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The Politics of Knowledge Production in Post-Genocide Rwanda



Looking beyond obvious development achievements under Kagame's rule, this article attempts to reveal the political motives behind the government's large-scale campaign to rewrite the country's history and to reshape society. In order to do so, the political practices of the current regime are analysed from a critical approach based on the writings of Foucault and Agamben. The article examines how the survival of the current regime is securitised and what role censorship along with propaganda play in strengthening the current government. Moreover, it exposes what political motives are at the bottom of collective mourning ceremonies and how one part of the population is victimised while the other part is criminalised. In Rwanda, 'peace' equals 'security' which is imposed by an all-powerful state through tight control over all aspects of life — including the production of knowledge and the definition of 'truth'. In such an environment, the renewed politicisation of ethnicity or any other cleavage in society might easily erupt in another wave of violence.
Moritz Schuberth1)
Peace Studies
University of Bradford, United Kingdom
Looking beyond obvious development achievements under Kagame's
rule, this article attempts to reveal the political motives behind the
government's large-scale campaign to rewrite the country's history
and to reshape society. In order to do so, the political practices of the
current regime are analysed from a critical approach based on the
writings of Foucault and Agamben. The article examines how the
survival of the current regime is securitised and what role censorship
along with propaganda play in strengthening the current govern-
ment. Moreover, it exposes what political motives are at the bottom
of collective mourning ceremonies and how one part of the popula-
tion is victimised while the other part is criminalised. In Rwanda,
'peace' equals 'security' which is imposed by an all-powerful state
through tight control over all aspects of life — including the production
of knowledge and the definition of 'truth'. In such an environment, the
renewed politicisation of ethnicity or any other cleavage in society
might easily erupt in another wave of violence.
The intellectual's role is first to present alternative narratives and
other perspectives on history than those provided by the com-
batants on behalf of official memory" (Said 2002: 37).
1. The Politics of Knowledge Production in
Post-Genocide Rwanda
Without doubt, numerous positive developments have taken place in
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
post-genocide Rwanda under the strong leadership of the Rwandan
Patriotic Front (RPF) government. Investments in the infrastructure
are openly visible, most strikingly — though not exclusively — in the
capital, Kigali. Outstanding macroeconomic growth rates, low levels
of corruption, outstanding achievements in education and health ser-
vice delivery, clean streets and tight security have seduced The
Economist to baptise Rwanda 'Africa's Singapore' (Economist 2012).
Looking beyond paved sidewalks and taking into account the broader
socio-political context, however, reveals that it is not only the skyline
of Kigali that is profoundly reshaped in post-genocide Rwanda. Discus-
sions with numerous high-level government officials, academics, civil
society activists and common people during a research trip to
Rwanda in early 2012 have left the impression that the modernisa-
tion of the capital is but one aspect of a large-scale initiative to
substantially alter the image and knowledge about Rwandan history
and society. Knowledge production, control and dissemination are at
the heart of politics in Rwanda and have a massive impact on the
self-conception as well as the external conception of the society. This
article intends to look underneath the glittering façade and to reveal
the political motives behind the government's large-scale campaign
to rewrite the country's history and to reshape society. Therefore, a
critical analysis of the political practices of the current regime seems
more fruitful than an appeasing study trying to balance positive and
negative aspects. For this reason, despite trying to paint an unbiased
picture of the current situation, conciliatory studies painting a positive
image of the ruling government are given less consideration than
more critical investigations. This approach corresponds with choos-
ing a theoretical framework drawn from the work of scholars that are
generally associated with the critical school of thought, such as
Foucault, Agamben and Benjamin. It is intended to analyse contem-
porary politics in Rwanda from the point of view of the struggles over
varying, often conflicting versions of 'right' and 'truth'. The aim is not
to claim or even prove which version is more 'true' than the others,
but rather to expose the political motives behind the creation and
promotion of particular narratives. In order to do so, it is proposed to
give a brief introduction to Foucault's work on knowledge production;
to examine the process of re-writing history; to analyse the role of the
creation of a state of exception and fear in the securitisation of the
regime; to investigate the role that censorship and propaganda play
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
in strengthening the current government; to expose the political motives
underpinning ceremonies of collective mourning, and finally to have
a closer look at the victimisation of one part and the criminalisation of
the other part of the population.
2. Power, Knowledge and Truth in the Work
of Michel Foucault
Foucault draws in his theory, on Nietzsche's notion that knowledge is
a mere invention, a result of interactions between impulses, desires,
instincts and fear. Knowledge is always a fragile compromise, produced
by the clash of these conflicting interests and instincts (Nietzsche
1974). Concerning the relation between knowledge and truth, Foucault
interprets Nietzsche as follows:
If it professes to be a knowledge of the truth, this is because it
produces the truth through the action of a primordial and renewed
falsification that establishes the distinction between the true and
the untrue. (Foucault 2000c: 14)
Foucault argues in line with Nietzsche that knowledge is the out-
come of a battle and functions as a strategic relation between men
(Foucault 2000a). Truth and power are interlinked; they are generat-
ing and maintaining each other, resulting in a specific 'regime of truth'
which differs from society to society (Foucault 2002a: 132). This
regime defines which discourses are allowed and accepted as true,
and provides the mechanisms to distinguish between 'right' and
'wrong'. Foucault (2002a: 132) observes that "there is a battle 'for
truth', or at least 'around truth'". The political battle is fought with the
use of the discursive weapons of knowledge and power which deter-
mine the formation of a context-specific truth (Foucault 2004: 190).
This battle is less about the truth itself than about the status of being
accepted as truth, with all its economic and political implications. In
the case of Rwanda, it is a struggle for a certain form of power which
marks the individual by attaching to him his own identity and truth
(Foucault 2002b). The tight control over the political debate helps the
RPF government to propagate its own version of truth, "a single vision
of Rwanda's future with reference to a particular narrative drawn
from its past" (Beswick 2010: 248). In analysing this struggle, Fou-
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
cault argues that dynamics of power and knowledge create conflict-
ing versions of 'truth' and 'right' which function as tactical weapons:
The 'right' for which prevail is fought for is the outcome of con-
quest, domination; the right of victors. The 'truth' is a perspectival
and strategic truth that enables to win the victory. […] The right is
never an impartial position between the adversaries, it is always
dissymmetric and functions as a privilege to be maintained or re-
established, of imposing a truth that functions as a weapon
(Foucault 2000a: 61).
Accordingly, Foucault inverts Clausewitz' (1984 [1832]: 87) famous
notion that "war is the continuation of politics by other means", assert-
ing that "politics is the continuation of war by other means" (Foucault
2004: 13). In Foucault's thought, war is not only constantly dividing
societies, it is rather the foundation of all institutions of power just
as military institutions are at the heart of all political institutions. This
can be observed in Rwanda, where according to the Minister of
Defence the vast majority of the few hundred founding members
of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) now occupy key positions in
Rwanda's public and private sector;2) and where the Department of
Military Intelligence (DMI) is held responsible for frequent disap-
pearances of dissidents (Beswick 2010). In post-genocide Rwanda,
it can be argued in line with Foucault that politics is the continuation
of war by other means. After the military victory of Kagame's RPF in
1994 that ended the genocide, the government's policies can be
read like a military strategy to strengthen the own position against a
common enemy. In that respect, knowledge is nothing but a weapon,
a tactical deployment in that war (Foucault 2004). Much effort is put
into keeping the image of the very enemy alive that was defeated in
1994, be it through the re-production of history, through the creation
of fear and the perpetuation of a state of exception, through propa-
ganda and censorship, through selective commemoration or through
conceptions of collective guilt and collective innocence.
3. Rewriting History
According to a director at the National Commission for the Fight against
Genocide, 'rewriting history'3) is one of the main task of the Rwandan
government and of his Commission, whose Advisory Council is
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
chaired by President Kagame. This process started immediately in
the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, in which up to one million lost
their lives (Reyntjens 2004; Hintjens 2009). Already in 1995, then
Home Affairs Minister, Anastase Gasana, announced reportedly
to the surprise of diplomats present at the meeting — that "one of the
priorities of the new government was to rewrite the history
books" (Pottier 2002: 127). The frankness of these two government
officials emphasises the significance that reshaping Rwanda's history
has for the RPF regime. This can be explained by Foucault's illustra-
tion of the link between historical knowledge and political fights: By
decoding the relations between belligerents in a war, history develops
into the knowledge of struggles and thus becomes itself an element
within these struggles. Turned both into "a description of struggles"
and into "a weapon or a tactical deployment in that war", historical
knowledge becomes part of and contributes to the continuation of
the very war it describes (Foucault 2004: 171). The debate on atro-
cities committed by RPF/RPA before, during and after the genocide
is a textbook example of the use of knowledge as a weapon in the
struggle for 'truth'. The RPF committed large-scale massacres and
revenge killings when invading Rwanda to end the genocide in 1994
(Silva-Leander 2008). Moreover, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA)
executed "a high level of officially authorised ethnic slaughter" (Gowing
1998), which some even labelled as "the other Rwanda genocide",
this time committed by the victims of the 1994 genocide (Pottier 2002;
Reyntjens 2004; Songolo 2005; Lemarchand 2008b). Lemarchand
(1998) speaks in this respect of four interconnected genocides in the
Great Lakes region between 1972 and 1997, in which victims and
perpetrators changed roles, just as Mamdani (2001) proposes in his
book When Victims Become Killers. Having survived the massacre
of Hutu refugees in Zaire/Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
herself, Umutesi (2004: 73) concludes that the "Rwandan tragedy is
complex. There are not simply victims on one side (Tutsi) and guilty
(Hutu) on the other as we have been led to believe". However, the
one-sidedness of the juridical prosecution in post-genocide Rwanda
is surprising. National prosecutions, gacaca courts and the Interna-
tional Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) are not prepared to try
crimes committed by the RPF/RPA (Gready 2010). The resulting 'moral
ambivalence' and impunity on the side of the ruling regime leaves the
impression that what is taking place is 'victor's justice' (Silva-Leander
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
2008: 1612; Uvin & Mironko 2003: 227). With the government un-
willing to acknowledge any crimes committed by the RPF/RPA and
preventing any independent inquiry, a 'moral vacuum' is created which
leads to the evolution of 'historical myths' such as the 'double-
genocide' thesis without ever being proven wrong or right (Silva-
Leander 2008). In order to create a historical tabula rasa on which
the official version of the historical truth can be imprinted, even plaus-
ible pre-genocide teachings have been categorically rejected and
denounced as colonial propaganda and the teaching of the history of
Rwanda was suspended (Zeleza 2002; Pottier 2002; Silva-Leander
2008). At the same time, the imposed 're-education' of the Rwandan
society takes more forceful and controversial forms: In 'solidarity', 're-
groupement' and 're-education' camps, military training is mixed with
ideological indoctrination. The camps bring together returning Tutsi
refugees, university students, ex-Interahamwe militias, released
prisoners and demobilised soldiers, in order to teach them the latest
version of the official historical 'truth' (Reyntjens 2004; Silva-Leander
2008). In the course of reshaping our knowledge about Rwanda, most
fundamental geographic and linguistic facts were modified. For in-
stance, names of important cities and districts were changed, provided
their name had historical significance or ethnical connotation (Silva-
Leander 2008). As part of a long-term strategy to change the lan-
guage of instruction in the schools and universities, French was
dropped in 2008 as third official language after English has been added
in 1996 (Samuelson and Freedman 2010). What is more, Rwanda's
administrative map was redrawn in order to break cleavages along
ethnic or regional lines. But beyond reshaping the country, the
Rwandan government attempts to redraw the history and political
boundaries of the whole region. In 1996, President Bizimungu and
Foreign Affairs Minister, Gasana, aimed at justifying the destruction
of refugee camps in then Zaire by RPA troops, by claiming that
"Rwanda’s real borders included large tracts of Kivu" which the Euro-
pean colonisers had unjustifiably broken away from a fictitious 'Greater
Rwanda' (Pottier 2002: 171-173). As Pottier (2002: 46) puts it, "[m]aps
can be read and re-read; […] a small community can be 'ethnicised'
to become a larger one. These various interventions demonstrate
the close fit between knowledge and power that lies at the root of
much about […] Rwanda that is today taken for granted".
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
4. State of Exception and the Creation of
According to Buzan, Wæver and De Wilde (1998), securitisation is the
use of the notion of a security threat in order to proclaim a state of
emergency which justifies extraordinary measures in order to counter
the menace. This concept presents securitisation as an extreme type
of politicisation. Whereas a non-politicised issue is of little interest for
the state or for public debate, a politicised issue is part of state action
and requires governmental decisions as well as resources. A secur-
itised issue — presented as a substantial threat for the referent
object legitimises actions beyond the usual political procedures
which may even violate accepted norms. For an act of securitisation
to be successful, the public has to accept an issue as a real danger
for the referent object. Likewise, the referent object must have a
legitimate claim to survive (Buzan, Wæver and Wilde 1998). This
goes in line with Agamben's (2005: 2) observation that governments
are increasingly depending on a strategy consisting of the "voluntary
creation of a permanent state of emergency", which seems to be
confirmed in the case of Rwanda. What can be observed in post-
genocide politics is the "transformation of a provisional and excep-
tional measure into a technique of government". For instance, this is
the case with the extension of the 'transitional period' in 1999 by four
more years, interpreted as the unilateral decision of the RPF "to
remain in power for four more years".4) Beswick (2010: 226) argues
that beyond legal mechanisms, the Rwandan government is deploy-
ing 'shadow methods' such as intimidation and threats as a political
strategy in order to maintain a "culture of fear and self-censorship",
aimed at narrowing down political space and preventing criticism. Dis-
appearances are another obscure tactic deployed in order to silence
critics of the regime (Reyntjens 2004). Although the involvement of
the government is often hard to prove, suspicions are clearly pointing
in this direction and the resulting 'fear of politics' and a reluctance to
challenge the regime are certainly not against its interests (Beswick
2010: 244). In his Critique of Violence, Benjamin (1996) makes the
case for a 'pure', 'divine' or 'revolutionary' violence which operates be-
yond law and can — because of its very nature — never be perceived
as a threat by law. It is likely that the RPF considers its massive human
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
rights abuses and war crimes committed against alleged géno-
cidaires to be part of this category of violence. In order to securitise
regime survival, notions of 'pure' violence for a higher cause might still
be brought into play in order to justify violent attacks on political op-
ponents and journalists (Silva-Leander 2008). This goes in line with
Sylvester's interpretation of Agamben's (1998) notion of 'bare life': in
a permanent state of exception, the government can take up "the
'right' to create a range of people that can be killed by the state for a
variety of exceptional reasons" (Sylvester 2006: 69).
5. Propaganda and Censorship
We used communication and information warfare better than
Foucault (2004: 8) differentiates between two types of 'subjugated
knowledge'. The first type is 'buried knowledge', referring to "historical
contents masked in formal systematizations and functional institu-
tions". Depending on one's point of view, it could be argued that the
RPF's project of rewriting history is either revealing buried knowledge,
or burying formerly accepted knowledge, or both. The second type of
subjugated knowledge, Foucault argues, is 'disqualified knowledge',
rejected on the ground of being non-conceptual, naïve, inadequately
scrutinised or hierarchically inferior. In the case of Rwanda, one could
add knowledge disqualified as promoting 'divisionism', 'genocide
ideology' or 'anti-Tutsi ideology' (Pottier 2002; Waldorf 2007; Beswick
2010). The wording of laws prohibiting such disqualified knowledge
is vague enough to give the government carte-blanche to use them
against any critical voice (Thomson 2011). From a Foucauldian per-
spective, it seems legitimate to compare the first type of subjugated
knowledge to propaganda and the second type to censorship, two
interventions in the production of knowledge which Rwandan society
has to face today. In the aftermath of the genocide, the RPF govern-
ment had to make sure that the press will not resurrect to hate speech,
which had incited the population to participate in the genocide, as in
the case of Radio-Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM). How-
ever, up to today, the RPF government is abusing anti-hate speech
laws in order to justify propaganda and censorship in the name of
preventing a recurrence to genocide (Waldorf 2007). In this respect,
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
'preserving peace' and 'preventing genocide' as referent objects have
been securitised in the face of a substantial threat deriving from press
freedom and freedom of speech, thus legitimising extraordinary means
such as censorship and information control. As Waldorf (2007) notes,
however, the infamous case of RTLM proves how dangerous gov-
ernment controlled and manipulated media can become. Covered
under the objective of "raising the moral standards of the press", a
serious censorship evolved, leading to the flight or imprisonment of
many journalists and even the Minister of Information (Waldorf 2007:
407). The same faith is shared by political opponents and critical voices
in general, who have continuously been delegitimised as spreading
divisionism or genocide ideology, that forced them out of the country,
brought them into prison or made them "social outcast[s]" (Beswick
2010: 240). Accordingly, Ankut (2005: 21) observes the criminalisa-
tion of political opposition and dissent, which is "considered a grave
crime by the government".
6. Selective Mourning
The term iustitium, which has been used to describe the state of
exception in case of extraordinary circumstances, is in today's academic
discourse used to designate public mourning (Agamben 2005). This
change of meaning underlines the political dimension attached to cere-
monies of commemoration. As Cohen (2001: 241) puts it, "[m]emory
is a social product, reflecting the agenda and social location of those
who invoke it". Drawing on Primo Levi, Lemarchand (2008: 67) re-
minds us that the "memory of the offence", no matter how inaccurate
or constructed, "is always selective" and hence fundamental for the
creation of a "convenient reality". Agamben (2005) evokes Versnel's
notion of a correlation between situations of political crisis that lead
to a state of exception and the phenomenon of mourning. During
periods of both mourning and crisis, social roles and structures break
down and social relations are overturned. Accordingly, it can be argued
that annual ceremonies of commemoration in Rwanda have the func-
tion of a political tool to keep alive the perception of a state of excep-
tion even decades after the 1994 genocide. Critics argue that the
construction of collective memory, for instance through annual memorial
days and media campaigns, allows the RPF regime to gain so-called
'genocide credit' (Reyntjens, 2004); that is the exploitation of geno-
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
cide memory in order to deter criticism about its human rights
abuses or the "gradual Tutsification of the state by the RPF" (Silva-
Leander 2008: 1610). Accordingly, the annual genocide commemora-
tions have been described as an instrumentalised symbol of the
innocence of the victims and thus of the government (Brauman,
Smith and Vidal 2000). Likewise, Vidal (2001: 44-45) notes that the
annual memorial "ceremonies organized by the regime reveal an
inevitable relation of power" as they hijack the commemorations for
political ends by collectivising individual mourning and by imposing a
political meaning on it. While recognising that "individual mourning is
politicised in that the government only officially recognises it during
mourning week" (Thomson 2009: 172), Thomson (2011: 439) elabor-
ates that the government attempts "to depoliticize peasant people by
orchestrating public performances", such as gacaca courts. Another
account for the instrumentalisation of the genocide by the RPF regime
for short-term political gains is the exclusion of Hutu victims from the
official collective memory (Lemarchand 2008b). Being barred from
the category of genocide survivors, mourning for Hutu could be
denounced as pro-genocidal or anti-Tutsi. As a result, youths whose
Hutu parents have been killed reportedly feel unable to mourn during
the annual commemorations of the genocide "because it was 'for
Tutsi'" (Beswick 2010: 238). The outcome of this repressive collective
memory is the spoiling of the memory of those Hutu who became
victims because they were political opponents, human rights activists,
journalists or simply because they helped and protected Tutsi neigh-
bours, friends and strangers (Lemarchand 2008b; Reyntjens 2004).
Often referred to as 'Hutu moderates', Eltringham (2004: 97) remarks
that this term "fails to communicate the pro-active resistance these
actors demonstrated".
7. Labelling Victims and Killers
The selective nature of public mourning ceremonies derives from the
collective categorisation of whole ethnic groups as 'guilty' or 'innocent'.
Foucault (2002b: 328) categorises three "modes of objectification
that transform human beings into subjects". One of them, the ob-
jectification through 'dividing practices', corresponds to Rwandan history,
at least since colonisation. As being 'Rwandan' is the only politically
correct identity in contemporary Rwanda, it is no longer explicitly the
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
Hutu and Tutsi who are the referent objects of the division. Since
1994, the official discourse created instead the division between the
génocidaires and the survivors (Thomson 2011). As a result of
among other things the phrasing of the constitution and selective
mourning, however, these two imposed identities are inseparably
linked to the officially abolished ethnic identities. Just as the colonial
administrators are accused of having invented or at least reinforced
ethnic divisions and hence tensions between Hutu and Tutsi (David-
son 1992; Mamdani 1996; Hintjens 1997; de Lame 2004), the RPF
government has later attributed the notions of perpetrators and victims
respectively. Likewise, Silva-Leander (2008: 1609) argues that the
"mythology of ethnic conflict", pursued by the Habyarimana regime,
has been replaced by a forcefully imposed "official narrative of ethnic
unity" by the RPF. Drawing on Foucault's theory of power and re-
sistance, Thomson (2009; 2011) shows how Rwanda's poor peasants
engage in different indirect forms of everyday resistance against the
official policy of national unity and resistance, which is perceived by
many respondents as another unjust and illegitimate tool of popula-
tion control. Moreover, Eltringham and van Hoyweghen (2000: 221-
222) observe that the genocide has been "singled out as an event
producing the only politically correct categories for identification".
Accordingly, it is this "autocratic nature of identity creation" that pro-
vided for the possibility to manipulate ethnicity in Rwanda for political
reasons (Silva-Leander 2008: 1609). By labelling all Hutus as géno-
cidaires, actors involved in the production of knowledge attach the
burden of collective guilt indifferently to innocent children and
civilians (Lemarchand 1998; Eltringham and Van Hoyweghen 2000).
What is more, the inconsistency of the government's de-ethnicisation
campaign is exposed by the selective nature of its criminalisation: All
reference to 'Hutu' or 'Tutsi' is prohibited by law, except when referring
to the genocide (Gready 2010). By doing so, the official discourse on
ethnicity is limited to the simplified and reduced notion of Hutu
perpetrators and Tutsi victims. At the same time, post-genocide
developments, such as the increasing "tutsification of power" (Gready
2010: 639) and of the judicial system (Uvin 2001), are excluded from
public debate. Consequently, Reyntjens (2004: 187) interprets the
elimination of ethnicity as a "tool for the monopolization of power" by
the Tutsi military and political elite. These observations match Foucault's
(2002c) hypothesis that social groups constitute themselves in-
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
directly, for example through the exclusion of 'others' such as criminals
or mad people. The ruling elite in Rwanda has done exactly the
same by negatively defining itself as 'victims', the passive product of
the crimes of 'others', collectively labelled as 'perpetrators'.
8. Conclusion
Contemporary politics in Rwanda is dominated by struggles over
power and over the control of the production and dissemination of
knowledge. This corresponds with Michel Foucault's analysis of political
battles as the fight over the formation of a context-specific truth by
using the discursive weapons of knowledge and power. Drawing on
securitisation theory and on the work of Giorgio Agamben, it has
been shown that the Rwandan government is keeping the country in
a permanent state of exception. By doing so, it is reproducing a state
of fear in order to legitimise the use of extraordinary means for short-
term political objectives. This can be observed in both the proactive
propagation of an officially approved government line and the re-
active censorship and oppression of press freedom. The selective
nature of the annual mourning ceremonies is an example of the
politicisation of collective memory. Being labelled as perpetrator or
victim, ethnic groups are collectively victimised or criminalised, despite
the prohibition of the use of ethnic labels as 'divisionism' or 'genocide
ideology'. Having focused on the politics of knowledge production
pursued by the ruling party, many dimensions worth mentioning re-
mained untouched: For instance, it would be enlightening to compare
the findings with the politics of knowledge production under colonial
rule or under the Habyarimana regime. Moreover, it would be fruitful
to investigate the role of external actors, such as donors, journalists
and scholars, who are either proactively shaping our knowledge on
Rwanda, or are merely accepting the RPF version. Finally, as out-
lined above, the various positive developments under RPF rule have
been neglected, though there is a plenitude of studies available which
focus on aspects that paint a more promising picture of Rwanda's
contemporary politics. However, the future of the country remains
unpredictable as long as the authoritarian enforcement of negative
peace trumps attempts to create positive peace. In Rwanda, 'peace'
equals 'security' imposed by an all-powerful state through tight control
over all aspects of life including the production of knowledge and
Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 35, No 1 Moritz Schuberth
the definition of 'truth'. In such an environment, any unexpected weak-
ening of the state — for instance arising from power struggles within
the leadership — might all too easily lead to the renewed politicisa-
tion of ethnicity or any other cleavage in society, erupting in another
wave of violence.
1. This paper was first presented to the PAN-Africa Symposium, Makerere
University, Kampala, Uganda, on 28 May 2012. The author wishes to
thank Dr Paul Bukuluki, Dr Philipp Kasaija, Prof Byaruhanga Rukooko, Dr
Henning Melber and Dr Andreas Mehler for useful comments on earlier
2. Discussion with Gen James Kaberebe, Rwandan Minister of Defence,
Kigali, 9 March 2012.
3. Discussion with Ildephonse Karengera, Director of Memory and
Prevention of Genocide at the National Commission for the Fight against
Genocide, Kigali, 27 February 2012.
4. Marie-France Cros, La Libre Belgique, 11 June 1999. Cited in Reyntjens
2004, p 182.
5. Quotation of President Kagame, cited in Pottier, 2002, p 53.
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... The work of the NURC which is to "prepare and coordinate the national programme for the promotion of national unity and reconciliation" through education, research, publications, and community dialogue (IJR 2005:5) has been the object of much criticism. Particularly, it has been criticised for perpetuating the government's top-down approach to bringing about unity through denying ethnic identities (Buckley-Zistel 2006;Clark 2010;Schuberth 2013). ...
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National reconciliation has increasingly become an integral part of post-conflict recovery processes in Africa. What national reconciliation means, how it differs from interpersonal reconciliation and to what extent governments can facilitate reconciliation at all remains under debate. This article examines government institutions intended to facilitate national reconciliation processes in South Africa, Rwanda and Burundi. Rather than normatively prescribing what governments should be doing, this article seeks to examine what governments are doing as a starting point to understanding what national reconciliation is.
Certain academic works and film productions on the Rwandan genocide appear to authorise a new canonicity that simplifies interracial relations between the Tutsi and Hutu people before and during the genocidal war. Kinyarwanda is a film that revises the depiction of Hutus as violent people, all eager to kill Tutsis. The film refuses to endorse this mythology and one-sided characterisations of Hutu/Tutsi relations. It shows that there were many Hutu people who perished because they had assisted Tutsi people. It is implied in the film that for film critics to label this category of selfless people Hutu moderates would be a misnomer. Hutus who assisted Tutsis are simply the heroes in the film. Mamdani has convincingly argued that, within the theatre of death in the Rwandan genocide, there were Hutu zealots, along with Hutus who were reluctant, those who we coerced and, most importantly, those who chose to hide Tutsis. The film Kinyarwanda defies the official Rwandese ideologies that stereotype Hutu people as guilty by association in respect of the Rwandan genocide. In this respect, the film’s authorial ideology is revisionist.
This article explores how media has been used to shape the contours of political debate and ethnic identities in post-genocide Rwanda. The article will argue that although the government of Paul Kagame has loosened control on media, its obsession with constructing an “exeptionalised genocide narrative”, has been to a larger measure used as a weapon to gag media freedom. The poor and marginalised Rwandans or “minority discourses” find it very difficult to express their political identities outside the officially sanctioned spaces and categories. The consequence is a fundamentally flawed political narrative that the state uses to practice state sanctioned media censorship, eliminate “dissenting” voices and destroy civic society. Also, in postgenocide Rwanda, there is a worrisome tendency by the government in which citizens are categorised into two groups, described as “saints” and “sinners”, although this is veiled under the policy of “Rwandanicity”. This binary categorisation of society, which is also used to [re]configure state-owned media narratives, is heavily contested in this article because it discourages the emergence of alternative “voices” and “discourses” which can confront the politics of inclusion and exclusion practiced by the state based on who was a “victim” or “perpetrator” of violence during the 1994 genocide. It is also going to be unveiled how private media is often accused by the state for causing “ethnic divisionism”, “negationism”, and of harbouring an “ethnic ideology and genocide mentality”. The degree to which media contest the manipulation of “truths”, challenge the monopoly on knowledge construction, and of political correctness by the state will reflect the extent to which the government can either constrict or democratise media space for full citizen participation in post-genocide Rwanda.
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Identity politics in post-genocide Rwanda has continued to centre around ethnicity, whereas this article argues that the 'lived' identities of Rwandans are far more complex and varied than the identity of ethnicity. The Rwandan government has attempted to transcend ethnicity through laws that prohibit the use of ethnicities and the introduction of a particular kind of citizenship discourse. Critics of the government call for more open and robust discussion of ethnicity in the public sphere, and tend to emphasise the perceived unequal access to resources as a central problem in ethnic identity politics in Rwanda. This article attempts to move beyond both these positions, which place the root cause of and solution to identity politics in Rwanda within an ethnic framework, by exploring the complex network of interrelationships in which people move in their daily lives.
The tragic conflict in Rwanda and the Great Lakes in 1994–1996 attracted the horrified attention of the world's media. Journalists, diplomats and aid workers struggled to find a way to make sense of the bloodshed. Johan Pottier's troubling study shows that the post-genocide regime in Rwanda was able to impose a simple yet persuasive account of Central Africa's crises upon international commentators new to the region, and he explains the ideological underpinnings of this official narrative. He also provides a sobering analysis of the way in which this simple, persuasive, but fatally misleading analysis of the situation on the ground led to policy errors that exacerbated the original crisis. Professor Pottier has extensive field experience in the region, from before and after the genocide, and he has also worked among refugees in eastern Zaire.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a monumental atrocity in which at least 500,000 Tutsi and tens of thousands of Hutu were murdered in less than four months. Since 1994, members of the Rwandan political class who recognise those events as genocide have struggled to account for it and bring coherence to what is often perceived as irrational, primordial savagery. Most people agree on the factors that contributed to the genocide -- colonialism, ethnicity, the struggle to control the state. However, many still disagree over the way these factors evolved, and the relationship between them. This continuing disagreemnt raises questions about how we come to understand historical events -- understandings that underpin the possibility of sustainable peace. Drawing on extensive research among Rwandese in Rwanda and Europe, and on his work with a conflict resolution NGO in post-genocide Rwanda, Nigel Eltringham argues that conventional modes of historical representation are inadequate in a case like Rwanda. Single, absolutist narratives and representations of genocide actually reinforce the modes of thinking that fuelled the genocide in the first place. Eltringham maintains that if we are to understand the genocide, we must explore the relationship between multiple explanations of what happened and interrogate how -- and why -- different groups within Rwandan society talk about the genocide in different ways. Contents: Preface 1. 'Ethnicity': The Permeant Debate 2. The precursor debate 3. The Holocaust: The comparative debate 4. Debating Collective Guilt 5. Unresolved allegations and the culture of impunity 6. Appealing to the past: The debate over history Afterword
"When we captured Kigali, we thought we would face criminals in the state; instead, we faced a criminal population." So a political commissar in the Rwanda Patriotic Front reflected after the 1994 massacre of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda. Underlying his statement is the realization that, though ordered by a minority of state functionaries, the slaughter was performed by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, including even judges, human rights activists, and doctors, nurses, priests, friends, and spouses of the victims. Indeed, it is its very popularity that makes the Rwandan genocide so unthinkable. This book makes it thinkable. Rejecting easy explanations of the genocide as a mysterious evil force that was bizarrely unleashed, one of Africa's best-known intellectuals situates the tragedy in its proper context. He coaxes to the surface the historical, geographical, and political forces that made it possible for so many Hutu to turn so brutally on their neighbors. He finds answers in the nature of political identities generated during colonialism, in the failures of the nationalist revolution to transcend these identities, and in regional demographic and political currents that reach well beyond Rwanda. In so doing, Mahmood Mamdani usefully broadens understandings of citizenship and political identity in postcolonial Africa. There have been few attempts to explain the Rwandan horror, and none has succeeded so well as this one. Mamdani's analysis provides a solid foundation for future studies of the massacre. Even more important, his answers point a way out of crisis: a direction for reforming political identity in central Africa and preventing future tragedies.