As the RPF worked desperately to bring stability to Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide, its leader, Paul Kagame, drew on everything he knew. He had been educated in both America and Cuba and had clear ideas about the value of an educated, engaged population. The RPF was “the best educated guerrilla army in history”. They knew what they wanted to achieve.
One of their first actions was to abolish the system of ethnic identity cards. Kagame, then thirty-six years old, insisted that everything the new government was asking Rwandans to do needed to be well explained.
Joseph Karemera, the first minister for health, describes the debate around forming the first government. “We knew we were unpopular. Hutus thought we were going to kill them, so we said, ‘let’s do the reverse to win their confidence.’ “ In an extraordinary mix of bridge-building and political intelligence, they chose Hutus as President and Prime Minister. Most of the new Cabinet were also Hutu.
Some of the RPF leaders didn’t agree with this decision. “We’d say that these are very bad people. He [Paul Kagame] said, ‘Bring them in and teach them to be good.’ ”