Involving civil society role-players in the formulation and implementation
of public policies has become a major feature of political life worldwide. For academics and donors, civil society could service as an instrument that will make African countries more democratic, transparent and more accountable. This article examines the role Rwandan civil organisations have played to influence public policy in the period following the civil war and the 1994 genocide. The role of civil society was highly critical for peace building, and social and economic reconstruction. The Government of National Unity that came to power in July 1994 sought to democratise the country’s politics despite the challenging socio-political environment. Of course, opening up the political space to all segments of the population has been seen as part of the peace and reconciliation process. The article argues that, although civic organisations have attempted,
in some cases successfully (e.g. of women organisations), to influence the course
of policy options, numerous barriers still impede their effective contribution. They
include a society with deep scars left by the war and the genocide of 1994 characterised by mistrust among the population; the culture of a centralised state with a tight policy environment; lack of clear definition of identity of civil society and its role in public policy-making; and problems of resources (human and finances).