Academic journal article Social Justice

The Rwandan Genocide: International Finance Policies and Human Rights

Academic journal article Social Justice

The Rwandan Genocide: International Finance Policies and Human Rights

Article excerpt


THE GENOCIDE OF THE RWANDAN TUTSIS SERVES TO REMIND US OF THE ETHNIC, political, and economic conditions that are typical for postcolonial states. Ethnic identities are often magnified, if not manufactured, by occupying forces or national elites during the colonial period. Once independence has been obtained, ethnic identities are often internally enhanced for the political purposes of the new ruling regime. Like their colonial forebears, the rulers of the new regime often employ the strategy of pitting one ethnic group against the other ("divide and rule"), particularly through their military, human rights, and macroeconomic decisions. Additionally, they often form one-party states that perpetuate conditions of governance similar to those experienced under colonial rule. In turn, these states reproduce or exacerbate the political, economic, and ethnic crises originally resulting from colonial exploitation of regional and national resources (Chossudousky, 1995; Chossudousky and Galand, 1996).

These political conditions contribute to the instability felt throughout postcolonial environments. The new regimes monopolize existing resources, leaving subordinate populations in socioeconomic conditions analogous to (or worse than) those characterizing colonial rule. Widespread inequities of access to social, political, and economic capital are perpetuated by these new social arrangements. The histories of postcolonial states frequently degenerate into civil wars or other internecine conflicts that undermine the fragile forms of social organization built out of the anomic social rubble of colonial decampment. In the most extreme cases, such as Rwanda, genocides arise. Even though the previously oppressed Hutus gained political positions of power, they were not content to allow the perceived and actual injustices of the past to remain there. As global and local economic situations grew problematic, the Hutus used their new authority to orchestrate widespread efforts to eliminate all Tutsi rivals.

Scholars have written about the Rwandan genocide from a number of disciplinary perspectives. We add to the extant literature by adopting an approach that focuses on human rights and highlights the role played by international finance institutions in setting the stage for genocide. In doing so, we begin with a review of criminological literature that focuses on issues of state criminality and "crimes of globalization" (Friedrichs and Friedrichs, 2007). This review is followed by a brief description of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and international human rights. We then apply an integrated theory of organizational crime (Rothe and Mullins, 2006) to explain the conditions fostering the Rwandan genocide, including the roles of the World Bank, IMF, and other international finance lenders to show how they bear some culpability for the disaster due to their policies and development demands that altered Rwanda's social, economic, and political structures. We conclude with a discussion of how and why international financial policies for postcolonial states should be dictated by human rights concerns and consideration of the social, cultural, and economic needs of a state and its citizens rather than the exigencies of "free trade," capital mobility, and global capital accumulation.

State Crime and Crimes of Globalization

The subfield of state crime is an outgrowth of Sutherland's (1939, 1949) call to expand the purview of criminology to crimes of the powerful, but its origins are often traced to the "Presidential Address" delivered by William Chambliss at the 1988 Meetings of the American Society of Criminology. Chambliss (1989, 1995) demonstrates that states can play a crucial role in organizing and supporting activities that violate domestic and international laws, such as piracy and smuggling, when doing so fulfills their broader political and economic objectives. …

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