Customs and traditions
In contact with superficial acquaintances and
people you do not know, people in Rwanda usually stick
to neutral subjects like the weather. It is taboo to
discuss politics, the ethnicities of the country, the
1994 genocide or the civil war that preceded it.
Openly displaying emotions is generally considered
rude. Asking a person about her family relationships or
other private affairs is easily perceived as haunting
and may give rise to suspicion about the purpose. Sex is
also a topic that should definitely be avoided.
Overview of the capital city of Rwanda, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Religion, on the other hand, is frequently discussed
among the very pious Rwandans and a foreign visitor can
expect many questions about their beliefs.
Holding your left hand around your right forearm when
shaking hands with a person is a way to show respect.
This also applies if you hand something over to a person
or receive something. Extensive eye contact should be
avoided with the person you are talking to. Likewise,
one should keep some physical distance to the person,
not stand too close. The personal integrity and
protection of privacy is important and is related to the
importance of showing outward sense and moderation in
Rwandan food is quite simple. Meat is eaten when you
can afford it, otherwise the diet is dominated by beans,
cooking bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes and sorghum.
Beer brewed on sorghum or bananas is common, as is a
kind of sour milk. To refuse what is offered is regarded
as a gross offense. Most Rwandans, however, avoid eating
meat from their clan's traditional totem animals.
Among Rwanda's public holidays are the usual
Christian and Muslim holidays. February 1 also
celebrates Heroes Day in memory of the nation's heroes
throughout history. The most solemn and depressed day of
the year is April 7, the commemoration day of the 1994
The most special custom, though no holiday, is
umuganda. It falls on the last Saturday of the month,
when all residents are expected to spend the entire
morning on community service. It can be about digging
irrigation ditches, sweeping the streets, building
houses or whatever the community is deemed to need.
Between 7 and 12 o'clock, basically every other activity
is down. The purpose is stated to be to foster good
social community, but there are those who believe that
Umuganda is a manifestation of community control and
Former chief of staff gets reduced penalties
Théoneste Bagosora, who in December 2008 was sentenced to life imprisonment
by the War Criminal Court in Arusha, may be reduced to 35 years after the
appeal. The former chief of staff at the Department of Defense, who has been
widely identified as the brain behind the genocide, is being released on some
points, including ordering that flying Tutsis stopped at roadblocks should be
killed. The ruling raises some surprise in Rwanda, as many people of less
central importance have had their lifetime judgments confirmed in a higher
The presidential mantra is not disclosed
A French court rejects a request from Rwanda to extradite Agathe Habyarimana
(see March 2010). A civil lawsuit against her continues.
The case is transferred to Rwanda's judicial system
For the first time, the Arusha Court decides to transfer a case to the
The first woman is convicted by the Arusha court
The Criminal Court in Arusha sentenced former Minister of Women Pauline
Nyiramasuhuko to life imprisonment. She is the first woman to be investigated
for genocide and incitement to rape in an international court.
Traditional courts should be wound up
The Minister of Justice announces that the traditional gacaca courts will be
discontinued during the year.
Opposition leaders are sentenced to prison
Bernard Ntaganda, leader of the Imberakuri Oppositional Socialist Party, is
sentenced to four years in prison for "rioting to ethnic disintegration" and for
threatening the security of the nation. Ntaganda has been in custody since
before the presidential election the year before. Human Rights Watch accuses
Rwanda of silencing regime criticism with the help of the judiciary.