- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide


On Progress…

By allie on February 3, 2013

Though we didn’t focus too much on this in class, I find it pertinent in discussion of ‘developing’ countries, especially in Africa. In Straus and Waldorf’s introduction they refer to the “prevailing positive assessments” on Rwanda’s development and growth since the genocide (6). They gave one example of a journalist and public intellectual Fareed Zakaria who claimed that “Rwanda has become a model for the African renaissance” (6). I think this line of thinking is particularly problematic. Notions of renaissance invoke images of rebirth and revival but it is particularly tied to a time in the Western world that is isolated in the past; a time we have progressed from. We are not constantly engaging in a renaissance. This exemplifies a very linear perception of progress and development that predominates Western ideology. By classifying the Rwandan model as an African renaissance it places all of Africa hundreds of years behind us. In reality society is not teleological; there is no endpoint (at least in my opinion). We are not necessarily farther along than countries we label as developing or Third World. Starting from this constricted and narrow construction of progress may lead us to overlook certain aspects of the culture and relations. It may cause us to see certain aspects as illegitimate as well. Progress is not linear. It is not uniform; it comes in many shapes and sizes and we do not have a monopoly on the ‘right’ kind of progress. What do we miss when we approach study of Rwanda with a teleological model of progress and development? Though this doesn’t pertain directly or exclusively to the study of the Rwandan genocide, nevertheless I find it important to keep in mind.

1 Comment

  • Professor Thomson said:

    Excellent insights, Allie. How much does the Rwandan government benefit from the linear development thinking that permeates foreign aid interventions in the country? Do you think the RPF feels the need to continue to “improve” the lives of Rwandans in a linear way that makes the repression of political rights an ideal course of postgenocide development?

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