Pax Kigali: Reconciliation and Peace in Modern Rwanda


The invasion of Rwanda by the Rwandan Patriotic Entrance (RPF) in 1994 ended one of the vital tragic acts of genocide in modern African historical past through which greater than 800,000 Tutsi’s and reasonable Hutu have been murdered over the span of 100 days. Since then the RPF has remained the ruling celebration within the nation and made reconciliation and the restoration of peace one in all its major goals. In an try to safe peace and break the cycle of violence between Tutsi and Hutu, the RPF-led authorities has taken a number of political, social and authorized measures during the last 26 years aimed toward rooting out the causes of previous violence within the nation. Whereas there have been no new outbreaks of mass ethnic violence in Rwanda since 1994, critics have argued that the RPF authorities’s strategy has did not carry sustainable peace to the nation. Some have argued that more and more authoritarian techniques and the rewriting of historical past to favour a state-sanctioned narrative has merely succeeded in suppressing dissent and underlying tensions.

The end result has been what Samset (2011) refers to as a “repressive peace” primarily based on systemic state-led oppression and exclusion that heightens slightly than abates the chance of future violence (Samset, 2011). In newer information the arrest of well-known Hutu Human Rights activist, Paul Rusesabagina, by the Rwandan authorities on fees of aiding anti-government teams, has as soon as once more introduced the query of reconciliation in Rwanda into the highlight. Mr Rusesabagina, is well-known for his makes an attempt to save lots of Tutsis throughout the genocide, as portrayed within the 2004 Hollywood movie Resort Rwanda.  In recent times he has grown more and more important of the Kigali authorities and the ruling RPF (Aljazeera, 2020). This essay will search to evaluate the controversy on the state of post-genocide reconciliation in Rwanda by contemplating the evolving function of the RPF in Rwandan politics, the measures that have been undertaken to reshape public reminiscence of the genocide and promote peace, and whether or not these steps have successfully secured a sustainable peace within the county. By doing so this essay hopes so as to add to a extra nuanced view of peacebuilding and reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda.

The RPF in post-genocide Rwandan politics

Within the speedy aftermath of the genocide, it was extensively recognised that sectarian variations of historical past which portrayed Tutsi as settlers in distinction to native Hutu, have been used to justify the killing of the previous by the latter (Buckley-Zistel,2006). The RPF-led authorities thus handed strict legal guidelines towards the ideology of ethnic divisionism. These legal guidelines have been used to prosecute political events and figures that had promoted, supported or participated within the genocide in an try to offer justice for victims and the nation. But a number of students (Beswick, 2011; Silva-Leander, 2008; Niesen, 2010) have argued that the broad method through which divisionism was initially outlined has allowed it the aforementioned legal guidelines to evolve right into a political software for the RPF to legitimise the silencing of any entity that would probably oppose the state together with civil society, the press and reasonable opposition events and politicians. Information present that as early as 1995 key political figures throughout the RPF-led Authorities of Nationwide Unity started resigning and going into exile resulting from their discontent with the federal government’s insurance policies (Niesen, 2010). The federal government, in flip, continued to argue that its actions have been within the curiosity of sustaining peace and order by stopping sectarianism and ethnic particularism from as soon as once more gaining a foothold in Rwandan politics and society (Niesen, 2010). But, students similar to Reyntjens (2014) argue that by the point the primary the nation had as soon as once more stabilised and the primary democratic elections occurred in 2003, the RPF had used its marketing campaign towards divisionism to remove any viable opposition or dissent within the Rwandan political panorama, leading to a landslide victory for the celebration and a small elite of former RPF generals (Reyntjens, 2014). Nonetheless, past the political area, the victory of the RPF was additionally facilitated by a state-sanctioned shift in public consciousness and sentiments in regards to the genocide.

Wilful amnesia and state legitimacy

When the killing stopped in 1994 communal life in Rwanda had been fully upended. Neighbour had turned on neighbour and the social material of society had been torn asunder. In an try to normalise relations inside communities the RPF-led authorities launched into a number of initiatives to rebuild social cohesion and set up a brand new Rwandan id by reshaping society’s collective reminiscence. Re-education packages and youth solidarity camps, regionally often called Ingando, grew to become a standard software used to entrench a state-sanctioned narrative of the genocide and Rwandan historical past (Blackie & Hitchcott, 2018). This narrative suppressed any reference to pre-genocide Hutu-Tutsi battle and distinction. By changing one model of historical past with one other the federal government was additionally capable of remove all point out of pre-genocide tensions between Hutu and Tutsi or the battle between the pre-genocide Hutu authorities and RPF militias, slightly selecting to give attention to the colonial causes of those constructed identities (Buckley-Zistel, 2006). But, opposite to the concept that the Rwandan residents had no company in assuming these narratives proof fertile floor within the post-genocide public creativeness. 

The communal nature of Rwandan society meant that survivors and perpetrators typically needed to proceed residing side-by-side and even counting on each other for day by day duties to outlive. To cope with this uneasy scenario many selected to embrace a ‘performative peace’ and willful forgetfulness that was in keeping with the federal government’s reconciliation narrative. When requested how the genocide began, each Hutu and Tutsi neighborhood members typically blamed manipulative political elites, misinformation or stated that they didn’t know (Buckley-Zistel, 2006). These responses align with the state-sanctioned narrative that sought to erase the historical past of pre-genocide tensions between Tutsi and Hutu. The genocide got here to be seen as a tragic enigma that befell Rwandan society in a single day, whereas the true historical past stayed hidden as an ‘open secret’. Group tribunals, often called Gacaca courts, have been additionally set as much as assist carry justice, closure and therapeutic to communities. If perpetrators confessed their crimes, apologised and confessed who their co-conspirators they got a lighter sentence.

Initiatives similar to these aimed to incentivise buy-in from the neighborhood by offering survivors with a semblance of closure whereas permitting identified perpetrators a path to redemption and reintegration into society (Zorbas, 2004). Nonetheless, past wanting to merely ‘forgive and neglect’, worry and ethnic antagonism nonetheless existed on each side and generally manifested in circumstances of revenge killings after Gacaca courtroom confessions. This underlying worry meant that the federal government, regardless of its rising authoritarianism, was regarded by many Rwandans as the one official ‘custodian of safety’ that would hold communities from slipping again into full-blown violence (Buckley-Zistel, 2006). This unstated compromise allowed the Rwandan authorities some freedom in its skill to make choices comparatively unopposed. But whereas the narrative of forgetting the previous was used strategically by the RPF to advertise nationwide unity and safe a ‘performative’ peace within the years following the genocide, rising criticism lately reveals that this narrative could also be having the other impact immediately. 

Cracks within the narrative

At a world stage, the UN and human rights teams have continuously known as for struggle crimes dedicated by RPF forces earlier than, throughout and after the Rwandan genocide and the invasion of the nation to be investigated and prosecuted. This contains the 1996-1998 extermination of Hutu refugee camps in Zaire (DRC) by Rwandan forces throughout the First Congo Conflict, which the Rwandan authorities refuses to acknowledge (Silva-Leander, 2008). Admitting to such crimes would undoubtedly threaten to undermine the muse of the RPF’s legitimacy as custodian of reconciliation and its stance as a crusader towards divisionism. The Rwandan authorities, due to this fact, continues to reject these appeals and insists that any assaults have been finished to defend Rwanda’s peace towards latent Hutu-power forces which threatened to throw the nation again into chaos. Silva-Leander (2008) nevertheless factors out that the blatant refusal of the RPF authorities to analyze and even acknowledge the previous wrongdoing of its personal forces has errored the ethical efficacy of the ‘genocide-credit’ the celebration used over time to official its rule each at residence and overseas (Silva-Leander, 2008). Beswick (2011) additionally reveals that dissenting voices grew louder over time regarding the authorities’s willful erasure of sure sorts of recollections that have been uncomfortable for the ruling celebration. Whereas the experiences of the Tutsi survivors and to a lesser extent the reasonable Hutu have been emphasised within the nationwide dialogue and websites of memorialisation after 1994, the struggling of Hutu refugees who fled the nation, different ethnic minorities and people of combined Hutu-Tutsi parentage have been erased (King, 2010). This has led to rising criticism that the RPF has used a state-sanctioned reconciliation narrative to take care of its personal legitimacy and protect itself from previous struggle crimes, whereas implicitly reinforcing a Tutsi ‘monopoly over struggling’ that stops inclusive nation-building (Zorbas, 2004). 

Students like Mamdani (2002) warned early on that within the long-term the RPF sanctioned narrative of the genocide threatened to switch previous ethnic labels with new labels of Tutsi-victim versus Hutu-perpetrator that would hinder reconciliation between the teams (Mamdani, 2002). In 2013, the federal government hosted a Youth Join convention in Kigali to assist its ‘I’m Rwandan’ marketing campaign and promote a spirit of nationwide unity amongst Hutu and Tutsi youth. Throughout this occasion, a nation-wide name was launched encouraging Hutu youth to apologise for the participation of their family and oldsters within the genocide. Whereas finished within the spirit of reconciliation, some distinguished figures criticised this initiative. They argued that Hutu id was being stigmatised by extending guilt throughout generations and having youngsters pay for the sins of their family (Blackie & Hitchcott, 2018). Interview proof does spotlight circumstances the place Hutu youth nonetheless expertise worry of discrimination and social exclusion in on a regular basis life for the actions of their members of the family, with some reporting that they’re mocked with phrases like “look, the Interahamwe (Hutu-power group chargeable for a lot of the killings) simply handed by” if they’re Hutu with identified family who participated within the genocide (Blackie & Hitchcott, 2018).

It may due to this fact be argued that whereas a brand new era of Rwandans is rising up with no reminiscence of the occasions of ’94, a measure of worry nonetheless underpins reconciliation in Rwanda and helps Mamdani’s issues. On a bigger scale, the RPF’s failure to handle accusations that it refuses to embrace a extra inclusive view of Rwandan historical past past the victim-perpetrator dichotomy, which additionally acknowledges its personal previous wrong-doing, has created an ethical vacuum through which anti-government insurgency teams have propagated their very own different narratives and anti-government rhetoric that undermine peace and cohesion in Rwandan society (Silva-Leander, 2008). Ethnic Hutu insurgent teams such because the Nationwide Liberation Entrance (FNL) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), are prime examples of teams that justify their assaults towards what they understand to be an illegitimate ‘Tutsi dictatorship’ led by Paul Kagame. These circumstances of lingering worry and antagonism thus present that full ethnic reconciliation in Rwanda has but to be achieved greater than twenty years after the genocide. Consequently, the specter of violence nonetheless hangs over Rwandan society. 

A brand new course?

Proof does present that lately the Rwandan authorities has tried to shift the nationwide dialogue past the genocide, in search of different narratives of legitimacy to assist its mission of nation-building. One in all these narratives has been its state-led fast financial improvement. Rwanda has remained one of many quickest rising economies relative to the remainder of the continent underneath an RPF-led developmental state bringing tangible financial dividends to Rwandan residents similar to poverty alleviation, improved residing requirements and decreased little one/beginning mortality charges (Takeuchi, 2019). This new developmentalist technique has very probably discovered favour amongst these whose livelihoods have improved. This sentiment is evidenced by the one survivor who’s reported as saying, “When a rustic has peace and meals and water to drink, then individuals won’t homicide one another” (Blackie & Hitchott, 2018). An instance of this improvement legitimacy strategy may be present in a rustic like China, which has turn out to be a pioneer in developing a story round its financial achievements to counter Western criticism over its lack of democracy and political freedoms. Very similar to China, Rwandan stability and development has been centred round its ruling celebration, however extra particularly across the towering determine of President Paul Kagame which stays the driving character of Rwandan politics. Eager about the way forward for peace and stability in Rwanda is intrinsically linked to the query of who will succeed President Kagame and whether or not the peace he has devoted his political profession to is a resilient one. 


The measures taken by the RPF-led authorities for the reason that Rwandan genocide to carry peace and reconciliation to the nation ensured an preliminary pragmatic peace in post-genocide Rwanda. Moreover, the RPF’s monopoly over Rwandan politics allowed this dynamic to persist. But this peace stays uneasy. More and more authoritarian strategies utilized by the federal government to implement its model of Rwandan historical past has harmed its legitimacy as a custodian of reconciliation within the nation. The manufacturing of different histories by anti-government teams poses a possible long-term menace to the nation’s safety, whereas the stigmatisation of Hutu youth threatens social cohesion. It’s noteworthy to level out Rwanda’s achievements in stopping outright ethnic battle in a area so riddled with ethically pushed tensions. It’s also necessary to focus on that the technique of wilful amnesia has not been unique to Rwanda, however parallels exist in different post-conflict societies eg. the Rainbow Nation narrative of the ANC authorities in post-Apartheid South Africa. Nonetheless, except the RPF authorities succeeds in forging an inclusive Rwandan id past the dichotomous genocide narrative, that validates the historical past of all its individuals and acknowledges previous injustices, the nation will wrestle to maneuver from a repressive to a sustainable peace. Consequently, its authorities might constantly have to resort to more and more repressive measures to retain its legitimacy and silence dissent. The effectiveness of the present financial strategy to shifting past the nation’s previous stays to be seen and its true efficacy might solely turn out to be evident as soon as a brand new era of political actors takes the Rwandan stage. 


Aljazeera, 2020, Resort Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina charged with ‘terrorism’. Accessible:

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Samset, I., 2011. Constructing a repressive peace: The case of post-genocide Rwanda. Journal of intervention and State constructing5(3), pp.265-283.

Silva-Leander, S., 2008. On the Hazard and Necessity of Democratisation: trade-offs between short-term stability and long-term peace in post-genocide Rwanda. Third World Quarterly29(8), pp.1601-1620.

Takeuchi, S., 2019. Growth and Developmentalism in Put up-genocide Rwanda. In Developmental State Constructing (pp. 121-134). Springer, Singapore.

Zorbas, E., 2004. Reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. African Journal of Authorized Research1(1), pp.29-52.

Written at: College of Cape City
Written for: Professor Zwelethu Jolobe
Date written: September 2020

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