Kagame’s Strategy – Part 1: Unity
Following the genocide, Kagame’s first task was nation building and reconciliation. Above all, Rwanda needed to achieve a firm foundation of peace, stability, security and equality. The most critical part of Kagame’s mission was therefore to unite all citizens together and give them the sense, that along with the government, “they are part of the solution, part of a nation, that they are Rwandans, not members of an ethnic group” (FOX, Porter) or a marginalized gender. Kagame’s unifying rhetoric, accompanied by anti-discriminatory policies, served to pick up Rwanda’s shattered pieces from the genocide and put them together. Auke Lootsma, former deputy director of the UNDP in Rwanda, rightfully contends, “What Kagame understood is that there needed to be a unity of purpose. He made damn sure that all the country’s noses were pointed in the same direction”.
“The survivors of the genocide are doing something almost unimaginable: co-existing with the men who hacked their family members to death, and so often tortured and raped them” – GRA
Kagame’s regime portrays ethnic reconciliation and national unity as imperative to Rwanda’s transition from the scourge of genocide and ethno-politics to a secure and peaceful future grounded in ethnic solidarity. Since the genocide, attempts to address and eliminate ethnic strife have dominated government policy. The government has instituted laws that criminalize the public expression of ethnic identity and ethnic divisionism. Ethnicity has effectively disappeared from the government and people’s rhetoric. RES highlights that ethnicity has been erased from official documents such as identity cards and when asked whether they are Hutu or Tutsis, the norm is for Rwandans to reply as the government dictates that “we are all Rwandan’s now”. Kagame therefore, “chose, in rhetoric, to promote unity, did so by proposing to replace ethnic identity by a larger, all-encompassing Rwandan identity” (RES). Despite this forcible suppression of ethnic strife, in reality and under the surface the level of unity achieved is rather superficial. In the social context for instance, ethnicity continues to matter in so far as intermarriage between Hutus and Tutsis remains very uncommon (Auke). Nevertheless, “significant progress has been made” (AMA) in erasing some of the scars left behind from the genocide. Kagame continues to attribute Rwanda’s successful recovery to its ability to resolve ethnic divisions through government initiated, led, and mandated reconciliation. He emphasizes that overcoming these differences is “why the country is stable, why the country is moving on, [and] why the country is developing” (AMA).
Kagame’s basic argument is that you cannot develop a country with only half its people. His rhetoric explains the utility of not discriminating against women and points out that there lacks true rationale for why women “shouldn’t’ enjoy the same rights, to education, to doing business, and to decision making like anybody else” (AMA). He argues that it is unwise to shut women out of economic development, because “the more we bring them in, the better off we are” (AMA). As the only parliament in the world where women hold a majority and by taking the lead in fighting a history of mass rape, Kagame’s regime has proven its unshakable commitment to improving gender equality and creating a more inclusive society and unified nation.
“This is not a vision that can be brought about by any government on its own, or from outside, much less by a President. It requires the full effort and participation of each of us at our various levels and sectors” – Kagame (SSN)
While Kagame’s arguably one party authoritarian state may not be politically inclusive, he nonetheless seems to clearly recognize Murray’s concept of the importance of the people and shared responsibility. Kagame’s rhetoric emphasizes how critical cooperation is for development when he stated that his government, Rwandans and aid donors must “work together for a common goal” (FOX). President Kagame believes that when faced with challenges, leaders must encourage all stakeholders to collaboratively work toward finding solutions (KWI). In the words of Kagame, “we must fight these battles together” (PER). Finally, he is known to humbly credit the people for Rwanda’s development and stress that the country couldn’t have succeeded without their contribution and participation.