Rwanda is a republic with an executive president and a multiparty democratic system. The president is head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the defence forces. He or she is directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a seven-year term and serves a maximum of two terms.

Executive power is vested in the president and the cabinet. Members of the cabinet, including the prime minister, are appointed by the president. The cabinet is accountable to the president and to the parliament in accordance with the provisions of the country’s constitution.

For administrative purposes the country contains five provinces. The provinces are further divided into districts each with its own council and executive committee responsible for local administration and community development.

The bicameral parliament comprises the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies consists of 80 members, 53 of whom are directly elected by universal suffrage every five years. The remaining 27 represent women (24 seats), youth (two) and disabled people (one).

The Senate is composed of 26 members, who represent different groupings. These groupings include local government, marginalised communities, political parties and academia. Members of the Senate serve for eight years.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, comprising the Supreme Court, the High Court, and the provincial, district and municipal tribunals. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal and the constitutional court. The president and vice-president of the Supreme Court are elected by the Senate.

There are also gacaca courts concerned only with crimes against humanity in 1990-94, and especially the genocide of 1994, in which ordinary Rwandans judge their peers. These became operational in November 2002.

Under the new constitution of 2003, which includes basic safeguards to human rights, political organisations are prohibited from basing themselves on race, ethnic group, tribe, clan, region, sex, religion, or any other division which may give rise to discrimination.