- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide


How Do We Know What We Know? Rhetoric vs. Reality

By stephanie on February 1, 2013


There are multiple, and sometimes conflicting, narratives on the state of Rwanda’s progress after the 1994 genocide. On the surface, it seems as though President Paul Kagame has ushered in an era of prosperity and peace in the country but at what cost and for whom? During the 20120 elections, three major opposition parties were excluded from the ballot and journalists have been arrested and killed. Speaking about ethnicity has been criminalized and individuals, as well as states, monitor each other. According to Cooke, the Rwandan government is unable to manage political competition and decades of state manipulation have led to ethnic fear and division. However, we also learned in our other readings for this week, that during Kagame’s regime, crime and child mortality rates have decreased dramatically and clean roads and pavements have been constructed and maintained. Is prosperity and short-term economic growth enough to overlook abuses of an authoritarian state? I think we would all agree that the answer to this would be no, not only because we cannot stand aside when a government is silencing its people, but also because this route does not seem to be sustainable.

Being asked to evaluate how I know what I think I know about the current state of Rwandan politics and the well-being of the Rwandan people is a pretty difficult task because it really forces me to analyze different sources of information and their intended purposes. It seems to me that we do not actually know what we think we know about the genocide and its aftermath. We need to hear more stories like those that Marie Beatrice Umutesi tells in “Surviving the Slaughter.” I think that it is important that we hear the stories of refugees and others who are suffering as a result of the actions and inactions of the government because we often do not hear of these experiences. We don’t have nearly enough of these stories because it is in the interest of those who are in power, government officials and the President, to not be transparent about these issues and disparities so that they can continue to receive donor support from the international community. In short, these narratives are crafted by those in power with the international community in mind and not the interest of the Rwandan people . I do not believe that this can continue to work because economic growth cannot be sustained without political openness. What definitely seems to be true from our readings and discussions over these last four class sessions is that the social, economic, and political well-being of the current Rwandan state is very complex and not at all black and white.







































































1 Comment

  • Professor Thomson said:

    Excellent comment, Stephanie. Insightful analysis of our discussion and readings for the first 10 days of class. Any comparative cases to illustrate that political openness is required for continued economic growth? Is there anything exceptional about the Rwandan case?

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