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Post-genocide identity politics in Rwanda


Hintjens, Helen


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Abstract When the journal Ethnicities was launched in 2001, the first issue included an article by this author, which examined the politics of `race' and identity as central ingredients in the Rwanda genocide of 1994. This current article considers how political identities have been reconstructed since the genocide, especially from above. History, law and politics are examined, as central instruments in government efforts to construct a new Rwandan society and ensure that genocide will `never again' be possible. Evidence suggests that inequalities in income and land distribution have grown rapidly since 1994. At the same time, the poor and marginalized often find it difficult to openly express their views, including their political identities outside of officially circumscribed spaces and categories. Debates continue around numbers of victims and perpetrators, and new inter-elite conflicts have emerged along language lines. The article shows how race categories have been replaced with new terms, which arise from a particular reading of the genocide. A new foundation myth for Rwanda, a form of diasporic victim nationalism, is also briefly explored. Re-labelling Rwandans from above, the state continues to exercise tight control over the public expression of political identities. Open political debate is very difficult; the government frequently feels it is being attacked, and accuses critics of divisionism or harbouring a genocide mentality. If more inclusive forms of Rwandan-ness are to emerge in future, state controls will need to be relaxed, so that more complex forms of political identities can finally emerge.
Freie Schlagwörter diasporic; genocide; history; identity; race;
Sprache Dokument Englisch
Publikationsjahr 2008
Seitenangabe S. 5-41
Zeitschriftentitel Ethnicities, 8 (2008) 1
Status Postprint; begutachtet (peer reviewed)
Lizenz PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)