War, Peace, and Development in Rwanda


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140828

Many, if not all, religious texts agree, “The love of money is the root of all evil”. If all means all, the civil war leading up to the Rwandan genocide is no exception. As Charles Tilly argued, “War made the state and the state made war” (Berger and Weber 2009, 5). Money or capital produces power and power produces a thirst for more capital to gain more power. Immanuel Kant (1795) proffered that peace among men was not the natural state. It is, nevertheless, the domestic desires, promises, and so-called pursuits of peace that state leaders have used to foment popular support. Against this backdrop, the political will of President Kagame, war, peace, and development in Rwanda, comes in to view.

Global capital accumulation had historically been restricted by social and political restraints. Social in the fact states implemented social welfare programs …and…political in the fact state leaders increased legitimacy by promising redistribution. However, as authors Mark Weber and Heloise Weber put forth,

“In much of the world governments and ruling elites now increasingly use the institutions of the state to advance the process of neoliberal development strategies (and their own interests) and to undermine or roll back whatever institutions, if any, of national development were erected in earlier decades to facilitate redistribution” (Berger and Weber 2009, 8).

Internal wars and conflicts have not only weakened the stability of developing states, but provided a means for opportunistic actors to ascend into power. Likewise, President Kagame, understanding his role in global development, has not resisted the trend of allowing external interests to spoil the overall development of Rwanda.

External humanitarian aid and development assistance has the potential to exacerbate conflict and influence outcomes as evidenced in the Rwandan genocide. During this time, two of the most renown NGOs (Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and International Rescue Committee (IRC) withdrew from Rwanda after witnessing aid being diverted by the same leaders who engineered the genocide and the lack of the international community to hold the leaders accountable (Branczik 2004).

Sustainable peace has always been and continues to be an inherently impossible endeavor to achieve in the midst of political corruption and inequality. Therefore, President Kagame and the future leaders of Rwanda will not only have to reconcile the past ethnic differences between the Hutus, Tutsis, and Twas, but reconcile the inequalities that exist between the rich and the poor. This will require the political will to resist external development assistance spoiled by conditionalities that perpetuate impoverishment at the lower echelons of Rwandan society.  Political will and cosmopolitan ambitions, however, are too often asphyxiated by the drive to retain power.

In The Universal Periodic Review, Human Rights Watch voiced concern over violations in regard to freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and reported hostile treatment of human rights organizations in Rwanda (2010). The organization declared, “Rwanda government has clearly favored economic development over protection of civil and political rights” (HRW 2010). Journalists and other dissidents have been killed, independent media outlets have been shut down, and opposition parties blocked from registration (HRW 2010).

In an article entitled, Darling of the West, terror to his opponents, Ian Birrell (2014) presents the following descriptions of President Kagame from multiple sources:

Description: Probably the worst war criminal in office today

Source: Foremost scholar on Rwanda

Description: A very well-managed ethnic, social, and economic dictatorship

Source: A leading academic

Description: One of the greatest leaders of all time

Source: Bill Clinton

Description: A visionary leader

Source: Tony Blair

Apparently, there is no risk involved in mentioning the name of those who do not oppose, and Birrell concluded, the last two descriptions grew from “a desperate search for an aid success story” (2014). One thing is certain, genuine reconciliation and sustainable peace is difficult to secure in an environment of internal conflict and repression. President Kagame’s current attempts to use development as a tool to achieve political legitimacy and indirectly strengthen the Tutsi regime, will subject Rwanda’s future to the enduring vulnerabilities that will feed the global capitalist agenda. Freer, more democratic, and uncompromised elections may be the surest way to mine for genuine reconciliation, potential for long-term peace, and sustainable development.



Berger, Mark T., and Heloise Weber. 2009. “War, Peace and Progress: conflict, development, (in)security and violence in the 21st century.” Third World Quarterly 30, no. 1: 1-16. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost(accessed August 28, 2014).

Birrell, Ian. Darling of the West, terror to his opponents: Meet Rwanda’s new scourge – Paul Kagame. January 03, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/darling-of-the-west-terror-to-his-opponents-meet-rwandas-new-scourge–paul-kagame-9037914.html (accessed August 26, 2014).

Branczik, Amelia. “Humanitarian Aid and Development Assistance.” Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: February 2004. http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/humanitarian-aid (accessed August 27, 2014).
Human Rights Watch. Rwanda: Repression Across Borders. January 28, 2014. http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/28/rwanda-repression-across-borders (accessed August 27, 2014).

Kant, Immanual. “Perpetual Peace Project.” Perpetual Peace Project. 1795. https://slought.org/media/files/perpetual_peace.pdf (accessed August 27, 2014).


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