P234 – Vulnerability, Legitimacy and Growth: Explaining the Political Logic of Development in Post-Genocide Rwanda
10 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Mann Laura / African Studies Centre, University of Leiden
Berry Marie, Sociology Department, University California Los Angeles, USA / Jones Will, University of Oxford


The discourse surrounding economic development has changed once more. No longer defined by an absence of the state, markets and economies are now seen to require ‘good governance’. In place of the state-market divide, we find a politics-market divide, with poor and indebted governments instructed to put politics aside in the interests of getting serious about development. This extrication of politics neglects a vast literature documenting the role of internal political and external geopolitical shocks in re-orientating European and Asian power-holders towards development as a power accumulation strategy. While conventional wisdom has deemed Africa’s neo-patrimonial political culture inhospitable for the emergence of such a developmental orientation, work by Mkandawire (2001), Handley (2011), and Kelsall (2012) among others, encourages us to more closely scrutinize instances where political elites have been pressured to re-evaluate their political settlements and decide economic mobilization is in their interests. By scrutinizing one country case in great depth, papers will explore different aspects of Rwanda’s post-genocide political settlement to better understand why, how and in what ways Rwanda’s ruling elites have decided to prioritize growth and embark on political transformations conducive to long-term economic development. Ultimately these papers tease out a more balanced view of the country, highlighting both features of the political system that have made Rwanda stand out as a developmental model, but also some of the limitations of the current developmental trajectory.

Vulnérabilité, légitimité et croissance : expliquer la logique politique du développement dans le Rwanda post-génocide
En examinant en profondeur le cas d’un seul pays, les communications analyseront les différents éléments du règlement politique d’après-génocide du Rwanda, afin de mieux comprendre pourquoi, comment et de quelle manière les élites dirigeantes du Rwanda ont décidé de donner la priorité à la croissance et de se lancer sur les transformations politiques propices au développement économique à durée longue. En fin de compte ces soumissions démêlent une vision plus équilibrée du pays, soulignant à la fois les caractéristiques du système politique qui ont distingué le Rwanda comme un modèle de développement, mais aussi certaines des limites de la trajectoire de développement en cours.

Paper 1

Berry Marie / University of Denver & UCLA

Mann Laura / ASC Leiden

Beresford Alexander / University of Leeds

The Missing Masses: the Place of the Poor in The Politics of Development in Rwanda and South Africa

There has been much interest in political settlements as a way of understanding economic development in Africa. This approach highlights both the agency of political leaders and the structures and distributions of power within which they operate. Such an approach has been particularly useful in relation to post-conflict environments, where mass violence has upset existing settlements and provided openings for new growth coalitions. Traditionally work has focused on elite bargains in stabilizing and destabilizing political settlements. However, more recent work by Whitfield and Burr has talked about distribution of power within and outside the state. We compare Rwanda and South Africa, exploring 1) the historical role of the poor in bringing about the political settlement; 2) state strategies to buy the acquiescence of the population, forge new political ideologies conducive to growth and build the population’s economic capacities, and 3) how such engagements end up either disrupting the long-term viability of the development state or changing its underlying character. We explore whether the poor are simply beneficiaries of prosperity or whether they wield the power to disrupt or change settlements.

Paper 2

Jones Will / University of Oxford

Rwanda’s Post-Genocidal Political Settlement

There has been a recent surge of interest by scholars of Africa in the ‘Political Settlements’ approach of Mushtaq Khan, in particular the elaboration of that theory with reference to industrial policy developed by Lindsay Whitfield, Hazel Gray, Lars Buur, and others.
This paper proposes to use Rwanda as a potential case for theory confirmation and disconfirmation. In particular, if the account as presented works, certain key variables (notably the distribution of political power, the composition of the ruling coalition, the relationship between political power and domestic capitalists, and the survival strategy of the ruling elite) should predict, or at least account for, Rwanda’s post-genocidal industrial policy. In so doing, it should also enable us to disentangle what is real from what is fantasy from the hubristic, polemical, and over-wrought writing on Rwanda’s ‘development miracle’. Rwanda is still exalted in some circles as a triumphant exemplar of the African Renaissance, particularly in terms of its growth and economic record. A more robust framework (i.e. political settlements) is the begin a more sober assessment of the long-term prospects of the RPF’s agenda for transforming Rwanda.

Paper 3

Behuria Pritish / SOAS

Exit, Voice and Loyalty, and the Elite Bargain in Rwanda

Much of this debate about Rwanda focuses on the nature and interests of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Most authors concur that a group of elites work collectively through consensus for a particular purpose – either to enrich themselves at the cost of the population or for the long-term development of the country. This paper makes an intervention in that debate. It shows that conflicts between elites and external threats have been central to motivate ruling elites in Rwanda to commit to economic development Albert Hirschman’s Exit-Voice-Loyalty framework is emphasised to highlight the dynamic shifts within the elite bargain. In contrast to the existing literature on the political settlement and elite bargain, this paper shows how violence, ideology and rents interact in determining the distribution of power between elites. The RPF has gone through three political transitions. Between 1994 and 2000, ruling elites in Rwanda concentrated power among Tutsi ‘historicals’ and edged out Hutu RPF members, who were threats to their rule. Since 2000, Paul Kagame gradually weeded out rivals within his Tutsi support base while gradually building new support bases in the country. In 2010, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) was established. It is argued that its establishment has forced the dominant coalition in Rwanda to perceive ‘Exit’ choices by ruling elites as a threat to their own power. This, along with recent domestic political developments, has forced a rapid regeneration of RPF cadres and the sidelining of RPF ‘historicals’. This paper will show how ruling elites in Rwanda use ideology backed up by the threat of violence, rather than rents, as a means to counter the challenges posed by rivals.

Paper 4

Chemouni Benjamin / LSE

Explaining the difference of elite commitment to development in Rwanda and Burundi: elite vulnerability, elite legitimacy

Why a rebel group coming to power after a conflict would commit to development, and not another? We offer an explanation based on the comparison of the developmental trajectory of Rwanda and Burundi after the genocide and the civil war. Whilst Rwanda has since genocide built effective, tightly controlled institutions, able to foster development and to put a check on corruption and clientelism, Burundi has a poor growth record and ineffective, if not predatory, institutions unable to curb the pervasive corruption. Drawing on the theories of the emergence of Asian developmental states, we argue that the variation of elite commitment to development originates in the kind of vulnerability each elite is experiencing. In Rwanda, elite vulnerability is high, stemming from ethnic antagonism, international challenges and search for legitimacy. In contrast, vulnerability in Burundi is lower and to be found in inter- and within-party competition, which do not provide a similar incentive to development but rather prove conducive to clientelism and unproductive rent-seeking.

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