Globalization, Democratization, and Rwanda


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140813


Sceptics and transformationalists of the globalization camp emphasize international trade and structural disadvantages as responsible for economic marginalization and irreversible underdevelopment (Herath 2009, 822). Although dependency theorists point heavily to “external relations and exploitation” as the root cause of underdevelopment, they also agree with globalists that “internal factors” are relevant (Herath 2009, 825). Globalization not only promotes positive or negative trade, but democracy. Democracy is typically characterized by some sort of freedom and inclusiveness (Christiano 2008). Whether democratization has a positive or negative effect on a state is a matter of the “right timing and speed” according to Regine Anderson (2000, 450).

Anderson concluded that attempts to democratize Rwanda disturbed the peace process (2000, 450). Wang Jiefeng added credence to this notion when he stated, “Globalization theory also pays attention to the development and changes in global issues and their influence upon different countries and regions” (2009, 74). Here, it is important to note how 82% of Rwanda’s export earnings came from coffee in 1986, but a decline in international prices led to a collapse three years later (Anderson, 2000, 447). The relative impact on Rwanda’s export revenue was terrifying and came at a time when external debts where already on the rise (Anderson 2000, 447). The combination of events led to an agreement by the Bretton Woods Institution and the government of Rwanda on a structural adjustment programme (SAP) (2000, 447). This economic agreement, and the Arusha Accords that followed, was conditional on democratic developments in Rwanda, but reached after civil war had already began (2000, 448). Later indications revealed that much of the money was used to purchase military equipment (2000, 448). Because of the deep and underlying factors of social unrest in Rwanda, the demands for democratization only exacerbated the level of instability and precipitated massive violence in 1994 (2000, 449).

As Filip Reyntjens pointed out in Post-1994 Politics in Rwanda: problematizing ‘liberation’ and ‘democratization,’ “Rather than liberation, inclusiveness, and democracy, the Rwanda Patriotic Front has bought oppression, exclusion, and dictatorship (2006, 1103). The apparent killings, human rights violations, and press suppression, point not only to a lack of democracy, but a more ruthless dictatorship (Reyntjens 2006). Rwanda carries exemplary implications of how global capital can influence a state’s domestic politics and how attempts to democratize do not always translate to the removal of authoritarian regimes. Finally, it is of high importance and urgency that policy makers consider both the positive and negative consequences of globalization on democracy.

Development assistance has often been used to finance partnerships with local elites. To gain a foothold in a country of interest, global leaders demonstrate loyalty to the local elites by financially catering to their interests. This is done by funneling money through loosely monitored and regulated development aid programs. This money is then used to build armies and other mechanisms designed to strengthen power and remove threats to said power, be it local, regional, ethnic, religious, or other pockets of strife. When there are totalitarian dictatorships, authoritarian regimes, or single-party rulerships, the aim is to replace such power (a form of democratization) with one that is favorable to the interest of the ‘donors.’ Dhammika Herath references Paul Barren when stating, “Such alliances do not contribute either to the capitalist development or to economic development in backward economies as they benefit only a minority of elites (Herath 2008, 821-822). In Rwanda, this minority is known as the Akuza who directed money from the IMF and World Bank loans (supposedly intended to relieve debt and other problems) to accentuate their power.

Both the hyperglobalizers and sceptics agree that, “Despite sweeping changes, the structural terms of world trade have changed only marginally and deep-rooted patterns of inequality and hierarchy in the world economy continue (Herath 2008, 823).

Corruption seems to plague both developed and developing countries. So then, why is it that developed states tend to prosper amidst corruption? Further, as Fukuyama pointed out, “Too much state building on the part of outsiders builds long-term dependence, and may ultimately come to seem illegitimate to the locals” (2005, 85).

According to the World Bank, Rwanda has a medium-term strategy for long-term development called the “Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy” ( 2014). Over the last decade, Rwanda has been experiencing high growth, and a drastic reduction in poverty, and less inequality ( 2014).

Is the devil in the data?

The World Bank’s data stands in contrast to the implications made by Michael Chossudovsky. Chossudovsky is a Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and the Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He explained how money from external donors including the World Bank was earmarked for social and economic development, but nevertheless, was utilized to finance the massacres (Chossudovsky 2014). He puts forth, “The militarization of Uganda was an integral part of US foreign policy” (2014). One reason the World Bank’s data and research remains questionable is the apparent postwar cover-up illustrated in its “Completion Report,” which does not acknowledge the misappropriation of World Bank money, massacres of civilians, or the existence of civil war. Further, so-called post-conflict reform packages had more strings attached than the ones imposed in 1990 (Chossudovsky 2014).

The World Bank does, however, put forth “dependency on foreign aid” as one of the challenges to Rwanda’s development (2014). Like Rwanda, the actual realized gains and the sustainability thereof, are still developing. As with any good weight-loss program, what matters most is not how much is lost, but how much is kept off. As Filip Reyntjens concluded, “there is a striking continuity from the pre-genocide to the post-genocide, and the practices in the exercise of power by the RPF echo those of the days of single party rule” (2006, p. 1113). Therefore, Rwanda still has much room to reverse the trend of growth.

Chossudovsky further claimed, “The 1994 Rwandan “genocide” served strictly strategic and geopolitical objectives” (2014). American mining interests, political desire to remove France, and retain a foothold in Central Africa, presents a strong prospect that Rwanda will not be the long-term benefactor of current development gains. In essence, the data from World Bank will not matter 20 years from now if Chossudovsky’s view toward the globalization of poverty holds true.

When analyzing this information, one can easily deduce that any development that occurs in a developing state may be unauthentic and subjected to external interests. Growth today, manipulated and controlled by external aid, could easily mean a repeated history tomorrow.


Andersen, Regine. 2000. “How multilateral development assistance triggered the conflict in Rwanda.” Third World Quarterly 21, no. 3: 441-456. Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed August 13, 2014).

Chossudovsky, Michael. Twenty Years Ago, The US was Behind the Genocide: Rwanda, Installing a US Proxy State in Central Africa. April 06, 2014. (accessed August 15, 2014).

Christiano, Tom, “Democracy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;.

Fukuyama, Francis. 2005. “STATENESS” FIRST.” Journal Of Democracy 16, no. 1: 84-88. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed August 15, 2014).

Herath, Dhammika. 2008. “Development Discourse of the Globalists and Dependency Theorists: do the globalisation theorists rephrase and reword the central concepts of the dependency school?.” Third World Quarterly 29, no. 4: 819-834. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed August 11, 2014).

Reyntjens, Filip. 2006. “Post-1994 Politics in Rwanda: problematising ‘liberation’ and ‘democratisation’.” Third World Quarterly 27, no. 6: 1103-1117. Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed August 13, 2014).

Wang, Jiafeng. 2009. “Some Reflections on Modernization Theory and Globalization Theory.” Chinese Studies In History 43, no. 1: 72-98. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed August 11, 2014). Rwanda. April 09, 2014. (accessed August 15, 2014).


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