Realities of Enforced Reconciliation in Rwanda

In contrast to a lot of pious-sounding talk about reconciliation in Rwanda, Susan Thomson has just written this article, which should be a must read for someone who really wants to grasp how things work. She says:

The government can seek to impose national unity and reconciliation activities on Rwandans because of the deep structures of authority that characterise the apparatus of the state. In Rwanda, political power is firmly held by those who control the state in a system where sociopolitical domination is commonplace and accepted by ruler and ruled alike. When the power of the state is exercised at the local level, as it currently is through the program of national unity and reconciliation, it takes the form of directives from “on high” (the regime in Kigali) and of strict monitoring of the ability and the willingness to implement government orders effectively and efficiently. RPF-appointed local leaders in turn keep an eye on the activities and speech of individuals within their bailiwick. Local government officials constantly and consistently remind Rwandans of the need to “unify and reconcile” in order to consolidate present and future security. The density of the Rwandan “state” saturates everyday life with its strong administrative, surveillance, and information-gathering systems, resulting in minute individual forms of resistance when confronted with its various practices of control and coercion.[vi] Rwandans from all walks of life—rural and urban, young and old, men and women—are subject to the exercise of power granted to appointed local leaders, and must perform the prescribed rituals of national unity and reconciliation, regardless of their private realities.

How real is reconciliation when it is conducted at the barrel of a gun?

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