We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Remaking Rwanda

State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence

Scott Straus

Publication Year: 2011

In the mid-1990s, civil war and genocide ravaged Rwanda. Since then, the country’s new leadership has undertaken a highly ambitious effort to refashion Rwanda’s politics, economy, and society, and the country’s accomplishments have garnered widespread praise. Remaking Rwanda is the first book to examine Rwanda’s remarkable post-genocide recovery in a comprehensive and critical fashion. By paying close attention to memory politics, human rights, justice, foreign relations, land use, education, and other key social institutions and practices, this volume raises serious concerns about the depth and durability of the country’s reconstruction.

            Edited by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf, Remaking Rwanda brings together experienced scholars and human rights professionals to offer a nuanced, historically informed picture of post-genocide Rwanda—one that reveals powerful continuities with the nation’s past and raises profound questions about its future.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (313.9 KB)
pp. vii-ix

Maps of Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (41.3 KB)
pp. x-xi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (248.1 KB)
pp. xiii-xvii

Remaking Rwanda is dedicated to the memory of Alison Des Forges, who died in a plane crash in Buffalo, New York, on February 12, 2009. Alison was the most vocal and knowledgeable champion for human rights in Rwanda, and her untimely death has been a tremendous loss. She arguably ...

List of Abbreviations

pdf iconDownload PDF (161.7 KB)
pp. xix-xxi

read more

Alison Des Forges: Remembering a Human Rights Hero

pdf iconDownload PDF (254.1 KB)
pp. xxiii-xxv

... will never forget my visit to Rwanda with her two years after the 1994 genocide, when the wounds were still raw and tensions high. Hearing of a new massacre in a remote part of the country, we dropped everything—which was typical for Alison—and drove there to investigate what had happened. We found a few survivors and interviewed them, but as we started to leave we ...

read more

The Historian as Human Rights Activist

pdf iconDownload PDF (268.2 KB)
pp. xxvii-xxxix

There is no linear relationship between the historical past and the complex present. Contemporary events emerge from the conjunction of many factors of the past—some evident, some obscure. Together, in indeterminate ways, these mold the way people choose to act in the present. Nonetheless, in making sense of the present there are lessons to be learned from ...

read more

Introduction: Seeing Like a Post-Conflict State f

pdf iconDownload PDF (299.3 KB)
pp. 3-21

In the early 1990s, Rwanda was devastated by civil war and genocide. During one hundred days in 1994, an interim regime orchestrated the systematic massacre of three- quarters of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority and the murder of Hutu who opposed the regime and the genocide.1 This genocide was undoubtedly one of the worst atrocities of the last century. It was committed ...

Part I: Governance and State Building

read more

1. Limitations to Political Reform: The Undemocratic Nature of Transition in Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (381.0 KB)
pp. 25-47

For much of the international community, post- genocide Rwanda stands as a glowing story of successful postwar reconstruction. The journalist Stephen Kinzer (2008) argues that Rwanda has “rebelled against its destiny. It has recovered from civil war and genocide more fully than anyone imagined possible and is united, stable, and at peace. ...

read more

2. Instrumentalizing Genocide: The RPF's Campaign against "Genocide Ideology"

pdf iconDownload PDF (297.4 KB)
pp. 48-66

I was at a June 2008 conference in Kigali when Rwanda’s minister of justice publicly accused Alison Des Forges of becoming “a spokesperson for genocide ideology.” She took that in stride. After all, Des Forges was in good company: the government had already accused CARE International, Trócaire, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and the Voice of America (VOA) of propagating genocide ideology. ...

read more

3. The Ruler's Drum and the People's Shout: Accountability and Representation on Rwanda's Hills

pdf iconDownload PDF (364.7 KB)
pp. 67-78

I was interviewing peasants in southeast Rwanda in 2006 about their experience of political representation when an old man made a cryptic remark: “The cry [shout] is not winning from the drum [Induru ntirwana n’ingoma].” I wasn’t surprised by this response, as Rwandans tend to speak in proverbs. But it wasn’t until I came across an article by Alison Des Forges that ...

read more

4. Building a Rwanda "Fit for Children"

pdf iconDownload PDF (255.5 KB)
pp. 79-86

Globally, childhood is a political space where society’s present anxieties and future aspirations play out. In times of uncertainty and transition, the symbolic positioning of children in nation- building narratives assumes greater importance.1 As demonstrated by the first quotation above, post- genocide Rwanda is a paradigmatic case in which the language and symbolism around children are central to a new metanarrative of national rebirth. ...

read more

5. Beyond "You're with Us or against Us" : Civil Society and Policymaking in Post-Genocide Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (283.7 KB)
pp. 87-100

A major challenge of post-conflict and post- authoritarian transitions is the reconfiguration of relations between civil society and the state (Backer 2003; Bell and Keenan 2004; Crocker 2000). Negotiating roles, relationships, and spheres of influence represents a foundational lesson in democracy for both civil society and the state; and it is not always an easy set of lessons to learn. Tensions in this area are particularly pronounced in transitional ...

Part II: International and Regional Contexts

read more

6. Aid Dependence and Policy Independence: Explaining the Rwandan Paradox

pdf iconDownload PDF (383.4 KB)
pp. 103-117

Rwanda is a poor, land- locked, aid- dependent country with few natural resources, unstable neighbors, and a post- genocide legacy of physical and psychological damage (see Collier 2007). This context makes the Government of Rwanda’s economic and social development all the more impressive. Over the past decade, the Government of Rwanda has won praise and trust from its main donors for these achievements and for managing aid efficiently. ...

read more

7. Funding Fraud? : Donors and Democracy in Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (283.0 KB)
pp. 118-131

Filip Reyntjens robustly criticized the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) report on Rwanda’s August 2008 legislative elections as “a fake report on fake elections” (Reyntjens 2009). In the 2008 elections the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) officially won 78.76 percent of the vote. However, some members of the EU Observer Team (although not in the official report) estimated that the RPF actually received 98 percent of the votes but reduced their totals to make the outcome appear more ...

read more

8. Waging (Civil) War Abroad: Rwanda and the DRC

pdf iconDownload PDF (301.2 KB)
pp. 132-151

The wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the entire Great Lakes region are the consequence of a unique combination of factors, chief among them the collapse of the Zairian / Congolese state and the territorial extension of neighbors’ civil wars (see Reyntjens 2009). This chapter deals with the way in which the Rwandan conflict was—and still is—fought ...

read more

9. Bad Karma: Accountability for Rwandan Crimes in the Congo

pdf iconDownload PDF (293.9 KB)
pp. 152-169

In recent years, a lively debate has developed over whether the international community should privilege peace or justice during efforts to end conflicts, or whether the need for such a trade- off exists in the first place. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), diplomats have consistently erred on the side of caution, shying away from justice mechanisms for fear that such moves could undermine the fragile peace ...

Part III: Justice

read more

10. Victor's Justice Revisited: Rwandan Patriotic Front Crimes and the Prosecutorial Endgame at the ICTR

pdf iconDownload PDF (273.9 KB)
pp. 173-183

Founded on the principle that all victims of atrocity have a right to justice, contemporary international war crimes tribunals are mandated to prosecute individual suspects from all sides of an armed conflict. This mandate sets these institutions apart from the victor’s justice paradigm of the Allied- run Nuremberg and Tokyo military tribunals. Today’s tribunals, of course, are different from those ...

read more

11. The Uneasy Relationship between the ICTR and "Gacaca"

pdf iconDownload PDF (272.1 KB)
pp. 184-193

My first encounter with Alison Des Forges was pretty grim. This was more than a decade ago, and I was packing up my apartment in New York to move to Kigali, Rwanda, where I would begin work with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as a prosecuting trial attorney. I had managed to get hold of a documentary film on the Rwandan genocide, and I played it in a nonstop loop for two or three days while ...

read more

12. The Sovu Trials: The Impact of Genocide Justice of One Community

pdf iconDownload PDF (289.1 KB)
pp. 194-209

Since 1994 the international community and Rwanda have conducted four types of trials to render justice for the 1994 Rwandan genocide: international trials at the United Nations–sponsored International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania; transnational trials in Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and most recently Finland; military and civilian trials in Rwanda’s domestic courts; and a vast network of ...

read more

13. "All Rwandans Are Afraid of Being Arrested One Day" : Prisoners Past, Present, and Future

pdf iconDownload PDF (273.4 KB)
pp. 210-220

In August 2008 I visited Kigali to meet a number of people who had been released after many years in prison, and, for a few days, I saw the world through their eyes. It was a snapshot of a strange, baffling world, one where these former prisoners seemed to have no real place. Kigali had been completely transformed during the period the prisoners had spent in prison. ...

Part IV: Rural Reengineering

read more

14. High Modernism at the Ground Level: The "Imidugudu" Policy in Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (293.6 KB)
pp. 223-239

Land is the source of powerful emotions as well as critical resources in contemporary Africa. As Issa Shivji reminds us, land issues constitute an important “terrain of democratic struggles in Africa” (Shivji 1996, quoted in Bowen 2000, 210). Therefore state- sponsored efforts to reshape the rural landscape test the legitimacy of postcolonial governments, and often illustrate the dynamics of (and the possibilities for) democratic participation. ...

read more

15. Rwanda's Post-Genocide Economic Reconstruction: The Mismatch between Elite Ambitions and Rural Realities

pdf iconDownload PDF (277.5 KB)
pp. 240-251

In contrast to many other African states, Rwanda has a clear vision of how it wants to achieve economic progress and poverty reduction (MINECOFIN 2000, 2002, 2007). The overall aim of the current political elite is to transform Rwanda from a “low human development” to a “medium human development” country, as defined by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index. ...

read more

16. The Presidential Land Commission: Undermining Land Law Reform

pdf iconDownload PDF (283.8 KB)
pp. 252-265

Rwanda is in the midst of major land tenure reform involving significant donor support. A land policy gained cabinet approval in 2004, a land law was promulgated in 2005, and a pilot land registration project in four cellules ended in mid- 2008 (NLTRP 2008). Nationwide land registration commenced in June 2009 and major changes to agricultural production have recently been effected in many parts of the country through implementation of ...

Part V: History and Memory

read more

17. The Past Is Elsewhere: The Paradoxes of Proscribing Ethnicity in Post-Genocide Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (284.0 KB)
pp. 269-282

Throughout three years working in “conciliation” and development consultations in Rwanda (1995–97) and during fieldwork among members of the post- genocide government in 1998, I consciously avoided introducing ethnicity into conversations. Eager to avoid reductionism and to access nuanced understandings, I left it for the respondents to choose how ethnicity would become a subject of discussion. This was often immediate, in response ...

read more

18. Topographies of Remembering and Forgetting: The Transformation of "Lieux de Memoire" in Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (282.7 KB)
pp. 283-296

This chapter analyzes the vicissitudes of memory (Meierhenrich 2006; Olick 1999; Halbwachs 1992; Connerton 1989) in post- genocide Rwanda. It is culled from a larger, long- term project on the transformation of lieux de mémoire (Nora 1984–93, 1989), or sites of memory, that revolves around a historical and spatial analysis of all the genocide memorials, informal and otherwise, that have emerged—and sometimes vanished—in Rwanda in ...

read more

19. Teaching History in Post-Genocide Rwanda

pdf iconDownload PDF (285.3 KB)
pp. 297-315

History is often a central concern after violent, identity-based conflicts. Citizens of countries that have experienced such devastation often recognize how political leaders distorted and then exploited national history to incite violence. As countries seek social repair, many people believe that a new and more truthful history must be transmitted to the next generation through revised history curricula in schools. In such disparate ...

read more

20. Young Rwandans' Narratives of the Past (and Present)

pdf iconDownload PDF (273.4 KB)
pp. 316-330

Rwanda’s past is contested terrain. Most Rwandans are acutely aware of the way history has been—and continues to be—used to legitimate power and justify violence in their country. Competing versions of the past have been a constant feature of the political landscape since the colonial period—and long before—and have been deployed by elites at various moments to justify their actions (Newbury 1998, 7–25). Shortly after taking power in 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) ...

read more

21. Reeducation for Reconciliation: Participant Observations on "Ingando"

pdf iconDownload PDF (270.4 KB)
pp. 331-339

In the midst of my doctoral fieldwork, the Rwandan government ordered me to undergo “reeducation.” I was just over halfway finished when the executive assistant to the minister of local government told me that he had to revoke my letter of permission because my research was “against national unity and reconciliation” and “was not the kind of research the government needed.” The purpose of my 2006 ...

Part VI: Concluding Observations

read more

Justice and Human Rights for All Rwandans

pdf iconDownload PDF (263.4 KB)
pp. 343-353

Alison Des Forges will always be remembered as a friend of Rwanda, who tirelessly worked for justice and human rights for all. I first met her in 1999 when I was Speaker of the Rwandan Parliament, and she made a courtesy call to my office. She expressed appreciation for the steps parliament was taking, including passage of the law establishing the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), and for the efforts that we lawmakers were making to build an independent legislature. After Des Forges left my ...

read more

The Dancing Is Still the Same

pdf iconDownload PDF (241.8 KB)
pp. 354-356

To understand why Rwanda keeps turning in the wrong direction, we need to seriously consider Einstein’s words: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” In important ways, the thinking that has underpinned most of the post- genocide regime’s policies, institutions, and processes strangely mimics the logic of the pre-genocide regimes. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (159.0 KB)
pp. 357-358

... In London, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London, funded and hosted the conference “Reconstructing Rwanda: Fifteen Years after Genocide” on March 20, 2009. Kirrily Pells did a wonderful job helping to coordinate and publicize this event. The conference was a moving mix of scholarly conference, Festschrift, and commemoration thanks to the participants: Anne Aghion, An Ansoms, Phil Clark, Nigel ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (246.4 KB)
pp. 359-362


pdf iconDownload PDF (310.4 KB)
pp. 363-382

E-ISBN-13: 9780299282639
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299282646

Publication Year: 2011