Could Rwanda See More State Led Violence?

Executed by M23
Executed by M23

There is a new and informative article about the possibility of mass killings in Rwanda’s future. It is called “Rwanda: could state-led mass killings ever happen again?”, written by  Bert Ingelaere and Marijke Verpoorten and located here. It is a bit biased towards the Kagame dictatorship 1)i.e. “a strong and appealing vision focused on the reconstruction of the country.” but still comes to some alarming conclusions.

Their thesis is:

We will argue that the international community – heavily involved in contemporary Rwanda – is currently confusing the consequences and origins of mass violence. This could result in renewed mass violence and consequently there needs to be a drastic change of policy.

The authors point out how democrats in Rwanda have been eliminated by the State:

The top-down implementation of economic policies points to the Achilles’ heel of the post-genocide reconstruction: the authoritarian character of the current regime. State control, a key ingredient of the genocidal efficiency in 1994, remains strong. The working of (state) power within Rwandan society also portrays remarkable continuity with the pre-genocide era with a deep penetration of authority in Rwandan society and chains of accountability which mainly go upwards, not downwards as in democratic political systems.

They point out the obvious, that dissent is not allowed in Rwanda:

There is, furthermore, little space or tolerance for expressing discontent or alternative projects for society. Such a project lies with the ‘democrats’, a political current that emerged in the beginning of the nineties. The ‘democrats’ were however gradually side-lined, exiled or killed after the RPF took over power in 1994, just like political opponents today.  As a result, countervailing civic powers, a culture of multi-ethnic political dialogue and strong independent institutions – which could function as barriers to violence in times of crisis – remain absent.

They discuss how a small spark could lead to another disaster in Rwanda:

In the Rwandan case: a minority is in power that wants to defend its existential security as well as its visionary project, of which the main features were highlighted above; and Rwandan politics and mentalities are influenced by layers of historical episodes of mass violence. One only needs a spark to initiate a political crisis, even a war. As history has shown in the Rwandan case, and as comparative research on genocide and politically motivated mass murder suggests; it is under these circumstances that mass violence against civilians become thinkable, justifiable and executable. Recent attempts to forecast state-led mass killings continue to situate Rwanda in the risk zone.

Based on this overview of the drivers of mass violence in Rwanda, it becomes clear that policy-makers within and outside of contemporary Rwanda tend to confuse the consequences of past violence with its origins. The current regime – heavily supported by the donor community – primarily focuses on policy initiatives that seek the unity of Rwandans as well as economic reconstruction and development of the country. Most visible in the first domain is the attempt to ‘re-educate’ the population and ‘erase’ ethnic awareness. This happens through a plethora of initiatives, ranging from history education in schools to the organization of so-called ‘solidarity’ camps for all Rwandan adults. The autocratic nature of these undertakings justifies and entrenches RPF rule while not initiating values of mutual understanding or a culture of multi-ethnic political dialogue.

Perhaps the most chilling, but also accurate, statement that they make, is:

Since the primary driver of mass violence lies in the political domain, it means that the aid industry and international community will need to radically reconsider its involvement in Rwanda. Waiting to intervene until mass violence erupts is a dangerous bet.

This is the point that I have been making for a couple years now in the Anglican context, see here for example. Roger Bowen, who served in Rwanda prior to the genocide, castigated the silence of Western mission partners prior to 1994:

Partnership in mission is the dominant theme in Anglican relationships. But one may ask in the context of Rwanda, as perhaps elsewhere in Africa, whether the mission agencies at least have so leaned over backwards to avoid the charge of colonialism that they have failed to challenge their partner Churches? Within both Rwanda and the Rwandan Church, we were aware of many of these issues and yet, as their partners, we largely failed to challenge them as equal partners and to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). In Ezekiel 33 the prophet is challenged to be a watchman for the House of Israel to warn the people of God of impending danger. Both the national Church of Rwanda and its partners overseas have largely failed in this role of watchmen.

Bowen’s concerns are being replayed by the silence of GAFCON and PEAR USA to the evil in Rwanda today.

The authors go on to make some solid recommendations for how things could change peacefully. The unfortunate downside to their recommendations is that these wishes for change probably have zero chance of implementation in the current oppressive environment.

References   [ + ]

1. i.e. “a strong and appealing vision focused on the reconstruction of the country.”

2 thoughts on “Could Rwanda See More State Led Violence?”

  1. I’m interested in sharing my story with you in regards to PEARUSA clergy ignoring evil while simultaneously preaching “the Gospel of reconciliation”, but then refuse to pursue reconciliation themselves and instead encourage divisiveness.

    1. You’re welcome to leave a comment here James. I don’t approve everything, but I can take a look at it.

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