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It was used as an ideological weapon allowing the RPF to acquire and maintain victim status and to enjoy impunity for its own crimes. Besides its moral high ground, the regime also succeeded in having its flawless narrative swallowed by the donor community because of its decent technocratic governance, with competent and even charming elites articulating an intelligent discourse, exactly the one the international community wished to hear. Those considered a threat, Hutu and Tutsi alike, were physically eliminated.
Ruzibiza described the physical elimination of over twenty military, in addition to several foreigners working in Rwanda who were suspected of having leaked information on RPF abuse. The monopoly of truth the regime successfully gained extended not just to Rwanda's visions and analyses of current affairs — for instance its democratic credentials, its human rights record, or its involvement in the DRC — but to history generally.
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The RPF put an end to the genocide that resulted from divisive politics, and restored peace and harmony. If history did not suit the regime, a new history needed to be constructed. A book published in contains a six-page preface in which President Kagame was not only allowed to put forward his regime's view on Rwanda's past, present, and future, but also to propose a strongly worded rebuttal of a chapter written by Lemarchand in that very book.
One particular aspect of imposing the truth served a very concrete project. The RPF vigorously denied the reality of ethnicity, a denial that was an essential element of the hegemonic strategies of a small Tutsi elite. Though obviously denying this, the regime operated in ethnic terms, as evidenced by some telling facts. A calculation made in showed that about 70 percent of the most important office holders in the country were Tutsi, who make up about 10 percent of the population.
Her conclusion: The graduates of these ingando camps that I met do not believe in the national unity of the re-imagined past or in the reconciliation of a re-engineered future. Rather, they see the camps and their ideological discourse as efforts to exercise social control over adult Hutu men. Rwanda is by no means the only place and historical circumstance where the construction of truth is the privilege of those in power, nor where the power to say what counts as true is an issue of contemporary politics.
However, in today's Rwanda the use of the instruments of knowledge construction have an extraordinary impact on the relations of those in power with both their own citizens and the outside world. Towards the latter, this allowed the regime to have its own narrative accepted and to silence the challenges to that narrative. Domestically, one truth was imposed, at least in its public expression. Yet James Scott has shown that, beside the public transcript of the powerful, the powerless — in this case most Hutu and many Tutsi — develop a hidden transcript.
Rather than summarizing the themes developed in this article, I conclude by highlighting a number of transversal trends that have emerged clearly over the past fifteen years. Prominent among these is the incremental way in which the RPF has monopolized power and eliminated countervailing voices. This piecemeal approach has allowed the regime to avoid condemnation by the international community, which was faced by steps considered, each on its own, to be too small to warrant a robust response.
The RPF explored the limits of tolerance, and it realized there were none; so it crossed one Rubicon after the other. Referring to opponents, Kagame once said that a barrel can be emptied with a coffee spoon, and this also holds true for his dealings with the international community.
Having eliminated individual domestic and external troublemakers one at a time, he had neutralized the political opposition by , and civil society by ; between and , the manipulation of elections allowed him to confer a layer of democratic legitimacy on what was in reality the gradual closing off of political space; the introduction of legal instruments allowed his regime to tighten its grip. This piecemeal approach, coupled with the regime's moral high ground, kept the international community in a constant waiting mood.
It hoped things would improve, but they kept worsening to a point of no return, as its hesitant and confusing responses only emboldened the RPF. If donors were unwilling to cry foul over flawed elections that they helped finance, the Rwandan Government clearly calculated that it did not have much to fear from donors when it came time to suppress human rights defenders.
A second trend is the extraordinary sense of entitlement displayed by the RPF. The combination of its having defeated the forces of genocide, its efficient and cynical exploitation of international feelings of guilt and ineptitude, and its regional military might allowed it to tackle unsympathetic voices aggressively and with arrogance. Strongly worded, indeed intimidating statements reduced to silence many of those who might otherwise have spoken out.
This assertive and proactive behaviour has allowed the regime to escape judicial scrutiny both by the ICTR and the justice systems of third countries. Though coming from a small and very poor and aid-dependent country, it has also served to avoid condemnation of the regime's human rights record, its poor democratic credentials, its dangerously flawed political governance, and its aggressive behaviour in the region. The major instrument for achieving this tolerance has been the skilful and cynical use of the genocide credit, which allowed the regime both to capitalize on the guilt feelings of the international community and to present itself as the victim of genocide.
As a matter of fact, the RPF did not have much of a choice. While Straus and Waldorf point to a number of reasons why the regime chose the path it did, the most important one is that the RPF would simply lose power if it accepted a competitive political system. Strong information management is the third thread. The regime's performance in this field may well be traceable to the intelligence background and experience of some of the RPF's military leaders, including Kagame himself, who was the head of military intelligence in Museveni's National Resistance Army NRA until Monitoring and disseminating information is part of a strategy for both external and internal consumption.
Externally, the RPF has successfully cordoned off the arenas of massive human rights abuse in Rwanda and the DRC and imposed a monopoly on the reading of history. In combination with the moral high ground achieved through the genocide credit, this has made the regime nearly unchallengeable for the international community. By doing so, it has privileged the public transcript of the powerful, but failed to eliminate the hidden transcript of the oppressed.
In all likelihood, in the privacy of their homes, in discreet conversations, and in the body language that accompanies their silence, the powerless construct their truth, which may well be more radical than the RPF believes. In Rwanda as in some other places, history is a highly political stake of the present and the future rather than a way of analysing and understanding the past. Its manipulation contributes to the structural violence so prevalent, yet apparently so invisible to outsiders. The so-called international community bears overwhelming responsibility in allowing the RPF to deploy its skills successfully.
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It has been a willing hostage to Kigali's spin, whether it be on political governance and human rights, on massive violations of international humanitarian law, on the aggression and plunder of the DRC, on its dangerous social and economic engineering exercise, or on the way it has injected structural violence across the country and the region. This tolerance was visible from the early days after the RPF seized power. The failure to tie the pledges to improvements in a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation may well have persuaded the regime that it could act without restraint, and that impunity was assured.
Under these circumstances, the moment soon came when dialogue was futile, and the Rwandan showcase reached a point of no return. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Sign In or Create an Account. Sign In. Advanced Search.