The first attempt to institutionalize cooperatives in Rwanda began with the
enactment of the Co-operative Ordinance 1949 that operated until the
current law No. 31/1988 was enacted on 12th October 1988.
Traditionally, Rwanda had its own self-help forms that conform to the
principles of self-help. Some of these forms such as Ubudehe, umubyizi and Umuganda have survived to the present day. What is true is that to date, no efforts have been made to consolidate this traditional philosophy of mutual assistance into economically oriented development initiatives.The cooperative movement in Rwanda was started as a tool for promoting colonial government and later in the 1960s the national government’s policies. The interest of colonial governments was to get resources from Rwanda for the development of their own countries.
After independence, the Government used cooperatives as instruments of
implementation of its policies and plans, thus becoming a tool for
politicians. This attitude led to misconception of the notion of “cooperative”
Cooperatives had a false foundation in Rwanda. Although the government
invested a lot of resources in them, most eventually collapsed because they lacked clear policies and strategies and the spirit of self-help among its members. The war and genocide of 1994 had further adverse effects on the rather weak cooperatives, at the level of human, material and financial resources.
In addition, to the fore going negative effects on the cooperative movement the State and development agencies including donors introduced the cultureof dependency by conditioning external assistance to the formation of cooperatives and other forms of associations. Thus, members looked at a cooperative as a means of only getting financial assistance from donors rather than as an economically productive enterprise.