Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The Politics of Knowledge Production in Post-Genocide Rwanda

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The Politics of Knowledge Production in Post-Genocide Rwanda

Article excerpt

Abstract

Looking beyond obvious development achievements under Kagame's rule, this article attempts to reveal the political motives behind the government's large-scale campaign to rewrite the country's history and to reshape society. In order to do so, the political practices of the current regime are analysed from a critical approach based on the writings of Foucault and Agamben. The article examines how the survival of the current regime is securitised and what role censorship along with propaganda play in strengthening the current government. Moreover, it exposes what political motives are at the bottom of collective mourning ceremonies and how one part of the population is victimised while the other part is criminalised. In Rwanda, 'peace' equals 'security' which is imposed by an all-powerful state through tight control over all aspects of life--including the production of knowledge and the definition of 'truth'. In such an environment, the renewed politicisation of ethnicity or any other cleavage in society might easily erupt in another wave of violence.

The intellectual's role is first to present alternative narratives and other perspectives on history than those provided by the combatants on behalf of official memory" (Said 2002: 37).

1. The Politics of Knowledge Production in Post-Genocide Rwanda

Without doubt, numerous positive developments have taken place in post-genocide Rwanda under the strong leadership of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government. Investments in the infrastructure are openly visible, most strikingly--though not exclusively--in the capital, Kigali. Outstanding macroeconomic growth rates, low levels of corruption, outstanding achievements in education and health service delivery, clean streets and tight security have seduced The Economist to baptise Rwanda 'Africa's Singapore' (Economist 2012). Looking beyond paved sidewalks and taking into account the broader socio-political context, however, reveals that it is not only the skyline of Kigali that is profoundly reshaped in post-genocide Rwanda. Discussions with numerous high-level government officials, academics, civil society activists and common people during a research trip to Rwanda in early 2012 have left the impression that the modernisation of the capital is but one aspect of a large-scale initiative to substantially alter the image and knowledge about Rwandan history and society. Knowledge production, control and dissemination are at the heart of politics in Rwanda and have a massive impact on the self-conception as well as the external conception of the society. This article intends to look underneath the glittering facade and to reveal the political motives behind the government's large-scale campaign to rewrite the country's history and to reshape society. Therefore, a critical analysis of the political practices of the current regime seems more fruitful than an appeasing study trying to balance positive and negative aspects. For this reason, despite trying to paint an unbiased picture of the current situation, conciliatory studies painting a positive image of the ruling government are given less consideration than more critical investigations. This approach corresponds with choosing a theoretical framework drawn from the work of scholars that are generally associated with the critical school of thought, such as Foucault, Agamben and Benjamin. It is intended to analyse contemporary politics in Rwanda from the point of view of the struggles over varying, often conflicting versions of 'right' and 'truth'. The aim is not to claim or even prove which version is more 'true' than the others, but rather to expose the political motives behind the creation and promotion of particular narratives. In order to do so, it is proposed to give a brief introduction to Foucault's work on knowledge production; to examine the process of re-writing history; to analyse the role of the creation of a state of exception and fear in the securitisation of the regime; to investigate the role that censorship and propaganda play in strengthening the current government; to expose the political motives underpinning ceremonies of collective mourning, and finally to have a closer look at the victimisation of one part and the criminalisation of the other part of the population. …

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