Consociational Democracy for Rwanda?

  • Stef Vandeginste
  • Luc Huyse

Abstract

How can (deeply) divided societies be politically organized in such a way as to foster a stable and democratic power-sharing? This is the lead question that political scientists have been trying to answer in the late 1960s, when the first scientific comparative analyses of consociational systems were published.1 Deeply divided societies — or, in the initial American literature, ‘plural societies’ — are societies where political divisions follow very closely lines of objective social differentiation or ‘cleavages’ that can be of a religious, ideological, linguistic, regional, cultural, ethnic or other nature. Not only the political landscape, but society as a whole (interest groups, media, workers’ associations and other components of civil society) is structured and divided along the lines of cleavages, which are therefore called ‘segmental’ cleavages, with ‘segments’ referring to those groups of the population bounded by such cleavages.

Keywords

Coherence Explosive Assure Assimilation Defend 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See, among others, G. Lehmbruch, Propozdemokratie: Politisches System und politische Kultur in der Schweiz und in Österreich (Tübingen, J.C.B. Mohr, 1967); A. Lijphart, Typologies of Democratic Systems, Comparative Political Studies, April 1968, pp. 3–44.Google Scholar
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    For this theoretical introduction, we will primarily refer to the work of Arend Lijphart (A. Lijphart, Democracy in Plural Societies. A Comparative Exploration, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 1977 andGoogle Scholar
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    In addition to the financial challenges, this can also be detrimental for the efficiency of public administration. For an evaluation of the negative consequences of the structural ‘pilarization’ of the public sector as the outcome of the typical Belgian consociational pacification policy, see L. Huyse, Passiviteit, Pacificatie en Verzuiling in de Belgische Politiek. Een sociologische studie, (Standaard Wetenschappelijke Uitgeverij, Antwerp, 1970), pp. 247–249.Google Scholar
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    This is to be distinguished from the Gacaca tribunals that were more recently established to deal with the criminal prosecution of (the majority of) genocide suspects. See, among others, UVIN, P., ‘The Gacaca Tribunals in Rwanda’, D. Bloomfield, D., T. Barnes, and L. Huyse et al (eds), Reconciliation after Violent Conflict. A Handbook (International IDEA, Stockholm, 2003), pp. 116–121.Google Scholar
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    Some analysts refer to a ‘legal absurdness’, see A. Kaburahe, Le cas du Burundi, Paper presented at the Conference on ‘The (Im)possibility of Democratization in Africa’, University of Antwerp, 18 October 2004, p. 7.Google Scholar
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    See, for instance, D. Horowitz, ‘Ethnic conflict management for policymakers’ in J.V. Montville (ed.), Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (Lexington, 1990), pp. 115–130. Compared to consociational approaches, the integrated models seem to rely nearly exclusively on political willingness to introduce them. The critique that a consociational approach may sharpen existing cleavages is valid only in the short run: well-structured, clearly identifiable and separate segments are indeed important tools to introduce a consociational regime. However, it has been shown how, with the passage of time, these cleavages can be de-institutionalized on the basis of mutual respect.Google Scholar
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    International Crisis Group, ‘Consensual democracy’ in post-genocide Rwanda. Evaluating the March 2001 District Elections (Nairobi, Brussels, October 2001), p. iii.Google Scholar
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    See, among others, I. Samset, and O. Dalby, Rwanda: Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, Oslo, Nordem Reports 12/2003, 2003, p. 59.Google Scholar
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    See, among others, Human Rights Watch, Preparing for Elections: Tightening Control in the Name of Unity (New York, May 2003), p. 16.Google Scholar
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    M. Mamdani, When does a Settler become a Native? Reflections of the Colonial Roots of Citizenship in Equatorial and South Africa, Inaugural Lecture, University of Cape Town, New Series No. 208, 13 May 1998, p. 11.Google Scholar

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© Stef Vandeginste and Luc Huyse 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stef Vandeginste
  • Luc Huyse

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