dominated by Hutu. Later on, the Rwandan genocide occurred that ended on 4 July with the RPF conquest of the entire country.[4][5][6] The RPF have ruled the country since then as a dominant-party, and its current leader, Paul Kagame, became the president of Rwanda in 2000, and remains in office.[7]

Since 1994, RPF rule has been characterized by political repression,[8][9] relative stability, and economic growth.[10][11] Among other policies implemented by the government are the non-recognition of ethnic identities and a wide-ranging prohibition on what the government calls "genocide ideology", including discussion of ethnic differences.[12][13] Despite an official nonsectarian identity, as of 2021, a large majority of officials in the RPF-led government are Tutsi.[14]



Before RPF


Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, with a population of over 14 million people living in a comparatively tiny territory of 26,338 square kilometers.[15] Unlike other African countries, the current state of Rwanda was partly based on the Kingdom of Rwanda, governed by a Tutsi monarchy, that existed before European colonization.[16][17] When the colonialists arrived in Rwanda (Germans 1899–1916 and Belgians 1916–1962), Rwanda lost all political economic and cultural independence.[18] The colonial rulers chose Rwanda's leaders and set laws in a way that suited their interests. The colonial rulers employed the divide and conquer strategy, spreading the idea that Rwandans came from different places, did not enter the nation as a group, lacked equal intelligence, shouldn't work in the same fields, and should not receive the same education, which increased divisions between Tutsi, Hutu, and Batwa. Rwandans battled for their independence at the beginning of the 1950s, along with other African countries. Since Tutsis made up the majority of those who fought for Rwanda's independence, the Belgians started to propagate the idea that Tutsis were outsiders who had originated in Abyssinia, or modern-day Ethiopia.[19][20]

Rwandese Alliance for National Unity


The Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) was created in December 1979 in Nairobi, Kenya by some young Rwandan Tutsi refugee intellectuals, most of whom had grown up in Uganda. The RANU political organization was established to discuss a possible return to Rwanda.[21] Though primarily a forum for intellectual discussion, it became militant after Milton Obote's election of 1980 resulting in many Tutsi refugees joining Yoweri Museveni in fighting the Ugandan Bush War.[22] Following the overthrow of Idi Amin in 1979, Obote denounced Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) as composed of Banyarwanda. Following this, a failed attempt to force all Rwandan refugees into refugee camps in February 1982 resulted in a massive purge, driving 40,000 refugees back into Rwanda. Rwanda declared that they recognized only 4000 of these as Rwandan nationals, while Uganda declared that they would take back only 1000. The remaining 35,000 were left in a legal limbo along the border region that lasted for years, from where many refugee youths left to join the National Resistance Army.[23][24]



After the Museveni government was formed in 1986, Fred Rwigema, a Rwandan refugee commander, was appointed Uganda's deputy minister of defense and deputy army commander-in-chief, second only to Museveni in the military chain of command for Uganda.[25] Paul Kagame was appointed acting chief of military intelligence.[26] Rwandan refugees formed a large number of NRA officers because they had joined the rebellion early and thus had accumulated more experience. The contributions of the Rwandans in the Ugandan Bush War were immediately recognized by the new government. Six months after taking power, Museveni reversed the decades-old legal regime and declared that Rwandans who had resided in Uganda would be entitled to citizenship after 10 years.[27] In December 1987, RANU held its seventh congress in Kampala and renamed itself the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF); the new RPF, dominated by Rwandan intellectuals who were in exile from different countries and military officers, was far more strong and ambitious than the original RANU.[28]

Rwandan Civil War


On 1 October 1990, the Rwandan government led by Juvénal Habyarimana with the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) party which was known to rule with pro-Hutu policies, was invaded by the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), the wing army force of RPF led by Major-General Fred Gisa Rwigema, the starting of the Rwandan Civil War.[29] The RPA incursion was initially successful, despite the death of Fred Rwigema from a bullet on 2 October.[30][31] Paul Kagame, who had been doing military studies in the United States, returned to take over the RPA. Thereafter the RPA resorted to guerrilla attacks, focusing on the Byumba and Ruhengeri areas, and gained control of much of the north of the country in 1992.[32] Eventually, negotiations between the RPF and the Rwandan government led to the signing of the Arusha Accords in 1993, resulting in RPF personnel and other refugees being allowed to return to the country.[33][34]

1994 genocide in Rwanda


On 6 April 1994, President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane was shot down near Kigali International Airport, killing him and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the President of Burundi. Responsibility for the assassination has not been conclusively established; it is thought that either Hutu extremists or the RPF carried it out.[35] The shooting down of the plane served as the catalyst for the Rwandan genocide which began within a few hours. Over approximately 100 days, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi were killed.[36][37] The RPF with its wing army fought the government and took control of the country. The Rwandan genocide was completely stopped when Kigali was captured by the RPF wing army on 4th July.[38][39]

Post-1994 genocide in Rwanda governance

President Paul Kagame at Community work (Umuganda) in 2016

After the RPF stopped the genocide and took control of the country, in 1994, it formed a government of national unity headed by a president, Pasteur Bizimungu. Paul Kagame became Minister of Defense and Vice-President.[40] President Bizimungu served for six years and resigned from government in 2000, after forming his political party, he was arrested in 2002.[41] Sentenced to 15 years in prison, he was released with a pardon from President Kagame in 2007.[42] In February 1998 Kagame was elected president of the RPF, replacing Alexis Kanyarengwe, and in March 2000 he became the national president.[43]

Following a constitutional referendum in 2003, Kagame was elected president with 95% of the vote. The RPF formed a coalition with several smaller parties, which received 74% of the vote in the 2003 parliamentary elections, winning 40 of the 53 elected seats in the Chamber of Deputies.[44] The coalition won 42 seats in the 2008 parliamentary elections, and Kagame was re-elected as president in 2010 with 93% of the vote.[45]The 2013 parliamentary elections saw the RPF-led coalition win 41 seats.[46] In 2017, Kagame was re-elected for a third term with 98.8 percent of the vote. He was sworn in for another seven-year term on 18 August 2017.[47]

In the post-genocide era, RPF as a ruling party established Rwanda's national unity and democratic government that continues to challenge itself foremost as a right movement to strive for national unity, democracy, and development.[48] To achieve these since 2000, RPF chairman and president of Rwanda Kagame, has been elected three times to rule Rwanda consecutively. Under his leadership, the Rwandan government has invented and practiced unique national programs in ensuring self-reliance including Community work (Umuganda) and Gacaca courts.[49]



Current leaders


Paul Kagame is the current Chairman of the RPF after being re-elected with other members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) during the 16th party's national congress that met on 2 April 2023. The elected committee is responsible for the day-to-day management of the party activities and will serve a five-year term.[50][51][52]

National leaders

  • Chairman: Paul Kagame
  • Vice-Chairwoman: Consolee Uwimana
  • Secretary General: Wellars Gasamagera

General commissioners

  • Tito Rutaremara
  • Jeanne D'Arc Gakuba
  • Abdul Karim Harerimana
  • Jean Nepomuscene Sindikubwabo
  • Nelly Mukazayire
  • Assoumpta Mbarushimana
  • Celestin Kabano
  • Sandrine Uwimbabazi Maziyateke
  • Yves Iradukunda
  • Charles Habonimana
  • Christelle Kwizera
  • Gaspard Twagirayezu
  • Marie Rose Mureshyankwano
  • Jean Nepo Abdallah Utumatwishima
  • Juliana Muganza


Rwanda campaigning for unity and reconciliation

RPF still holds the belief that there should be a fundamental shift. It firmly felt that rapprochement among Rwandans was a prerequisite for socioeconomic growth, the establishment of national peace, and the restoration of dignity to every Rwandan.[53][54]

Electoral history


Presidential elections

Election Party candidate Votes % Result
2003 Paul Kagame 3,544,777 95.06% Elected Green tickY
2010 4,638,560 93.08% Elected Green tickY
2017 6,675,472 98.80% Elected Green tickY
2024 8,822,794 99.18% Elected Green tickY

Chamber of Deputies elections

Election Party leader Votes % Seats +/− Government
2003 Paul Kagame 2,774,661 73.78%
33 / 80
Increase 33 Government coalition
2008 3,655,956 78.76%
36 / 80
Increase 3 Government coalition
2013 76.22%
37 / 80
Increase 1 Government coalition
2018 4,926,366 73.95%
36 / 80
Decrease 1 Government coalition
2024 6,126,433 68.83%
37 / 80
Increase 1 Government coalition


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Further reading