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.
- Countryaah: 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 all contexts.
According to Abbreviationfinder, 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. According to Countryaah, 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 genocide.
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 discipline requirements.
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 instance.
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 Rwandan judiciary.
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.