Between April and July 1994, as forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front swept through the country and put an end to a government-led slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people, one of the challenges was to create a government presence and provide basic services in the war-torn country. In order to govern during the crisis, several of the RPF's civilian leaders conducted a daring experiment. When they captured territory in the chaotic aftermath of the genocide, these leaders, who were active in approximately one-third of the country, adapted the RPF's own structure as a form of emergency government, organizing the population to elect representatives and form executive committees. These committees helped allocate scarce resources for basic services, organized their constituencies to perform basic tasks such as burials and farming, and gave RPF leaders a reliable source of local information. Several RPF leaders said the committees were the only means they knew of restoring order in a dire situation. Although the long-term results of the effort are difficult to gauge, the case offers insights for reformers engaged in provincial reconstruction or the extension of services in insecure areas.
David Hausman drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Kigali, Rwanda, in May and June 2010.