Music and Dance: Music and dance plays an important role in the traditions of all Rwanda’s peoples. The Rwandan people have a variety of music and dance which range from acts that demonstrate epics commemorating excellence and bravery, humorous lyrics to hunting root. Traditional songs are often accompanied by a solitary lulunga, a harp-like instrument with eight strings. More celebratory dances are backed by a drum orchestra, which typically comprises seven to nine members, and collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms.
Art: A wide range of traditional handicrafts is produced in rural Rwanda, ranging from ceramics and basketry to traditional woodcarvings and contemporary paintings. A good selection of crafted artifacts can be viewed in the main market or street stalls in Kigali, while an excellent place to peruse and purchase modern art works is the capital’s Centre for the Formation of Arts. A distinctively Rwandan craft is the cow dung ‘paintings’ that are produced by a local co-operative in the village of Nyakarimbi near the Rusumo Falls border with Tanzania. Dominated by black, brown and white whorls and other geometric abstractions, these unique and earthy works can be bought in Kigali, but it’s worth diverting to source to see how the paintings are reflected in local house decorations.
Language: Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official Languages of Rwanda, however, English is now the main language of instruction in high schools and at university. Kiswahili is also used in commercial hubs.
Governance Structure in Rwanda
The President of Rwanda is the head of state, and has broad powers including creating policy in conjunction with the Cabinet, commanding the armed forces, negotiating and ratifying treaties, signing presidential orders, and declaring war or a state of emergency. The President is elected by popular vote every seven years, and appoints the Prime Minister and all other members of Cabinet. The incumbent President is Paul Kagame, who took office upon the resignation of his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, in 2000. Kagame subsequently won elections in 2003 and 2010.
The current constitution was adopted following a national referendum in 2003, replacing the transitional constitution which had been in place since 1994. The constitution mandates a multi-party system of government, with politics based on democracy and elections. The government has also enacted laws criminalising genocide ideology, which can include intimidation, defamatory speeches, genocide denial and mocking of victims.
The Parliament consists of two chambers. It makes legislation and is empowered by the constitution to oversee the activities of the President and the Cabinet. The lower chamber is the Chamber of Deputies, which has 80 members serving five-year terms. Twenty-four of these seats are reserved for women, elected through a joint assembly of local government officials; another three seats are reserved for youth and disabled members; the remaining 53 are elected by universal suffrage under a proportional representation system. Following the 2008 election, there are 45 female deputies, making Rwanda the only country with a female majority in the national parliament.
Rwanda has low corruption levels relative to most other African countries; in 2010, Transparency International ranked Rwanda as the eighth cleanest out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and 55th cleanest out of 175 in the world. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has been the dominant political party in the country since 1994. The RPF has maintained control of the presidency and the Parliament in national elections, with the party’s vote share consistently exceeding 70%. The RPF receives support from across the country and is credited with having ensured continued peace, stability, and economic growth.