Peasant Perspectives on National Unity and Reconciliation: Building Peace or Promoting Division?

  • Susan Thomson


In 2004, the government declared Rwanda ‘a nation rehabilitated from the scourge of genocide’, meaning that it had returned peace and security to the country after only 10 years (ORTPN, 2004: 4). The key government mechanism in rebuilding society is the policy of national unity and reconciliation (henceforward ‘the policy’): an ambitious social engineering project that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)-led government believes will forge a unified Rwandan identity while fostering reconciliation between survivors of the genocide and its perpetrators. The official narrative of national unity and reconciliation argues that the combination of a docile and obedient population, a legacy of authoritarian government, and colonial policies of ethnic divisionism caused the 1994 genocide. Thus ‘Rwanda cannot recover from the effects of the genocide until national unity is restored’ (author’s interview with senior RPF official, Kigali, April 2006). According to the peasant Rwandans I consulted, however, the policy is an oppressive force in their daily lives: the post-genocide state ‘organises everything’ and ‘makes decisions’ that regular folk are then left to interpret and implement according to the official narrative (author’s interviews with peasant Rwandans in South province, 2006).


Good Governance National Unity Reconciliation Commission Ethnic Divisionism Policy Technique 
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© Susan Thomson 2012

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  • Susan Thomson

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