Home Institution

Emory University

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Rwanda: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding


The primary objective of this research is to ascertain, at least in part, the importance Rwandan’s place on different aspects of democracy. This is done with the hope of giving Rwandans more voice in the discussion of the “democratization” of their own country. With Rwanda’s unique culture and history, the application of “democracy” within this nation should be done, in the mind of the researcher, in accordance to the context, and the only people who fully understand this context are Rwandans themselves. The secondary objective is to hypothesize why these aspects have particular importance in the Rwandan context. The tertiary object is to determine what structural aspects of Rwanda’s current government do not align themselves with the desires of the people and their concept of democracy. The fourth and final objective is to make a tentative assessment as to the level of democracy in Rwanda using Rwandan priorities of the content of democracy and their own appraisal of the current government.

As it is the primary objective of this research to understand Rwandan priorities in the construction of representative government it is necessary to ground the research in an understanding of Rwanda’s history with democracy.[1] Furthermore, given two of the most defining aspects of the Rwandan political environment are its post-conflict environment and the continued role if ethnicity, the relationship that these factors have with democracy will be explored. Additionally, as the 2003 Constitution of Rwanda was ostensibly designed through consultation with the people, understanding its particulars and peculiarities is indispensible to understanding democracy in Rwanda. After exploring “democracy on paper” in Rwanda, an examination of Western literature on the status of Rwandan democracy shall be discussed. After entertaining Western perspectives a discussion of the ambiguous nature of democracy, its ethnocentric biases, and the value of a relativistic approach shall act as the final foundation on which the research shall proceed to ground its analysis.

In an attempt to achieve the prescribed objectives a small-n qualitative analysis was done on ten members of the Rwandan society who were selected for the study on the basis of various political, occupational, and demographic dimensions. Ages of subjects varied between early 20s and early 60s. Eight of the participants were male and two female. Every province of Rwanda was represented in the sample, though some more heavily than others. Despite efforts otherwise, all participants could be considered members of the educated Rwandan middle-class; while originally considered a drawback, this allows for a unique analysis using Aristotle’s argument that democracy originates with the middle-class. Semi-structured interviews ranging between 45 minutes and 4.5 hours were used to obtain data. Sites of the interviews varied, yet were when possible selected to put the subject at ease as rapport was particularly important in obtaining accurate data. The questions asked were grounded in various aspects of Rwanda expected to reflect unique qualities in their perceptions of democracy. Informed consent was obtained orally, and efforts were made to ensure the anonymity of all participants. Analysis of the data was done via an indexing system.

The results of the date while inconclusive for two of the objectives allowed the researcher to draw some preliminary assessments in terms of Rwandan priorities and the status of the Rwandan government. Rwandan’s consider diversity of opinion within the context of national identity and personal responsibility to be essential to government. While understanding of the role of anti-genocide ideology law, and considering security a priority, Rwandan’s believe that some things are more important than security. For that reason, one must tentatively decide that the Rwandan government is only relatively democratic.

[1] It is only now, while preparing my own research that I understand why presenters always oblige us to relearn the history of Rwanda. While there is of course a reasonable expectation that readers will know this history, the aspects which need be emphasize and which are important for the narrative of democracy must discussed.


Civic and Community Engagement | Peace and Conflict Studies | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Political Science | Politics and Social Change | Public Policy


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