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Sunday Linkage: Rwanda at 20 Years

April 6, 2014

Today, April 6, 2014, marks twenty years since the day someone shot down a plane on approach to the Kigali, Rwanda airport, killing everyone on board. That plane was carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, who had just returned from Arusha, Tanzania-based negotiations over a power-sharing arrangement intended to put an end to Rwanda’s civil war. All hopes of a peaceful settlement ended with the plane’s destruction. Overnight, roadblocks went up around the capital as some extremist Hutu leaders (who opposed the power sharing arrangement and thus had a strong incentive to want Rwandan President Habyarimana dead) directed their supporters to carry out a genocide they had been planning for many months. In the next 100 days, hundreds of thousands of innocent Rwandan civilians, mostly members of the Tutsi ethnic group/class, were slaughtered.

Everything that has happened on and since that day twenty years ago is under dispute. From the question of who shot down the plane, to which members of the regime were involved in planning and executing the genocide, to the number of people killed overall, to whether and how revenge killings unfolded, to the continuation of Rwanda’s civil war on the soil of Congo/Zaire and the tremendous suffering that has occurred there, too, to whether the Rwandan government’s success in poverty reduction is justified by its repressive authoritarianism – all of it is contested. There are an overwhelming number of reports and analyses of the situation this week; here’s my attempt to curate a list of the best reads on Rwanda 20 years later.

Accounts from journalists & aid workers there at the time

The international community’s (non-) response to Rwanda and subsequent mass atrocities

Development, repression, intervention, and the Rwandan regime

Contesting the genocide’s memory and meaning

Above video: Human Rights Watch, featuring Rwanda expert Alison Des Forges, who died five years ago in a Buffalo, NY plane crash.

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Seay is an assistant professor of Government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Her research is centered around the study of community responses to conflict and U.S. foreign policy in Africa’s Great Lakes region. I am currently finishing a book, Substituting for the State, about the role non-state actors play in governing the eastern DRC in response to the Congolese state’s weakness in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri. She is also engaged in a project on the effects of U.S. legislation designed to mitigate conflict in central Africa and in 2014, I led an impact evaluation of a large community-based reconstruction (CBD) governance intervention in four Congolese provinces.