Friday, March 5, 2010

The Republic of Rwanda

The National Flag of Rwanda

One the the earlier flags covering all Rwanda was introduced in 1959, and ran until 1962. It was a vertical ticolour of red, yellow, and green. Identical to the flag of Guinea, and deriving its colours from the flag of Ethiopia. At the time, Rwanda, whilst under Belgian "protection" was run under a monarchistic system. 

Unfortunately, during Belgium's rule, the opted for a "divide and rule" policy, which brought up ethnic strife between the two main groups. Th politically powerful Tutsi's (The king was Tutsi) and the more numerous Hutu. During the 50's, more power was handed to the Hutu, and then in 1959, enraged with their loss of power, the Tutsi's pushed back. In 1960, it was decided to split the territory into Rwanda, and Burundi, and a referendum in Rwanda, the public showed that they wanted to move to a republic.

Upon independence, in order to differentiate Rwanda from Guinea, they placed the letter "R" in black in the central yellow stripe in 1962. This flag was used up to 2001. 

Unfortunately, Rwanda's history was marked with regular ethnic conflict between the Hutu's and the Tutsi.Until 1994, when the plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down as it came to land in Kigali. Both Presidents where killed. The Rwandan government blamed Tutsi rebel groups. The military and militia groups then went on an orgy of violence. Rounding up Tutsi's and political liberals, and massacring them. 

Rwanda's government was operating under a policy of Hutu power, and had recently entered into a peace deal with one major Tutsi rebel group. However, the shooting down of the presidential plane gave them the excuse to unleash hell. The militia where linked to the major political parties, and were well-organised, and had large numbers of members, approximately 30,000.

The media turned over to delivering biased stories, and where instrumental in whipping up fury amongst the Hutu against the Tutsi's. Eventually, many thousands where brutally murdered. Numbers ranging from 500,000 to 1,000,000 have been quoted. Finally, the UN intervened with Operation Turquoise, and eventually, after 100 days of violence, Rwanda was calmed down, and a new government installed.

One of the first acts of the new government was to scrap the old flag. It was deemed to be linked too strongly to the old government, and the genocide, so it was felt a new flag was needed. A new banner was created, a horizontal tricolour of sky blue, yellow, and green. The blue stripe makes up the upper half of the flag, with the yellow and green dividing the lower half. The sky blue represents peace, the yellow represents economic development, and the green represents hope. In the upper fly, a sun. Being placed in the upper fly indicates a nation looking to the future. The sun represents enlightenment, and is a darker shade of yellow to the shade used in the stripe.

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