Rwanda : Constitution and politics


Republic with executive President
Parliament of Rwanda
1 July 1962

The present constitution came into force in June 2003, with the principal aim of promoting national unity and protecting personal liberties and human rights.

The executive President is the head of state and commander-in- chief of the armed forces, and is elected by universal adult suffrage for a seven-year term; he or she may serve a maximum of two terms. The President nominates the Prime Minister and appoints the council of ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The bicameral legislature comprises the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 members, 53 directly elected every five years by universal adult suffrage and 27 representing: women (24 seats), youth (2 seats) and representative of the Association of the Disabled (1 seat). The Senate has 26 members, who serve for eight years; 12 represent the provincial government councils, and two represent academic institutions. The other members are nominated, eight by the President and four by the Parties’ Forum.

The Government of Rwanda has built a strong foundation of gender equality by making it one of the fundamental principles guiding the constitution - a quota was established stipulating that women must make up 30% of parliamentarians.


In April 2000 President Pasteur Bizimungu was succeeded by Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) leader Paul Kagame. Following endorsement of a new constitution by referendum in May 2003, Kagame won the presidential election in August 2003, with 95 per cent of votes, and the RPF won the country’s first multiparty parliamentary elections in September 2003, with 40 of the 53 directly elected seats and 74 per cent of votes. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) took seven seats and the Liberal Party six; turnout was 96 per cent. Former President Bizimungu received a 15-year jail sentence for embezzlement and inciting violence in June 2004; he was released in April 2007 when he received a presidential pardon.

When in November 2006 a French judge issued an international arrest warrant for Kagame, alleging that the RPF was responsible for shooting down the plane carrying former President Juvénal Habyarimana in April 1994, Rwanda broke off diplomatic relations with France. In October 2007 the Rwandan Government set up an inquiry into the plane crash that had sparked the genocide, which concluded in late 2009 that Habyarimana’s own army had been responsible. In August 2008 Rwanda released a report naming more than 30 senior French officials alleged to have been involved in the 1994 genocide. Rwanda and France resumed diplomatic relations in November 2009.

In the parliamentary elections of September 2008 the RPF was returned taking 42 seats and 79 per cent of votes cast; the SDP won seven seats and the Liberal Party four. Turnout was again close to 100 per cent.

In the presidential election of August 2010, when 99 per cent of the electorate voted, Kagame won a resounding victory, receiving 93.1 per cent of the votes cast. His main rival, Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of the SDP, secured 5.1 per cent.

The RPF was returned with a strong mandate in the parliamentary elections of 16 September 2013, gaining 41 elective seats in the Chamber of Deputies, with 76 per cent of votes cast. The SDP took seven seats and the Liberal Party five. Turnout was again 99 per cent.

Head of government

HE Paul Kagame, President
His Excellency Mr Paul Kagame is serving his third elected term in office as President of the Republic of Rwanda following a constitutional referendum in 2015, and victory at the elections held in August 2017. He first took office in August 2003 after the country’s first-ever multi-party democratic elections held that month. In April 2000, Mr Kagame was appointed President of Rwanda by the Transitional National Assembly. In 1990, Mr Kagame returned to Rwanda after living in exile with his family in Uganda since 1960. He led the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in a four-year struggle to liberate the country from autocratic rule since independence. Mr Kagame also led the Rwandan Patriotic Army in defeating the genocidal government in July 1994. Mr Kagame was appointed Vice-President and Minister for Defence in the Government of National Unity (GNU) on 19 July 1994. Four years later, he was elected as Chair of the RPF, a partner in the GNU. Mr Kagame was born in October 1957 in the Southern Province of Rwanda.