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Table of contents :
I: Demobilization and Reconstruction
2 No Justice, No Peace
3 The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
4 Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda
II: Institutional Challenges
5 Land Reform, Social Justice, and Reconstruction
6 Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
7 Partners or Adversaries?
8 Chieftaincy and Reconstruction in Sierra Leone
III: Partnerships on the Way Forward
9 The Role of African Diasporas in Reconstruction
10 The Role of the African Union in Postwar Reconstruction in Africa
11 Governance Challenges of Sierra Leone
12 Challenges of Governance Reform in Liberia
IV: The Future of Fragile States
13 Achieving Development and Democracy
About the Contributors
African Democracy and Development
African Democracy and Development Challenges for Post-Conflict African Nations Edited by Cassandra R. Veney and Dick Simpson
LEXINGTON BOOKS Lanham • Boulder • New York • Toronto • Plymouth, UK
Published by Lexington Books A wholly owned subsidiary of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com 10 Thornbury Road, Plymouth PL6 7PP, United Kingdom Copyright © 2013 by Lexington Books Part I photo of Asmara, Eritrea, 1993 by Betty Press. Copyright © by Betty Press. Reprinted with permission. Part II photo of Masanga, Sierra Leone, 2009 by Betty Press. Copyright © by Betty Press. Reprinted with permission. Part III photo of UNICEF Center. Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1994 by Betty Press. Copyright © by UNICEF/Betty Press. Reprinted with permission. Part IV photo of Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2008 by Betty Press. Copyright © by Betty Press. Reprinted with permission. Chapter 4: “Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda: Implications for Peacebuilding,” Genocide Studies and Prevention, 2010, vol. 5, issue 3, pp. 293–309. Reprinted with permission from University of Toronto Press Incoporated. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data African democracy and development : challenges for post-conflict African nations / edited by Cassandra R. Veney and Dick Simpson. p. cm. “The chapters in this edited volume are the result of a conference held in April 2009 at the University of Illinois at Chicago” —Introduction. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7391-7549-1 (cloth : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-0-7391-7550-7 (electronic) 1. Postwar reconstruction—Africa, Sub-Saharan—Congresses. 2. Postwar reconstruction—Sierra Leone—Congresses. 3. Nation-building—Africa, Sub-Saharan—Congresses. 4. Nation-building—Sierra Leone—Congresses. 5. Democratization—Africa, Sub-Saharan—Congresses. 6. Economic development—Political aspects—Africa, Sub-Saharan—Congresses. I. Veney, Cassandra Rachel. II. Simpson, Dick W. DT352.8.A3165 2012 363.349840967—dc23 2012029673
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Printed in the United States of America
I: Demobilization and Reconstruction 1 Introduction Cassandra R. Veney 2 No Justice, No Peace: The Elusive Search for Justice and Reconciliation in Sierra Leone Sylvia Macauley 3 The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique Jessica Schafer 4 Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda: Implications for Peacebuilding Elisabeth King II: Institutional Challenges 5 Land Reform, Social Justice, and Reconstruction: Challenges for Post-Genocide Rwanda Helen Hintjens 6 Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies: A Comparison of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo John Yoder 7 Partners or Adversaries?: NGOs and the State in Sierra Leone Fredline A. O. M’Cormack-Hale
8 Chieftaincy and Reconstruction in Sierra Leone Arthur Abraham
III: Partnerships on the Way Forward 9 The Role of African Diasporas in Reconstruction Paul Tiyambe Zeleza 10 The Role of the African Union in Postwar Reconstruction in Africa Thomas Kwasi Tieku 11 Governance Challenges of Sierra Leone Osman Gbla 12 Challenges of Governance Reform in Liberia Amos Sawyer
IV: The Future of Fragile States 13 Achieving Development and Democracy Dick Simpson
About the Contributors
219 239 259
On April 28–29, 2009, the Political Science and African American Studies Departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago hosted a conference on “Development and Democracy in Post-Conflict African Nations,” which was the genesis of this book. Funds from the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Departments of Political Science and African American Studies, and Ford Foundation Regional Office for West Africa generously supported the conference and made it and this book possible. Conference logistics were ably handled by Stephanie Whitaker of the UIC Political Science Department. Transcribing the conference talks and placing the videotape version on the political science website was accomplished by Tom Kelly. This book would not have reached completion without the careful editing and collection of essays by Melissa Zmuda and the careful reading of the manuscript by Assumpta Oturu. Copyediting, proofreading, and indexing were ably done by Louise Kertesz, who helped with other suggestions for improving the book as well. Most of all, our thanks to the authors of the chapters, who have patiently worked with us during the publication process and who are dedicated to assisting the African nations about which they write.
Demobilization and Reconstruction
Introduction Cassandra R. Veney
The terms conflict, peace building, peacekeeping, and post conflict are ambiguous because their meanings can and do vary depending on the circumstances. They are interconnected and intertwined. For example, peace building can and does occur during conflict. This was the case for Liberian and Sierra Leonean women who could not wait for a lasting peace agreement to be upheld while conflict waged all around them. They actively were engaged in peace building activities and strategies not just in their countries of origin but in refugee camps where they sought asylum and throughout West Africa. We also know that peace-building continues to occur during peacekeeping operations and post-conflict zones can continue to experience violence. What overlaps among all four terms and themes are issues of security, governance, and development either during or after the conflict. It is and will continue to be difficult for African countries to achieve democracy, stable governance, and development when security is lacking because security allows people to earn a living, get an education, and take care of themselves and their families. And we must bear in mind that the conflicts under review in this volume are the result not only of violence between state and non-state actors, but civilians have committed acts of violence against each other. 1 Furthermore, the use of child soldiers in some of the conflicts (Liberia and Sierra Leone) is vital to any examination of post conflict and governance in Africa. The proliferation of light weapons into the regions that experienced conflict allowed government and rebel forces to recruit, train, and use children as combatants. 2 In order for any serious peace building, peacekeeping, and post-conflict resolutions and strategies to be implemented, the role of children as combatants and ex-combatants has to be fully addressed, and a gendered analysis is crucial because girls and boys were recruited for different purposes and served different roles during the conflict. In addition, their 3
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experiences and assistance after the conflicts have ended are different— leaving former girl combatants who are now women out in the cold in terms of reintegration assistance and help. Finally, any discussion and examination of peace building, peacekeeping, and post conflict in Africa should be framed within the context of a “new world order”: a reluctant lone superpower—the United States—that is preoccupied with its war on terror and an international community that continues to predicate its decisions and policymaking toward Africa within the framework of neoliberal economic policies and a push for democracy. In other words, what happens in the countries under study in this volume must be situated within the context of a post–Cold War scenario. 3 African governments, people, and institutions have to develop and manage resolutions, policies, and programs to fit this reality. Simply put, they must be in the driver’s seat to ensure that whatever gains have been achieved following the genocide in Rwanda and the cessation of violence from Liberia to Sierra Leone to Mozambique to Eritrea are undergirded by African efforts and institutions. The chapters in this edited volume are the result of a conference held in April 2009 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Participants represented a range of countries that included Liberia, Rwanda, Ghana, the United States, Sierra Leone, Canada, and the Netherlands. It was the goal of the conference organizers and participants to explore and address the challenges and issues that are found in post-conflict societies from an interdisciplinary perspective—women and gender studies, African studies, history, political science, international relations, and international development. It is not our claim that we cover the entire African continent. Specific countries included in the volume are Rwanda, Mozambique, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. The aim of this volume is to analyze the various actors, agendas, constituents, and mandates that are involved in post-conflict African countries. Therefore, there are chapters that address the African Union and the United Nations, actors within civil society that include Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, African nongovernmental organizations, international nongovernmental organizations, ex-combatants, and nationals in the respective countries. The emphasis clearly is on what has transpired on the African continent. Amos Sawyer, in chapter 12, discusses the problems and issues in conflict and post-conflict countries. In addition, he provides a roadmap for African governance that must include a role for all sectors of African societies. He makes the argument that external actors and institutions should be involved in post-conflict reconstruction, but their role is to work in conjunction with Africans. In other words, outside solutions and strategies should not be superimposed on African governments and their citizens. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza’s chapter addresses the important role (positive and negative) that the contemporary African diaspora has and can play in post-conflict African
countries by examining Liberia, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea. This is an area that needs to be addressed since it serves as an external factor as actors from outside the affected countries attempt to influence governance institutions in the hostland and homeland that may determine how governance is implemented and carried out and the level of development and democracy. The contribution that this edited volume makes to the literature on post conflicts and reconstruction in Africa is that it includes formal institutions: the African Union (AU), the United Nations, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the legislative, judicial, and presidential branches. It also includes a discussion of the role of civil society. Moreover, the significant contribution of the book is that some chapters allow the voices of ordinary citizens to be heard. For example, Elisabeth King’s chapter is based on her field research in Rwanda, where she examines the memories from the Rwandan civil war and genocide. The nationals she interviewed provide a rare insight into the memories of people who experienced the civil war and genocide, and she argues that memories and the acknowledgement of people’s participation in the conflict are crucial for post-conflict solutions. However, her chapter makes the point that the Rwandan government has been selective in determining whose memories are acknowledged, and thus post-conflict reconstruction may be undermined. It is the Rwandan government that determines what is covered in school textbooks and government memorial sites, and often the entire background and story of the genocide and civil war are not covered. Sylvia Macauley’s chapter also provides valuable insights into the realities of a post-conflict country—Sierra Leone. The voices, especially of women, are heard in this chapter when they provided testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was crucial to the final agreement that ended the conflict between government forces and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The Lome Agreement granted full amnesty to those who participated in the conflict. This has been very unsettling and controversial to many, especially those innocent civilians, including women and children who lost limbs and their ability to work, earn a living, and take care of themselves and their families—let alone the thousands of women and girls who were raped and experienced various forms of sexual and physical violence. She argues that transitional justice must be achieved in order for Sierra Leone to continue to be a post-conflict country and not to revert back into violence. Throughout the post-independence period in Africa, several countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia, and others have experienced various forms of conflict that have resulted in the loss of millions of lives, the destruction of infrastructure, and the internal and external migration of refugees and the internally displaced. In fact, “of the 53 member states of the African Union, only six countries—Botswana, Mauritius, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania and post-apart-
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heid South Africa—have been spared from civil strife and civil war.” 4 Subsequently, wars and civil unrest have produced conditions that have resulted in lower rates of literacy and life expectancy and higher rates of malnutrition, morbidity, and infant mortality. Several scholars, including some in this book, explore and analyze the causes of conflicts in Africa. This is very important if academics, policy makers, government officials, and ordinary citizens in Africa and throughout the world are to fully understand the political, social, economic, ethnic, and historical factors that underlie the causes of the conflicts and to fully understand what role Africans outside of the continent have played in instigating and ending conflicts. The positive role that Africans have played should not be overlooked in terms of investments for medical and educational resources, other infrastructure, and the economy. It is also important to highlight the internal and external causes and consequences of the conflicts. However, the main focus of this book is to explore how post-conflict countries that are rebuilding after terrible wars can reconstruct and establish various mechanisms and institutions that will lead to good governance. It is implicit in the chapters that the various countries covered in the book are grappling with the challenges of reconstruction in post-conflict societies and those challenges entail addressing the issues of development and democracy. Governance and reconstruction in the post-conflict countries addressed in this volume cover a range of topics and issues. Osman Gbla provides an overview of the theoretical and conceptual perspective on governance and post-conflict reconstruction. All the chapters in one way or another express the importance of meeting various needs of citizens. These needs include food, security, health care, water, housing, transportation, and sanitation. Helen Hintjens’s chapter addresses the issue of land reform as it relates to social justice in post-genocide Rwanda with a particular emphasis on women, the very poor, women who head households, and rural populations. The very important contribution of this chapter is that she addresses the plight of the Twa. This population is virtually left out of the discussion and literature that examines the genocide in Rwanda, which rightfully addresses the thousands of Tutsis who were killed, along with some mention of the Hutus who were killed if they were viewed as collaborators or sympathizers with the Tutsis. However, the Twa, who were marginalized under colonialism, continued to be marginalized under Hutu rule. She argues in her chapter that their plight has not changed for the better during the post-conflict period. The enactment of land reform legislation in 2005 has pushed them off the land and made it virtually impossible for them to make a living, since they no longer have access to common lands. In addition, too many citizens need land, education, employment, and other social services—and various segments of the population need these services and more. They include women who may be widowed, disabled, or still suffering from the physical and
psychological trauma as the result of rapes and other forms of sexual and physical violence. Others include children, young adults, the elderly, and excombatants—all of them have particular needs that have to be addressed. For example, how does a country tackle the problems of children who are now ex-combatant adults who lack educational and employment skills and moreover who were deprived of a childhood that they will never reclaim? Jessica Schafer explores this subject in her chapter on the role of excombatants in postwar Mozambique. In order for governance and reconstruction to be viable, ex-combatants have to be included in terms of demobilization and reintegration, but these cannot be done at the expense of the civilian population who may be reluctant to reintegrate them if they feel that the excombatants are rewarded for killing and maiming civilians. Furthermore, the gender dynamic cannot be overlooked. Men, women, boys, and girls experienced the conflicts and were affected in different ways because of their gender. 5 The long-term goals of development and democracy will remain elusive if gender issues are not addressed. The most important challenges that post-conflict countries face are establishing or restoring effective governance. Amos Sawyer addresses this challenge in his case study of Liberia. Also, Thomas Tieku examines what role the AU can play in establishing effective governance in post-conflict countries and the challenges the AU faces. Effective governance leads to public trust, which is achieved when governments and individuals are held accountable for their actions. The importance of public trust is illustrated in Sylvia Macauley’s chapter where she examines the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone. Could public trust be restored if the perpetrators of the violence receive the same justice as those who did not participate in the violence? The issue of public trust or lack thereof was evident in Liberia—where it was among the root causes of the civil war. As the United Nations rightly notes, “Governance characterized by severe corruption, nepotism, and inequities in the distribution of wealth along ethno-political lines offered little or no hope for many Liberians.” 6 It is also evident that most of these countries’ governments were not in the position to restore governance on their own, as the wars destroyed vital institutions that often were fragile before the civil wars. More importantly, institutions such as the judiciary, presidency, and legislature were often viewed as corrupt and illegitimate before conflicts erupted—reasons often cited for the escalation of violence brought on by the lack of public trust. Therefore, external actors, which include donor countries and bilateral aid agencies, are very much a part of post-conflict reconstruction efforts regardless of whether one believes their role is negative and should be minimized. Simply put, all of the countries included in this volume lacked the financial means to engage in any type of meaningful post-conflict reconstruction. From Rwanda to Liberia to Angola, these countries expended scarce national
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revenues on the war effort that left their infrastructure and economies in shambles. Thousands of citizens had been killed in the conflicts while others left the countries as refugees and thousands more were internally displaced. In sum, the conflicts took a toll on human capital resources that were permanently lost while other human capital would take a long time to recover. Moreover, external actors were involved in several countries during the civil wars and peace-building processes, and their assistance is needed in the postconflict era. The issues highlighted by Amos Sawyer, Fredline A. O. M’Cormack-Hale, and Thomas Kwasi Tieku in their chapters explore the role of external actors, which include the AU, donors, and nongovernmental organizations. Tieku makes the argument that the AU lacks the financial wherewithal and capacity to effectively restore or establish governance in post-conflict African countries although it has attempted to create a “zone of peace” through the creation of new institutions. In addition, he argues that the success of post-conflict strategies is undermined by the current paradigm that supports aid to countries that is then funneled through states. This arrangement merely supports elites who use aid as a rent-seeking opportunity. M’Cormack-Hale argues for the important role that indigenous or informal organizations play in post-conflict countries. She argues that often they are overlooked and ignored by international organizations in their efforts to intervene, establish democracy, and build and strengthen governance institutions. Her chapter highlights the role of international nongovernmental organizations in post-conflict Sierra Leone and how they dismiss what Sierra Leonean institutions are doing on the ground. Arthur Abraham continues to examine the role of institutions in post-conflict Sierra Leone by addressing chieftancies. He examines the difficulty in integrating an institution such as the chieftancy into a modern government. He emphasizes the important role of this institution as a mode to socially and politically organize populations and it has maintained its resilience. Abraham argues that instead of trying to abolish the chieftancy, post-conflict Sierra Leone serves as an important moment in history to redefine and modernize the role of the institution. Paul Zeleza’s examination of the historic and contemporary diaspora in the global north is a major contribution to diaspora studies literature and the literature that examines the external role of individuals in conflict and postconflict countries. The sheer amount of remittances that the contemporary African diaspora contributes to Africa is staggering. It is important to investigate how African individuals and governments use the investment for postconflict reconstruction, development, and democracy. In addition, the African diaspora represents an external civil society that is manifested in the various organizations and groups that operate outside the continent. They attempt to pressure their host governments to address the conflicts and to assist in post-conflict reconstruction. However, the actions and efforts of the diaspora can backfire, as demonstrated in the deterioration of relations be-
tween the Ethiopian government and its diaspora in the United States resulting from Ethiopia’s stalled efforts to achieve democratic reforms and its invasion into Somalia. The diaspora found itself on the losing side as the United States, in line with its declared war on terrorism, supported the Ethiopian government’s continued crackdown on dissent. The authors in this volume argue that the first priority in post-conflict countries is to restore or establish public trust. It is not just an issue of restoring public trust because in several countries, the public had lost trust in the government years ago before civil wars erupted, for example, Liberia and Sierra Leone. As we know, accountability is the cornerstone of public trust. Public officials must be held accountable for their actions in office by those who put them there, and when public trust is broken, sanctions must be enforced. Underlying all of these challenges are the issues of reform (read transparency), both economic and political, that are needed if the countries under review are to achieve democracy and development. John Yoder’s chapter analyzes and compares “democratic” election results in three post-conflict countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In political terms, reforms must take place on several levels—national, regional, and local—in order for all citizens to be represented. In some cases, such as Sierra Leone, “a new constitutional foundation was needed . . . for effective participation and representation of all groups in society. The roles and boundaries of all branches of government had to be delineated as a first step in establishing legitimacy for a new government.” 7 The issue of transparency is crucial if good governance is to be established. Citizens are more likely to experience public trust if they are aware of government priorities, programs, and policies, especially as they involve the expenditure of public revenues. Economically, reforms are needed to address income and educational equity to narrow the gaps between rural and urban areas, between men and women, between ethnic groups, and between regions. Public trust, accountability, and transparency are all important for the establishment of effective governance characterized by representation of citizens from all segments of society. However, this is not enough in the short or long term. Simply put, actors involved in post-conflict reconstruction, both internal and external, are called upon by citizens to provide at a minimum the basics: shelter, water, education, health care, safety, and housing. Refugees want to be repatriated when it is safe, and internally displaced populations want to return to their homes as well. But this is still not enough. Both groups want to return to areas where there is employment, educational opportunities, access to land, tools, transportation, and other forms of infrastructure. The book is divided into four parts. In part I we consider the problems of demobilization and reconstruction after a civil war. In this process, the United Nations, the international community, and the nations involved still strug-
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gle to achieve these objectives. As a general matter, cessation of war, negotiation of at least negative peace, and demobilization of combatants have gone better and more successfully than the reintegration of ex-combatants, reconstruction, and economic development after armed conflict. Reintegration, reconstruction, and economic development—much less democratization— are processes involving the African nations themselves, the United Nations, and the international community. These partners are still struggling to find ways to succeed in achieving these goals. Ending the fighting and even holding successful postwar elections has been much easier to achieve than reparations, rehabilitation of ex-combatants, and providing for those with amputated limbs, widows, orphans, the internally displaced, and repatriated refugees. While some of the infrastructure and the economy of the affected countries have been rebuilt, rapid economic and social development has been difficult to achieve. There are many difficulties to be overcome. First, some memories of the coups and wars have been recognized and accepted while other memories and sites of the violence in countries like Rwanda have been repressed by the government. This has made healing the psychic wounds of the war difficult. Second, while there have been Truth and Reconciliation Commissions following the South African model in many of the countries we have studied, and there have been spectacular international tribunals such as those trying officials of Rwanda and Charles Taylor of Liberia, the nations involved have yet to achieve justice and reconciliation. The reparations recommended by Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in countries like Sierra Leone cannot be paid because these countries lack the funds and the international community has been unwilling to provide sufficient funds for this purpose. Finally, ex-combatants in many countries including Mozambique have not successfully been reintegrated into society. What is more, many of the very conditions that were thought to have contributed to or directly caused the wars, such as illiteracy, high rates of youth unemployment, a lack of economic development, widespread corruption, a huge gap between wealthy elites and the poor, ethnic tensions, and political polarization (often based on ethnic identities) still exist. Part II focuses on the institutional challenges to development and democratization. Specifically, different authors focus on land reform, elections, NGOs, and formal institutions such as parliament. There is no doubt that each of these institutions—along with public opinion, media, and political parties—is essential if a path to development and democracy is to be found for these postwar African nations. In each of these institutional arenas some progress has been made since the end of the conflicts. But great challenges remain, with insufficient financial resources and sometimes the political will to meet them presently.
In part III, the authors consider the way forward and the role of different groups in creating a more positive future. One of the greatest challenges is creating a vibrant indigenous civil society in countries that, in turn, can reform the legislature, judiciary, elections, and various institutions necessary for good governance. These postwar countries remain “fragile states.” In addition, the people in these countries often have different practical goals from those of the international community, which still provides 50 percent or more of the national governments’ budgets. Creating the national will for democracy and development and the institutional structures necessary to achieve these goals is difficult. While developed countries and the international community generally can help, these processes must be guided by the people themselves and their chosen leaders. Three potential allies with very different roles to play in helping these nations on their way forward are the African Union, the African diaspora around the world, and the United States. In this book, we consider the role of each of them. Discovering their most positive role is almost as challenging as the psychological and institution-building tasks within the countries themselves. Part IV focuses on the future of these “fragile states.” It begins with an attempt to catalog the causes of the military coups and civil wars, the current state of affairs in the five countries, and the challenges in their achieving a more positive future. It does not presume to predict the degree to which these nations will succeed. Rather it seeks to summarize the challenges and the successes that have been achieved to date. Taken overall, our book is meant to provide an overview of the struggle of a number of African nations to overcome poverty, bad governance, corruption, and other ills that have led to civil wars and civil strife. As we know, “violent conflict is simply a major constraint to development in Africa” and “the important role that government, private sector and civil society partnerships play in rebuilding countries emerging from conflict in Africa” must be examined. 8 It celebrates what they have achieved and calls attention to the extremely serious challenges that remain. Dick Simpson’s concluding chapter suggests, perhaps, some steps that might be taken to meet these challenges in order to create a more positive future. On one hand, a common theme that runs throughout the chapters is that various actors, oftentimes both internal and external, played a role in creating the conditions that led to the civil wars and strife. On the other hand is the recurring theme that both external and internal actors are important in addressing post-conflict challenges and issues. However, a clearer theme in the chapters is that it is Africans and Africans alone who must be at the center of any post-conflict reconstruction strategies and agendas if long-term, lasting, and sustainable peace, development, and democracy are to be achieved. The role that civil society must play in post-conflict reconstruction
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in African countries cannot be overemphasized. It is civil society that must ensure that government, bilateral aid organizations, and international aid organizations do not neglect the needs and challenges of the most vulnerable in society: children, women, widows, the elderly, the disabled, and the orphaned. Finally, public trust and accountability must be in the forefront of any post-conflict reconstruction agenda to ensure that the voices of ordinary citizens both in rural and urban areas are heard by those who represent them to foster legitimacy in governance. Their basic needs, that include food, shelter, transportation, education, water, sanitation, and health care, must be met as soon as possible to ensure that development and democracy can be achieved in the long term. NOTES 1. Bruce Baker, Security in Post-Conflict Africa: The Role of Nonstate Policing (London: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, 2010). 2. Amadu Sesay, ed., Civil Wars, Child Soldiers and Post Conflict Peace Building in West Africa (Joplin, Missouri: College Press and Publishers Ltd., 2003); Serge Michailof, Markus Kostner, and Xavier Devictor, Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Africa: An Agenda for the Africa Region, Africa Region Working Papers Series Number 30 (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2002). 3. Augustine C. Ohanwe, Post-Cold War Conflicts in Africa: Case Studies of Liberia and Somalia (London: Adonis and Abbey Publishers Ltd., 2009). 4. Khabela Matlosa, “Democracy and Conflict Resolution in Africa: Challenges for PostConflict Reconstruction,” Conflict Trends Issue 1 (2006): 9–15. 5. Cassandra Veney, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Internally Displaced Women in Liberia and Uganda and the Role of the International Community,” Journal of International Women’s Studies 7, no. 4 (May 2006): 209–26; Elaine Zuckerman and Marcia Greenberg, “The Gender Dimensions of Post-Conflict Reconstructions: An Analytical Framework for Policymakers,” Gender and Development 12, no. 3 (2004): 1–16. 6. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and United Nations Development Programme, “The Challenges of Restoring Governance in Crisis and PostConflict Countries.” (New York: United Nations, 2007). 7. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and United Nations Development Programme, “The Challenges of Restoring Governance in Crisis and PostConflict Countries.” 8. Committee on Human Development and Civil Society/UNAIDS Regional Conference, “Countries Emerging from Conflict: Lessons on Partnership in Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reintegration,” second meeting of the Committee on Human Development and Civil Society/UNAIDS Regional Conference (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 26–27, 2003) www.uneca.org/chdcs/second_meeting_countries_emerging_from_conflict.htm (accessed August 1, 2011).
No Justice, No Peace The Elusive Search for Justice and Reconciliation in Sierra Leone Sylvia Macauley
We the amputees, how are we in this world now? I am not speaking for myself here. The government should not leave our case behind. It is not for us, it is for our children. If my child grows up and asks me who chopped off my hand, I will say these people did it to me. That will bring the war again. If you say peace should come, we the amputees should bring the peace. I can't be struggling and say that I am living in peace. That is why our case should be pushed forward. If our problem is left behind, the war will not end. We the amputees, we all have children. 1 I am not too interested in punishing those who cut my hand off but I want my children to be taken care of. 2 The money they have spent on the court is [worth] nothing. My foot is gone, and it’s not coming back. It would have been better to use the money to educate my kids. 3
After years of war that had taken a tremendous toll on the general population but with no one side able to win the upper hand, the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) eventually came together in Lome, Togo, on July 7, 1999, and agreed to a cessation of all hostilities. In its search for peace, the government promised a lot in the Lome Agreement but the most controversial aspect of the agreement was the decision to grant full amnesty to all parties in the conflict. In exchange, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) would be set up to “address impunity, break the cycle of violence, provide a forum for both the victims and perpetrators of 13
human rights violations to tell their story, get a clear picture of the past in order to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.” 4 Shortly after the TRC was established in 2000, a special court was also established to help consolidate the peace by having those most responsible for the atrocities committed during the war account for their actions. The purpose of this chapter is to examine and assess the wisdom behind the decisions to adopt as well as the efficacy of these two mechanisms of transitional justice in the context of past and present realities in Sierra Leone. This chapter contends that unless the concept of transitional justice is applied in a holistic fashion and the processes of implementing the mechanisms chosen recognize, as paramount, the local cultural context, the voices, and needs of the affected population, lasting peace will continue to elude the government and people of Sierra Leone. BACKGROUND Sierra Leone’s civil war has received considerable attention from scholars largely because of the widespread atrocities committed against the civilian population using methods like amputations, arson, rape, and torture. While the causes of the war may be debatable, 5 there is no debate about the brutal nature of the war. By the time the war officially ended in 2002, thousands had been killed or maimed and about 2 million displaced internally or as refugees. The atrocities committed have been well documented by groups like Human Rights Watch 6 and Amnesty International. 7 The widespread use of children in the commission of these atrocities has also been noted. 8 In sum, the war was “characterized by indiscriminate violence. It broke longstanding rules, defiled cherished traditions, sullied human respect, and tore apart the very fabric of human society.” 9 By 1999, eight years into the war, it became clear that the conflict had reached a stalemate because neither the government nor rebel forces were capable of delivering the fatal blow that would force the other to surrender. With the burden of providing peace and security for its citizens weighing heavily on its shoulder, the government agreed to a ceasefire with the RUF in July 1999, after weeks of negotiations in Lome. Thus, to meet the “desire of the people of Sierra Leone for a definitive settlement of the fratricidal war in their country, and for genuine national unity and reconciliation,” the government committed to doing a host of things including assisting the RUF in transforming itself into a political party; offering its members cabinet positions; granting amnesty to all parties to the conflict; releasing all prisoners of war; designing and implementing a plan for repatriation and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons; establishing a TRC; providing resources for postwar rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development; estab-
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lishing a special fund for war victims; and providing primary health care and free basic education for all. 10 The first controversy over this ambitious agenda that the government set out for itself arose over Article IX of the agreement, which granted “absolute and free pardon and reprieve to all combatants and collaborators in respect of anything done by them in pursuit of their objectives up to the time of the signing of the present Agreement.” This included Foday Sankoh and his RUF rebels, Johnny Paul Koroma’s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) forces, Hinga Norman’s Civil Defense Forces (CDF), as well as the Sierra Leone Army (SLA). In addition, the government also promised to “ensure that no official or judicial action is taken” against them for crimes committed during what has been described as an “uncivil” war. The first objection to this provision was registered by United Nations representatives present at the talks, who immediately “entered a disclaimer on the text to the effect that it would not recognize the amnesty in respect of crimes under international law, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 11 This reaction, as Karen Gallagher, a human rights lawyer, puts it, “highlights the dichotomy between international human rights law theory and political realities.” 12 The offer of amnesty here was not unique because whether they were self-amnesties, transitional amnesties, or post-conflict amnesties, the cases of Argentina, Algeria, Romania, Haiti, El Salvador, Mozambique, and South Africa serve as precedents. 13 But unlike these previous examples, in the case of Sierra Leone the amnesty was being offered by the state to non-state actors, who were committing most of the abuses at issue. This was the state’s last-ditch effort to bring an end to the threat of continued violence against civilians. In this instance, as Gallagher argues, while amnesty, as a moral absolute, may be difficult to support, it must be understood that it was not only a legal option under international law but was Sierra Leone’s only option at the time. 14 TENSIONS AND DILEMMAS OF THE TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE The controversy over whether to pardon or not to pardon the perpetrators revealed only the first of many tensions inherent in the concept of transitional justice. As a field of study, transitional justice is relatively new. While the definition of transitional justice is still being debated, what is not in dispute, as Alex Boraine, the founding president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, points out, is that transitional justice includes five broad areas: prosecutions, truth-telling, reconciliation, reparations, and institutional reform. Together, they offer a holistic approach that has a better chance of
achieving the goal of transitional justice, which is establishing a lasting peace and building effective and just states. 15 This chapter will examine whether this recommended holistic approach to peace was adopted in Sierra Leone. Since the end of World War II, prosecutions, reparations, and truth commissions have been the most popular strategies adopted in post-conflict societies in their search for peace. The prosecution strategy was made famous by the Nuremberg Trials from 1945 to 1949, while the reparations strategy was popularized by the nationally sponsored reparations program for victims of the Holocaust. The truth commission strategy, on the other hand, originated in Latin America in the early eighties but has since spread to Asia and Africa. Of the approximately thirty commissions established worldwide so far, eighteen have been in Africa, with the one in South Africa being the most prominent. 16 The popularity of truth commissions has generated even more questions: Is restorative justice through truth commissions a more satisfactory alternative for securing lasting peace than retributive justice through prosecutions? Can truth commissions satisfy both the individual need for justice and the national need for peace and stability? Does the act of truth-telling automatically guarantee justice and reconciliation? Are truth commissions a onesize-fits-all solution? While human rights organizations and activists and international organizations and nongovernmental organizations have been the most vocal advocates for retributive justice, scholars of transitional justice seem to prefer restorative justice. In his 1999 essay assessing the dilemmas of transitional justice revealed by South Africa’s experience with a TRC, Paul van Zyl, who two years later cofounded the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), strongly argues in favor of restorative justice, saying that because “new democracies emerging from periods of massive and/or systematic violations of human rights are unable, for a combination of practical and political reasons, to prosecute more than a tiny percentage of those responsible for human rights abuse . . . strategies for dealing with the past must not become narrowly focused on attempts to prosecute.” 17 He further justifies his position by explaining that “the manner in which a successor government chooses to deal with those who have committed gross violations of human rights during the tenure of a previous repressive regime is profoundly influenced by the balance of power between the old and new orders at the time of transition.” 18 Jermaine McCalpin and Daniel Philpott also support the idea of restorative justice, pointing to the religious, mainly Christian, paradigm of human redemption that undergirds the strategy. While acknowledging the problematic foundations of restorative justice, these scholars still believe that it is the preferred option because “rather than taking the offender and his crime to be the centerpiece of justice, it is the victim, offender and larger community (society) that occupies this position.” 19
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It was the popularity of TRCs that led another scholar to question whether one size does fit all when it comes to this strategy. Using Sierra Leone as his case study, Amadu Sesay points out that just because the TRC worked well in South Africa does not automatically make it a panacea. Unlike Sierra Leone, he argues, the process of the TRC in South Africa was owned by the South Africans, and the South African government could afford to pay for the recommended reparations. In the case of Sierra Leone, not only was the process controlled by external actors but the government was also heavily dependent on the international community for reparations funding. For the TRC to be used successfully as a method of restorative justice, he concludes, it cannot stop at the truth-telling phase, but must end with an effective reparations program. 20 In his review of the South African TRC, van Zyl also warned against the application of TRCs as a cure-all transitional justice mechanism, saying that certain factors must be taken into consideration before the decision is made. These include whether there is a significant degree of multiparty support for the initiative; whether there are adequate resources to fulfill the mandate; whether the commission would have real powers or have to rely on voluntary cooperation from state officials and private individuals; whether the commission will have both de facto and de jure independence; and whether the mandate and terms of reference are broad enough to adequately address the past human rights abuses. 21 We will now examine whether these preconditions were in place in Sierra Leone to justify the introduction of a TRC. SIERRA LEONE’S TRC: PROMISE VERSUS REALITY External Control The TRC was provided for by the 1999 Lome Agreement as an accountability mechanism to complement the controversial amnesty offered. Shortly after the signing of the agreement, the High Commissioner for Human Rights offered to help then-president Kabbah with the establishment of the Commission. According to one of the actors involved with the process, the president responded by “inviting the High Commissioner to take the lead in ensuring international support for the TRC.” 22 Although the government and civil society organizations were consulted in the process, the main movers and shakers were clearly external and led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). From the hiring of consultants who were sent to conduct in-country consultations on the commission’s mandate to the drafting of the statute that was accepted by the government, the OHCHR was definitely in the lead role.
The planning activities were interrupted in 2000 with the resumption of hostilities, and this led the government to propose that the United Nations set up a special court to prosecute those bearing the greatest responsibility for violations of human rights. The planning process eventually got back on track after the Abuja Peace Accord was signed in April 2001, leading to the start of disarmament and demobilization activities. The widespread external support quickly resumed and culminated in the passage of Security Council Resolution 1346 urging the government, the secretary general, the OHCHR, and other relevant international actors to expedite the establishment of the TRC and Special Court. 23 The international commissioners were selected by the OHCHR while the national commissioners, who were supposed to have been selected by the government, were chosen through a search organized by the special representative of the secretary general. The public information campaign on the TRC was handled by UNAMSIL, which also organized regional workshops, published and distributed informational leaflets, Tshirts, and banners, and ran weekly radio programs. 24 The downside of this unprecedented role played by external actors in the TRC process—as Marieke Wierda, a lawyer working with the ICTJ observes—is that it “did little to develop capacities of national staff beyond the narrow functions in which they were employed; tasks were compartmentalized and segregated, detracting from the ability of the staff to be vested in the process as a whole.” 25 Limited Support Not only was the process not “owned” by Sierra Leoneans but, as professor of anthropology Rosalind Shaw points out, there was little popular support for the TRC since most ordinary Sierra Leoneans preferred a “forgive and forget” approach. According to Shaw, the assumption that truth commissions are “first aid” in conflict resolution is problematic because the central tenet of that mechanism—truth-telling—is at odds with local techniques of healing, which are based on “social forgetting,” essentially, a refusal to reproduce the violence by talking about it publicly. 26 She correctly locates the origin of this concept of truth-telling as a way of bringing about healing and reconciliation in the West, contending that it is the product of a culture of memory that arose from specific historical processes in North America and Europe, originating, perhaps, in the redemptive significance of confession in the church, and developing more recently through Freud’s ideas about repressed memories, the psychiatric construction of the increasingly dominant concept of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its treatment through verbal processing, and the place of the Holocaust as the paradigmatic modern atrocity that must be remembered in order to prevent recurrence. 27
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Therefore, she attributes the low turnout she observed at TRC hearings to the people’s refusal to be turned into “truth-telling, nation-building subjects,” since the publicity campaign had presented truth-telling through the TRC as the only path to reconciliation, healing, and peace. 28 Perceived Lack of Independence In addition to the limited local support for the TRC, there were other problems with the implementation process that called into question the authority and independence of the Commission. Because of her “strong and direct ties” to the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party and because of press reports that a different candidate had actually been recommended for the position, the appointment of Yasmin Jusu-Sherriff as one of the national commissioners immediately raised questions in the minds of the public as to the independence of the Commission. 29 This perceived lack of independence was only deepened when the chairman of the TRC publicly supported president Kabbah for refusing to apologize to the people of Sierra Leone for his own role in the conflict. 30 Thus, while it was clear that the Commission was legally independent, its de facto independence was seriously in doubt. Broad Mandate for TRC In her landmark study reviewing the experiences of twenty-one TRCs, transitional justice expert and former consultant to the SLTRC Priscilla Hayner laid out five basic aims for an effective TRC. These are “to discover, clarify and formally acknowledge past abuses; to respond to specific needs of the victims; to contribute to justice and accountability; to outline institutional responsibility and recommend reforms; and to promote reconciliation and reduce conflict over the past.” 31 When the SLTRC was established, it had a relatively broad mandate that covered most of Hayner’s prescriptions. Its major tasks were to “create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law related to the armed conflict in Sierra Leone from the beginning of the conflict in 1991 to the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement; to address impunity, to respond to the needs of victims, to promote healing and reconciliation and to prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered . . . to investigate and report on the causes, nature and extent of the violations and abuses referred to in subsection (1) to the fullest extent possible.” 32 Thus, while there may have been questions about the real power and independence of the TRC, it was clear that it had a broad enough mandate and a clear blueprint to enable it to do an effective job. Yet, how and when its recommendations are addressed would be quite another matter.
After a shaky beginning, the Commission eventually published its final report in 2004 in which it found not only that the central cause of this brutal war was endemic greed, corruption, and nepotism but also that the war represented an extraordinary failure of leadership. The report concluded, among other things, that the most violated group during the war were women and girls, whose wide-ranging violations suffered at the hands of all the armed groups included “killings, rape, sexual violence, sexual slavery, sexual labor, abductions, assaults, amputations, forced pregnancy, detention, torture, enforced sterilization, trafficking, mutilations, enforced cannibalism, displacement and economic violations such as looting, extortion, theft and the destruction of property.” 33 Not surprisingly, the Commission made specific recommendations aimed at restoring the dignity of victims, in general, but women and girls in particular, which, if implemented, would go a long way toward repairing the torn fabric of society and establishing lasting peace. This sentiment was succinctly expressed in the following quote by one of the victims who testified during the hearings: The first thing I want to recommend is that most of us are willing to forgive, but to sustain this forgiveness, you can all see that we have lost our dignity because we used to be fit to fend for ourselves but this is not so anymore. That has caused most of us to become beggars in the streets. . . . So I will recommend to the Commission that they should put mechanisms in place, which will ensure that there are provisions for us, which will be sustainable and not something that we can eat in a single day; something that will be sustainable maybe as long as we are alive and even for our children. This is one of the recommendations I will make. 34
“Imperative” Recommendations The Commission issued its recommendations under three categories: “imperative,” “work towards,” and “seriously consider.” The most urgent were the “imperative” recommendations, which were meant to be implemented immediately or as soon as possible. Among the “imperative” recommendations aimed at addressing the needs of victims and which were also critical to reconciliation, sustainable peace, and a sense of justice were the following: • “The creation of an independent Human Rights Commission that “can serve as both a watchdog and a visible route through which people can access their rights” (vol. 2, chap. 3, para. 98). • “The immediate repeal of section 27(4)(d) and (e) of the Constitution which exempts certain areas of the law such as adoption, marriage and divorce from protection against discrimination” (para. 108).
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• “That the President, as ‘Father of the Nation,’ and as the Head of State, should acknowledge the harm suffered by women and girls during the conflict in Sierra Leone and offer an unequivocal apology to them on behalf of the government and preceding governments, due to the fact that women were deliberate targets of sexual violence” (para. 317). • “That all aspects of customary law as well as practices which discriminate against women in the realm of inheritance, land ownership, marriage, divorce and the administration of estates be abolished by Parliament” (para. 345). • “That primary school education be free and compulsory for all children. It should be an offence not to send children to primary school” (para. 384). • “That the Report be disseminated as widely as possible and that the government and civil society should facilitate the accessibility of the report to all people, literate and illiterate, in local languages” (para. 543). • “That a comprehensive reparations program be established to address the needs of victims in the areas of health, housing, pensions, education, skills training and micro-credit, community reparations and symbolic reparations” (para. 483–84). By accepting the Commission’s report, these recommendations became binding promises that the government was making to its people. Eight years after these promises were made, we can now begin to assess the effectiveness of the TRC as a transitional justice mechanism for Sierra Leone. IMPLEMENTATION OF RECOMMENDATIONS Clearly, a successful implementation of these recommendations would depend on the financial health of the State. In 2000, when the TRC Act was passed, Sierra Leone was totally dependent on external aid, its economy having been destroyed by the war. Not surprisingly, the country was also ranked last on the United Nations Human Development Index that year. Furthermore, before the SLTRC was decided on as the appropriate instrument, experts on the South African TRC (after which the Sierra Leonean version was patterned) had warned against adopting a TRC if the resources were not going to be there to fully implement its recommendations. In the face of these financial challenges, it makes sense to ask, Was the TRC simply used as a mechanism for making false promises or was it a wasted opportunity?
Legal Reforms Five years on, the glass is still half empty for, although some effort has been made toward implementing the recommendations, the government is still a long way from completion, which leaves the potential for disgruntled victims, who might interpret this delay as justice denied, to derail the fragile peace achieved so far. With regard to the legal reforms recommended by the TRC, the government’s response is a mixed bag. To its credit, as I explained in another study, the government, with the help of the Law Reform Commission and Parliament, signed into law three new critical pieces of legislation in 2007, two of which were a direct response to two of the TRC recommendations listed above. The Devolution of Estate Act (2007) and The Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act (2007), both establish the rights of women when it comes to inheritance as well as marriages and divorces under customary law. 35 These laws address the Commission’s concern that customary law was at variance with common law because it discriminated against women. The passage of these landmark legislations therefore harmonizes the two constituent parts of Sierra Leone’s legal code. Unfortunately, Section 27 of the Constitution, which the TRC found objectionable for discriminating against women, has still not been repealed. Yet, it is worth noting that the government did create a Constitutional Review Committee to review the 1991 Constitution. That Committee submitted its report to the government in January 2008 but that report has not yet been published. Education Free basic education had been introduced in 2001 at the primary level as part of the 1993 Basic Education Reform and was extended to the junior secondary level in 2004. In addition, from 2002 the government, through the SABABU Education Project (jointly sponsored by the African Development Fund [ADF], International Development Agency [IDA], and the Government of Sierra Leone [GOSL], implemented by the Ministry of Education, started reconstructing and rehabilitating the physical infrastructures damaged in the war, as well as providing training for teachers and free textbooks for students. 36 As laudable as this five-year multimillion dollar effort was, the impact of the SABABU Project on beneficiaries has been questionable. Interviews I conducted with primary school head teachers in Freetown in 2006 revealed that only a few of the textbooks and other school supplies that the primary schools were supposed to receive were actually reaching the schools. In one school, the head teacher told me that even though she had a total of 180 pupils in class I, she received only thirty copies of the textbooks for each subject: English, Math, Social Studies, and Science. The number of textbooks received for class II went down to twenty for 220 pupils and only fifteen for class III, with 220 pupils. The supplies of pencils, crayons, sharp-
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eners, exercise books, supplementary readers, and chalk received from the Ministry were just as woefully inadequate. The frustrated head teacher further complained about late payment of fee subsidies by the Ministry, explaining that the subsidies are needed to pay school staff and to make new desks and chairs to meet increasing pupil numbers. 37 The basis for her complaint was confirmed a few days after our interview when an official from the Ministry publicly apologized during a radio discussion program for the late payment of subsidies to schools and promised that the Ministry would be on time the following year. 38 I heard similar complaints about insufficient textbooks and other school supplies from two other head teachers: one with a total of 514 pupils 39 and the other with a total of 827 pupils. 40 The latter even pointed out that one of his makeshift classrooms was a leaky and damaged tent, which had been constructed by UNICEF back in 1999. All the head teachers openly lamented that while they cannot get enough textbooks for their pupils these same SABABU Project textbooks were widely available for sale on the streets of Freetown. My findings were echoed a year later in a report by the National Accountability Group, a local NGO, which also found that the primary school textbooks procured for the project have found their way into the black market and are sold on the streets. Even in the schools where the textbooks are to be distributed free of charge, one can find them being sold to eager parents seeking nothing but the best for their children. 41
Furthermore, regarding the damaged physical structures that the project was supposed to repair or reconstruct, the report found that “the quality of the structures built is below standard and are not commensurate with the funds provided. Most of the structures are small and inadequately furnished.” 42 Thus, the report concludes that corruption has undermined the government’s goal of free, compulsory education because even though “radio discussions always have disgruntled parents airing their grievances about the education system . . . nothing is being done to remedy the situation.” 43 Human Rights Commission Another one of the TRC recommendations that has seen some action is the establishment of a Human Rights Commission, which would fulfill the role of a Follow-up Committee after the work of the TRC ends following publication of its report. Although Parliament passed the Human Rights Commission Act in 2004, the Commissioners were not sworn into office until December 2006. Furthermore, had it not been for the $1.5 million financial assistance received from the UN Peace Building Fund—which the Commission used to secure, furnish, and equip office spaces in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and Makeni, recruit some staff, and provide vehicles, bikes, and train-
ing—the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) would not have been able to start operations when it finally did in 2007, albeit three years after its creation. During its first year of operation, HRCSL was heavily dependent for its survival on external funding, mainly from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UN Peace Building Fund, and the Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund. In fact, in its first annual report, the Commission reported that their operational problems were compounded by the fact that “the Government did not fulfill its entire financial obligations resulting in difficulties in carrying out planned activities. As a consequence of this, the Commissioners and Executive Secretary remained the personnel of the HRCSL throughout 2007.” 44 These financial challenges continue to seriously threaten the stability of such a vital institution because, on the one hand, the Commission could not afford to pay the competitive salaries needed to attract and retain qualified staff. On the other hand, the high cost of the office suite they are currently renting in Freetown—which was only made possible by the grant from the Peace Building Fund—would clearly not be financially sustainable in the long run, as was admitted in the report. 45 Reparations To address the immediate needs of victims, the TRC recommended that a reparations program be implemented under the stewardship of the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), which would also be entrusted with governing the Special Fund for War Victims, which the government was to establish. Due to lack of funds, and probably political will, the government did nothing about the reparations program from 2004, when it was first recommended, until 2008 when the UN Peace Building Fund approved $3 million as a one-year catalyst, to which the government was supposed to add $246,000 to kick-start the program. 46 Even though the TRC report recommended reparations be paid to amputees, severely war wounded, victims of sexual violence, war widows, and children, the limited funds caused NaCSA to drop the war widows from consideration until more funds become available. This decision makes it doubtful whether the government is able and willing to contribute any funds to the program. Victims—mainly amputees, many of whom are seen every day on the streets begging—regularly complain that the government has not helped them with needs such as housing, food, or educating their children. Thus, while ex-combatants received their compensation and skills training immediately after the war ended, it has taken five years for the government to barely get the reparations program for victims off the ground, leading to widespread feeling that the perpetrators of violence have been treated better than the victims. One official with an advocacy organization for war victims also observed that some victims “have
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even claimed to be ex-combatants in an attempt to, for example, get a place on a training scheme.” 47 Unfortunately, this half-hearted approach to reparations does not bode well for the establishment of justice and lasting peace in Sierra Leone, as reflected in the voices of two of the victims cited at the beginning of this essay: first, Mamusu Thoronka, a forty-one-year-old mother of seven whose left hand was amputated by rebels, followed by a botched amputation of her right hand, which left her with only two functioning fingers on that hand; and second, Mariama Kallon, a twenty-five-year-old mother of three whose right leg was amputated above the knee after she was shot during the war. The financial desires expressed in these quotations support Rosalind Shaw’s contention that victims may have been more motivated to testify at the TRC by the expectation of government assistance in return for their testimony rather than by a shared belief in the magic of truth-telling. 48 Even with the initial funds now available, it is still unclear who the beneficiaries will be and when they will start to claim benefits from the program, since interviews of alleged victims to determine who is eligible only started earlier this year. 49 For those victims with physical evidence of the abuse suffered—for example, an amputated arm or leg, a missing eye or ear—it would not be too difficult to determine eligibility. But, this is not the case for the vast numbers of women and girls who have suffered rapes and other types of sexual abuse. With no physical evidence of the crime left for the interviewers to examine—except, perhaps, for those who ended up with fistula, a medical condition—this might present another unfortunate gender bias in the administration of restorative justice. Furthermore, the large time lapse between when the recommendation was issued and the start of planning the program actually contravenes the TRC’s call for immediate action and it may, for some victims, result in a situation of justice denied simply due to the unconscionable delay. Dissemination The final TRC recommendation was that its report be disseminated in the widest form possible. Of all the dissemination methods suggested, only one has been accomplished, that is, hosting the entire report on the Internet. A special website for the TRC has, indeed, been created, thanks to full funding from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA). 50 To that end, the report is accessible to that fraction of the local reading public who has access to the Internet. However, in a country where the adult literacy rate is only 38 percent and over half of the population (53 percent) lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day, very few people will have access or the resources to spend at Internet cafes to find out what the TRC report says.
With those grim statistics in mind, the TRC also recommended that the contents of the report be incorporated into the curricula of schools, colleges, and universities. Unfortunately, this has not yet been accomplished, even though a children’s version of the report was produced and is available on the website. Widespread dissemination of the report in the various local languages would not only have educated many more people and generated useful discussion on its contents but also, as one study puts it, would have been one way of “empowering them with the necessary information that will enable them to reconcile with each other at individual and societal levels, [and] thereby facilitate the democratization of their society.” 51 Instead, this lack of knowledge among the general population about the findings and recommendations of the TRC has slowed the reconciliation process and has taken the pressure off the government to implement the recommendations. Consequently, in a scathing open letter articulating popular sentiment about a visit by the late Muammar Ghaddafi to Sierra Leone, a leading local attorney reminded President Koroma of the urgent need for dissemination of the report. Recalling that the TRC found that Libya provided both guerilla training for Sierra Leonean dissidents as well as financial support to the RUF, who then went on to launch the chaos and mayhem that engulfed the country for over a decade, the letter called on the president to also “disseminate” the report to external actors like Libya, which had been called on by the TRC to publicly acknowledge and apologize for its role in the war and to provide financial support to the War Victims Fund—neither of which has been done. Arguing that had many more people been familiar with the contents of the report neither the visit by Ghaddafi, who was described as “entering Sierra Leone like Julius Caesar returning in triumph to Rome after battle,” nor the added “supreme insult” of a special honor conveyed on him by Parliament would have been possible. 52 One can therefore argue that the failure to disseminate the report widely continues to impede reconciliation, in particular, and social recovery in general. Unfortunately, it is not just the external actors who have failed to apologize. When the TRC report was presented to President Kabbah in 2004, he too refused to apologize as recommended by the Commission but still, somehow, expected reconciliation to occur. THE SPECIAL COURT: JUSTICE FOR WHOM? The perceived shortcomings of restorative justice mechanisms like a TRC were what triggered the call for retributive forms of justice that have resulted in the setting up of the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL). Originally requested by President Kabbah in 2000, the SCSL was eventually created by
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the United Nations in 2002 but, as one observer puts it, “largely to the exclusion of Sierra Leonean actors other than the government.” 53 Even though the Court is more international than domestic, it is called a “special” court because of its hybrid composition. Despite the preponderance of international judges (nine), there are two local judges. Many of the Court’s senior positions are also occupied by foreigners. 54 Funded by individual states and the UN, the SCSL spent the first two years building a brand-new fortress-like campus on the outskirts of the city, where it now conducts its business of bringing those “persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law” to account. Given its composition, one of the challenges the Court faced was that it had two audiences to satisfy: the international community from which it gets its funding and the local affected population who needed justice. As it turns out, the interests of those two constituencies are not always in sync. The first clash of interests manifested itself at the Lome Convention when the UN objected to the amnesty provision. Thus, while the TRC was concerned about establishing peace through truth-telling, the SCSL was more interested in pursuing international law and justice. This clash of objectives between the two mechanisms even led the TRC to openly criticize the SCSL in its report. 55 Since it started operating, the Court has indicted thirteen alleged war criminals, three of whom are already dead and one is still at large. After having spent over $150 million, only five of those indicted have been convicted—another clear manifestation of the clash of interests. While focused on the abstract concept of civil and political rights, the SCSL realized that it cannot afford to prosecute every single offender and so opted to make its point with just a few. This limited jurisdiction, however, does not go down well with many in the affected population who have to live with not just the guilty foot soldiers but even midlevel perpetrators who continue to roam free in their communities. 56 Furthermore, the tremendous cost of the entire operation for such a low yield has not been lost on the hundreds of thousands of victims—amputees, other war wounded, war widows, victims of sexual violence and children— who are yet to receive any compensation for their suffering. The Court received another $6.5 million in new contributions toward the $28 million it said it needed for 2009. 57 The projection was that by the time the Court finished its work in 2010, it would have spent some $212 million, 58 an incredible amount of money for a country whose current gross national income (GNI) per capita is only $260 and which has been steadily ranked at the bottom (or very close to the bottom) of the Human Development Index for over a decade now.
Critics have pointed out that with the exception of the new buildings and offices the Court will leave behind, its long-term impact on Sierra Leone’s legal framework will be minimal because there’s been no attempt at local capacity building or institution building since SCSL operates outside of the domestic framework. Furthermore, as one critic puts it, whereas the SCSL, a one-time-only institution, received millions of dollars from the international community to prosecute only thirteen people, “the Office of Ombudsman, a permanent state-level institution that many more citizens relate with regularly for human rights protection, has not received a thousand dollars,” a clear indication that “long-term institution building is not always considered a first priority in international assistance programs. 59 Not surprisingly, for most victims, the SCSL continues to be seen as an outfit that is totally alien and, as reflected in Mariama Kallon’s voice cited at the beginning, victims openly remark on the irrelevancy of the Court to their lives while suggesting ways the money could have been used to better address their more pressing needs. Remarkably, even the capture, trial, and conviction in 2012 of Charles Taylor has not shaken off this psychological detachment from the Court, leading one local observer to comment that “there’s no way you can call that a court for Sierra Leoneans when most Sierra Leoneans can’t even access it.” 60 Thus, while Ishmael Beah was rescued, rehabilitated, and adopted by an American family in 1998 and is now a national best-selling author who travels around the world filling auditoriums for his paid speeches to Western audiences about his experiences as a child soldier during the war, his former comrades have not been so lucky. In a 2007 VH1 documentary in which Beah leads a group of American hip-hop artists to Sierra Leone to show them the controversial origins of the diamonds that are so popular with rappers and an ostentatious sign of success in hip-hop culture, Beah is seen at one point visiting Benin Home, the rehabilitation center in Kissy from which he was rescued. Remarkably, he still recognizes some of the current inmates from his sojourn there over a decade ago and audibly reflects upon his good luck, since it could have been him still languishing there, with no future to look forward to. 61 BEYOND “TRUTH-TELLING” VERSUS RETRIBUTION: GRASSROOTS APPROACHES Kailahun Bikers’ Project Across the country, in the eastern district of Kailahun, which was the first to be attacked in 1991 and the last to be disarmed, the Kailahun Bikers’ Project is working hard to reintegrate former combatants, some of whom were child
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soldiers, into the community. Since Kailahun suffered the worst damage to its physical infrastructure, the project’s aim is to provide employment to these demobilized but unemployed ex-combatants so that they could, in turn, provide valuable services to the community and thus facilitate reconciliation. The project provides motorbikes to these youths—75 percent of whom actively fought in the war and may have committed atrocities on civilians— who then provide transportation and courier services in an area with damaged roads and no public transport system. Even after the implementation of both restorative and retributive transitional justice mechanisms, the evidence from Kailahun indicates that an uneasy calm still exists there as many of the demobilized child soldiers, some of whom have returned to using illegal drugs and engaging in violent sexual behavior, continue to struggle to readjust to the antebellum life they knew. As one official involved with the project puts it, “The youths who took part in the war still feel stigmatized and ashamed and cannot come clean about their actions. Things are still a little bit jittery. We’ve got to get them busy.” 62 The case of Kailahun raises doubts not only about the efficacy of a TRC and Special Court in terms of achieving reconciliation and justice in general, but it also raises questions about the truth-telling process, in particular. For example, did the TRC hear all the possible truths that exist? How much of what was told was “official truth” and how much was “unofficial truth?” 63 If only part of the truth was told, is it realistic to expect a successful reconciliation? Besides, there is also evidence from the Kailahun Bikers’ Project that the participants preferred social forgetting over remembering and “truth-telling.” When one of the bikers was asked about a billboard on the highway showing photos of children who were lost, displaced, or abducted during the war and the relatives who are trying to find them, he claimed never to have noticed the billboard and, instead, changed the subject to the bad roads that need repair. Citing the local Krio adage, bad bush nor dae for troway bad pikin (there is no bad bush for disposing of a bad child), the biker closes the discussion by reinforcing the need for the community to forget and move on with reconciliation. 64 At the same time, a young woman whose lower arms were amputated by rebels, expresses her frustrations about victims’ feelings of being used and abandoned during a meeting of the Kailahun Amputee Support Committee. She tells the gathering, “We have shared our experiences many times and all we get is promises. Promises of training, employment, [and] new limbs. Nothing ever happens.” 65 Thus, while perpetrators may be eager for reconciliation, victims are still calling for reparations before reconciliation.
Fambul Tok (“Family Talk”) Even one-time advocates for the TRC have started to acknowledge the shortcomings of the program by trying alternate methods of reconciliation. Admitting that the TRC failed to impact the rural communities where the brunt of the war was felt, Forum of Conscience, a local human rights organization, has been experimenting with a program called Fambul Tok in Bomaru and surrounding villages since 2005. Using a more authentic, grassroots approach, the program stimulates conflict resolution among family members through after-dinner discussion and entertainment around a bonfire at the village center that can last late into the night. The organizers argue that these “family talks,” which usually begin with sacrifices of chicken to the spirits of their dead, lead to apology and forgiveness, and that this allows the community to heal and start focusing on development because their tradition tells them that forgiveness improves harvest. 66 Even Priscilla Hayner, a former consultant and key architect of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SLTRC), now admits that the transitional justice mechanisms adopted “were not as rooted in the communities as people had envisioned initially.” 67 Rap Music Festivals Meanwhile, back in Freetown, a different type of reconciliation program is being experimented with. Just as Ishmael Beah tells of how he used rap to save his life after he was captured by rebels, 68 rap is similarly being used as a method of post-conflict reconciliation. Demobilized child soldiers, who used to kill each other and their neighbors, are now expressing their rivalry through music festivals where they try to out-rap each other instead, using lyrics of peace and reconciliation. As promising as this effort seems, Human Rights Watch has identified these youthful former combatants as still vulnerable and therefore the “weakest link” in the pursuit of peace. The problem is that although the UN-sponsored disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program (DDR) succeeded in getting them to lay down their arms, the program has failed in engaging these demobilized youths in productive activities, and that leaves this migrant population of young fighters vulnerable to picking up arms again at the first sign of trouble either in Sierra Leone or the neighboring West African countries. Unfortunately, many of the root causes of the war that were identified by the TRC—and that negatively impact the youths—have not been fully addressed by the government; and that fact is not lost on these young rappers, who have incorporated some of those issues into their lyrics. As one of them explains it, “We’re highlighting corruption and unemployment . . . and the government is threatened. They’ve recruited their own rappers to perform on the radio and at soundclash festivals. They know we have influence and it makes them nervous.” 69
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CONCLUSION: THE VISION FORWARD FOR PEACE There has been considerable debate in recent years about the use of transitional justice mechanisms to achieve peace in post-conflict African states. These mechanisms have various aims, ranging from social repair and restoration of victims to legal accountability and punishment of perpetrators, but with the larger goal of establishing lasting peace. This chapter has argued that to achieve lasting peace, a holistic approach that incorporates various mechanisms is needed. But, more importantly, the mechanisms must be culturally appropriate, locally owned, and fully implemented so that they can provide the loudest voice to survivors and deliver the greatest impact to affected communities. In post-conflict Sierra Leone, two types of transitional justice mechanisms were, indeed, implemented, though not in a holistic way, which, in the end, undercut their overall effectiveness. In fact, only three of the five categories identified by Boraine as together defining transitional justice were implemented. The local population was vested in neither process because they lacked ownership. For the TRC, this was partly because it was mainly organized by the OHCHR and also because locals had their own indigenous methods of healing and coexistence and did not buy into the concept of “truth-telling” as the only path to peace and reconciliation. Similarly, both the TRC and SCSL, which were dominated by foreigners, and the physical structure of the SCSL— which is fortress-like—continue to be perceived as alien by a vast majority of the population. Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the TRC as a mechanism for achieving lasting peace is that many of the “imperative” recommendations, particularly reparations, are yet to be implemented, eight years after the report was published. In a post-conflict situation with so many urgent needs—shelter for the displaced, medical care for war wounded and sexually abused, prosthesis for amputees, social and financial support for war widows, education for children—the fastest and most obvious path to justice and, therefore, lasting peace, is a comprehensive, well-coordinated, and well-funded reparations program to right the wrongs done to victims. Given the precarious economic condition of the government and the fact that it was virtually dependent on foreign aid for its survival at the time, Paul van Zyl’s warning that adequate resources must be available to fulfill its mandate before a TRC is decided on clearly fell on deaf ears among the international planners. As one author accurately predicted, “truth-telling without reparations is ephemeral.” 70 In addition to the unmet needs of victims, the effectiveness of the TRC as a transitional justice mechanism is limited because the chronic unemployment that continues to exist among former combatants is also a constant threat to peace.
Ironically, while lack of funds was the major factor preventing a restoration of full economic and social rights to survivors by the TRC, the SCSL received millions of dollars to carry out its mandate, which is primarily political. In the larger transitional justice debate, scholars have argued that there should be a balance between the need for justice and the need for peace. Although flush with cash, compared to the TRC, the SCSL is on track for making very little impact on the local community after it folds up operations in 2010. Despite its vast international expertise and its physical presence in the affected country, the SCSL has had very little interaction with the local courts. This not only hinders any positive impact on the domestic justice system, but the huge cost of the operation continues to be a source of resentment to suffering and neglected victims. A lot has been done by non-state actors, such as civil society and women’s and international organizations, in terms of post-conflict development projects in general. A more deliberate focus, however, needs to be placed on addressing the overwhelming needs of victims. The $240,000 contribution from the Peace Building Fund to the Special Fund for War Victims is helpful, though a mere drop in the bucket when compared to the millions already expended on the SCSL. The streets of the capital city, for example, are flooded with amputees who have resorted to begging as a means of survival. Sexually abused girls, who have been shunned by their families and see no other future for themselves, have chosen prostitution as their ticket out. While reconciliation at the national level may be achieved through symbolic gestures from political leaders and memorials commemorating the war, it is only the practical and concrete forms of compensation that will ultimately result in reconciliation at the individual level and lead to a true sense of justice for survivors and lasting peace in Sierra Leone. The present government may have the right rhetoric, but only their actions will matter in the end. NOTES 1. Adama Koroma, Testimony at TRC hearing, May 26, 2003, TRC Report, vol. 2, chap. 4. 2. BBC World News, “Photo Journal: Sierra Leone Amputee,” news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/ spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/africa_sierra_leone_amputee/html/1.stm (accessed March 17, 2009). Quote from Mamusu Thoronka. 3. Craig Timberg, “Sierra Leone Special Court’s Narrow Focus; Well Funded but Selective War Crimes Probe Draws Resentment of Impoverished Victims,” Washington Post, March 26, 2008, A11. Quote from Mariama Kallon. 4. “Peace Agreement Between the Government of Sierra Leone and Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone,” last modified July 7, 1999, www.sierra-leone.org/lomeaccord.html. Hereafter referred to as Lome Agreement. 5. See Paul Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996) and Ibrahim Abdullah, ed., Between Democracy and Terror: the Sierra Leone Civil War (Dakar: CODESRIA, 2004).
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6. Human Rights Watch, “We’ll Kill You if You Cry”: Sexual Violence in the Sierra Leone Conflict 15, no. 1(A), January 2003; HRW, Getting Away with Murder, Mutilation, Rape: New Testimony from Sierra Leone 2, no. 3(A), July 1999; HRW, Sowing Terror: Atrocities against Civilians in Sierra Leone 10, no. 3(A), July 1998, www.hrw.org. 7. Amnesty International, “Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence against Girls and Women,” last modified June 2000; Amnesty International, “1998: A Year of Atrocities against Civilians,” last modified November 1998, www.amnesty.org. 8. Casualties of War: Child Soldiers and the Law, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. 110th Congress, April 24, 2007 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007); Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2007). 9. Final Report of the TRC, vol. 2, chap. 2, par. 21 (hereafter referred to as TRC Report). 10. Lome Agreement. 11. Richard Bennett, “The Evolution of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” in Truth and Reconciliation in Sierra Leone: A Compilation of Articles on the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Freetown: UNAMSIL, 2001), 40; see also TRC Report, Findings, par. 561. 12. Karen Gallagher, “No Justice, No Peace: The Legalities and Realities of Amnesty in Sierra Leone,” Thomas Jefferson Law Review 23, no. 1 (2000): 151. 13. Gallagher, “No Justice, No Peace,” 168–71. 14. Gallagher, “No Justice, No Peace,” 184–98. 15. Alex Boraine, “Transitional Justice as an Emerging Field,” (paper presented at the “Repairing the Past: Reparations and Transitions to Democracy” Symposium, Ottawa, Canada, March 11, 2004), 1–5. 16. See Boraine, 1–4; Charles Fombad, “Transitional Justice in Africa: The Experience with Truth Commissions” (New York University School of Law, May/June 2008), accessed April 7, 2009, www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Africa_Truth_Commissions.htm. 17. Paul van Zyl, “Dilemmas of Transitional Justice: The Case of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Journal of International Affairs 52, no. 2 (1999): 648. 18. Van Zyl, “Dilemmas of Transitional Justice,” 648. 19. Jermaine McCalpin, “For the Future? Restorative Justice, Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Deeply Divided Societies,” Proteus: A Journal of Ideas 24, no. 2 (2007): 35; Daniel Philpott, “What Religion Brings to the Politics of Transitional Justice,” Journal of International Affairs 61, no. 1 (2007): 93–110. 20. Amadu Sesay, Does One Size Fit All?: The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission Revisited (Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, 2007), 46–51. 21. Van Zyl, “Dilemmas of Transitional Justice,” 664–65. 22. Bennett, “The Evolution of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” 41. 23. Bennett, “The Evolution of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” 41–45. 24. Bennett, “The Evolution of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” 46–47. See also Marieke Wierda, “Transitional Justice in Sierra Leone,” in Jeroen de Zeeuw and Krishna Kumar eds., Promoting Democracy in Postconflict Societies (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2006), 183–90. 25. Marieke Wierda, “Transitional Justice,” 187–88. 26. Rosalind Shaw, Rethinking Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Lessons from Sierra Leone (Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 2005), 1–12, www.usip.org. 27. Shaw, Rethinking Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, 7. 28. Shaw, Rethinking Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, 7–8; see also Wierda, “Transitional Justice,” 190–91. 29. Beth Dougherty, “Searching for Answers: Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” African Studies Quarterly, 8, no. 1 (2004): 43. 30. Wierda, “Transitional Justice,” 191. 31. Priscilla Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions (New York: Routledge, 2002), 24.
32. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2000, Section 6 (1) and 6 (2)a, Supplement to the Sierra Leone Gazette CXXXI, no. 9 (February 10, 2000). 33. TRC Report, Findings, par. 495. 34. Tamba Finnoh, Testimony to TRC, April 14, 2003, quoted in TRC Report. 35. See Sylvia Macauley, “Gender, Conflict and Peace Building in Africa: The Sierra Leone Experience,” in Tunde Zack-Williams, ed., When the State Fails (London: Pluto Press, 2011). 36. Macauley, “Gender, Conflict and Peace Building in Africa: The Sierra Leone Experience.” 37. Interview with Mrs. Tucker, D. T. Akibo-Betts Municipal School (Infants), Freetown, July 27, 2006. 38. Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) Radio, People and Events, aired on August 4, 2006. 39. Interview with Mrs. Hastings-Spaine, Tower Hill Municipal School (Infants), Freetown, July 31, 2006. 40. Interview with Mr. Nelson-Davies, Tower Hill Municipal School (Juniors), Freetown, July 27, 2006. 41. Sonnia-Magba Bu-Buakei Jabbi, The SABABU Education Project: A Negative Study of Post-War Reconstruction (Freetown: National Accountability Group, 2007), 12. 42. Jabbi, The SABABU Education Project: A Negative Study of Post-War Reconstruction, 12. 43. Jabbi, The SABABU Education Project: A Negative Study of Post-War Reconstruction, 12. 44. HRCSL, The State of Human Rights in Sierra Leone, 2007, First Annual Report (Freetown: HRCSL, 2007), 8. 45. HRCSL, The State of Human Rights in Sierra Leone, 9. 46. Umaru Jah, “Sierra Leone: Reparations for War Victims a Must,” Concord Times, 25 November, 2008, accessed April 19, 2009, www.allafrica.com. 47. Jah, “Sierra Leone: Reparations for War Victims a Must.” 48. Shaw, Rethinking Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. 49. Kari Barber, “Sierra Leone Victims Sign up for Reparations,” VOA News, February 19, 2009, accessed April 19, 2009, www.voanews.com/english. 50. See www.trcsierraleone.org. 51. Proscovia Svard, “The Challenges of Documenting War Atrocities in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone: A Study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” African Journal of International Affairs10, nos. 1 and 2 (2007), 55. 52. J. B. Jenkins-Johnston, “A Supreme Insult to Amputees, War Widows and War Victims,” Peep Magazine, January 9, 2009. 53. Wierda, “Transitional Justice,” 194. 54. Wierda, “Transitional Justice,” 194. 55. TRC Report, chap. 1, par. 64–70. 56. Wierda, “Transitional Justice,” 199. 57. IRIN, “Special Court Receives Funding Reprieve,” accessed April 14, 2009, www.irinnews.org. 58. Craig Timberg, “Sierra Leone Special Court’s Narrow Focus: Well Funded but Selective War Crimes Probe Draws Resentment of Impoverished Victims,” Washington Post, March 26, 2008, A11. 59. Jeroen de Zeew and Luc van de Goor, “Findings and Recommendations,” in Zeew and Kumar (eds.), Promoting Democracy in Postconflict Societies, 278. 60. John Caulker, “Forum of Conscience,” quoted in Timberg, “Sierra Leone’s Special Court’s Narrow Focus.” 61. VH1-MTV Networks, Bling’d: Blood Diamonds and Hip Hop, released February 2007. 62. Dauda Kanu, “Plan International,” quoted in Angela Robson, “Sierra Leone: Revenge and Reconciliation,” Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2008. 63. See L. Bickford, “Unofficial Truth Projects,” Human Rights Quarterly 29, no. 4 (2007): 994–1035. 64. Robson, “Sierra Leone: Revenge and Reconciliation.”
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65. Robson, “Sierra Leone: Revenge and Reconciliation.” 66. Jina Moore, “Sierra Leoneans Look for Peace through Full Truth about War Crime,” Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 2008, 20. 67. Hayner, cited in Moore, ibid. 68. Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone, 36–68. 69. Robson, “Sierra Leone: Revenge and Reconciliation.” 70. Sesay, Does One Size Fit All? 46.
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique Jessica Schafer
This chapter explores the role of ex-combatants in postwar Mozambique in the 1990s. I examine and challenge the primary assumptions about ex-combatants that shaped reconstruction and reintegration policies. These assumptions were anchored in a particular reading of the war (informed by mainstream academic and policy literature) and in the political context of contemporary international aid. I argue that the reality of the postwar “reintegration” process for ex-combatants was significantly different from expectations, and I present evidence from in-depth fieldwork to support an alternative analysis. These findings should help to inform a better understanding of postwar reconstruction processes involving former combatants, particularly given the evolving dynamics of post–Cold War armed conflicts. The study is based on field research conducted in Mozambique during 1995–1996 and 1999 as well as documentary analysis and the use of news and other literature to follow recent developments. Field research involved ethnographic study and extensive interviews with former combatants and civilians from both sides of the civil war. The author’s case study area was in central Mozambique (Manica province) and involved rural and urban research sites. Collaborators conducted parallel research in Maputo city and province and in Zambézia province, and my analysis draws on their findings and insights as well as my own. 1
ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT EX-COMBATANTS When the war ended in 1992, demobilization and reintegration planning by donors and policy makers was shaped by several assumptions about the combatants in Mozambique’s civil war and their possible roles in postwar society. These assumptions were based on three sets of ideas. One was the dominant view of the Mozambican conflict. A second set of influential ideas emerged from recent analyses of the so-called “new wars” and the role of combatants therein. Thirdly, the political context of the post–Cold War international order influenced the way international donors in particular articulated their views and policies around conflict, security, and postwar reconstruction. DOMINANT VIEWS OF THE WAR IN MOZAMBIQUE Narratives of the Mozambican conflict shifted over the course of the war. Early on, intellectuals primarily sympathetic to Frelimo’s socialist project analyzed the war as an exemplar of Cold War ideological battles. Thus, the Renamo guerrillas were depicted as stooges for the South African apartheid regime and American ultra-conservative groups while Frelimo soldiers were seen to be defending the nation and the revolutionary project from external aggression and sabotage. 2 Toward the mid-1980s, this analysis became more nuanced, and even intellectuals sympathetic to the revolutionary project began to argue that government policies played a role in alienating segments of the population, which in turn contributed to the existence of some internal support for the antigovernment rebellion. Nonetheless, internal grievances were still deemed marginal and analysis of the roots of the conflict remained primarily focused on international political dynamics. 3 Government continued to exercise tight control over information and there was little access to rural areas where the war was being prosecuted. Scholars often drew on research conducted within officially sanctioned refugee camps in neighboring Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Tanzania, where governmental and aid agency priorities constrained what informants could discuss with researchers. Media, policy, and academic reports were therefore dominated by atrocities attributed to Renamo and guerrilla combatants were portrayed as drug-crazed child soldiers under the sway of a criminally oriented military machine. By the late 1980s, a counter-narrative began to emerge that suggested the conflict’s local roots were more complex and varied, despite the continued importance of external funds, support, and direction. Researchers such as the French anthropologist Christian Geffray gained some access to populations
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
within Mozambique in regions where the Renamo guerrilla army had penetrated more fully, though research in rural areas was still virtually impossible. 4 This counter-narrative provoked considerable debate, but by the end of the war in 1992 analysis of the conflict’s dynamics had broadened and most scholars accepted that there were important regional variations and local patterns of war that defied the mainstream narrative and merited indepth study. When analysts began to accept that the Frelimo party-state’s policies and practices contributed toward conflict dynamics, their view of Frelimo soldiers shifted. Frelimo soldiers began to be seen as predators on rural populations, committing violence against civilians and abusing their power in ways similar to previous portrayals of Renamo guerrillas. 5 However, there remained a strong sense that Frelimo soldiers were not in the same league as the Renamo guerrillas with respect to the level and types of violence they committed. By the time Frelimo and Renamo signed the Peace Agreement in 1992, therefore, combatants of the Mozambican civil war were generally seen as desocialized and dehumanized by their war experiences, marginal characters overwhelmingly imprinted by war and violence. The conflict appeared to have lost its political overtones and disintegrated into a desperate competition over power and loot. The combatants (of both sides) were conceptualized as an undifferentiated group of soldiers who posed a danger to society through their capacity to abrogate the peace agreement, cause political instability, and threaten social and economic progress. Commentators characterized demobilized soldiers as “men (formerly with Renamo and Frelimo) who have no stake in society,” who had been “socialized in the military and often know no other way of life.” 6 They were seen as “deeply traumatised by their experiences” and to have “accepted terrorism and banditry as a way of life.” 7 This depiction of combatants during the war was one key pillar of the general view of ex-combatants at the end of the war and was projected into expectations for their future role in society after demobilization. COMBATANTS AND THE “NEW WAR” PARADIGM The “new war” theory is that internal armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War are substantively different from previous wars, both inter- and intrastate. Mary Kaldor’s work is seminal to the “new war” approach. 8 Of particular relevance to the analysis of combatants and their role in postwar society is the argument that armed groups in new wars target civilians to a much greater extent than previously and rely on violent coercion rather than
the broad popular support guerrillas tended to enjoy in the past. This violence is often characterized as gratuitous or “wanton” and uncontrolled. Another key premise of the “new war” approach is that old civil wars were generally motivated by collective grievance, while new civil wars are provoked by the pursuit of private loot. Mozambique’s civil war originated in the geopolitical setting of the Cold War and frontline states of southern Africa facing the apartheid regime. It does not fit as well into the “new war” categorization, therefore. However, the conflict did continue after the fall of the Berlin Wall and entered a particularly intense period from 1989 to 1992. Analysis of the conflict at that point began increasingly to resemble the “new war” theories. This “new war” thinking influenced analysis, policies, and programming for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of combatants in Mozambique. In particular, DDR programs’ emphasis on economic reintegration and their neglect of former combatants’ expectations for political participation seem to be rooted in the idea that combatants of recent civil wars are driven by greed rather than grievance and require a specific type of economic incentive to accept peacetime social roles. POST-COLD WAR INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT After Soviet and Eastern regimes disintegrated or renounced socialism and state planning from the late 1980s, the neoliberal paradigm—already dominant within key international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund—seemed to become the unassailable way of the future. A fundamental tenet of neoliberalism is that states should play a minimal role in national development and that markets should prevail instead of government action. Even United Nations agencies that had espoused alternative approaches incorporated ever more of neoliberalism’s tenets into their policies. The 1990s were also a time of new hope for increased democratization, when it was expected that elections would launch states emerging from long periods of authoritarian rule onto a virtuous path of simultaneous political and economic liberalization. When new conflicts emerged early in the decade or old ones failed to disappear with the fading away of the Cold War, the 1990s also became a period of considerable international intervention. Paradoxically, though, this time was also a period of declining aid funds and international withdrawal from supporting a large number of states previously buttressed for Cold War strategic reasons.
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
These trends have influenced the design of demobilization and reintegration programs and policies along with other trends in aid programs. In particular, the neoliberal paradigm steers donors away from designing or supporting postwar reconstruction packages based on Keynesian principles, such as the Marshall Plan that was implemented to reconstruct Europe after World War II. Neoliberal ideals suggest that veterans should not receive the kind of assistance that America provided its veterans after World War II, as these assistance policies laid the foundation for the American welfare state that they consider inappropriate for today’s developing countries. 9 The language of rights, citizenship, nationalism, and patriotism, evoked in past European and American policies for veterans after war, is notably absent from recent international agencies’ approach to “reintegration” programs for former combatants. The word “entitlement” is also studiously avoided. Instead, international agencies currently tend to fear that assistance to excombatants will create or reinforce a sense of distinct identity and fuel unreasonable expectations for further benefits. Thus, it is not only the new/old wars distinction that prevents international donors from looking to their own welfare systems and past treatment of war veterans as models for contemporary postwar aid. It is also the prevailing political ideology of international political economy that motivates current approaches to ex-combatants and postwar reconstruction. Another feature of international assistance and programs for DDR affecting the way these programs were designed and delivered in Mozambique is the tendency to apply models and blueprints at a national level, on the assumption that conflict is experienced in a relatively undifferentiated way across the nation. Policies are generally designed to be uniform, to avoid the dangers of bureaucratic discretion such as patronage and other potential sources of unfairness. This blueprint approach becomes problematic, however, when there is great diversity in a country’s socioeconomic landscape, as—I will argue—was clearly the case at the end of Mozambique’s civil war. THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF MOZAMBICAN VETERANS My research with former combatants and the communities in which they settled challenges the key assumptions on which postwar reconstruction policies in Mozambique were based. It also raises questions about scholarly analyses of the war and postwar social and political dynamics. First, I argue that the regionally and locally specific dynamics of war are key to understanding the context of reintegration for former combatants. These dynamics influence how civilians and combatants view the war and in turn perceive each other after war’s end; such narratives are crucial to sol-
diers’ postwar social position. Secondly, the view of “desocialized” combatants, severed from civilian society by their participation in war and steeped in a violent military world without moral rules or boundaries is extreme and inaccurate. Instead, the reality was that combatants were resocialized into their roles in the government and guerrilla armies and maintained or forged complex ties to civilian society, with great fluctuation according to local conflict specificities as well as combatants’ own initiatives to shape their engagement with the military machine and local populations. After the war ended, former combatants looked to build on their wartime experiences or to rebuild prewar social networks and pursue suspended life plans. Thirdly, postwar economic reintegration and the pursuit of livelihoods and life projects were closely bound up with social and political reintegration. Neoliberal and “new war” assumptions about the primacy of individualistic economic incentives are challenged by ex-combatants’ use of demobilization subsidies to fortify social networks and their developmentally oriented ambitions. In addition to citizens’ engagement with national political agendas, the importance of the politics of everyday life becomes apparent in war histories and postwar trajectories. Ex-combatants’ national and political opinions were equally neglected in analyses of the war and predictions for postwar socioeconomic processes. LOCAL WAR DYNAMICS AND POSTWAR REINTEGRATION Regional war dynamics were shaped by several features of Mozambique’s historical landscape. One such feature was the long-term repercussions of the early-twentieth-century shift in the center of political power from central and northern Mozambique to the south, with the transfer of the capital from Ilha de Moçambique to Lourenço Marques (modern-day Maputo). 10 This shift disempowered the old Afro-Portuguese elites of the central and northern coast, causing resentment against the newly empowered southerners of the Maputo region. 11 A second historically rooted regional power dynamic was the twentieth-century colonial division of the country into distinct economic zones in the south, center, and north. The South became a labor reserve for the mines of South Africa, which had a massive influence on the region’s socioeconomic development. The Center was to provide labor for plantations and settler farms. The North was to provide inputs for Portuguese industrialization, particularly cotton grown on smallholder farms. This tripartite economic division of Mozambique entrenched distinct patterns of development, which would result in different impacts of postindependence Frelimo policies
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
in each region. This, in turn, affected civilian populations’ relationship with the postindependence state and their susceptibility to Renamo’s antistate and/ or antisocialist messages. The dynamics of the war for independence from Portuguese colonialism also set in place regional distinctions that lingered after independence. For example, the Makonde people were perceived to be deeply involved with Frelimo, while the Makua people were often accused of being pro-colonial or insufficiently supportive of the nationalist guerrillas. 12 This translated into perceptions of postindependence regional (or ethnic) favoritism, particularly as guerrilla combatants took on positions in the new Frelimo government. International borders played a role in shaping regional civil war dynamics. Borders provided new economic opportunities for some, and civilians pursued distinct strategies of engagement with the warring parties according to these opportunities. 13 The borderlands were occasionally safer but at times more dangerous than interior regions, depending on the level of military control and relations between neighboring governments and the warring parties. Populations in border areas expressed marginalization from central state power or were torn between competing national and local identity forces. 14 The nationalist war in neighboring Rhodesia/Zimbabwe played a distinct role in Mozambique’s civil war, instigating and fueling the Renamo counterinsurgency movement. Some argue that the central/southern Manica birthplace of the Renamo movement remained its political heartland, which affected the level of civilian support for the guerrillas there and elsewhere. 15 A final but significant regional dynamic affecting the course of the civil war was the divide between rural and urban areas, and particularly between urbanized poles of economic and social development and their less favored hinterlands. Although agriculture was a primary focus of Frelimo’s postindependence economic strategy, its policies favored state agriculture and urban workers over smallholder farmers and rural economies. Farmers close to markets and transport routes benefited from their access to parallel markets, while those who were forced to sell their produce at official government prices saw real declines in their purchasing power and consequently their productivity. In addition to regional dynamics, postindependence policies and their direct and indirect effects resulted in the emergence of groups of winners and losers who aligned themselves accordingly during the war. For example, Frelimo’s policies against “obscurantist” tradition disadvantaged chiefly lineages and the existing gerontocracy. The local leadership they proposed to replace chieftaincies conversely empowered younger, more educated males (and some females). Frelimo also took a stand against churches, and religious groups were affected by the nationalization of church property. However,
previously powerful elites often managed to renegotiate their position in the postindependence political order, and not all members of these groups were affected or responded in the same way to the new policies. Frelimo’s villagization policy was perhaps the least popular of its postindependence modernization attempts. Villagization was initially intended to support agricultural collectivization and the provision of new social services such as health and education on a massive scale. However, collectivization was generally a failure and the new social services, while widely appreciated, were insufficient to compensate peasant farmers for their losses during the villagization process. The intensification of war gradually shifted the purpose of villagization toward surveillance, control, and political gamesmanship and increased its unpopularity in most parts of the country. 16 Finally, there were localized war dynamics that emerged on the basis of locally contingent histories. Geffray, Cahen, Englund, and Lubkemann uncovered instances of this kind, in which local power struggles diversely mapped onto the armed conflict in ways that were not easily predictable but that shaped the war’s course and raised new challenges for social and political peacemaking after the war’s end. 17 The actions of specific commanders or local leaders often played a role in distinguishing wartime localities. These war dynamics were all important for the way they shaped civilians’ and combatants’ interactions during war, and concomitantly their reactions to each other after the war ended. As in other wars, civilians’ interactions with and reactions to returning combatants are crucial factors affecting postwar settlement and social integration. 18 What this meant for Mozambican former combatants, in simplified terms, is that some were welcomed and even treated as returning heroes while others were ostracized or chose not to return to a home area, depending on how each community experienced the war and its relationship with the warring parties. Postwar settlement and integration processes for combatants proved to be more heterogeneous and varied than had been predicted and than blueprint national policies had allowed for. MILITARY RESOCIALIZATION My evidence suggests the “new war” ideas, media sensationalism, and government propaganda that portrayed combatants as brutalized and desocialized by their war experiences also need rethinking. Combatants were indeed resocialized into military life, during which process they engaged in but also resisted military rules and army morality in a variety of ways. The Renamo and Frelimo militaries were distinct in some ways but there were also similarities in military mobilization techniques and in the cultural scripts both leaders and soldiers drew on during war.
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
Renamo Combatants’ Wartime Experiences Depictions of Renamo combatants have portrayed their participation in the civil war as structured by the desire for and exercise of violent power and the pursuit of economic profit. Violence against civilians and atrocities were explained in two main ways. One explanation was that Renamo deployed techniques designed to break down combatants’ preexisting social mores prohibiting killing, which I refer to as the “brutalization hypothesis.” 19 The other explanation for excessive violence was that the military simply removed the external restraints that normally inhibit people from acting on their natural violent instincts. 20 Both arguments hold some truth, and there is no explanation that applies equally to all soldiers’ experiences. But both arguments are also deficient in important respects. Most importantly, neither approach coheres well with former combatants’ own portrayals of their experiences during war. Combatants’ accounts of their recruitment suggest that emphasis by government and media on reports of brutalization represented extremes that were exceptional and exemplary rather than routine. Renamo captured its recruits from their homes and fields and told families that they were being taken “to do a job,” drawing on the imagery of war as work that resonated with historical migrant labor paths and colonial soldiery. Training was tough and combatants reported having been unhappy with their situation and wishing to escape. It was not so much the physical suffering they emphasized, but that they had been taken away from families and normal life and forced to sacrifice their plans for the future. Their narratives were suffused with comments on the suspension of their life plans and the social dislocation of being far from family and community during their time in the military. They also lamented physical discomfort, constant fighting, and proximity to death. In addition to being away from family, former combatants discussed the difficulties of marrying and setting up their own household as being one of the most frustrating constraints of military life. They associated being unable to marry or to establish a family of their own with the conditions and restrictions of military service. Combatants therefore pursued their own strategies to recreate the missing bonds of kinship. Their relationships with civilians enabled them to address the sense of loss and suffering at being away from home, as well as providing them with material support such as food and protection. Seeking marital relations with local women was one of the key ways Renamo combatants attempted to create a semblance of civilian life. These relationships were against Renamo’s military rules, yet fully 57 percent of former Renamo combatants interviewed married during the war.
Combatants also took initiatives to achieve good relations with local authorities and civilians, again as part of their desire to establish normalcy, protect themselves from military and spiritual dangers, and pursue life plans outside the dictates of the military machine. This does not mean, of course, that soldiers always respected civilians or that their relationships were always mutually desired and beneficial. Civilians’ and ex-combatants’ accounts admit that military leaders and elders sometimes had to act to ensure soldiers respected civilians. At the same time, many soldiers recounted that they themselves initiated contact with locals. Given that soldiers relied on civilians for food and intelligence, it was logical that they should be treated carefully so that they would cooperate rather than flee. Church activities were another sphere in which Renamo combatants maintained ties with civilian life. Two-thirds of both Renamo combatants and civilian interviewees in Mossurize attended church during the war, and they shared a prevailing preference for the Zionist church. A higher proportion of Renamo combatants went to church during the war than before, suggesting that an extent of religious conversion occurred. This coheres with the Renamo leadership’s propaganda that aligned the movement with the spurned religious groups, although the picture is more nuanced than the propaganda suggested because religious orders were differently affected by interactions with the two warring sides. For many, though, attending church was an element of sustaining their prewar worldviews. When combatants attended church with civilians, it facilitated their interaction and helped to maintain soldiers within the moral realm of civilian authorities. In the postwar period, it is interesting to note that in accounts of their experiences in the war, former Renamo guerrillas portray themselves both as agents and victims, frequently simultaneously. They express their role as agents both through their political commitment to Renamo’s goals, which they portray as a key factor that motivated them in battles and retains their loyalty to the party after the war. Paradoxically, they also express agency through their resistance to military dictates. At the same time, they portray themselves as victims as part of their denial of responsibility for their actions during the war. They emphasize the suffering they endured during the war, and the majority describe their entry into the war as involuntary. Physical suffering is prominent, but former combatants highlighted even more the pain of being separated from family and the frustration of being prevented from pursuing their normal life plans. This dual position of victimhood and agency enables former combatants to adapt to circumstances as necessary. They can facilitate reintegration with civilians by empathizing with the experience of being victims and of conceiving of the war as a profound loss and suffering. They can appeal to humanitarian ideals in seeking compensation for their loss from government and the international community. But they can also stake claims on political
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
participation and attempt to gain power within local authority structures through their portrayal of agency, as I will discuss further below. The flexible nature of their postwar self-construction defies the simple, unitary assumptions of reintegration planners. 21 Frelimo Combatants’ Wartime Experiences The participation of men and women in the Frelimo government army has received much less attention than that of Renamo combatants. Although evidence began to emerge by the mid-1980s that the government’s army also committed violence against civilians and even atrocities, and that soldiers preyed on the population for the spoils of war, no one suggested that psychological brutalization was the explanation for this behavior, as was suggested for Renamo combatants. Yet at the end of the war, the two groups of combatants were tarnished with the same brush, considered to be desocialized and a threat to peace in the nation as well as in the home. The combatants’ and civilians’ narratives belie this homogeneous and one-dimensional picture; instead they demonstrate the complexity of war experiences and the active reinscription of meaning onto those experiences in the present. Perhaps surprisingly, Frelimo combatants’ narratives of the war emphasized compulsory recruitment and obligatory service even more strongly than Renamo’s. Although brutalization was not a common tactic, Frelimo did use questionable methods or resorted to forcible recruitment when young men increasingly attempted to dodge military service as the war dragged on. Furthermore, Frelimo combatants in this region were less persuaded of the war’s ideological justification when they went into the countryside and saw how the conflict was unfolding. They became conscious that Renamo combatants were not monsters or monkeys, as the leadership had portrayed, and were more like “brothers” than foreign aggressors. Those who had families in rural areas also learned that there was a degree of support for the movement among their relatives, and government propaganda began to ring hollow. In fact, Frelimo combatants found themselves in the position of the aggressor in rural areas, when they were required to participate in the forcible relocation of rural people into communal or protected villages. The views of rank-and-file Frelimo recruits coincided to a large extent with Renamo complaints about state policies of villagization and against traditional authorities. Many of them stated after the war that they did not know or understand the war’s objectives, which was likely a coded way of suggesting that they did not agree with them. Frelimo ex-combatants’ accounts suggest that relations with civilians were sharply delineated according to perceptions of political sympathy and that counterinsurgency provided a key context for their behavior. Frelimo and Renamo both sought to control and manipulate civilian populations, who
were perceived as markers of support for one side or the other. At the same time, rank-and-file Frelimo combatants retained a strong sense of legitimate versus illegitimate violence, even as they admitted that these lines were sometimes crossed during war. Nonetheless, they also reported establishing reciprocal relations with civilians. They sought emotional and material support among local people, particularly through marriage, in ways that clearly parallel the experiences of Renamo combatants. Nationally, almost half of the combatants demobilized by the United Nations in 1994 had a spouse and other dependents at the time of demobilization. 22 In my case study areas, the average was slightly higher, with 57 percent of Renamo combatants and 71 percent of Frelimo combatants married during the war. In sum, therefore, I argue that rather than desocialization, the term resocialization better describes the way combatants adapted to military life and strove to adjust and rework prewar moral frameworks to fit the structures and demands of wartime life. The concept of resocialization encompasses the idea that prewar moral frameworks coexist and interact with wartime doctrines and beliefs. Combatants’ wartime identity is therefore not entirely new or cut off from the prewar self, but incorporates that self and uses its building blocks. POSTWAR SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND ECONOMIC DYNAMICS Soldiers’ wartime resocialization contributed to defining their postwar attitudes and expectations. In turn, these influenced their decisions about where to settle, how to negotiate social relations with civilians, and what livelihood paths to pursue. Just as there were both shared and distinct elements of soldiers’ war experiences across the political divide in Mozambique, their postwar experiences also overlapped and diverged. Overall, though, their settlement decisions, homecoming rituals, and livelihood pursuits enmeshed them in civilian social networks and contributed toward anchoring them more firmly in civilian life. However, the legacy of their wartime political mobilization and their interpretation of their relationship with the state worked in the opposite direction, perpetuating frustration that led to associative action but also violent protest. The United Nations found that three-quarters of combatants asked to be transported to their home province on demobilization. By 1997, a minority of veterans had moved since demobilization, but of those who had moved, the primary motive was to be closer to family members. The United Nations did not disaggregate their data by warring faction, but my study suggested that there were some differences between Frelimo and Renamo ex-combatants’
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
postwar settlement patterns. A key difference in my study area was that a far greater proportion of Renamo ex-combatants returned to their home village and district than did Frelimo ex-combatants. In addition, 50 percent of Frelimo ex-combatants made the shift from a rural area of origin to an urban postwar settlement site. One explanation for Frelimo ex-combatants’ settlement patterns is that they were more likely to have married during the war and to have married local women, which enabled them to remain and establish civilian livelihoods without significant discontinuity from the war period. Secondly, former government soldiers’ position within Frelimo’s social world made it easier for them to settle in towns outside their area of origin than for their Renamo counterparts, because these towns were politically and socially identified with the government. 23 A third explanation was that many Frelimo ex-combatants’ families had moved or been moved into towns during the war. The ex-combatants therefore had to move to these areas if they wished to settle in close proximity to their families. Increased economic opportunity in urban areas played a role for both Frelimo and Renamo excombatants to urbanize, but it was a more minor factor than had been expected and was eclipsed by the family and social network factors. The majority of Renamo ex-combatants felt returning to their home villages was a natural decision because their social status, identities, and livelihoods were closely intertwined with family and kinship networks. But politics also played a role. It was more difficult for Renamo ex-combatants to obtain land and social standing in urban Frelimo-associated areas, and some who attempted to do so later returned to their former rural residence. Similarly, those combatants with origins in rural Renamo-supporting zones who were recruited into Frelimo’s army feared recriminations, which held some back from returning home. Rites and rituals were another aspect of postwar settlement processes. There was considerable difference of opinion at the local level over the role and requirements of ritual reintegration into families and communities. Former combatants, their families, and other community members generally agreed that reestablishing family connections involved fulfilling rituals that had been neglected during the war. The key rituals common to most returnees were funeral rites and celebrations to inform the household spirits of their return and to thank them for their protection during war. In addition, some family and community members felt that cleansing rites were necessary for all former combatants because of the dangers inherent in warscapes or because of the transgressive nature of their wartime activities. Demobilized soldiers, by contrast, argued that cleansing was only necessary for those who had morally transgressed during the war and not for those who simply behaved as “normal” soldiers. This divergence of opinion suggests that while healing the past is one rationale for cleansing and reintegration rituals, they
are also “expressions of struggle over the locus of ritual and secular authority in the present, and of contestation of social rules, meanings, and interpretations of both past and present.” 24 Despite a degree of disagreement regarding ritual requirements, ex-combatants and civilians generally agreed that putting the spiritual world into equilibrium after wartime disruption was achievable, with a few notable exceptions. Negotiations to reenter networks of family reciprocity appeared somewhat more complex. Family expectations for the return of soldiers were based on previous experiences with soldiers of the Portuguese colonial army, who received salary and pension payments, and also on the experience of labor migrants, who brought or sent home gifts and money for family members. Ex-combatants returning after the civil war had much less booty to redistribute and received bimonthly demobilization subsidies rather than a lump sum that would enable even symbolic largesse. Ex-combatants feared that failure to show such generosity was the source of witchcraft. This may be an expression of increased individualism as a result of participation in the war, but family networks of reciprocity were still clearly central to most former combatants, particularly those from Renamo, in part because of their reliance on inheritance to obtain the land that formed the basis of their agricultural livelihoods. Two-thirds of former combatants did spend some or all of their demobilization pay on family, although in many cases this was simply to enable their family to subsist during the transition period rather than to invest or to allow them to achieve higher social status through purchasing consumer goods. The basis of most livelihoods was agricultural production for subsistence and surplus for marketing, with a variety of income generation strategies to supplement household production. Former combatants’ livelihoods have depended upon gaining access to land, working that land using household and/ or hired labor, and marketing their produce. Two-thirds of Frelimo ex-combatants and three-quarters of Renamo ex-combatants also participated in petty commodity trade, primarily locally but occasionally over longer distances. Renamo ex-combatants overwhelmingly gained access to agricultural land through family inheritance, having returned to their home communities. Frelimo ex-combatants primarily gained access to land through family or through local chiefly authorities, with a smaller proportion securing access through former military colleagues or a spouse’s family. Few ex-combatants complained of trouble accessing land, but many were concerned about meeting their need for agricultural labor and access to inputs to increase production. In rural areas, a key additional complaint was the difficulty of marketing agricultural produce. Access to agricultural labor was one area where former combatants were differentiated from civilians, and Renamo ex-combatants from their Frelimo counterparts. Former combatants’ delay in getting married and having chil-
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
dren meant that they were less able to call on dependents for labor power; Renamo combatants experienced this lag to a greater extent than Frelimo, as government army veterans had more commonly married and had children earlier than the guerrillas. Hence former combatants’ laments about not being able to marry and set up their households during the war were rooted not only in their sense of status, ideals of masculinity, and desire for social recognition as adults, but were also bound up with the advancement of livelihoods. Combatants’ challenges surrounding marriage were not simply a result of being busy with military life. Obtaining a spouse and regularizing the relationship required considerable negotiation. As noted above, almost twothirds of combatants entered into a form of conjugal relationship during the war. However, most had not yet fulfilled expected marriage rites that would allow partners to claim the rights conferred upon socially legitimate unions. Marriage rites involve monetary and in-kind payments as well as social acceptance. Only 14 percent of Frelimo and 6 percent of Renamo veterans who married during the war paid bridewealth at the time. If they wanted to formalize the unions they had established during the war or to enter into a marital union for the first time in the postwar period, they needed to gain the spouse and family’s consent and convince the wider community that the union was legitimate. Family members on both sides need to accept the union. Paying bridewealth is also a lengthy and iterative process, paid in installments according to how the marriage is perceived to be progressing and how much negotiation each family chooses to engage in. Bridewealth was a stumbling block for many of the veterans who had not yet married. Former combatants suggested that bridewealth payments were high in relation to their wages, because expectations were set on the basis of migrant labor rates. Nonetheless, most were able to satisfy their desires in relation to achieving marriage and setting up their families and households. However, their expectations for employment and other income generation opportunities were less compatible with available options. Veterans’ desire for formal salaried employment was rooted in their ideas about masculine identity and the status of different occupations. But regular, salaried job opportunities were few. Manual labor, such as road work, was more readily available, but former combatants tended to avoid it, for two main reasons. Many felt exhausted by war service and sought work that would allow them to rest after the difficult years in war. War weariness shaded imperceptibly into disability and incapacity for physically demanding work. Many more soldiers were injured during the war than were formally recognized as disabled or than were receiving disability pensions. Overall, former combatants’ economic lives were not markedly different from the norm in the communities in which they settled (apart from a few isolated cases, such as groups of ex-combatants dominating the charcoal
trade in the Beira corridor area or in peri-urban Maputo). 25 However, demobilized soldiers generally felt themselves to be at a disadvantage compared with civilians in several respects in both urban and rural areas. Former combatants were more affected by the disruption of migrant labor patterns during the war, because civilians who fled were often able to continue to pursue offfarm labor opportunities in Zimbabwe and South Africa. When ex-combatants returned from the war, therefore, they saw those years as missed opportunities for accumulating and investing in their livelihood plans. Many felt it was too late to begin a migration course by the time they returned from war, as they were too old, physically unfit, or unable to leave their dependents—in addition to the fact that migrant labor opportunities had decreased steadily over the years since independence. For former Frelimo combatants, the interruption of educational progress or civilian careers by war service also contributed to their sense of wartime disadvantage. Thus, although social and economic institutions drew most veterans into societal structures that depended upon security and social stability, the disjuncture between expectations and postwar realities led to political dynamics that appeared to be working counter to the forces for sustained peace. That political mobilization was more significant in the war than had been portrayed or expected by scholars and planners also played into veterans’ postwar sense of political grievance. The key to combatants’ postwar political stance was their interpretation of war service as creating a special relationship with political leaders and a special insight into national politics. Combatants of both sides considered that they completed their army service as a son would do his duty for his father. It was obligatory service to meet the father’s objectives in return for the father’s care and favor. This metaphor of the father-son relationship is anchored in Mozambique’s paternalist social order, a feature that appears to be shared across many other African societies. 26 Renamo combatants considered the movement’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, as their father figure during the war. After the war and the first national elections, they used the argument that they were fighting for democracy, in order to transfer the father-son obligation from Dhlakama to Joaquim Chissano, the Frelimo government leader. Dhlakama encouraged and supported this transferral of familial duty, as a way to avoid responsibility for compensating his soldiers after losing the presidential election. For Frelimo soldiers, it was more straightforward to claim that they had done their duty by the government and were now owed compensation or reward. They used the same argument as Renamo ex-combatants, that their service was obligatory and against their will but was completed in response to the demands of their father, the head of government. For many, their tenure in the army lasted much longer than the official obligatory military service period of two years, which heightened their feeling that they were owed compensation. These expectations for future reward
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
had also been fueled by promises made during the war, as part of political mobilization tactics, as a morale booster, or as rumors that were stoked or inflated by soldiers themselves. Demands that the political leaders should fulfill their side of the bargain were not directed only at achieving monetary compensation. Former combatants were hoping for a greater role in the nation’s political scene and many were hoping to see political changes for which they felt they had been fighting. Ex-combatants argued that political mobilization and participation in the war gave them privileged insights into national politics. While many excombatants centered their demands around pensions, they were also keen to see broader developmental benefits such as educational opportunities and socioeconomic infrastructure in their communities. The pension issue was a dividing force between former Frelimo and Renamo combatants. The former were theoretically entitled to a pension after a certain number of years of service, while the latter were entitled only to a disability pension, and only if their disability was judged to meet the criteria set out in the pension program. In practice, many former Frelimo combatants felt aggrieved by government pension policy; it took a long time for pension claims to be processed, and those who had been recruited under age eighteen often found they were not entitled to a pension because their years of service prior to turning eighteen were not counted. Former Renamo combatants were most aggrieved, however, that they had not been receiving a salary during the war and on average spent more years in the army than their Frelimo counterparts but were still not entitled to a pension. The government’s justification was a further insult, as Renamo veterans were told that “the Executive cannot be obliged to support the unplanned costs of promises made by others. The task of each person is to reconstruct, and the government will not pay he who did not work, or whose job was the war, which instead of bringing good, provoked destruction and disgrace.” 27 To express their various grievances, veterans followed several paths. Those who were politically active and who were given the opportunity to become involved took positions in the demobilized soldiers’ association, AMODEG, and tried to use this as a forum for lobbying the government to recognize, compensate, and elevate former combatants to the status they felt they deserved. Others expressed their frustration with existing political channels through rioting and violent disturbances, particularly in 2000 after the second national elections, when Renamo claimed electoral fraud and called for boycotts and protests.
CONCLUSION The evidence of my research suggests that the premises on which postwar analysis and DDR policies were based in Mozambique require serious rethinking in at least three key ways. Rather than sweeping generalizations about combatant brutalization and desocialization, analysis needs to capture the diversity of war experiences. Better understanding of the ways combatant-civilian relations varied according to regional patterns and localized histories feeds into a more accurate vision of veteran-civilian postwar relations. The most complicated situations were those in which veterans attempted to return or newly settle in areas where relations with civilians were hostile and tense. Reconstruction policies need to be flexible so as to support localized processes surrounding reintegration, and adapt their programs accordingly. Evidence about the importance of the politics of everyday life during the war and in the postwar period suggests that analysis needs to rehumanize veterans in order to understand their expectations and address the foundations of their grievances. This challenges and questions the exoticization of contemporary civil wars and their participants—particularly in Africa—by the media that is also buttressed by scholarly research such as elements of the “new war” paradigm. Combatants and civilians actively shaped the terms of their interaction during the war and just as actively (re)molded the meaning of their relationships in the postwar period. They did so in order to recreate normalcy in wartime, and in ways that would facilitate social life in peacetime—although this process was by no means free of tension, contradiction, and contestation. New war theory draws a solid line between past and present conflicts, and between the West and the rest, which seems to have been used—along with prevailing neoliberal arguments—to justify minimalist support for postwar reconstruction. Contemporary DDR programs do not consider evidence and experience from Western countries, in which policies for veterans were framed as part of the welfare state model and as a result often stimulated veterans to develop a stronger sense of citizenship and civic participation. Mozambican veterans have demonstrated the potential for a similarly strengthened sense of citizenship, but their attempts to participate in civic politics have been foiled by the highly centralized political system and politicized control of local authority structures as well as the controlled and patronage-focused nature of civil society. Government’s differential treatment of Frelimo and Renamo veterans has also driven a wedge between the two sides at a time when many were attempting to reconcile and overcome political tensions, particularly through the national veterans’ association, which integrates former combatants of both sides.
The Role of Ex-Combatants in Postwar Mozambique
As a result, extralegal channels have occasionally been taken to express grievances and political protest. Although this appears to be exceptional and decreasing, the experience of other countries suggests that the repercussions of postwar settlements can be felt many years after the formal end of conflict. A recent conflict assessment of Mozambique highlighted the importance of regional socioeconomic inequality, suggesting that some of the fundamental structures of Mozambican society that contributed to the course of the conflict remain problematic. 28 These are some of the key factors to consider when drawing lessons from the Mozambican postwar reconstruction experience, in which apparent short-term success masks a number of worrying dynamics that continue to develop beneath the surface. NOTES 1. Reports of this fieldwork include: Chris Dolan and Jessica Schafer, The Reintegration of Demobilised Soldiers in Mozambique: Manica and Zambézia Provinces (Oxford: Refugee Studies Centre, 1997) and João Paulo Borges Coelho, The Reintegration of Demobilised Soldiers in Maputo (Oxford: Refugee Studies Centre, 1997). 2. Writers such as John Saul and Paul Fauvet, for example, expressed relatively unquestioning support for the Frelimo project. 3. For example, Joseph Hanlon, Mozambique: The Revolution Under Fire (London: Zed, 1984). 4. Christian Geffray and Mogens Pedersen, “Nampula en Guerre,” Politique Africaine 29 (1988): 18–40; Christian Geffray, La Cause des Armes au Mozambique: Anthropologie d’une Guerre Civile (Paris: Karthala, 1990). 5. Gervase Clarence-Smith, “The Roots of the Mozambican Counter-Revolution,” Southern African Review of Books (April/May 1989): 7–10. 6. Statements made, respectively, by Graham Harrison, “Mozambique: An Unsustainable Democracy,” Review of African Political Economy 61 (1994): 429–40, 431; Michelle Barron, “When the Soldiers Come Home: A Gender Analysis of the Reintegration of Demobilized Soldiers, Mozambique 1994–1996” (MA thesis, University of East Anglia, 1996), 15. 7. Alex Vines, Renamo: Terrorism in Mozambique (London: James Currey; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 132. 8. Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999). 9. Michael J. Hogan, The Marshall Plan: America, Britain and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947–1952 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge: Bellknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992). 10. Michel Cahen, Les Bandits: Un Historien au Mozambique (Paris: Publications du Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, 2002). 11. Malyn Newitt, Portugal in Africa: The Last One Hundred Years (London: C. Hurst and Co., 1981) and A History of Mozambique (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). 12. Thomas Henriksen, Revolution and Counter-Revolution (London: Greenwood Press, 1983). 13. JoAnn McGregor, “Violence and Social Change in a Border Economy: War in the Maputo Hinterland, 1984–1992,” Journal of Southern African Studies 24 (1998): 37–60. 14. Harri Englund, From War to Peace on the Mozambique-Malawi Borderland (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2002).
15. Otto Roesch, “Renamo and the Peasantry in Southern Mozambique: A View from Gaza Province,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 26 (March 1992): 462–84. 16. João Paulo Borges Coelho, “State Resettlement Policies in Post-Colonial Rural Mozambique: The Impact of the Communal Village Programme on Tete Province, 1977–1982,” Journal of Southern African Studies 24 (1998); Bridget O’Laughlin, “Through a Divided Glass: Dualism, Class and the Agrarian Question in Mozambique,” Journal of Peasant Studies 23 (1996): 1–39. 17. Geffray, La Cause des Armes; Michel Cahen, Mozambique, la Révolution Implosée. Études sur Douze Années d’Indépendance (1975–1987) (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1987); Englund, From War to Peace; Stephen Lubkemann, “Situating Wartime Migration in Mozambique: Gendered Social Struggle and the Transnationalization of Polygyny” (PhD dissertation, Brown University, 2000). 18. Joanna Bourke, An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare (London: Basic Books, 2000); Macartan Humphreys and Jeremy Weinstein, “Demobilization and Reintegration,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 51 (2007): 531–57. 19. This is the view put forward by Ken Wilson, Alcinda Honwana, Carolyn Nordstrom, and Alex Vines in their respective works: Ken Wilson, “Cults of Violence and Counter-Violence in Mozambique,” Journal of Southern African Studies 18 (1992): 527–82. Alcinda Honwana, Child Soldiers in Africa (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). Carolyn Nordstrom, A Different Kind of War Story (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). Vines, Renamo. 20. This is Geffray’s view, as in La Cause des Armes. 21. Note, though, that other social actors also play a role in defining and setting limits to postwar reinscriptions of combatants’ wartime experiences and identities. This is discussed in later sections of the paper. 22. Ton Pardoel, “Demobilization in Mozambique: Socio-Economic Profile of the Group of 92,881 Demobilized Soldiers as per the End of the Demobilization Program on 30/11/94,” (Maputo: United Nations Development Programme Support Scheme, 1996). 23. This does not imply that the towns were unanimously aligned with Frelimo in electoral terms. In fact, although (in 1994) the highest proportion of Frelimo votes in the district was in the district capital and administrative centers, even there fewer than half the voters favored Frelimo. 24. See discussion in Jessica Schafer, Soldiers at Peace: Veterans and Society after the Civil War in Mozambique (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 103–9. 25. Antonio Serra, “Legitimacy of Local Institutions for Natural Resource Management in Manica, Mozambique,” (MA dissertation, University of Sussex, 2001); JoAnn McGregor, “Violence and Social Change.” 26. Michael Schatzberg, Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa: Father, Family, Food (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001). 27. “Government Will Not Take Responsibility for Renamo’s Promises,” Notícias, April 11, 1996. 28. Tony Vaux et al., “Strategic Conflict Assessment in Mozambique” (London: Department for International Development, 2006).
Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda Implications for Peacebuilding Elisabeth King
Intrastate wars and genocides result in devastating losses and leave deep and lasting scars on those who survive. 1 Making space for civilians to share their experiences of violence and to have them publicly acknowledged—especially by their own governments—can be important parts of (re)knitting the social fabric. This chapter focuses on the experiences of ordinary Rwandans during and after their country’s civil war and genocide. It is centered on excerpts from a series of field interviews and highlights Rwandans’ memories in their own words. This chapter contrasts this cross-section of civilian narratives with the official memories of violence that the national government disseminates through memorials and schools. The central argument is that, in order to legitimate its rule, the Rwandan government selectively highlights some memories of violence and represses others, and that this is likely to hinder sustainable peace. Wars and genocides result in devastating losses and lasting scars, and survivors must often continue to reside where they experienced state-perpetrated violence, living alongside former enemies. In these conditions, allowing civilians to share their experiences of violence and having those experiences publicly acknowledged—especially by their own governments—can be essential to healing. Unacknowledged wounds can present an obstacle to peacebuilding in both present and future generations. Some key locations for state acknowledgment of experiences of violence include memorials, museums, and narratives in textbooks. Yet these locations are inadequately scrutinized and are often considered to be part of the 57
“soft cultural sphere” on the outskirts of power and politics. In contrast, I argue that selecting which civilian memories of violence to include and which to exclude in these sites is a political process that has important implications for “hard” politics—for the success of peacebuilding and future security. The first part of this chapter briefly reviews the concept of acknowledgment and examines its importance from the perspectives of academic literature, international organizations, and survivors. The second part turns to Rwanda, first elaborating on research methods, then exploring five types of civilian memories of violence, explaining how and why some are acknowledged, while others are left out. The third part elaborates on the implications for reconciliation, justice, and democracy. ACKNOWLEDGING CIVILIAN MEMORIES OF VIOLENCE Acknowledgment—meaning recognizing, admitting, or owning something and accepting the authority of the claims of others—is a key concept in the study and practice of post-conflict peacebuilding and conflict prevention. 2 Acknowledgment in the aftermath of violent conflict includes civilians’ experiences, as well as perpetrators’ accountability for crimes. This chapter focuses primarily on the former, but the two overlap. It also focuses on official, national acknowledgment, but unofficial local and interpersonal processes of acknowledgment, as well as international acknowledgment, are also important. Acknowledgment is widely considered a necessary part of post-violence societal recovery. In the peacebuilding literature, acknowledgment is argued to be important for reconciliation and the restoration of relationships, for transitional justice, and for building open, inclusive, and legitimate political institutions. 3 In cases of genocide in particular, acknowledgment is also crucial to counteract the denial that often follows. 4 The importance of acknowledgment is also commonly recognized by international organizations. United Nations standards “call attention to the duty to remember.” The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted by the General Assembly, include “commemorations and tributes to the victims” among the reparation duties of states, as well as a “public apology including acknowledgment of the facts and acceptance of responsibility.” 5 This duty to remember was embraced in both the South African and Sierra Leonean Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, wherein recommendations included not only individual reparations but community and
Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda
symbolic measures such as the establishment of memorials and commemoration ceremonies. 6 Most importantly, acknowledgment is often important to victims. A survey of survivors of violence in eleven countries as different as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kosovo, and Sudan found that acknowledging experiences through memorialization was considered a key form of state reparation for violence. 7 A central part of acknowledgment is that victims be satisfied with the response they receive. 8 Nonetheless, a desire for acknowledgment may vary from case to case, across time, and from individual to individual. Hayner writes that “in Mozambique the accepted, though largely unstated, belief was ‘the less we dwell on the past, the more likely reconciliation will be.’” 9 Hayner recalls “a palpable sense in Mozambique that if you talked about the war, it might come back.” 10 Shaw argues that reconciliation in Sierra Leone may also be served by silence. She writes that in northern Sierra Leone in particular, where social forgetting stands at the heart of established processes of reintegration and healing for child and adult ex-combatants, “speaking of the war in public often undermines these processes, and many believe it encourages violence.” 11 There is no cookie-cutter model for post-conflict peacebuilding, and moreover, no standard way to best acknowledge civilian memories of violence. What may be appropriate in one case may not fit another. Yet, if one accepts the recurrent importance of acknowledging civilians’ memories of violence, an important question arises: Whose stories to tell? While ours has been called “the era of testimony,” 12 governments make unequal space for different memories of violence. Some memorials, for example, have been criticized for including too much; many Peruvians protested the “Eye That Cries” memorial for including the names of forty-one Shining Path guerillas massacred in a prison in 1994. 13 Not enough inclusion can also be problematic; Robben Island, the prime site of remembrance in post-apartheid South Africa, is criticized for its exclusion of the memories of victims and activists not associated with the current government, the African National Congress. 14 The same types of controversies arise in regards to textbooks. In postwar Bosnia, textbooks are now published in Croat, Serb, and Bosniak versions, and include and exclude vastly different narratives. 15 Minow suggests that the challenge for peacebuilding is “to seek a route between too much memory and too much forgetting.” 16 In exploring this route, this chapter challenges collective memory as a singular concept.
RESEARCH METHODS IN RWANDA This chapter draws on fieldwork conducted in Rwanda in 2006 to investigate the complex relationship between formal schooling on one hand and violent conflict and peacebuilding on the other. The core fieldwork consisted of approximately seventy one-on-one open-ended interviews with Rwandans. While not directly the topic of research, many Rwandans wanted to share their memories of violence. These included narratives that would be publicly acceptable and many that would not. This chapter recounts relatively long excerpts of several stories in an effort to both learn from, and to humbly acknowledge, these important memories. 17 Those who experience violence are often considered “the most authentic bearers of truth about the past.” 18 At the same time, interviewees have a number of reasons to only selectively tell their stories, and testimonies are filtered through historical memory. 19 As Kalyvas notes, “there is compelling evidence that eyewitnesses of criminal (and other) events are systematically wrong about substantial parts of the events they are called to describe.” 20 The stories recounted below derive from unverified individual testimony, but the validity of all of these types of narratives has been substantiated by other research and evidence. This chapter contrasts various civilian memories of violence with the narratives portrayed at the Kigali Memorial Centre (Gisozi), 21 Rwanda’s main genocide memorial, and in the only existing primary school civics and social studies textbooks. 22 Museums are particularly dense sites of memory, where acknowledgment and the lack thereof come head to head. They are “a major area, in which politics, sensibilities, and folklore mingle.” 23 The Kigali Memorial Centre is particularly important in Rwanda, serving as the main national memorial and the sole memorial with explicit narration. 24 The Memorial Centre plans to add a traveling component with the aim that 90 percent of the Rwandan population is exposed to its messages. 25 The Gisozi memorial has been subject to at least two recent grenade attacks, evidence of the symbolic significance and contention associated with this site. 26 School textbooks are also particularly important as they portray the “commonplaces of historical thinking of a certain place and time.” 27 In Rwanda, there has been a moratorium on teaching history since the genocide. The civics and social studies texts thus represent the state of teaching at this time and foreshadow how further curriculum is likely to develop.
Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda
CIVILIAN MEMORIES OF VIOLENCE VERSUS NATIONAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT IN RWANDA Rwanda descended into civil war in 1990 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a group of mostly Tutsi exiles who had fled Rwanda to Uganda in 1959, began an armed invasion against the Hutu government of Rwanda. While a peace and power-sharing agreement was reached in Arusha in 1993, the accord did not hold. In April 1994, genocide began, ending only three months later with approximately 800,000 Rwandans dead, including at least 500,000 Tutsi. 28 The targets were civilians, as were more than 90 percent of casualties. 29 A 1996 report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Rwanda estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 Rwandan women and girls had been raped. 30 Countless others, Tutsi and Hutu, male and female, young and old, were tortured or maimed before being left for dead by their fellow, particularly Hutu, Rwandans. Indeed, a significant proportion of the population participated in the killing. The military victory of the RPF brought the genocide to an end and the RPF remains the government of Rwanda today. While this chapter refers to Hutu and Tutsi throughout, public ethnic identification is outlawed in post-genocide Rwanda, except in certain contexts. Ethnicity remains, nonetheless, a salient category for many Rwandans. At the same time, social differentiation is much more complex than it often appears, and this chapter aims to highlight the variety of experiences within and across Hutu and Tutsi groups during and after violence in Rwanda. The narratives below are thus categorized by ethnic group and level of national recognition, but this is an oversimplification. Other markers, such as class and region of provenance, are also important to one’s position in Rwandan society. Moreover, the categories are neither static, nor black-and-white. During the genocide, for example, the same Rwandans often played different roles concomitantly; some Hutu, for instance, participated in killing, yet saved the lives of Tutsi close to them. 31 Therefore, while five main genres of civilian memories of violence are discussed below—recognized Tutsi memories, somewhat recognized Hutu memories, unrecognized Hutu memories, unrecognized Tutsi memories, and unrecognized memories of ethnically mixed Rwandans—these categories are neither watertight nor exhaustive. Recognized Tutsi Memories The first type of narrative that emerged during interviews involves memories from Tutsi survivors of genocide. When asked about his family’s experience with genocide, one Tutsi youth recounted:
Elisabeth King So, it happened [the genocide] when my mother, my little brother, and my little sister—who was still in my mother’s stomach, she wasn’t born yet—were there [his father was in Burundi]. So, in the end, my mother and I were here in Rwanda and we tried to escape to [hide in] the wells. The first time, someone tried to intervene but was told to do his job [elsewhere], to machete some, and so he turned away. And the second time too, it was by God, they were going to throw water in and someone came, and told them that they had a job to do, and they left again. So, we left that area where we lived, my mother and I. She carried my little brother on her back, and me, she took my hand, and we left for [name removed]. So there was a place that people were being taken, but instead of staying there where we were supposed to stay, there where they were massacring a lot, a multitude of people, we continued. We arrived in a place, in another region, and it is there that we were able to escape. In fact, you know diapers, that you put on a child to leave his waste? We hid two potatoes in there, sweet potatoes, so that we could survive. Me, my mother, and my little brother, we ate for a week. And then, we had a brother, my uncle, who was a soldier of the saviors. So, since we had a brother who was a soldier for the RPF, and he saw that we were there, he took us and put us in a little security. We spent one month, two months, then when the war was over we returned [home]. But, in the meantime, while we weren’t there, my mother’s family, just about everyone was kccchhh [makes the sound and actions of getting chopped in the neck with a machete]. In the end, my mother’s family . . . no one was left. Just the co-wife. Yup, the co-wife was left, and that’s our family. And that’s our experience of the genocide. I guess I was traumatized, yes, seeing someone machete in front of you. I was a little traumatized. Once, someone was shot right in front of me when I was there. They killed him. I was there. They [the killer] had to walk in front of me and I felt something rise inside me. My mother wasn’t near me; I don’t know where she was hiding. So I said to myself, “Is it true that someone can lose their head like that?” I was shocked. 32
At the Kigali Memorial Centre one encounters similar stories. There are panels, stills, and clips dedicated to survivors’ narratives. The memorial website also includes ten survivors’ testimonies with the intention to expand to a larger database. Each person’s story is heart-wrenching and defies description. The memories, however, share some commonalities. Each tells of horrific specifics of violence, such as Anne-Marie Bucyana, whose husband and child were killed while she was raped, or Emmanuel Mugenzira, who was shot in the head and left for dead like the rest of his family. They talk of fleeing to churches, United Nations camps, and into the mountains. They also share the emotional trauma of life in post-genocide Rwanda. For example, as Dancilla Nyirabazungu recounts, “I clean, I garden, I separate the clothes from the bones left on the church floor.” 33 Half of the narratives refer to the
Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda
causes of genocide being grounded in dehumanization and discrimination against Tutsi by the previous regime. All of the testimonies explicitly or implicitly suggest a Tutsi voice. 34 The type of narrative recounted by the teenage boy above fits in with the historical panels at Kigali Memorial Centre, with primary school textbooks, and with the RPF’s version of history. The panels at Gisozi, for example, present precolonial Rwanda as a golden age: “This has been our home for centuries. We are one people. We speak one language. We have one history.” 35 It blames divisions between Rwandans on the colonial powers: “We have lived in peace for many centuries, but now the divide between us had begun.” The panels explain that when Rwanda gained independence it “became a highly centralized, repressive state with a single party system” wherein “the regime was characterized by the persecution and ethnic cleansing of Tutsi.” The Gisozi narrative explains that the “Path to a ‘Final Solution’” began long before the 1994 genocide when “over 700,000 Tutsis were exiled from our country between 1959 [and] 1973” and explains that “genocide was rehearsed.” The panels note that “Rwandan Tutsis had been fleeing for more than a generation.” They report that when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down, “genocide was instant,” “it was genocide from the first day,” and that “no Tutsi was exempt” since “the death lists had been pre-prepared in advance.” It explains that “any Tutsi who tried to pass [a roadblock] was humiliated, beaten, mutilated, murdered, raped and dumped by the roadside.” With panels that explain the specifics of torture, the Kigali Memorial Centre notes that “Rwanda had turned into a nation of brutal, sadistic merciless killers and of innocent victims, overnight.” While decrying the failure of an international response, the panels note that the RPF moved forward “in an attempt to gain control and to stop the genocide.” The narrative presented in the civics and social studies textbooks is very similar. 36 Narratives of Tutsi genocide survivors that support the RPF’s policies and views of history are the most prominent genre of narrative in post-genocide Rwanda. It is crucially important that these stories be told. Having a record of survivors’ testimonies helps avoid potential negation of the genocide. 37 Victims and survivors deserve respect and acknowledgment. There are also significant potential benefits of giving and hearing testimonies of violence. The process of telling one’s story and having it acknowledged through listening and empathy can contribute to healing. 38 Indeed, as argued above, recognizing and commemorating victims and crimes can be crucial steps in reconciliation and part of a transitional justice process. Learning about the experiences, as well as the causes and consequences of genocide, may also be important for its future prevention. 39 At the same time, many survivors remain unsatisfied with the space that they are granted for their memories and the political uses to which they are being put. As Doughty reports, “many survivors feel that repatriated refugees
[including much of the government] came in late, know nothing of genocide, and are reaping more benefits of Rwanda’s post-genocide reconstruction” than they are. 40 The RPF is instrumentalizing these memories of violence and using the genocide as a political tool. 41 It bases its legitimacy at home and abroad on having stopped the genocide and thus having the moral high ground over the international community, as well as other Rwandans. Moreover, by emphasizing the long-term persecution of Tutsi dating to 1959, the government consolidates Tutsi that were in and outside of Rwanda at the time of the genocide into a single “survivor” group. Therefore, in addition to the importance of these narratives for acknowledgment and peacebuilding, promulgating Tutsi survivors’ memories is central to the government’s maintenance of power. Somewhat Recognized Hutu Memories Second, there is also a public place for the narratives of Rwandans who helped hide those trying to escape genocide. One former Rwandan army soldier, a Hutu, shared his story: During the war, as I was a soldier, I hid many people, Tutsis that were threatened. As a soldier, I was strong, I commanded, I hid many people. Instead of killing them, or stealing their money, I kept their money and I hid them in my home. . . . After the fall of Kigali, I left Kigali and I went outside of the country. I came back here in 2002. When I arrived, it was them that welcomed me and gave me everything. Now I am brother and sister with them. So it is for this reason that I wanted to tell you this story. Now, I can tell my children, or my brothers, that killing isn’t good, that using an opportunity to do bad is not good. If we write stories that during the war, instead of killing people, people also hid others like this, and that after the war, one is proud to be with the Tutsis that he hid, if we teach this history that shows reality and the truth, the path created for our children will produce something [better.] 42
At the Kigali Genocide Centre, there are panels dedicated to this genre of civilian memories under the heading of “Resistance to Genocide.” The panels note that “resistance took many forms. The RPF led the political and armed resistance to genocide. Members of moderate wings of different political parties made passionate calls for resistance. Some of the victims organized resistance to the killings. A number of Hutus and others hid targeted victims sometimes at the risk of their own lives.” 43 After some short excerpts on resistance by Tutsi survivors in specific locations, the panels turn to feature six named rescuers, including short testimonies, mostly from survivors rather than rescuers themselves. The ethnicity of the rescuers is never explicit, although the Tutsi identity of the victims is often mentioned. Four of the ten survivor stories presented on the Gisozi memorial website, and dis-
Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda
cussed above, refer to people who helped them hide and escape. Nonetheless, the museum also features a videotaped testimonial where a survivor suggests that only 5 percent of the Hutu population was innocent. 44 Primary civic education textbooks mention rescuers, this time specifying Hutu, but only briefly: “A Hutu deemed a traitor—for having hidden one or several Tutsi—was forced by the killers to kill them himself. When he did not do so, he was killed along with the members of his family.” 45 Students recounted that they also learn about Agathe Uwiligiyimana, the former moderate Hutu prime minister, who is celebrated on National Heroes Day. Uwiligiyimana, who would likely have issued a radio call for calm the morning after Habyarimana’s plane was shot down, was among the first killed during the genocide. 46 While there is space in Rwanda for stories that recognize the positive role of some Rwandans, and particularly Hutu rescuers, during the genocide, this already narrow space is further narrowing. For example, there has been great controversy surrounding the actions and statements of Paul Rusesabagina, the Hutu temporary manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines, credited with saving up to thousands of lives during the genocide (and best known as the basis for the main character of the movie Hotel Rwanda). The Rwandan government and newspapers have charged him with having “a self-promotion agenda while distorting Rwanda’s history and spreading negative propaganda against the current government” and with advancing “outrageous assertions and dirty campaigns.” 47 The government has also accused Rusesabagina of denying genocide. Acts of Hutu “heroism” are also frequently received with suspicion at local courts, called gacaca. 48 The former soldier cited above felt that more stories like his needed to be shared, a sentiment echoed by other interviewees. He emphasized that the roles of different groups in Rwanda’s genocide are more nuanced than the government usually makes them appear. Indeed, the dominant narrative often polarizes Tutsi-Hutu as survivor-perpetrator. The panel at Gisozi, mentioned above, notes “Rwanda had turned into a nation of brutal, sadistic merciless killers and of innocent victims, overnight,” providing only two role options. Unrecognized Hutu Memories Third, while there is space, however limited, for Hutu rescuers of the genocide and mention of “Hutu moderates” killed during the genocide (by insinuation by other Hutu), there is no public space in Rwanda for Hutu memories of violence perpetrated by the RPF. Indeed, saying that there are “unpunished RPF crimes” is equated with negation of genocide and may classify as the punishable offense of “genocide ideology.” 49
Yet reports indicate that the RPF committed widespread killings during the civil war (1990–1993) and during the genocide. Since 1994, the RPF engaged in killing and other violations of human rights in two wars in the Congo (1996–1997, 1998–2003), as well as in ongoing operations and in massacres in Rwanda, such as at the Kibeho camp for the internally displaced in April 1995. 50 In response to a question about her family’s losses to violence, a female Hutu youth replied, Me? My father, my family. Except my grandmother and my older sister that were not killed in the war. This was when the RPF came by here. Yes. Now we have no means to continue without my father. We are no longer valued. 51
Witness also this representative statement from an elderly Hutu woman from Northern Rwanda: The other history that we have to teach [besides the government version disseminated at memorials, ingando re-education camps, and schools]. For example, I lost three quarters of my family during the war. There’s my mother who died during the war. There is my daughter, her child that died. I say in my house there was my father who died, there was my little sister, my brother-inlaw, my grandchildren. My brother-in-law and his wife were killed. But we don’t have the right to say we lost people. There are orphans of the genocide, widows of the genocide, everything of the genocide. That’s it. That creates a lot of conflicts. But we keep quiet. Us [Hutu], we can’t say anything. I can’t say anything because if I say it they will put me in prison, or punish me in another way, but they also have to give the ability to people to speak and to say what they think. 52
The civics textbook notes that during the genocide of 1994, “more than one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu” were killed, but it is silent to other violence experienced by Hutu. 53 The social studies textbook is similar, acknowledging the killing of “Hutu moderates who did not follow the government’s extreme policies.” 54 As a Hutu youth said, in response to a question about what schools teach about the war from 1990 to 1993 and genocide, On the subject of the war and the genocide, they tell us how it developed. For the most part, they taught about genocide. They don’t say [anything] about the war. They teach us about the genocide only. 55
Similarly, at the Kigali Memorial Centre, the panels note that “Hutus who did not comply [help kill Tutsi] were threatened with death. A number of Hutus who did not subscribe to the genocidal ideology, as well as those who tried to protect Tutsis were persecuted and killed.” 56 Yet, as in the civics textbook, “of the reprisal massacres of Hutus by the Tutsi rebels there is not a
Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda
word. Not surprising, perhaps, since the rebels now run the country.” A representative of the Aegis Trust, who helped design the museum, claims that this was his decision, not the government’s: “In this society at this time it’s akin to Britain in 1945 talking about the bombing of Dresden as a war crime.” 57 The reality is more complicated. The British and American air forces that carried out the bombing of Dresden and were key players in ending World War II did not have to govern postwar Germany, nor live alongside German survivors of the bombing or German perpetrators of war. In Rwanda, the Rwandan Patriotic Front ended the genocide through military victory and still leads the country today. The Rwandan government has made important progress on a number of fronts and is often praised for its role in Rwanda’s political stability and economic growth. Indeed, the image of stability and progress of President Paul Kagame’s government dominates international reporting and much of academia as well. 58 Yet Rwanda today is much closer to authoritarianism and dictatorship than to democracy, and there is increasing concentration of power around a small group of former Tutsi exiles from Uganda. Many Rwandans experience censorship and self-censorship, and fear being charged with the vague offenses of “divisionism” and “genocide ideology,” which increasingly seems to mean simply disagreeing with the government. 59 Several Hutu interviewees felt left out of mourning and lamented that they are not allowed space for their stories and memories of violence. They consider themselves to be victims, but their victimhood remains unacknowledged by the state. Vidal makes a similar argument in reference to commemorations, arguing that Hutu survivors have had their right to publicly suffer and mourn “confiscated.” 60 Burnet notes that while Hutu and Tutsi received joint recognition as victims of the genocide at the first annual commemoration, subsequent commemorations have illustrated that Tutsi hold a “monopoly on suffering” in Rwanda. 61 From early references to the “Rwandan genocide,” the government has moved since about 2008 to calling the events of 1994 the “Tutsi genocide.” 62 Furthermore, public space for the first two types of narratives—those of Tutsi survivors and Hutu rescuers—paired with the exclusion of Hutu memories of violence and mention only of the death of Hutu moderates, implies that those who do not fall into these first two categories are génocidaires. The middle ground between survivor-perpetrator categories is eclipsed and the RPF often hides outlawed ethnic distinctions behind these new categories.
Unrecognized Tutsi Memories Fourth, there are also Tutsi memories of war and genocide that do not make it into the public sphere. One female Tutsi youth shared her story: So, when the war started, we were there, at home. That night we heard life falling and we panicked. Our father counseled us to stay in the hallways, because of the bars [reinforcements] so that we didn’t have any accidents. We spent two weeks like that in the house, and our neighbors, those with means, were leaving. They were leaving even if we had really been friends with them before. And after a time, it was military guys that came and took us to Byumba because it was there, beside Uganda where there was no war. Well before, they [the military men, RPF] lived in Uganda, it’s from there that they came in [to Rwanda], it’s there that there are borders. So we left for Byumba on foot! From Kigali to Byumba on foot. Me, I was three years, four years old. I had a little brother who was a baby during the war. Well, finding food was a problem. So, he was sick during the war. So we left, we went to Byumba. We were in a school. Well there, the situation, I don’t know how [to describe it]. There was no food. There was cholera and sickness everywhere. I remember when we arrived, there was a swimming pool dripping with blood. It was completely red. We were thirsty. So we drank it. Well, it was terrible. My little brother was still sick. So, we looked for all methods to go to Uganda. They could not accept that my father go with us [he was a medical doctor]. So we left with my mother, my brothers, and my sister. He had to stay. And also, there were the soldiers. There were things that they did. They wanted us to go get all of the boys so that they could go fight. It was the RPF that came asking for boys. So my [older] brother had to hide, so that they wouldn’t find him. 63
The last part of this girl’s memory—that the RPF was clandestinely recruiting boys and was feared by some—is contrary to the way the RPF would like to be perceived. Nonetheless, research shows that many Tutsi feared RPF soldiers. 64 In contrast, the RPF sees itself as the savior of Rwandans and as the representative of genocide victims. The type of civilian memory presented above is thus not part of the memories of violence that are acknowledged by the RPF government, nor noted at the Kigali Memorial Centre, nor in textbooks. There have been public denunciations by Ibuka, the largest survivor organization, that the government sometimes ill-represents survivor interests and even exploits their suffering for its own ends. 65 As Tutsi genocide survivor Innocent Rwililiza recounted to journalist Jean Hatzfeld, Basically, it’s the Tutsis from abroad, those of the former diaspora, who are running the show. These Tutsis suffered in exile and returned after the killings to reclaim houses, buy the most cows, start up new businesses. . . . They govern the country. And the survivors, they wind up frustrated, under a crip-
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pling inhibition, and they murmur. . . . Being powerless to voice one’s anger, sadness, and longing for what is lost, and unable to tell one’s whole story for fear of offending a Hutu or annoying the authorities—this inability to reveal one’s heart is sheer torture. I say this sincerely: Survivors have no opportunity to express their true private feelings in public and to ask for a comforting little compensation. 66
Other survivors told Hatzfeld that they feel they cannot speak publicly about their memories to anyone but other survivors, except when they are called upon during ceremonies, gacaca, and mourning week. 67 In short, Tutsi with memories inconsistent with the way the RPF wishes to be perceived are excluded from public space, and some Tutsi survivors feel that their ability to speak out and to be acknowledged is constrained more broadly. Unrecognized Memories of Ethnically Mixed Rwandans Finally, Rwandans of mixed ethnic background are also often restricted in terms of public acknowledgment of their memories. As one teenage boy with a Hutu mother and Tutsi father replied, when asked if he had lost anyone in genocide, During the genocide, it’s hard to say, because, ummm, those that belonged to the family of my father were affected. But they were Tutsis and they were exiled [before the genocide]. Unfortunately, it is my maternal grandmother and grandfather that died. They told us that it was the RPF army that shot them. 68
When asked whether she felt acknowledged by the government, a Tutsi teenager with parents of two different ethnicities said, I am a child alone in the world. No father, no mother, no brothers, no sisters. I am alone. I am not able to be helped by the FARG [a government program to help genocide survivors pay for health care and school fees] because it is for children with Tutsi fathers and Tutsi mothers. But me, my mother was Tutsi, my father no. 69
While the school textbooks say nothing of Rwandans with mixed ethnic heritage, the Gisozi memorial mentions only that “Hutu women in mixed marriages were raped as punishment” and that “Hutu and Tutsi women were forced to kill their own Tutsi children.” 70 Rwandans with mixed ethnic background are often in a particularly difficult position given the post-genocide government’s bipolar association of survivor-perpetrator status with ethnicity. Burnet recounts the story of Séraphine, a Hutu, married to a Tutsi husband, who was repeatedly raped. “Despite Séraphine’s emotional and physical suffering, she was not perceived as a survivor for two reasons—because she was Hutu and because her husband
did not die. Furthermore, with the polarizing discourse in post-genocide Rwanda, because she was not a ‘survivor,’ Séraphine became classified, by default, as a perpetrator.” 71 Other Civilian Narratives of Violence There are many other genres of civilian narratives of violence that have not been discussed here. These include memories of violence of Twa Rwandans, narratives of repatriés who were not in the country in 1994 but who are sometimes falsely subsumed into the first category of Tutsi genocide survivors, and, of course, those who were killed and thus unable to share their stories. In sum, in post-genocide Rwanda, civilians hold a multitude of different and nuanced memories of violence. Yet only some civilian memories of violence are acknowledged while others are repressed. The former are predominantly from Tutsi, and include some narratives from Hutu that helped rescue other Rwandans; the latter are from Hutu who have memories of violence perpetrated by the RPF, and also include Tutsi and ethnically mixed Rwandans whose memories contradict the narrative with which the RPF legitimates its position. IMPLICATIONS FOR PEACEBUILDING The selection and distortion of social memory for political interests, while understudied by scholars of conflict and peacebuilding, is frequent. It has long been recognized that the victors write history. Paradoxically, in Rwanda, the strong state structures that facilitated genocide remain and determine the representation of violence. However, the exclusion of certain memories of violence is unlikely to lead to meaningful peacebuilding in Rwanda. Many Rwandans’ memories are inconsistent with public ones and there is friction between state discourses and personal narratives. In terms of reconciliation, several Hutu Rwandans explained that by failing to recognize their pain and to acknowledge their mourning, it is difficult for them to relate to and to embrace the suffering of Tutsi Rwandans. As one Hutu participant at the first National Unity and Reconciliation Summit voiced, “we do not say it loud enough, but the question of Hutu memory is a prerequisite so that people can sit together and sincerely discuss the real problems of this country.” 72 As one elderly Hutu man told me, “perhaps if there is reconciliation, things will be okay. But a real reconciliation, where people talk.” 73 A lack of acknowledgment is particularly pressing in Rwanda where Hutu and Tutsi in post-genocide Rwanda remain intermingled on the same hills.
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Rwanda’s Senate report on Genocide Ideology condemns as revisionist attempts to “vaguely acknowledg[e] genocide but, in the same breath, [try] to justify it through counter accusations in order to cleanse the real culprits of any responsibility.” 74 In contrast, as Godobo-Madikizela suggests as she reflects on South Africa, “in societies trying to break the cycle of hatred and revenge, it is important to first acknowledge [emphasis added] as did the TRC, that human rights abuses were committed on both sides, and then to find an effective way of moving society forward.” 75 Acknowledging a wider range of civilian memories need not invoke questions of moral equivalence or absolve responsibility for genocide. By acknowledging only a select category of memories of violence, the government is failing to address and challenge the social cleavages and exclusion that characterized Rwanda’s past and may be, moreover, fostering exclusion and social cleavages in the present. This is as true for Tutsi with memories inconsistent with the public narrative as it is for Hutu. This sense of exclusion could help lay the foundations for future intergroup conflict. Devine-Wright explains that memories of victimization harden boundaries between “us” and “them,” and foster in-group cohesion and out-group derogation. Grievances surrounding unacknowledged, or unsettled, historical memories are likely to increase in intensity with time. Unacknowledged emotional (or physical) wounds could be powerful motivations for vengeance, including violence. 76 In Rwanda, lack of acknowledgment of memories of members of the Hutu majority may be especially problematic. In terms of justice, many Rwandans feel that by failing to acknowledge their memories of violence, the RPF is reigning with impunity. 77 This could also hinder a sustainable peace. Falconer argues that reconciliation of memories, an important part of peacebuilding, includes both accepting responsibility for the past actions of one’s group and acknowledging the history of the other group to learn from its experiences. 78 As Cole argues, while schools and the narratives that they teach have been largely neglected by the transitional justice literature, they “should have a place at the table.” 79 In relation to justice in Rwanda more broadly, Longman argues that the post-genocide justice system highlights certain human rights violations, contributing to the erasure of others. He contends that trials disseminate the RPF narrative and ignore parts of the past that do not fit. 80 Acknowledging only some memories of violence and selectively applying accountability negates the rule of law. The government’s monopoly on memory may be considered victors’ justice. The Rwandan government espouses the importance of some tenets of democracy by holding elections, but at the same time engages in antidemocratic practices. For instance, the quality of democracy depends on the participation of its citizens; but the acknowledgment of only some civilian memories involves great exclusion and coercion. Many Rwandans do not feel free to share their opinions or memories in public. The Rwandan character today,
explained one female Hutu youth, “it’s hiding things. We don’t forget, but we hide. Yes, it’s difficult, but we try. It is in our character. We don’t show you that we hate you. It’s difficult. Even if you come to my house, I show you that there is no problem between you and I. But the problem is in my heart. We do not have the habit of opening ourselves, of showing on the exterior what we are thinking on the interior.” 81 Others were more explicit about the repression and censorship that they experience. One elderly Hutu woman said that “Rwandans have become liars. We can’t say anything because they’ll imprison us or kill us.” 82 Freedom House International ranks Rwanda as “not free.” 83 In the end, neglecting or more actively repressing, certain memories can be both a symptom of, and catalyst for, other forms of repression. 84 CONCLUSION Scholars, international organizations, and victims alike consider acknowledgment of memories of violence an important element of (re)building the social fabric. Since each post-conflict and post-genocide context differs enormously, there is no recipe for acknowledgment in sites like memorials or textbooks. Yet, selecting which memories to include and which to exclude is a common challenge with important consequences. This chapter suggests that memorials and textbooks are not on the margins of power, as some suggest; significant power and important implications are vested in the ability to choose how to represent past violence. In Rwanda, the Kigali Memorial Centre and primary school textbooks, key sites of the official historical record, prioritize only some memories. They exclude the memories of violence of numerous segments of the population, and interviews reveal a number of stories that contradict official accounts. Hutu who have memories of violence perpetrated by the RPF, as well as Tutsi and ethnically mixed Rwandans whose memories contradict the narrative upon which the RPF legitimates its position, are silenced. This exclusion of many Rwandans’ memories is likely to hinder reconciliation, justice, and democracy and undermine durable peace. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance, advice, and support of research assistants Noel Anderson and Chelsea Fairbank, four anonymous reviewers, participants at the International Studies Association 2009 meeting in New York City and the 2009 Development and Democracy in Post-
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Conflict African Nations conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Consortium on Human Security. Most of all, the author wishes to thank the many Rwandans who made this research possible. NOTES 1. Previously published as, “Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda: Implications for Peacebuilding,” Genocide and Prevention Studies 5, no. 1 (December 2010): 293–309. 2. While there are often many important differences in causes, consequences, and responses to genocide and other forms of violent conflict, there are also many similar challenges in the aftermath, including acknowledgment. The conflict-prevention and peacebuilding literature is thus useful in this sense. 3. Hizkias Assefa, “Reconciliation,” in Peace-Building: A Field Guide, eds. Luc Reychler and Thania Paffenholz (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2001); Patrick Devine-Wright, “A Theoretical Overview of Memory and Conflict,” in The Role of Memory in Ethnic Conflict, eds. Ed Cairns and Michael D. Roe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Lynn Graybill and Kimberley Lanegran, “Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa,” African Studies Quarterly 8, 1 (2004), web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v8/v8i1a1.htm (accessed April 2, 2010); Priscilla B. Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity (New York: Routledge, 2001); HoWon Jeong, “Peacebuilding: Conceptual and Policy Issues,” in Approaches to Peacebuilding, ed. Ho-Won Jeong (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Ho-Won Jeong and Charles Lerche, “Reconciliation: Contexts and Consequences,” in Approaches to Peacebuilding, ed. Ho-Won Jeong; Wendy Lambourne, “Transitional Justice and Peacebuilding after Mass Violence,” The International Journal of Transitional Justice 3, no. 1 (2009): 311–37; John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997); Kimberly A. Maynard, “Rebuilding Community: Psychosocial Healing, Reintegration, and Reconciliation at the Grassroots Level,” in Rebuilding Societies after Civil War: Critical Roles for International Assistance, ed. Krishna Kumar (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1997); Joanna Quinn, “The Politics of Acknowledgement: Truth Commissions in Uganda and Haiti” (PhD diss., Political Science, McMaster University, 2003); and Joanna Quinn, “Social Reconstruction in Uganda: The Role of Customary Mechanisms in Transitional Justice,” Human Rights Review 8 (2007): 389–407. 4. Gregory H. Stanton, The 8 Stages of Genocide (Washington, DC: Genocide Watch, 1998). 5. United Nations, Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law: Resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, UN General Assembly, UN Doc. A/RES/60/147, March 21, 2006. 6. Beth Goldblatt, “Evaluating the Gender Content of Reparations: Lessons from South Africa,” in What Happened to the Women? Gender and Reparations for Human Rights Violations, ed. Ruth Rubio-Marı´n (New York: Social Science Research Council, 2006), 70; Jamesina King, “Gender and Reparations in Sierra Leone: The Wounds of War Remain Open,” in What Happened to the Women? ed. Ruth Rubio-Marı´n, 246–83. 7. Acknowledgment is second only to financial compensation. Ernesto Kiza, Corene Rathgeber, and Holger C. Rohne, Victims of War: An Empirical Study of War Victimization and Victims’ Attitudes toward Addressing Atrocities (Hamburg, Germany: Hamburg Institute for Social Research, 2006). 8. Graybill and Lanegran, “Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa.” 9. Hayner, “Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity,” 187.
10. Hayner, “Unspeakable Truths,” 189. 11. Rosalind Shaw, Rethinking Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Lessons from Sierra Leone (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2005), 1. 12. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History (New York: Routledge, 1992). 13. Sebastian Brett, Louis Bickford, Liz Sevenko, and Marcela Rios, “Memorialization and Democracy: State Policy and Civic Action” (paper presented at Memorialization and Democracy: State Policy and Civic Action, Santiago, Chile, 2007). 14. Brett, Bickford, Sevenko, and Rios, “Memorialization and Democracy.” 15. Mireal-Luminita Murgescu, “Rewriting School Textbooks as a Tool of Understanding and Stability,” Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 2, no. 1 (2002): 90–104. 16. Martha Minow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998), 118. 17. While in some contexts there are important nuances between the terms narrative, testimony, story, and memory, I use them interchangeably here. 18. Bain Attwood, “In the Age of Testimony: The Stolen Generations Narrative, ‘Distance’ and Public History,” Public Culture 20, no. 1 (2008): 75–95. 19. Elisabeth King, “From Data Problems to Data Points: Challenges and Opportunities of Research in Post-Genocide Rwanda,” African Studies Review 52, no. 3 (2009): 127–48. 20. Stathis N. Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 37. 21. The information from the Kigali Memorial Centre was collected during two personal visits and a third visit by a research assistant who copied all museum panels. The memorial center website was also useful. See “Kigali Memorial Centre,” www.kigalimemorialcentre.org (accessed May 11, 2009). 22. Emmanuel Bamusanire, Joseph Byiringiro, Augustine Munyakazi, and Johnson Ntagaramba, Primary Social Studies 4: Pupil’s Book (Kigali: Macmillan Rwanda, 2006); Bamusanire, Byiringiro, Munyakazi, and Ntagaramba, Primary Social Studies 5: Pupil’s Book (Kigali: Macmillan Rwanda, 2006); Bamusanire, Byiringiro, Munyakazi, and Ntagaramba, Primary Social Studies 6: Pupil’s Book (Kigali: Macmillan Rwanda, 2006); Jeanne D’Arc Baranyizigiye, John Rutayisire, Méschac Bizimana, Clémentine Gafiligi, Marie Kankindi, and Yassini Maniraguha, A Guide to Civic Education: Life Skills for Rwanda Primary Schools, Upper Primary Level–P4–P5–P6 (Kigali: National Curriculum Development Centre, 2004). 23. Jacques Le Goff, History and Memory, trans. Steven Rendall and Elisabeth Claman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 87. 24. As of a 2009 visit to Rwanda, the panels at Murambi Genocide Memorial, previously a second site recounting an explicit narrative, had been indefinitely removed. 25. Personal communication, 2009. 26. James Karuhanga, “Rwanda: One Injured in Grenade Attack on Gisozi Genocide Memorial,” The New Times (April 16, 2009), allafrica.com/stories/200904160257.html (accessed May 11, 2009); “Grenade Attack at Rwanda Genocide Memorial,” Panapress (11 April 2008), en.afrik.com/article13161.html (accessed May 11, 2009). 27. Edward Herbert Dance, History the Betrayer: A Study in Bias (London: Hutchinson, 1960), 54. 28. Alison Des Forges, Leave None to Tell the Story (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999). 29. United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1997 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). 30. Anne-Marie de Brouwer, Supranational Criminal Prosecution of Sexual Violence: The ICC and the Practice of the ICTY and the ICTR (Antwerp: Intersentia, 2005). 31. Des Forges, Leave None to Tell the Story, 11. Lee Ann Fujii, Killing Neighbors: Social Dimensions of Genocide in Rwanda (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009). 32. Interview, February 14, 2006. This and all subsequent quotations are the author’s translation from French. 33. Notes from visits to the Kigali Memorial Centre and from its website.
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34. There are a number of further places where one can find survivors’ memories of violence in their own words. For one of the first collections to include vivid descriptions of the atrocities inflicted upon Tutsi victims in their own words, see African Rights, Rwanda, Death, Despair and Defiance (London: African Rights, 1994). In “Rwanda: The State of Research” (Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, November 4, 2007) www.massviolence.org/ RwandaThe-State-of-Research (accessed May 15, 2009), René Lemarchand points to Yolande Mukagasana and Patrick May’s “La mort ne veut pas de moi,” Mukagasana’s “Les blessures du silence,” and Venuste Kayimahe’s “Témoignage d’un rescapé” as important pieces of “witness literature.” Browsing the Internet, one encounters “Voices of Rwanda” (VOR), an NGO dedicated exclusively to recording the testimonies of genocide survivors (www.voicesofrwanda.org); the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (www.hmd.org.uk/resources/ cat/3/); and Aegis Trust (www.aegistrust.org). 35. This paragraph is based on notes from visits to the Kigali Memorial Centre and from its website. 36. King, “From Data Problems to Data Points.” 37. Lars Waldorf, “Revisiting Hotel Rwanda: Genocide Ideology, Reconciliation, and Rescuers,” Journal of Genocide Research 11, no. 1 (2009): 101–25. 38. Graybill and Lanegran, “Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa”; Ervin Staub, “Justice, Healing and Reconciliation: How the People’s Courts in Rwanda Can Promote Them,” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 10, no. 1 (2004): 25–32. 39. Minow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness; Burcu Munyas, “Genocide in the Minds of Cambodian Youth: Transmitting (Hi)stories of Genocide to Second and Third Generations in Cambodia,” Journal of Genocide Research 10 (2008): 413–39. 40. Kristin C. Doughty, “Commemoration and Narratives of Community Healing: Ten Years after the Rwandan Genocide,” in Health Knowledge and Belief Systems in Africa, ed. T. Falula and M. Heaton, 183–204 (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2008), 198. 41. Jennie E. Burnet, “Whose Genocide? Whose Truth? Representations of Victim and Perpetrator in Rwanda,” in Genocide: Truth, Memory, and Representation, eds. A. L. Hinton and K. L. O’Neill, 80–110 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009); Johan Pottier, Re-Imagining Rwanda: Conflict, Survival and Disinformation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 42. Interview, January 28, 2006. 43. Notes from visits to the Kigali Memorial Centre and its website. 44. Doughty, “Commemoration and Narratives of Community Healing,” 196. 45. Baranyizigiye et al., A Guide to Civic Education, 36. 46. For other stories from Hutu rescuers, see Villia Jefremovas, “Acts of Human Kindness: Tutsi, Hutu and the Genocide,” Issue: A Journal of Opinion 23, no. 2 (1995): 28–31. 47. Charles Mugabo, “Do Not Distort Rwanda’s History,” New Times, August 30, 2007; Mugabo, “Rusesabagina’s Ill-Conceived Agenda,” New Times, September 26, 2007. See also Waldorf, “Revisiting Hotel Rwanda,” 114–18. 48. Jennie E. Burnet, “The Injustice of Local Justice: Truth, Reconciliation, and Revenge in Rwanda,” Genocide Studies and Prevention 3, no. 2 (2008): 173–93. 49. Senate of Rwanda, Rwanda Genocide Ideology and Strategies for Its Eradication (Kigali: Rwanda Parliament, 2006), 17. 50. Des Forges, Leave None to Tell the Story; Nigel Eltringham, Accouting for Horror: Post-Genocide Debates in Rwanda (London: Pluto Press, 2004); International Crisis Group, “Rwanda at the End of the Transition: A Necessary Political Liberalisation,” in Africa Report (Nairobi: International Crisis Group, 2002); Filip Reyntjens, “Rwanda, Ten Years On: From Genocide to Dictatorship,” African Affairs 103 (2004): 177–210. 51. Interview, April 3, 2006. 52. Interview, March 21, 2006. 53. Baranyizigiye et al., A Guide to Civic Education, 36. 54. Bamusanire et al., Primary Social Studies 6: Pupil’s Book, 61–62. 55. Interview, April 3, 2006. Public space in Rwanda is closed to nearly all Hutu narratives of violence. Yet, some published testimonies by Hutu are now being read internationally, such as Marie-Béatrice Umutesi’s Surviving the Slaughter, which recounts her experience as a Hutu
in Rwanda before and after the genocide and in exile in the Congo thereafter (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004). In “Rwanda: The State of Research,” Lemarchand suggests that other narratives focusing on ethnic cleansing in the aftermath of genocide include Maurice Niwese, Le peuple rwandais un pied dans la tombe: Récit d’un réfugié étudiant, Philippe Mpayimana, Réfugiés rwandais: Entre marteau et enclume. Récit du calvaire au Zaire, 1996–1997, and Benoit Rugumaho, L’hécatombe des réfugiés rwandais dans l’ex-Zaire: Témoignage d’un survivant. These books may someday contribute to international acknowledgment of the violence perpetrated against Hutu, yet so far, the international community remains very complimentary of the current Rwandan government. Some change was underway as this book went to press. The UN had just released a major report documenting atrocities in the DR Congo, including those perpetrated by Rwandan forces. See: Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993–2003: Report of the Mapping Exercise Documenting the Most Serious Violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Committed within the Territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003. (Geneva: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 2010). 56. Notes from visits to the Kigali Memorial Centre and from its website. 57. Rory Carroll, “In Memory of Murder,” The Guardian, March 24, 2004, www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2004/mar/24/art.rwanda (accessed April 2, 2010). 58. Pottier, Re-Imagining Rwanda. 59. International Crisis Group, “Rwanda at the End of the Transition.” 60. Claudine Vidal, “Les commémorations du génocide au Rwanda,” Les Temps Modernes 613 (2001): 1–46. 61. Burnet, “Whose Genocide? Whose Truth?” 87–88. 62. Waldorf, “Revisiting Hotel Rwanda,” 104. 63. Interview, February 11, 2006. 64. Fujii, Killing Neighbors, 118. 65. Vidal, “Les commémorations du génocide au Rwanda,” 44; Waldorf, “Revisiting Hotel Rwanda,” 108. 66. Jean Hatzfeld, The Antelope’s Strategy: Living in Rwanda after the Genocide (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), 89–90. 67. Hatzfeld, The Antelope’s Strategy, 82–83, 105. 68. Interview, February 14, 2006. 69. Interview, March 4, 2006. 70. Notes from visits to the Kigali Memorial Centre and from its website. 71. Burnet, “Whose Genocide? Whose Truth?” 90–91. For what Lemarchand (in “Rwanda: The State of Research,” 5) describes as “one of the most arresting and unbiased” survivor testimonies, by a Rwandan of mixed ethnic origins, see Edouard Kabagema, Carnage d’une nation: Génocide et massacres au Rwanda, 1994 (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 2002). 72. Quoted in Vidal, “Les commémorations du génocide au Rwanda,” 46; author’s translation. 73. Interview, March 20, 2006. 74. Senate of Rwanda, Rwanda Genocide Ideology and Strategies for Its Eradication, 18. 75. Quoted in James L. Gibson, Overcoming Apartheid: Can Truth Reconcile a Divided Nation? (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2004). 76. Patrick Devine-Wright, “A Theoretical Overview of Memory and Conflict,” 14–15. 77. See Eltringham, Accounting for Horror; Gérard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide 1959–1994 (London: C. Hurst and Company, 1997). 78. Ed Cairns and Michael D. Roe, “Introduction: Why Memories in Conflict?” in The Role of Memory in Ethnic Conflict, eds. Ed Cairns and Michael D. Roe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). 79. Elizabeth Cole, “Transitional Justice and the Reform of History Education,” International Journal of Transitional Justice 1 (2007): 115–137, 120. 80. Timothy Longman, “Memory, Justice and Power in Post-Genocide Rwanda” (paper presented at the Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, 2006). 81. Interview, March 14, 2006. 82. Interview, March 21, 2006.
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83. Freedom House International, Freedom in the World: Country Report: Rwanda (Washington, DC: FHI, 2009). 84. Brett et al., “Memorialization and Democracy,” 20.
Land Reform, Social Justice, and Reconstruction Challenges for Post-Genocide Rwanda Helen Hintjens
INTRODUCTION In this chapter, the contribution of land policy to reconstruction in postgenocide Rwanda is viewed from a social justice perspective that prioritizes the rights of the most vulnerable. Current land policies are based on the Land Law and Land Policy of 2005, and their implementation is the main focus. The aim of promoting equal land rights for men and women is an important part of the reform, benefiting legally married women in particular. The historical background of land issues, where land belonged to the state, is outlined, as are moves toward land consolidation, housing “villagization,” and the growing landlessness of vulnerable rural Rwandans, including womenheaded households. Because other sources of livelihood are lacking, landless rural Rwandans can end up destitute, rather than migrating to an urban house and job. The Vision 2020 spells out how government land policies contribute to wider goals of poverty reduction, but evidence that plot consolidation improves food security and reduces poverty is not clear. What emerges rather is the importance of the “moral exclusion” of the poorest Rwandan farmers from official narratives of post-genocide land rights. This inverts the pregenocide prioritizing of the values and norms of rural peasant life. A tiny minority of Rwandan people are indigenous people; the Batwa are now less than one-quarter percent of the total population. Their situation has been dramatically aggravated by the land reforms and the “modernizing” under81
pinnings related to the desirability of “rational” land use, based on private legal ownership and larger plot size and the removal of commons. If largescale export crop farming and ranching displaces small-scale multicropping hillside farming typical of Rwanda, as some research suggests, then in the absence of off-farm work, peasants with smaller farms will be unable to sustain themselves. Cooperative ownership and use rights arrangements are being tried out by the government, and they should be given credit for their efforts to reallocate land to some poor families. However, unless efforts to achieve greater efficiency and growth are moderated by social justice norms, then new victims will be produced. The trouble is that this could create grievances by polarizing the haves from the have-nots in Rwandan society, a setback for reconstruction and gender equality alike. LAND RIGHTS, RECONSTRUCTION, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE: CHALLENGES FOR POST-GENOCIDE RWANDA The economy will be able to take up the challenge of transforming from an agrarian subsistence economy into a sophisticated knowledge-based society. 1 One cannot possibly begin to discuss land rights in Rwanda without taking into account the deep scars, the psychological fall-out and the way that conflict has actively shaped and changed national politics and discourses, relations in tenure, and gender relations. 2
Understanding the impact of the Land Law and Land Policy of 2005 from the perspective of landless rural people, poor rural women, and indigenous people in particular is the main aim of this chapter. At the time of writing, Rwanda is still the most densely populated country in Africa, with almost 250 people per square kilometer. 3 The Land Law and Land Policy of 2005 explicitly favored land rights for women. 4 The Vision 2020 document of the Rwandan government has an explicitly antipoverty focus, and this was translated into an Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) by 2007 and rolled out in the four years up to 2012. 5 Under this most recent policy, there were three flagship programs: “Sustainable Growth for Jobs and Exports, Vision 2020 Umurenge (integrated rural development program to eradicate extreme poverty and release the productive capacities of the poor), and Good Governance.” 6 The most important of these for this chapter is the Vision 2020 Umurenge. The vast majority of Rwandans are still directly involved in farming—around 80 to 85 percent (compared to 90 to 95 percent in 1994). It is, therefore, clear why the government would seek to reduce the number of people dependent on farming as part of reconstruction efforts in Rwanda.
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However, this chapter questions whether government land policies have been constructed with the land rights of the poor in mind. Especially in the case of women-headed households, landless people, and vulnerable groups like the indigenous Batwa, the costs of land reform have been very high, even devastating. Land policies in Rwanda are based on the premise that formal legal land titles can replace customary tenure arrangements, and yet this also means local level land disputes being referred to courts rather than resolved customarily. Land inheritance disputes cannot be so easily resolved through recourse to legal instruments and titles. This is not the main focus of the chapter, however, which focuses on how the government’s vision of land use and its wider vision of economic development and reconstruction, in line with the 2020 Vision, impact some of the poorest rural Rwandans. 7 With rapid commercialization, privatization of land, and a “Green Revolution” in farming techniques, what are the consequences for the poorest rural households? This is the specific question the chapter seeks to address, on the basis of a review of available data and research already conducted. 8 A non-Rwandan with some Belgian ancestors, I may “have lost the right to judge what goes on in Rwanda.” 9 For the record, it is worth noting that research around the impacts of the Land Law and Land Policy of 2005 draws different conclusions from the same evidence. For instance, survey-based research can lead either to conclusions that food security has improved or that poverty and household vulnerability have increased (compare Ansoms, 2008, for instance, with Mutabazi, 2009). 10 The land reforms have been intended to undo some serious errors of past regimes in Rwanda and to reverse the trend that saw rural populations being forced to remain on evershrinking plots of land. 11 Rwanda’s main donors, such as the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and USAID, seem satisfied that Rwandan agriculture has been ripe for modernization for some time. Yet the complete overhaul of ownership and use patterns should be a cause for genuine concern to anyone for whom social and gender equality are a priority in reconstruction and development. In a situation where “only 22 percent of households are food-secure,” it is clear that there will be no easy answers. 12 In this kind of situation of mass poverty, it is clear for an interested outsider like myself that while it is easy for me to criticize, there are few easy solutions to those responsible for solving problems of poverty and landlessness in Rwanda.
THE PREMISES OF LAND POLICIES IN RWANDA State policies, expressed for example in Vision 2020 and in the Land Law of 2005, are based on the premise that having “too many” small, poor Rwandan farmers means continuing poverty. The high population densities in rural Rwanda are viewed as a problem rather than an asset. This view reverses the logic of Habyarimana’s pre-genocide regime’s rhetoric, which claimed to value rural life, yet tightly regulated Rwandans’ daily lives through farming regulations. 13 There is more continuity here than at first sight, however, since “despite its pro-peasant rhetoric, Habyarimana’s policies also displayed at times a strong anti-rural bias.” 14 A claimed pro-peasant bias has nonetheless been replaced with an explicit pro-urban bias, oriented toward services and a knowledge economy based mainly in Kigali. This chapter suggests that the marked anti-rural bias of the post-genocide political leadership is among the long-term legacies of the trauma of genocide. This bias does a serious disservice to poor rural producers, the “national heroes” of the past who have become the supposedly inefficient microfarmers who keep rural Rwanda poor today, officially stigmatized as responsible for environmental damage and hunger. The mirror imaging of pre-genocide developmental values with a post-genocide urban bias is disturbing, since it will do little to reduce the poverty of the majority of Rwandan households, of poor rural women, and of indigenous people in particular. 15 The landless Batwa minority are presented at the end of this chapter as an example of how adversely the land law and policy changes can affect the most vulnerable groups in Rwandan society. Few recent studies reviewing land policies in Rwanda explicitly considered this minority group. 16 Land reform can mean both increased food production and can promote social justice in post-genocide Rwanda. All this needs to be acknowledged. The question of intentions is not the issue here, but the matter of results, and especially of protections for the poorest and most vulnerable Rwandans in what is likely to be a dramatic process of change. Since 2000, what has been noteworthy has been the distinct “modernization bias” contained within the developmental vision of the Rwandan government and underpinning its land policies. This bias is most clearly expressed in the Vision 2020 document referred to above. A firm belief that poverty can only be reduced through private sector investment arises from the view that “the backbone of the [development] process should be a middle class of Rwandan entrepreneurs,” whose priorities are assumed to be “wealth, employment and vital innovations through opportunities for profit.” 17 As mentioned above, whereas 90 to 95 percent of Rwandans depended on farming in 1994, today this is closer to
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80 to 85 percent. As Boudreaux reminds us, rural populations were tightly controlled prior to 1994, when “people were not allowed to move to cities” (emphasis in original). 18 The risk now is that the reverse may be true—as people are forced out of farming and yet find no work in the promised services sector. Under new land laws, land consolidation and land sharing are to become the norm for small plots under one hectare. Yet Rwandans are not free to move to cities or towns unless they find paid work and decent housing. Strict rules against vagrancy and demolition of poor quality housing are enforced, including in Kigali, where criminal sanctions apply mainly to the poor, including even children. In rural areas, as is discussed below, customary land use involved families using several differently situated microplots for different crops suited to soil types, altitude, and rainfall. Such practices were reworked by returning refugees, including women-headed households after the genocide, when there was general disarray in customary land arrangements. 19 The overall aim of gender equality through land reform sits uneasily, however, with the condition that small farmers with under one hectare should consolidate their land into larger plots more amenable to fertilizer and pesticide. Some evaluations have been very positive, however, and suggest that women’s rights to land, at least for legally married women, are gradually being realized and that land reallocations are reducing the food insecurity of households in comparison with the past. 20 In its Vision 2020 document, the government claims that land reform is needed because of “a decline in land productivity and massive environmental degradation, contributing to rampant malnutrition amongst the Rwandan population.” In addition, the argument is that “Rwandans can no longer subsist on land and ways and means need to be devised to move the economy into the secondary and tertiary sectors.” 21 The entire policy of land reform, land titling, and intersectoral movement of the population thus rests on an assumption that customary micro-scale, multiplot farming is not only inherently inefficient but also environmentally damaging. It is also believed that poverty reduction requires larger, consolidated farming plots, inputs of chemical fertilizers, and more rational commercial farming techniques. These assumptions will be examined in this chapter. What is proposed is that vulnerability analysis needs to be more central to the way land reforms are rolled out in Rwanda in future. Many poor rural people—including women-headed households, old and new caseload returnees without capital, and Batwa indigenous people—are all especially vulnerable to displacement from the land and face the prospect of dramatic loss of livelihood. The losers in the land reform processes need to be identified. Whereas legally married women are protected, others are not. Women, formally protected in the Land Law’s provisions, will not benefit if they are “unmarried mothers, widows without children, or in unrecognized (custo-
mary) marriages, under the Land Law’s inheritance provisions.” 22 Although those with reasonably good connections, some credit, and larger land plots should get by, women not legally married to their partners and landless people will suffer most in the transition to the knowledge-based economy. I do not presume to know what is best for Rwanda; there is little doubt that the government’s vision that Rwanda will become a middle-income country is a bold and audacious one. However, bold visions also have little regard for those in the weakest position, and this is a cause of concern in relation to present land policies in the country. MAPPING OUT THE CONTEXT During Habyarimana’s regime (1973–1994) the land question was already a thorny one. 23 Access to land to grow food, to pasture cattle, and to earn wages was contentious throughout Rwanda’s colonial history. This situation did not improve after independence, and not only because of population densities, which are among the highest in Africa, but also because, at least from the 1980s onward, small plot size and plot fragmentation have coincided with growing livelihood insecurity and social inequalities and injustices in Rwandan society. Uneven land distribution is typically a feature of societies where commercialization is being promoted by elite and state interests to a reluctant or unenthusiastic peasantry, depending on the prices involved. Under both the pre- and post-genocide political dispensation, the rulers of Rwanda have been unable to resist the temptation to grab large tracts of land for their own use and that of their families and clients. These lands may be bought up from impoverished small-scale farmers or simply seized as land has lain fallow. Private ownership, however, is a recent arrival on the scene, dating from the last few years. Until 2005 or so, the government of Rwanda owned all the land in the “kingdom.” Post-genocide, government has sought to control land and rural mobility quite closely again and has failed to tackle the roots of rural deprivation. It is first and foremost the moral exclusion of the peasantry that may explain the tendency of government and donors—apparently unthinkingly—to impose unacceptable risks of hunger and even death on poor, small-scale farmers in Rwanda today. 24 Growing reliance on foreign aid has coincided with declining food availability. Per capita food production doubled between 1970 and 1983, and from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, average agricultural production grew by 4.2 percent per annum, ahead of population growth of around 3.6 percent on average. During the 1960s, new plots could still be opened up in forest areas, but by the 1970s and 1980s, no uncultivated, arable land was left outside of forest reserves and Akagera National Park. Former grazing lands, river-val-
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ley marsh areas, and even steeper slopes, were all being used for agriculture (with distress sales in many more established areas). Per capita food production started to fall almost a decade before the genocide. According to household survey data collected, food production fell around one-quarter from 1984 to 1991. 25 Peasant production systems thus started to come under pressure, in part from environmental and social stresses, but these were exacerbated by land-grabbing by elites and the sale of rural land due to poverty. By 2005, an estimated 50 percent of the population fell below the extreme poverty level (55 percent in rural areas). By comparison, in 2002, an estimated 40 percent of Rwandans (and 46 percent in rural areas) lived below the extreme poverty level. At this level “one’s entire budget must be allocated for food.” 26 Average land holdings per household had shrunk from 2 hectares (ha) in the 1960s, to 1.2 ha by 1990, and 0.5 ha by 2005. 27 Since 1990, Rwanda had suffered rapid despoliation of forest resources, with 50 percent of remaining original forest cover being removed and old growth forests replaced. 28 Rwandan farming systems make use of soil types and microclimates, combining food and fodder crops to suit specific agro-ecological niches in a range of plot types (hillside, dry or wet, marshy). Such sophisticated and well-adapted methods of hill-farming, as a review of several dozen global studies has suggested, can become even more viable economically as population densities increase. 29 In the context of hill-based farming, with fertile soil and adequate rainfall, higher population density can thus become an asset, especially where mechanization is not viable. In general, therefore, population growth can permit more productive farming on small plots than on large ones. This evidence from agronomic studies contradicts the dominant narrative of the Rwandan government, however, which is centered on the quest for agrarian modernity through large-scale, mechanized export agriculture. Classic Green Revolution logic is combined with an export-oriented growth model that does not fit Rwandan realities. The desire for “control over expanding regional markets and trade networks” is real enough, however. 30 A “regionally expansionist economic vision” makes the priorities and concerns of poor peasant farmers almost invisible to the political leadership. Clichéd as it may sound, the Rwandan state is a decentralized “Leviathan.” 31 Those in charge at central level can appear relatively unconcerned with the fate of the poor peasantry, subjected to forms of moral exclusion that are similar to those practiced in other urban-biased polities. 32 In the case of the Land Law of 2005, whereas the first draft proposed a ceiling of 30 ha on land ownership, later this was increased to 50 ha, and then even this provision was dropped from the final text. 33 Genocide and war damaged infrastructure throughout Rwanda, and in most rural areas basic services had to be reconstructed from scratch. War in neighboring DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) brought some benefits for the army and the new political and
economic elites established mainly in Kigali. With the end of the Cold War, the scene was set for a new scramble for resources—with international and regional re-colonization of mineral areas of former Zaire. The extraction and sale of this mineral wealth, timber, and other resources from former Zaire has reinforced chains of exploitation that link deforestation and mining under militia control to intermediary companies that swap gold for arms, to regional states and armies, and to multinational companies from Brussels to Cape Town and Toronto to Dubai. By the late 1990s, with no reliable state authorities or army in Eastern DRC, the Rwandan state and army emerged as “protector” of some of these global resource chains. A UN Group of Experts Report showed how, after 1998, large quantities of minerals from Eastern DRC found their way into multinational companies’ production processes, through tortuous routes that included Kigali and Kampala, and through the Congo desk of the Rwandan army. Intensification of agriculture (permanent cultivation of soils, the adoption of more productive varieties, more soil protection, and more inputs) can prevent land from losing too much fertility, even with shortening fallow periods or no fallow at all. 34 The main problems faced by farmers remain: a lack of alternative income sources; problems caused by loss of soil fertility and erosion; and loss of cattle pasture areas and access rights. The evidence also suggested that smaller plots and farms are more labor-intensive and use more inputs per hectare (whether organic or chemical inputs) than larger farming units. 35 LAND CONFLICTS IN RWANDA Land is of great significance for most Rwandans, and most local disputes referred to the local authorities concern competing land claims among family members, neighbors, and strangers. It is estimated that around 80 to 90 percent of all local disputes that occupy the time of officials revolve around land use, inheritance, access, and ownership. 36 Even during the 1980s, land disputes were common. The importance of land in practical and symbolic terms has not diminished much with time, despite the post-genocide setting, given the lack of other ways to earn a living for those without much education (the majority of Rwandans). Highly educated professionals are another matter. For some, land is the main source of food, income, and work; for others it is a place to graze one’s animals, build a house or other buildings, and perhaps it is also a source of prestige and pride. Urban dwellers and international companies are among those who are buying land in rural Rwanda for profit and prestige rather than through need. Those with roots more firmly anchored in farming are those most likely to find themselves displaced
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by the growing commercialization of land in Rwanda. Farming remains what most poor rural Rwandans depend on for daily survival, with marketable surplus being an insurance against hard times and unexpected costs rather than the main purpose of farming. 37 There are still relatively few off-farm sources of work and income, and so it is not surprising that local land disputes can be very intense. For landless Rwandans who cannot find a means to make their living in town, the situation is even more desperate than for the rural poor, who depend on very small plots of land for their survival. In addition, NGOs like Haguruka state that out of the 9,766 cases (tribunals) heard in courts so far, 5,205 were inheritance cases. As one study noted, such conflicts have a gender dimension, since “in the aftermath of the genocide and war, Rwanda has seen changes in gender relations, whereby 35.18 percent of households in Rwanda are headed by women and women have taken on gender roles that were previously the responsibility of men, including managing financial resources, constructing houses and roads.” 38 Landless people depend on others for all access to land, wood for fuel, clay, or grazing materials. Much customary access to common lands has been redefined as illegal under the new laws of 2005, especially the marshland areas, historically considered a shared resource. With few alternatives for supporting themselves and their families, landless people have to do what they can (burn charcoal, provide petty services, do daily labor for food) in order to have enough to eat. This chapter provides some evidence that unless landlessness is factored into policy plans, social inequalities in Rwanda will tend to increase with agricultural modernization, even with booming economic growth. Rising rural poverty amid urban plenty is not a new phenomenon, and not peculiar to Rwanda. The risk that land reform exacerbates, rather than reduces, rural poverty needs to be acknowledged as a serious risk. Two starkly contrasting worldviews of what rural Rwanda will look like in the next decade or so can be identified. 39 On the one hand, the political leadership of the country, explicitly concerned to reduce Rwanda’s high degree of dependence on foreign aid, seeks to encourage private capital to fill the gap left by donor dependency. Policies to grow Rwandan businesses, attract domestic and international private capital investment, and expand IT and knowledge-based service sectors in particular, are seen as pivotal to Rwanda’s success. Agriculture, it is understood, will become profitable only once “surplus” rural populations move out of this sector. 40 A modernized agriculture will be more commercialized, producing a more reliable tax base than subsistence farming that presently predominates. 41 The World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID) and other international donors are impressed by the government’s explicit preference for private entrepreneurship and innovation as vital ingredients for national development.
According to the World Bank president, visiting Rwanda in 2009, the country “has the capacity to be a leader for the rest of Africa, showing that these policies can be implemented and showing how it will be done.” 42 Those who despair of other African governments’ entrepreneurial spirit find solace in the Rwandan government’s enthusiasm for the private sector. Increasing exports to raise foreign currency is viewed as the only way to promote economic development and growth in Rwanda. A service economy, and (to a lesser extent) industry and mining, are increasingly expected to replace agriculture. Growth in exports and expansion of services, in the Vision 2020 plans, should together help pull Rwanda’s stagnant agrarian sector out of its long-term crisis, with its too many people on too little land (a classically Malthusian vision, it has to be said). The political elite’s position is thus that quite a radical overhaul of the agricultural sector is needed with a significant reduction in the number of Rwandans dependent on that sector for their livelihoods. This is viewed as the only way out of poverty. 43 However, another vision of Rwanda’s future also exists and can be contrasted with the official view of a modernized, high-tech, and middleincome society. This vision is based on the assumption that peasant agriculture is viable, innovative, and should be invested in as a means to reduce the poverty of the vast majority of Rwandans. From this point of view, land reforms look less promising if tied to land consolidation and private land titles limited to those on larger plots. Rural poverty can be exacerbated by the assumption that small-scale farmers are inefficient and need to be replaced with more efficient, larger-scale agriculture. Resettlement through villagization, opening up of land markets for city-dwellers and foreign nationals, rules around building materials, household habits, and hygiene have all added to tensions around land, especially for the rural poor, for women-headed households, and for the landless. Small farmers do not have the means to acquire more land, and many have to share land with others. They may acquire new obligations without compensating off-farm income sources or benefits. All these arrangements are negotiated through trials and sometimes this can work well, when those with less than one hectare agree to share their land and consolidate their plots, for example by forming a cooperative. 44 Yet for poor households the requirements of land reform are not as easily negotiated as for “model” farmers with plots of over one hectare. If cattle must be zero-grazed, then households without fodder are further disadvantaged. The wearing of shoes in public buildings is compulsory and this tends to exclude the very poor from access to officials. Obliged to comply with rules whose logic escapes them, many poor Rwandans suffer from urban notions of hygiene and “good manners” being imposed on them (e.g., clothes hung to dry on lines rather than placed on the grass). Noncompliance with good citizen regulations can result in fines or other disciplinary actions being imposed by local authority officials. 45 Secure access to land remains the
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central priority for poor Rwandans, therefore, and is a concern on a daily basis in a way that it is not for wealthier people based in towns. To remove poor people from their multiple microplots in the name of efficiency is potentially to create a new class of extremely poor and landless people, rather than to develop Rwanda and enhance what the Vision 2020 document views as the country’s key resource—namely, its people. CHALLENGES OF RECONSTRUCTION Identity and class politics have influenced responses to land reforms and to land reallocation, sharing, private title, and so on. Post-conflict, especially post-genocide, reconstruction requires transformations and reparations on many levels. Reconstructing is about rebuilding homes, roads, clinics, and schools, often in the contentious context of villagization policies. Regrouping housing to improve rural Rwandans’ access to public services has not always been successful. 46 Housing relocation could constrain wage-earning possibilities for some people and could make it more difficult for rural households to access their farm plots so as to “go about their business” of farming, increasing the need for emergency relief and food aid. Growing hunger, poverty, and inequality mean that reconstruction may bring few benefits—and some considerable costs—for ordinary rural Rwandans. Indicators of inequality are quite alarming; whereas in 1984 the disparity between the highest and lowest quartile of the Rwandan population in terms of land access was around 8 to 1, by 2000 this had increased to an estimated twenty-one-fold difference. 47 The estimated Gini coefficient of Rwanda rose from around 0.43 in 1990 to 0.52 by 2000. 48 Infrustractural redevelopment is complicated by the extent of poverty throughout the rural areas. 49 Rural and agricultural areas appear relatively neglected and under-funded compared with towns, and this discrepancy seems to have intensified since around 2000. A lack of investment in agricultural extension services has meant rural Rwandans were often unable to improve their farming skills post-genocide. Since the Land Law was introduced in 2005, things have become even more uncertain for poorer farmers, who face proposed expropriation of their holdings of less than one hectare. The claim that efficiency requires the consolidating of fragmented microplots into plots of over one hectare is not substantiated in any policy document, as noted by des Forges and others. The first draft of the Land Law in 2000 seemed to provide some protection for smaller farmers, but the final law viewed “security of land tenure” for medium to larger farmers as the only concern, and as “the essential pre-requisite to development.” 50
In addition to physical rebuilding, reconstruction efforts in a post-conflict, post-genocide context like Rwanda require changed perceptions, attitudes, and practices. To foster social harmony, the problem of denial of rights violations of the poorest in society needs to be overcome. Through moral exclusion, intolerance toward those at the bottom of society is justified. This in turn produces increasingly polarized social attitudes and potentially polarizes positions so as to facilitate violent conflict. Since “the relationship between chronic poverty and conflict is almost certainly a two way street . . . chronic poverty itself [can be] . . . an important factor underlying conflict.” 51 Promoting social justice and nondiscrimination is essential to any public development policy that goes beyond elite decision makers and donors simply protecting their own class interests. 52 Strategies aimed at “concealing effects of harmful outcomes (disregarding, ignoring, distorting or minimizing injurious outcomes)” somehow need to be reversed, and denial of problems needs to be overcome. 53 At all levels of officialdom, from local government to national ministries, and in businesses, offices, and service institutions like hospitals and schools, recurrent unfairness can arise from blatant social exclusion of even well-qualified but unemployed young people without land, who are socially stigmatized and cannot find work. Identity politics will tend to thrive under a combined regime of social injustice and moral exclusion, with social attitudes remaining highly polarized in Rwanda. 54 However, the overtly violent solutions proposed in 1990 to 1994 by all sides in the political sphere are not likely to re-emerge. Instead, structural forms of violence may continue, as described by Peter Uvin in the early 1990s, when “liberalisation” reforms were beginning to make their mark. 55 Peasants found themselves pushed by forces beyond their control into conditions of unviability, through land appropriation, top-down land reallocations, lack of investment in extension and agrarian inputs, as well as privatization of land and farming policies. The subtext, however, is a moral order in which “the Hutu association with the soil and the glorification of ‘Hutu-as-cultivator’” has created, in reaction, since the genocide, a sense of “increased . . . animosity of returnees towards rural Hutu.” 56 Longer-term exiled Rwandans may claim to have suffered more than those who remained inside Rwanda after independence, and women more than most, since “without access to land, women are in reality, ‘nobody,’ For land [has] multiple meanings—material, cultural, social, political, economic, spiritual, and symbolic meanings—that are absolutely critical to women’s livelihoods.” 57 The problem is not only for those who fled in the aftermath of genocide and have been suspected of complicity or genocide crimes. Problems also arise for “old caseload refugees,” who relatively speaking are more protected, since they can be explicitly recognized as landless and needing land to be allocated to them under the 2005 Land Law. Other groups, women genocide survivors included, can find themselves denied the status of land-
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less persons and will not be allocated land on the same basis as those who returned from the long-term diaspora. The legitimacy of “new caseload” claims to land is often indisputable, but the point is that for those who live in urban areas, the symbolic value of land may outweigh its use value. Who gets what is necessarily a question of both politics and law, and a lack of progress in reducing social injustices since the genocide means land reform is often viewed through both class- and identity-colored lenses. 58 Various studies bring out how important different versions of history are for understanding contemporary policies in a country like Rwanda. 59 Ideas about history, collective myths about the past, fears of historical retribution, and forms of amnesia all influence how present policy priorities are interpreted by different classes and kinds of people in rural Rwanda. 60 These different takes on reality have received quite substantial attention in some of the most reliable studies of land problems and policies in post-genocide Rwandan reconstruction. 61 LAND POLICIES AND LOCAL REALITIES The Land Law of 2005 was introduced in a context of a great deal of forced migration into and out of—and back into—Rwanda. The implications of population movements were already significant during the colonial era, when land customs and laws were altered to try and create a coherent land policy. Stratified and variegated land tenure persisted well after independence, however, so that the issue of land tenure, already complicated by the existence of three legal systems, was rendered far more complex by massive movements of population in the second half of the twentieth century. With these movements, hundreds of thousands of people lost land while others took possession of land that was not theirs under any of the existing legal systems. 62
In trying to understand how the Land Law of 2005 emerged, we need to be able to imagine Rwanda through the eyes of mainly diasporic returnee political elites. 63 In seeking to transform their country, the model was of rural development as ideally based on cash crop production for export. This “Ugandan” model has been reinforced by donor policies that promote export crops, encouraging private land ownership and commercialization of farming, including of inputs. Rapid urban development has become a priority since the genocide, often leading “officials [to] support the development of rich and middle-class neighborhoods and favor quick eradication or restructuring of poor and working class neighborhoods.” 64 Efforts to increase production involve performance target-based contracts known as imihigo, and if
targets are “not met, district authorities can expect their careers to be negatively affected. Not surprisingly therefore, local authorities use measures such as fines and destruction of property to ensure targets are met.” 65 Coercion is one obvious risk of rapid reform involving reallocation of land title and productivity pressures. The formal, “modern” rural economy has some advantages for those in authority in the government and in private business. Export crops provide a more reliable fiscal base for revenue generation, since cash crop sales can be monitored and taxed. In the Rwandan context, the difficult-to-tax semisubsistence agriculture predominantly consists of small peasants multicropping a mix of commercial and food crops. Through being obliged to join cooperatives, purchase seed and inputs, and grow specific crops—destroying others (like bananas)—small farmers have lost valuable control over their farming practices. For example, in one area of Rwanda, in “Kirehe District, for example, the usual patchwork of beans, sorghum, bananas, cassava, and other staple food crops has been largely replaced by huge swathes of maize stalks, planted in uniform rows.” 66 Large-scale cash crop farming is being foisted onto the rural landscape and population, involving experiments in growing wheat, rice-growing in marshlands, and luxury export cash crops, all viewed as part of the future of Rwanda. Tiny plots and food security through multicropping tubers, banana, and pulses for home consumption are all redefined as backward and of no cultural value. Private tenure of large land plots is viewed as the norm or ideal, and rationalization of agriculture and land use requires the disappearance of inefficient farmers. This is the classical agrarian revolution idea that lies at the heart of the Rwandan government’s recent land policies. Most observers believe this vision is misleading in a number of ways. Pottier, whose primary expertise for many years was in the complex peasant farming systems of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, expected land consolidation to be resisted by smaller farmers living close to subsistence level, for whom risks meant facing the possibility of starving or becoming destitute. In addition, “to persuade farmers to grow coffee as a mono-crop does not make environmental sense. Farmers are more likely to vote with their feet.” 67 Coercion arises because there is little choice but to behave in ways that promote official goals such as increased cash crop production. Highly risky for peasants, they nonetheless face punishment in cases of refusal to comply. The “consolidated minimum size” of one hectare has involved anything between 25 percent and up to 75 percent of all farming households, depending on estimates. 68 Poor and landless farmers who ignore regulations about crop varieties, seeds, and inputs and refuse to obey orders to plant specific crops may face being expropriated or having their crop destroyed. Their “inefficiency” and uncooperative attitudes are blamed for poverty and rural backwardness. As it is, they can be fined for everything from allowing
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cattle to graze outdoors to not having a compost heap or pit latrine in place when local government officials inspect. 69 In case anyone suggests this is a market-led paradise, sale of crops is also closely regulated and this means that “in most cases, people are unable to sell the maize outside of government-approved channels, even if they wanted to,” implying an artificially low price for producers. 70 Customary land use and allocation practices were mostly removed by the 2005 Land Law, which proposed a single unitary system, disadvantaging the most vulnerable people, and tending to increase rather than reduce disputes over land inheritance, ownership, and use. Some time before new land policies were introduced, Saskia van Hoyweghen warned that customary rules protected peasants against the consequences of land marketization, which could result in mass displacement without compensation. 71 Musahara and Huggins also viewed customary regulations as assisting with efficient land use rather than being a drag on innovation. 72 Land reforms in Rwanda are promoted as protective of women’s rights in particular—especially those of women-headed households and genocide widows. Yet full land title under the 2005 Land Law is confined to legally married (or widowed) women with children. It does not recognize other categories of women, such as multiple wives, or those (mostly the poor) in customary marriages. 73 Sweeping all customary arrangements aside in the drive for land titles ignores “the existence of multiple legal spheres [which] is important in terms of better understanding the local dynamics of land tenure, as well as the gendered struggles over land resulting from threats to security of tenure and women’s access.” 74 A pattern has emerged in Rwanda of “appropriation of large plots by powerful people . . .often for purposes of land speculation, rather than agricultural production,” and despite moves to counter this tendency, it is arguably becoming widespread. 75 Pastoralism can require large land tracts and is historically associated with the political elites of Rwanda, including the top military. 76 Disciplinary measures are sometimes taken by the government against those who acquire too much land, but the same rules do not apply to all top military and politicians. THE RATIONALE FOR SMALL FARMS In the neo-Malthusian vision, high population densities in rural Rwanda are viewed as a problem rather than an asset. Land disputes at local level remain significant but are nothing new. Land shortages and land hunger were not the
cause of genocide, as is sometimes wrongly asserted (see Diamond, 2007, for example. Straus and Waldorf, 2006, give detailed evidence to the contrary). 77 In general, therefore, land-related problems are considered to be the most serious and greatest negative factor hindering sustainable peace. . . . Hence even though the political economy of land was not a decisive factor in the context of the genocide, its significance in terms of national reconciliation and the consolidation of lasting peace cannot be over-emphasized. 78
Violent conflict that is directed at other poor people rather than up toward the elite has little in common with the very authoritarian and highly coercive mobilization of the population during the genocide itself. 79 Such a view is underpinned by many studies that confirm the basic economic (and social) rationality of small peasants’ farming strategies. Fragmentation of plots, careful mixing of crops, and minimal use of purchased inputs all make sense from the perspective of risk-averse producers. Proposals for large-scale monocropping are not economically rational except for those with considerable capital and the capacity to take risks. And the evidence of rationality is compelling. One comprehensive review concludes, More than 70 empirical studies indicate that local population growth and its microeconomic manifestations in hills and mountains of developing countries do not necessarily threaten forest production, agriculture, livestock production, or watershed stability. Population growth can make the cost of land relative to labor increase. As this cost increases, people often change their methods of managing economic plants and animals and make land improvements to offset initial declines in productivity that result from more frequent use of land. 80
Another major study used Rwandan household survey data from the 1980s to the early 1990s and concluded that “all ten major crops yield considerably more on small than on large farms in Rwanda” and that “for each crop, the yields of small farmers are 60 to 95 percent higher than those of large farmers. Coffee, cassava, and banana appear most responsive to extra labor, showing yields on small farms that are at least 50 percent above national average.” 81 This detailed empirical research has been ignored in spite of its strong empirical and comparative basis. Instead, orthodoxy has been imposed that blames “inefficient peasants” for soil erosion, declining food availability—for both overusing and underusing the land. This means there is no justification for the coercive uprooting of nonprescribed crops, something that the farmer can even be charged for if she or he insists on disobeying orders and grows traditional food crops alongside cash crops. 82 Pottier cites Blarel, a World Bank researcher who worked in Rwanda during the early 1990s, and who favored intercropping and field fragmen-
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tation as economically more rational than more extensive ways of farming typically associated with cash crops and plot consolidation. Microfarming also suits conditions of climatic complexity and uncertainty, such as those in Rwanda. Barel concluded that in Rwanda “consolidation policies are unlikely to increase land productivity significantly.” 83 Another study at around the same time warned the Rwandan government that “halting population growth or removing people from well-settled areas might not improve productivity.” 84 The Rwandan government does not seem to be listening to such advice, which is based on careful research rather than political posturing. Even a government with highly skilled personnel cannot plan successfully for “the agriculture sector in a way that accounts for geographical and temporal variation in weather, production totals, marketing costs, and a host of other factors.” 85 The distrust of small farmers is not only unfortunate, but could prove fatal to the poorest people, vulnerable to starvation and destitution. The microniche management found in Rwanda is, in fact, fairly typical of many other densely populated hill-farming areas in the world. Pre-genocide government statistics indicated that even rapid population growth could be compatible with maintenance of woodlots in forested areas. 86 And diverse cropping patterns may be more appropriate for improving food security especially for the most vulnerable populations in what can be remote regions for transporting food supplies. 87 For hill farming, the ideal may not be large farms, but “farmers [who] grow a mixture of seeds, adapted to the microconditions of their particular environment . . . [with] on-farm maintenance of biogenetic diversity and practices of inter-cropping [so that] . . . farmers exploit the local conditions to the full.” 88 Needed today to reduce poverty in Rwanda are no more monocrop zones, no more forced crop substitutions—or forced removals of crop varieties like banana or tubers to replace them with more commercialization and fertilized cash crop and food crops. Instead, government and donors need to place more trust in the knowledge of the farming population of the country, before that knowledge is forcibly displaced and lost. Conditions for soil conservation and soil fertility require encouraging farmers to invest their time in maintaining the land they use. Throwing small producers off land and obliging them to share plots of under one hectare is not necessarily going to produce economically viable farming, which is the axiomatic assumption of both Vision 2020 and the 2005 Land Law and Policy. Pottier has even suggested, in a study conducted for the World Bank, that “fragmentation should be understood as a strategy consciously pursued to increase the diversity of agro-climatic conditions, not as the unhappy outcome of antiquated inheritance rules.” 89 Increased fragmentation may be a response to growing pressure of the environment on producers, evidence of successful rather than failed adaptive strategies.
One example is the observation often made that terracing in Rwanda has been poorly maintained, and that this may have to do with population density or demotivated farmers struggling under customary arrangements. However, the opposite can more often be noted: depopulated areas were often eroded and terracing abandoned due to lack of labor inputs. Elsewhere, too, “photographs, farmer surveys and regional statistics . . . indicate that high population densities (those above 100/km2) are correlated with terracing, zero tillage, manuring, composting, the use of inorganic fertilizers.” 90 Countries and regions included in this study included Rwanda, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania. This study also confirmed that “Rwandan farmers maintain more soil conservation investments per hectare and are more likely to use organic and purchased inputs as land holdings decrease,” rather than as they increase. 91 Such research is all but ignored. By repeating something, it does not become true. However many times it is stated that “the owners of land acquired through the market” are more efficient, the problem is also that they can sell the land on, and so “have few or no obligations,” whether to their neighbors, or to future generations. 92 Somewhere between scenarios of inevitable Malthusian traps and overidealized notions of peasant resourcefulness lies an intermediate position on how land use and land reform in Rwanda can genuinely reduce poverty and gender inequalities and contribute to post-genocide economic reconstruction. In Rwanda, where “the pressures of overpopulation, land scarcity, erosionprone topography, lack of export capital, abject rural poverty, and the threat of drought and famine are realities that will not go away,” more investment in peasant farming may be a solution, rather than less. 93 Preferential access to credit, land, and seeds for middle-size and larger farmers does not encourage their efficient use of the land and demonstrates not only a bias for elites but also a colonial approach to modernizing farming. 94 There seems to be an echo here of earlier complaints that indigenous people do not make the best use of land, which in effect is fallow. So they deserve to have it taken off them so it can be put to more fruitful use, supposedly for the benefit of all, including the dispossessed. But in reality the poorest lose out. EVIDENCE AND EXAMPLES What is evident so far is the central importance of class, gender, and legal tenure replacing customary arrangements for poor farmers. The Rwanda Vision 2020 strategy explicitly recognizes the need for an agricultural “exit strategy” for the poorest farmers, and according to this scenario, landless peasants should be drawn up by off-farm employment and business opportunities, both rural and urban. Wage labor demands are expected to rise since
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higher agricultural outputs should create demand for microprocessing of raw materials and local businesses. Unfortunately, Pottier describes this hope as “the pinnacle of voluntary blindness.” 95 As people are removed from tiny plots on which they depended to feed their families, expecting them to find other work is like “an endorsement of widening class differences.” 96 According to des Forges, “although the policy and law talk of the towns drawing off the surplus from the land, there is no indication of how in fact the poor would be trained, housed, or employed in urban settings.” 97 This has indeed proven to be the least convincing part of the Vision 2020 as it has been rolled out through the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy from 2008 to 2012. 98 Rich and poor farmers are being pushed further and further apart in terms of the moral compass of the Rwandan government, the former being seen as efficient, the latter as fatalistic and to be removed from agriculture. Alison des Forges notes the danger that land rights may become eroded when small plots of land are reclassified as under- or unproductive. Thus, “the landholder who fails to learn how to use his land productively, as defined by the land commission, will in the end lose all rights to the land.” 99 While political and economic elites thus amass large terrains, 100 vulnerable peasant households scrape by and fear expropriation and encroachment. One wonders how much policy makers in Kigali, London, and Brussels care about whether—or how—the poor of rural Rwanda survive. The complex interconnections among land issues, social justice and injustice, and post-conflict reconstruction are thus apparent in the issue of land reform, a fundamental space of confrontation among different visions of Rwanda. Land grabbing is going on and is known, but not officially acted against, except on occasion when it looks like good publicity. Policy makers and elites are generally indifferent to the fate of poor farmers—especially the “sons of the soil,” who are disdained and perhaps held in contempt for their association with genocide. Land regulates intra-household and inter-household security among poor community members, given the lack of off-farm activities that can provide alternative sources of income and interdependence for most poor people. The stakes in land disputes are, therefore, very high indeed, since access to this or that small parcel of land can make the difference, for a family or individual, between hunger and having enough to eat or drink. Land access was around 0.28 ha per person in 1984 and has fallen to 0.16 ha per person sixteen years later by 2000, according to Ministry of Agriculture surveys conducted in these two years. 101 As Huggins noted recently, “the widespread adoption of monocropping and the dependence on commercial crops is likely to make rural production systems more vulnerable to [livelihood] . . . shocks than ever before.” 102
Indeed, the poor majority of farmers are vulnerable to risks of hunger since, very simply put, their approach to land use, based on consumption, does not fit the predetermined categories of land laws and related government policies. Lands subdivided, whether through inheritance, according to niche microclimates, or for different kinds of crops, are now subject to regrouping, by decree. The complex social modes of interaction among peasants are thus disappearing rapidly, and the threat of uncompensated landlessness hangs over the heads of many small peasant families who could actually still grow most of the country’s food, without large-scale cash cropping. The fate of the Batwa minority is considered below, as an untypical case perhaps, but one that highlights some of the potentially devastating consequences of landlessness for all poor Rwandans. Historically, Batwa were hunters, fought for the king, and danced and worked for Tutsi aristocrats. The colonial and Rwandan notions of hierarchy alike placed Batwa, as indigenous people, at the bottom of the ladder. They were excluded from all educational systems, as a mark of their inferiority. During the genocide, Batwa Rwandans were also among the worst-affected victims of violence, and an estimated one third of the population was killed in the carnage. 103 After the genocide, their numbers continued to fall. 104 Batwa numbers were declining even before 1994, and there is evidence that their situation is getting worse, also due to commercial challenges from plastic imports, which means it is harder for them to sell pots, their former source of revenue in many areas of Rwanda. 105 Owen Willis even suggests the Batwa have experienced their own version of genocide, especially if the UN definition of the term genocide is used, namely “the intention to . . . destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” In this sense “whether the Batwa—expelled from their forest home, slaughtered during the genocide, neglected before and since are victims of genocide themselves” may be an open question. 106 In any case, in relation to the land issue and post-conflict reconstruction, it is clear that their position is very weak. Not only has their exclusion been reinforced economically, but also until as recently as 2007, Batwa were not allowed to use the term Batwa officially, on the grounds that it was ethnic and likely to promote “divisionism.” Even to use the term Batwa, it was claimed, was divisionist and genocidal. 107 Providing land for this group would not be easy, since “any major resettlement policy favoring the Batwa—were any indeed possible—would not be well received by the other ethnic groups.” 108 The Batwa: An Exceptional Case? The fate of the Batwa in Rwanda since the genocide has been almost ignored, but it seems wise to consider them in the context of the threat of landlessness to many, if not most, Rwandans. The situation of the Batwa is so appalling
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that their numbers decline, with only an estimated 25,000 surviving, composing around 0.3 percent of the Rwandan population (rather than one per cent, as is popularly believed). 109 Their fate has been tied to the issue of land because of their progressive deprivation of access first to forest resources, and more recently to marshlands. Charcoal-making in Rwanda is completely banned, and this mainly punished Batwa in forest areas. “Generally speaking, these swamp lands belong to and are managed by the State, but are often not checked by the State.” 110 This situation has now changed, and trespassers are subjected to heavy fines and criminal charges if they are found in these river valley areas. Yet while charcoal burners are arrested, forests are despoiled by cross-border charcoal traders under the control of militias in neighboring DRC. 111 And the marshlands are not put to use but kept fallow by the government. Marshlands, formerly empty arable land for the poorest people, including Batwa, are now subject to strict exclusion orders. Researchers suggest that for some farmers, there are benefits of the government schemes. However, at present even the knowledge of farmers who have land is not incorporated into agricultural wetland management practices. 112 If this is true of farmers with land, how much more will it be true of the knowledge and perceptions of the indigenous landless communities. In microcosm, the Batwa experience shows how difficult landless life in rural Rwanda can be. People who are displaced from land will not all suffer the same social stigma as Batwa, of course. But this stigma has grown as the Batwa have found themselves displaced from whatever land and other resources they once had some access to. As the Batwa exclusion continues today, the executive secretary of the Association for the Promotion of Batwa has stated, “We are truly the forgotten people of Rwanda.” 113 Since the government has banned all access to marshlands, the Batwa have been especially hard hit, since they cannot access clay to make pots, which they were able to sell in the past. The Land Law “insists that customary users of the marsh lands have no right to continue such use [and this includes] the Batwa, a small and much disadvantaged minority group.” 114 Commercial rice planting is planned instead, but this threatens to destroy the environmental balance of those zones. Opotow explains that cutting the Batwa out of all economic development opportunities is an extreme case of moral exclusion: “Excluding others from the scope of justice means viewing them as unworthy of fairness, resources, or sacrifice, and seeing them as expendable, undeserving, exploitable, or irrelevant.” 115 Ironically, perhaps, given the United Kingdom’s government support for the 2005 Land Law and Land Policy, Batwa land rights issues were taken up by LANDNET, a coalition set up under the auspices of DFID to feed into the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers participatory process that was intended to inform land reform in Rwanda. Even LANDNET’s recom-
mendations on the Batwa were eventually ignored in drafting of the law. 116 The utterly miserable situation of landless Batwa Rwandans has been summed up as follows: Without land, education, organization or power, they have been compelled to become tenants on others’ land, selling their only asset—labour. In Rwanda especially, some turned to producing pottery, a cottage industry which itself has become increasingly sidelined by industrial progress and ecological pressure. . . . The clay itself is increasingly unattainable as population pressure leads to wetlands being drained in order to bring marginal land into production. Consequently, many Batwa have been forced to resort to beg [sic] for a living. 117
Their total destitution and neglect does not bode well for those likely to suffer from the proposed reforms. The idea on which such reform is based, namely that agricultural growth will generate more jobs, does not seem based on local realities and may be a myth that helps government deny its own responsibility for pushing poor people off the land. 118 Consolidation and cash-crop farming, may prove bad news for productivity and may reduce returns for farmers who remain, even if it increases government revenue. If multicropping and fragmented plot farming are abandoned, environmental biodiversity may be lost, and people’s diets will deteriorate. The logic of land policies in Rwanda today tends toward these unfavorable outcomes. Taking the perspective of the already landless Batwa suggests strongly that other Rwandans, without alternative income outside agriculture, will face a bleak future. And since the “2005 Land Act threatens to make a vast number of Rwandans landless,” as Pottier puts it, it may be that “the army of landless people thus created will have the potential for generating significant conflict.” 119 CONCLUSION Policies of villagization (imidugudu), criminal justice innovations (gacaca), and punishment for those seen as divisionist for criticizing the government all influence how poor people and critics of government policies feel in postgenocide Rwanda. Arguably, no other policy of reconstruction has had quite as much impact on poor Rwandans’ daily lives as the land policies. The interesting possibility is that with land policies so, greater class solidarity could emerge in Rwanda across the complex divisions of old and new return populations. This could even lead to confrontations between the landed, welloff urban elite and middle classes and the land-poor and landless. New class divisions that may imply new forms of political organization, and shared
Land Reform, Social Justice, and Reconstruction
identities that arise from poverty rather than racial or ethnic identity, are not a good reason for implementing land reform through a classic modernization approach, as favored by the Rwandan government. As Pottier noted some years ago, therefore, “the potential for future conflict rooted in class differences must not be underestimated.” 120 Too many studies on Rwanda remain focused on race questions rather than on more fluid ways of defining social identities today. Intra-Rwandan unity may not be easy to achieve, but can a sense of class solidarity have some potential benefits? Can it assist Rwandans to “move beyond fixed identities . . . [and] advocate a more generous and pluralistic vision of the world, where the possibilities for oppressive identity claims are minimized[?].” 121 Growing inequalities and injustices in rural areas could produce social tensions that oblige the government to reconsider the goals of its land policies and reforms. A key finding of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission was that land issues needed to be resolved justly before there could be any longer-term prospects for peace and sustainable development in Rwanda. 122 The same report concluded that land issues—and distributive justice in land allocation—should be absolutely central to all public and donor policies aimed at post-conflict reconstruction. This is even more important today than it was in 2001. Many warnings are issued that preventing large-scale landlessness is vital if social tensions are to be avoided. 123 Existing land law and land policy can support social justice and genuine poverty reduction, but only if the risks of new agrarian strategies based on commercialization, private land title, and a Green Revolution include in their cost-benefit calculations the risks of hunger and landlessness for poor farmers. 124 There is no sense in forecasting doom; the point is to seek to avert negative outcomes, especially for the poorest people in society who are often the hardest hit by plans for reform. Complex land struggles emerging in Rwanda today revolve around the question of farming intensification or extensification. The merits of small-scale farming have been explained, and it is hoped that these lessons can shape future policy. Intensified farming can be more productive and can be enhanced further with sufficient inputs and support for even very small farmers. High population density does not cause land conflicts; it is the gradual dismantling of customary land use systems that are at stake. With customary systems, even tiny and fragmented plots of land can reduce the incidence of poverty, avoiding distress sales, which take poor Rwandans on a path to nowhere. For economic reconstruction, ceilings on land holdings are a good idea and should be more effectively implemented. Once the needs and priorities of poor peasants are the sine qua non of land policies—and of donor support for such policies—then conditions will finally be ripe for the majority of Rwandans to consider whether they might start to invest in improving their lives and the lives of their children.
NOTES 1. Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020 Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Kigali, 2000,www.gesci.org/assets/files/Rwanda_Vision_2020.pdf, 9. 2. Ritu Verma, “Without Land You Are Nobody.” Critical Dimensions of Women’s Access to Land and Relations in Tenure in East Africa, IDRC Scoping Study (Rome: International Land Commission, 2007), 21. 3. U.S. State Department, Background Note: Rwanda, 2012, www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/ 2861.htm. 4. An Ansoms and Nathalie Holvoet, “Women and Land Arrangements in Rwanda: A Gender-Based Analysis of Access to Natural Resources,” in Women’s Land Rights and Privatization in Eastern Africa, eds. Birgit Englert and Elizabeth Daley (Woodbridge, UK: James Currey, 2008), 138–57. 5. IMF, Rwanda: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, IMF Country Report No. 08/90,www. imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2008/cr0890.pdf; and Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020. 6. IMF, Rwanda: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, i. 7. Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020; Ansoms and Holvoet, “Women and Land Arrangements”; Chris Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda,” Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice 21, no. 3 (2009): 296–30. 8. An Ansoms, A Green Revolution for Rwanda? The Political Economy of Poverty and Agrarian Change, IOB Discussion Paper 2008/06 (University of Antwerp, Antwerp: 2008); An Ansoms, Striving for Growth, Bypassing the Poor? A Critical Review of Rwanda’s Rural Sector Policies, IOB Discussion Paper 2007/02 (University of Antwerp, Antwerp: 2007); and Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda.” 9. Johan Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace? Rwanda’s 2005 Land Law in Context,” Journal of Agrarian Change 6, no. 4 (October 2006): 207, 509–37. 10. Ansoms, A Green Revolution for Rwanda? and Aline Mutabazi, “Redistributive Land Reform in Rwanda: The Impact on Household Food Security” (MA Thesis ISS, The Hague, 2009). 11. Carol Boudreaux, “Land Conflict and Genocide in Rwanda,” The Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development 1, no. 3 (2009): 85–95. 12. Mutabazi, “Redistributive Land Reform in Rwanda,” 4. 13. Boudreaux, “Land Conflict and Genocide in Rwanda.” 14. Ansoms, A Green Revolution for Rwanda? , 298. 15. Boudreaux, “Land Conflict and Genocide in Rwanda”; Johan Pottier, Reimagining Rwanda: Conflict, Survival and Disinformation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); and Saskia Van Hoyweghen, “The Rwandan Villagisation Programme: Resettlement for Reconstruction?” in Conflict and Ethnicity in Central Africa, ILCAA, ed. Didier Goyvaerts (Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2000), 209–24. 16. An Ansoms, “Re-engineering Rural Society: The Visions and Ambitions of the Rwandan Elite,” African Affairs 108/431 (2009): 289–309; Ansoms, A Green Revolution for Rwanda?; and Ansoms, Striving for Growth, Bypassing the Poor. 17. Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020, 11. 18. Boudreaux, “Land Conflict and Genocide in Rwanda,” 91. 19. L. Rose, “Women’s Land Access in Post-Conflict Rwanda: Bridging the Gap Between Customary Land Law and Pending Land Legislation,” Texas Journal of Women and the Law 13 (2004), 197–250. 20. E. Daley, R. Weeks, and C. Umohoza, “Ahead of The Game: Land Tenure Reform in Rwanda and the Process of Securing Women's Land Rights,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 4, no. 1 (2010), 131–52; and Mutabazi, “Redistributive Land Reform in Rwanda.” 21. Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020. 22. Alison Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” in L’Afrique des Grands Lacs, IOB, eds. F. Reyntjens and S. Marysse (IOB:Antwerp, 2005), 353–71. 23. Pottier, Reimagining Rwanda; and G. Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis 1959–1994 (London: Hurst, 1995).
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24. Pottier, Reimagining Rwanda; and Susan Opotow, “Reconciliation in Times of Impunity: Challenges for Social Justice,” Social Justice Research 14, no. 2 (June 2001): 149–70. 25. Daniel C. Clay, Fidele Byiringio, Jaakko Kangasniemi, Thomas Reardon, Bosco Sibomana Laurence Uwamariya, and David Tardif-Douglin, Promoting Food Security in Rwanda through Sustainable Agricultural Productivity: Measuring the Challenges of Population Pressure, Land Degradation and Poverty, MSU (Michigan State University) International Development Papers, No. 17, http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/11401/1/isp17.pdf, vi, 1. 26. DfID, Rwanda Country Assistance Plan (London: Department for International Development, 2003); and Nigel Eltringham, Accounting for Horror:Post-Genocide Debates in Rwanda (London: Pluto Press, 2003), 6. 27. Louise-Helene Piron and A. McKay, Aid in a Difficult Environment: Rwanda Case Study, Paper No. 4 ODI Study “Poorly Performing Countries” (London: ODI, 2004). 28. Helen Hintjens, “Conflict and Resources in Post-Genocide Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region,” International Journal of Environmental Studies 63, no. 5, (October 2006), 599–615. 29. L. A. Jackson and J. S. Scherr, “Non-Degrading Land Use Strategies for Tropical Hillsides,” 2020 Brief, no. 27 (Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute). 30. Saskia Van Hoyweghen, “The Urgency of Land Reform and Agrarian Reform in Rwanda,” African Affairs, no. 98 (1999): 353–72. 31. Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf, eds., Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011). 32. Bert Ingelaere, Living the Transition: A Bottom-up Perspective on Rwanda’s Political Transition, IOB Discussion Paper 2007/06, University of Antwerp; Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing out the Chaff”; Johan Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace? Rwanda’s 2005 Land Law in Context,” Journal of Agrarian Change 6, no. 4 (October 2006): 509–37; Pottier, Reimagining Rwanda; Opotow, “Reconciliation in Times of Impunity.” 33. Jean Bigagaza, Carolyne Abong, and Cecile Mukarubuga, “Land Scarcity, Distribution and Conflict in Rwanda,” in Scarcity and Surfeit, The Ecology of Africa's Conflicts, eds. Jeremy Lind and Kathryn Sturman (South Africa: Institute for Security Studies, 2002), 50–82, 184.108.40.206/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=cache:rYM-68UkqKEJ:www.iss.co.za/dynamic/ administration/file_manager/file_links/SCARCITYCHAPTER2.PDF%3Flink_ id%3D14%26slink_id%3D1511%26link_type%3D12%26slink_type%3D13%26tmpl_ id%3D3+land+policies+rwanda, 72. 34. Catherine Andre, “Rwandan Land: Access, Policy and Land Reform,” originally in French in L’Afrique des Grands Lacs—Annuaire 1997–1998, eds. F. Reyntjens and S. Marysse (Antwerp; Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998), 141–73, English translation at www.grandslacs.net/doc/ 1450.pdf, 19; Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda”; Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?”; and Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing out the Chaff.” 35. Clay, Byiringio, et al., Promoting Food Security in Rwanda through Sustainable Agricultural Productivity; and Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?” 36. Verma, “Without Land You Are Nobody.” 37. Pottier, Reimagining Rwanda. 38. Verma, “Without Land You Are Nobody.” 39. Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020; Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?” and Eltringham, Accounting for Horror. 40. Ansoms, “Re-engineering Rural Society,” 289–309. 41. Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020. 42. The World Bank, December 8, 2009. 43. Ansoms, “Re-engineering Rural Society”; Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda Vision 2020; and IMF, Rwanda: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. 44. Daley, Weeks, and Umohoza, “Ahead of the Game: Land Tenure Reform in Rwanda.” 45. Ingelaere, Living the Transition, 31. 46. Van Hoyweghen, “The Rwandan Villagisation Programme,” 209–24. 47. T. S. Jayne, Takashi Yamano, et al., “Smallholder Income and Land Distribution in Africa: Implications for Poverty Reduction Strategies,” Food Policy 28 (2003): 253–75. 48. Jayne, Yamano, et al. “Smallholder Income and Land Distribution in Africa,” 253–75.
49. Clay, Byiringio, et al., Promoting Food Security in Rwanda. 50. Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 364. 51. Gerard Howe and Andy McKay, Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Assessing Chronic Poverty: The Case of Rwanda, UNICEF Discussion Paper (2004),originwww.unicef.org/socialpolicy/files/Combining_Quantitative_and_Qualitative_Methods.pdf, 3. 52. An Ansoms, “Re-engineering Rural Society.” 53. Opotow, “Reconciliation in Times of Impunity,” 157. 54. Ingelaere, Living the Transition. 55. Peter Uvin, Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1998). 56. Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 359. 57. Verma, “Without Land You Are Nobody,” 45. 58. Ingelaere, Living the Transition. 59. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?; Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and the Genocide in Rwanda (Oxford: James Currey, 2001); and Eltringham, Accounting for Horror. 60. Suzanne Buckley-Zistel, “Remembering to Forget: Chosen Amnesia as a Strategy for Local Coexistence in Post-Genocide Rwanda,” Africa 76, no. 2 (2006): 131–50. 61. Pottier, Reimagining Rwanda; and Herman Musahara and Chris Huggins, “Land Reform, Land Scarcity and Post Conflict Reconstruction: A Case Study of Rwanda,” chapter 6 in H. Musahara, Poverty and Land (ACTS/ISS, 2002). 62. Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 357. 63. Hintjens, Helen, “When Identity Becomes a Knife: Reflecting on the Genocide in Rwanda,” Ethnicities 1, no. 1 (2001): 25–55. 64. Des Forges, Alison, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 368. 65. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda.” 66. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda,” 300. 67. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 531; Musahara and Huggins, “Land Reform, Land Scarcity,” 524. 68. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda”; Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?” 69. Ingelaere, Living the Transition, 37. 70. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda,” 301. 71. Van Hoyweghen, “The Rwandan Villagisation Programme.” 72. Musahara and Huggins, “Land Reform, Land Scarcity.” 73. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 519–20. 74. Verma, “Without Land You Are Nobody,” 45. 75. Musahara and Huggins, “Land Reform, Land Scarcity,” 276. 76. Ansoms, “Re-engineering Rural Society”; and Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 359. 77. Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Penguin Group, 2007); and Straus and Waldorf, eds., Remaking Rwanda, 2006. 78. Kathrin Wyss, A Thousand Hills for 9 Million People. Land Reform in Rwanda: Restoration of Feudal Order or Genuine Transformation? Working Paper, Swiss Peace Foundation (2006), 17. 79. Omar McDoom, Rwanda’s Ordinary Killers: Interpreting Popular Participation in the Rwandan Genocide, Working Paper No. 77, Development Studies Institute, (LSE: London 2005). 80. Jackson and Scherr, “Non-degrading Land Use Strategies for Tropical Hillsides,” 906. 81. Clay, Byiringio, et al., Promoting Food Security in Rwanda, 30. 82. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda,” 302. 83. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 523. 84. Scott Templeton and Sara Scherr, “Effects of Demographic and Related Microeconomic Change on Land Quality in Hills and Mountains of Developing Countries,” World Development 27, no. 6 (1999): 903–18. 85. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda,” 301.
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86. R. Ford, “Marginal Coping in Extreme Land Pressures: Ruhengeri, Rwanda,” in B. Turner II, G. Hyden, and R. Kates, eds., Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa (Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1993), 145–86. 87. Templeton and Scherr, “Effects of Demographic and Related Microeconomic Change,” 904. 88. Van Hoyweghen, “The Urgency of Land Reform and Agrarian Reform in Rwanda,” 355. 89. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 523. 90. Templeton and Scherr, “Effects of Demographic and Related Microeconomic Change,” 906. 91. Templeton and Scherr, “Effects of Demographic and Related Microeconomic Change,” 903–18; and Jackson, “Non-degrading Land Use Strategies for Tropical Hillsides”; Clay, Byiringio, et al., Promoting Food Security in Rwanda. 92. Van Hoyweghen, “The Urgency of Land Reform and Agrarian Reform in Rwanda,” 358. 93. Clay, Byiringio, et al., Promoting Food Security in Rwanda, xviii. 94. Ansoms, “Re-engineering Rural Society”; Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers. 95. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 532. 96. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 533. 97. Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 370; Ansoms, “Re-engineering Rural Society,” 301–3. 98. IMF, Rwanda: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. 99. Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 368. 100. Musahara and Huggins, “Land Reform, Land Scarcity,” 324. 101. Jayne, Yamano, et al., “Smallholder Income and Land Distribution in Africa,” 265. 102. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda,” 302. 103. J. Lewis and J. Knight, The Twa of Rwanda: Assessment of the Situation of the Twa and Promotion of Twa Rights in Post-War Rwanda (Copenhagen: World Rainforest Movement and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 1995). 104. See also Jerome Lewis’s Minority Rights Group report 2000: www.coporwa.org/ documents/Lewis_(2000).pdf. 105. Owen Willis, “The Forgotten People in a Remembered Land: The Batwa and Genocide,” in Susan M. Thomson and J. Zoe Wilson, eds., Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region: Ten Years on from Genocide, Special Issue of International Insights (June 2005), 135. 106. Willis, “The Forgotten People in a Remembered Land,” 128. 107. Wyss, A Thousand Hills for 9 Million People, 25. 108. Willis, “The Forgotten People in a Remembered Land,” 141. 109. Jerome Lewis, Minority Rights Group Report (2000), www.coporwa.org/documents/ Lewis_(2000).pdf. 110. Andre, “Rwandan Land: Access, Policy and Land Reform,” 11. 111. UN Security Council Report, www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Update%20Report%2014%20October%202008_ DRC.pdf. 112. L. N. Nabahungu and S. M. Visser, “Farmers’ Knowledge and Perception of Agricultural Wetland Management in Rwanda,” Land Degradation and Development, Doi:10.1002/ ldr.1133 (2011). 113. Willis, “The Forgotten People in a Remembered Land,” 127. 114. Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff,” 370. 115. Opotow, “Reconciliation in Times of Impunity.” 116. Wyss, A Thousand Hills for 9 Million People, 22–23, 29. 117. Willis, “The Forgotten People in a Remembered Land,” 135. 118. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 524. 119. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 527. 120. Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?,” 528. 121. Rita Abrahamsen, “African Studies and the Post-Colonial Challenge,” African Affairs, 102/407 (2003): 198–210.
122. Wyss, A Thousand Hills for 9 Million People; and Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff.” 123. Huggins, “Agricultural Policies and Local Grievances in Rural Rwanda”; Ansoms, A Green Revolution for Rwanda? 124. Des Forges, “Land in Rwanda: Winnowing Out the Chaff”; and Pottier, “Land Reform for Peace?”
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies A Comparison of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo John Yoder
INTRODUCTION Given the number of times the “wave of democracy” has swept over Africa, one might conclude that Africa is the most democratic of all continents. Each wave has been marked by hope, even euphoria, regarding the prospects for liberation, peace, and good governance. 1 In each wave, elections have been regarded as the centerpiece of the process, as necessary and perhaps even sufficient portals through which countries must pass on the way to democracy and good governance. Tragically, in spite of its many rounds of elections, Africa is not the most democratic of all continents. Increasingly, sober analysts recognize that even “free and fair” elections do not always lead to democracy or good government. 2 However elections appeal to journalists, who return with dramatic photos of thousands of people standing patiently in line to exercise their democratic rights, and to western policy makers, who use the visual images and election tallies to tout their efforts in promoting democracy. While political scientists mine both the qualitative and quantitative data as fodder for books and articles, elections are also used by wily leaders to consolidate authoritarian institutions and to lay claim to more foreign aid.
Given the record of the last fifty years, it is now time to ask a new set of questions about elections. When considering elections, journalists, western policy makers, citizens, and political scientists generally pose one somewhat narrow question, “Were the elections free and fair?” That is also the question raised when election monitors from organizations such as the European Union, National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, or the Carter Center meet after the elections to debrief and prepare their reports and press conference statements. Implicit in this question is the notion that elections are essential mileposts on the road to democratization. Not reflected in the question is much curiosity about whether elections indicate if people are capable of managing the mechanics of democracy or if they are committed to the deeper values that underpin democracy. Using those two questions, the following essay suggests that a detailed examination of elections—an examination that goes beyond simply rendering a verdict about the validity of the outcome—may enable us to diagnose potential problems that must be addressed if democracy is to take root and to predict the likelihood that democracy will persist into the future. Such an examination will require a different and more detailed set of questions than those contained in a one-dimensional query focused only on free and fair elections. Having followed a number of elections in Africa—through the press, talking to colleagues, and also by serving as an election observer both in Liberia and Sierra Leone—I often asked if elections could provide meaningful indicators about the depth of commitment to democracy and about the likelihood that democracy will endure. Implicitly, a Liberian writer posed the same questions when he said of the 2005 elections, “Just as a beautiful wedding dress does not lead to a good marriage, a good election does not guarantee democracy.” Photogenic, easily described, and symbolically compelling, both elections and wedding gowns may command attention that far exceeds their significance. Certainly, no one would venture to make predictions about the depth of a couple’s love or the durability of their relationship based on an analysis of the bride’s attire. Can the same be said of elections? Drawing from the language of ritual, should the elections be seen as a superficial ceremony or as a robust covenantal contract? Does an analysis of elections have more explanatory and predictive value than a study of wedding dresses? Can successful elections build a firm foundation for the future or are they formulaic, externally inspired exercises with very limited longterm significance? This chapter argues that elections are more than a symbol or a portal. Certainly, a good election is evidence that a country has taken an important step toward a responsive polity. But more important, an election is a highly condensed microcosm of the democratic process because the essential elements of a successful election replicate critical ingredients needed for a viable democracy. Thus, data from elections can aid us in assessing whether
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
and where a nation is on the trajectory to democracy. Drawing on the parlance of finance and economics, an analysis of elections can be seen as a kind of stress test of democratization. Building on that assumption, one can posit the following: 1. Elections, as highly visible accouterments of the nuptials of democracy, can provide useful evidence to show if an African country has taken real steps toward democracy. 2. Elections can provide evidence to show if those steps are likely to continue after the initial euphoria of the event. 3. Elections can provide information that might point to the best strategies for promoting long-term political success. The examples I use to evaluate those propositions are the elections in Liberia (2005), Congo (2006), and Sierra Leone (2007). The evaluation assumes that in reasonably stable societies, whether previously democratic or autocratic, electoral success can be measured by the following general criteria. General Standards for Democratic Elections 1. Attention to the common good. Although they reflect partisan interests, successful elections recognize or even advance the vision of a shared past, present, and future. 2. Ability to manage election logistics. A successful election is a complex enterprise that must be completed within a very tight timeframe. This enterprise requires recruiting, training, managing, and motivating thousands of individuals scattered in every part of a country. It involves delivering, tracking, securing, retrieving, and tabulating millions of pieces of information. It depends on the ability to communicate and enforce complicated bureaucratic instructions. In the end, the ability to execute these tasks allows a country’s many constituencies to have a voice. 3. Meaningful choice based on issues. Successful elections are ones in which people are presented with meaningful alternatives to key issues, not just with appeals to ethnicity or patronage. Furthermore, the options articulated in the election process represent alternative paths toward the common good. Meaningful choice is also reflected in relatively equal access to the media, the existence of multiple parties, freedom to assemble and campaign, elections that follow the rules, and in transparent and fair voting, counting, and tabulation. 4. Compliance with the election results. In successful elections candidates, parties, and citizens abide by the official elections results and challenges are channeled through the appropriate legal system.
5. Adequate security. At minimum, successful elections are reasonably free from intimidation and violence. While there would be general agreement that the above criteria are essential components of democratic elections in any country, most observers recognize that the challenges of democratization are substantially more difficult for countries emerging from conflict. Although in post-conflict societies, the criteria for measuring democratization are the same as for stable societies, the capacity to meet those standards is much lower. Challenges to Democratic Elections in Post-Conflict Societies 1. Weak commitment to the common good. Because post-conflict countries have been polarized and fractured, elections risk jeopardizing the fragile unity that exists. 2. Weak capacity to manage the logistics of an election. Because all systems, including the infrastructure, bureaucracy, and educational institutions have been deeply damaged, a post-conflict government finds it difficult to marshal the resources to compensate for this lack of capacity. 3. Weak capacity to articulate real issues. Because national identity may be overshadowed by loyalty to ethnicity or personalities—even to former war lords—campaigns in post-conflict societies may pitch their appeal to those loyalties instead of proposing meaningful policy options. In post-conflict settings, political parties and civil society, especially the media and the educational systems, are very weak. Therefore, many citizens have difficulty learning about or understanding the issues. 4. Weak commitment to accept election outcomes. Because post-conflict societies may have had years of experience in dealing with differences through violence, the possibility of reverting to that pattern of dispute resolution lurks in the minds of citizens, party officials, and candidates. 5. Weak capacity to provide security. Not only is the potential for intense conflict greater, the national army and police are frequently compromised or have been dismantled because of the past. Thus, security must often be supplied by outside forces such as the United Nations or regional peacekeepers. Although progress toward democratic consolidation in all African societies must be measured against a single set of criteria, success in post-conflict societies means overcoming additional hurtles. Hopefully, an examination of elections in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Congo will lead to a more nuanced
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
understanding of the linkages (or lack thereof) between plebiscite and democracy in Africa in general and in post-conflict societies in particular. In addition, this examination should help identify strengths and weaknesses in government systems and popular values that support or obstruct democracy. Finally, this exercise should lead to specific recommendations that could be used by internal and external groups hoping to advance the cause of democracy. Definitions of Democracy Before assessing evidence of commitment to democracy it is necessary to put forward definitions of democracy against which performance can be measured. It also is important to acknowledge that western criticisms of democracy in Africa may be based on the application of a standard that is not upheld even in Europe or America. On a continuum, the definitions of democracy used in this paper are: Type One: Deep democracy, a deep expression of the will of the people; Type Two: Polyarchy; Type Three: Reasonable constraints on the elite; Type Four: Virtual democracy; and Type Five: Anarchy, a complete breakdown of central governance. 3 These definitions of democracy can be correlated with the criteria for electoral success outlined earlier (see table 6.1). Table 6.1. Definitions
1. Attention to the common good
2. Ability to manage election logistics* 3. Meaningful choice based on issues
Constraints on Elite
4. Compliance with election results
5. Empty claims of compliance to the above
6. No claims of compliance; collapsed state
*Because the essence of polyarchy is giving voice to multiple constituencies, polyarchy depends on systems which transmit information efficiently and effectively.
Type One: Deep Democracy (Associated with Criterion Number 1— Attention to the Common Good) Political philosophers and practitioners as varied as Rousseau, Jefferson, Marx, Fanon, Cabral, and Che Guevara describe democracy as a system in which political decisions align perfectly with the general will of the people. In a February 2007 address at the University of Dar el Salaam, the Congolese scholar, presidential candidate, and former political prisoner Wamba dia Wamba argued that legitimate democracy must respond to the needs of all
the people, especially to the needs of the minority, the electoral losers. 4 According to Wamba dia Wamba, an election is about deciding which vision and party will best advance the common good. Certainly, he noted, a truly democratic election is not just about determining which politicians and constituents will reap the spoils. Wamba dia Wamba went on to say that in a democratic system, people have come to an essential agreement about the shape of government and they believe their particular arrangement represents all the people fairly. Furthermore, a democratic government is one that moves cautiously and judiciously. Thus, it is consultative and looks far into the future as it makes and implements policy that represents a true consensus about the economic, social, and political common good. In considering electoral politics in his own country, Wamba dia Wamba argued that politicians, parties, civil society groups, and ordinary citizens fell far short of the mark. The departure from deep democracy, said Wamba dia Wamba, meant that political leaders increasingly were forced to resort to violence. He observed that it was not surprising that the Congolese president, a man who cared little about the common good, had to be protected from his own people by a large militia, not just ordinary bodyguards. While deep democracy is an attractive concept in the tomes of political philosophy or in the rhetoric of a campaign, it is not easily implemented in the real world. Therefore, people, both western and African, who measure any system against the standard of deep democracy are inevitably disappointed. Furthermore, some of the most out-of-touch, misguided, self-serving, and tyrannical leaders have presented themselves as perfect interpreters of the general will. Nevertheless, a degree of attention to the common good is an essential ingredient for legitimacy. Type Two: Polyarchy (Associated with Number 2—The Ability to Manage Election Logistics; and Number 3—Meaningful Choice Based on Issues) Robert Dahl’s classic and less ambitious standard describes democracy as a political system that achieves a balance by allowing individuals to join in competing groups reflecting contending classes, economic interests, religious persuasions, ethnic identities, age categories, and regions. Periodically elections determine which group takes control of government in order to implement its vision. Polyarchy operates through political parties, elections, checks and balances, the rule of law, decentralized government structures, budget regularity, and a strong civil society. Although this free-market model of politics may not lead to a perfect expression of the general will, the end result of polyarchy produces adequate, even desirable, results, which provide the best government for the majority of the citizens. 5
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
A well-ordered polyarchy requires that voices from all parts of a country be heard. In today’s world this involves sophisticated communication and transportation systems, the capacity to transmit and receive large quantities of information, and the ability to keep accurate records. These functions depend on a high level of organization. Thus, a relatively robust physical, technical, and managerial capacity is needed for polyarchy to function. This capacity depends on money, expertise, and commitment. Once the informational infrastructure is in place, polyarchy requires a free flow of ideas and opinions. In Africa, ethnicity and regionalism have interfered with the political market place, which ideally should allow polyarchy to function effectively. Similar to the way monopolies skew the economic arena, lock-step ethnic or regional voting has subverted polyarchical democracy in many African countries. The result is a lack of transparency or consistency in budgeting, hiring, executing government directives, and making judicial decisions. Most development experts argue that such governance shortcomings also lead to economic failures. Thus, in a March 9, 2007, address in Kinshasa, then World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, an abrasive champion of good governance in Africa, chided the Congolese government for falling woefully short of allowing the free interaction of political parties and for corruption in procurement and contracting that privileged an elite sheltered from meaningful public criticism and from serious challenges by opposition politicians. 6 Another obstacle to the interplay of the forces of polyarchy is the interjection of external financial resources tied neither to economic productivity nor to the effective delivery of public services. In her 2009 study condemning foreign aid, the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argues that African governments, which receive substantial outside aid, remain undemocratic because they avoid being accountable to their own citizens. 7 Moyo points out those citizens who do not fund the government with their taxes do not effectively pressure government to respond to their needs. When government officials obtain revenues from abroad they are more attentive to the demands of international donors than to the concerns of their own population. Furthermore, officials are able to use the largesse of aid to fund domestic patronage systems that subvert responsibility. Moyo’s thesis is that such a pattern is both economically disastrous and politically unhealthy because aid shortcircuits essential economic and political feedback. She notes that the only successful African countries, both in terms of economic growth and democratic solidification, are South Africa and Botswana, two countries that do not depend on foreign aid. Dambisa Moyo is agnostic about the value of democracy; in fact, she seems to prefer a benevolent and efficient authoritarian regime. But clearly, she favors a government that responds to the needs and goals of the people. In her view, the best mechanism for accountability is that the ruling elite are
fiscally dependent, either on nonconcessionary lenders or on citizen taxpayers. In either case, the elite would be forced to take into account the expectations of their stakeholders. While nonconcessionary external stakeholders may not require democracy, they will insist on good economic performance. Internal stakeholders, if they are funding the government, will demand a voice in setting priorities, in determining how tax monies are managed, and in evaluating results. Responding to the expectations of multiple stakeholders and having stakeholders whose well-being is directly affected by government performance, is congruent with the dynamics of polyarchy. Type Three: Reasonable Constraints on the Political Elite (in an Election, Associated with Criterion Number 4—Compliance with Election Results) Political scientists recognize that even in strongly democratic countries, politics is an exercise in which the elite play the dominant role. The elite conduct the business of government, determine who will run for office, and govern in a way that protects their own interests. Citizen involvement is much more limited and symbolic; ordinary citizens participate by voting for candidates and policies presented and vetted by the elite. In spite of its obvious constraints, John Higley and Michael Burton suggest that even a political system completely monopolized by the elite can still be considered democratic. 8 What is important, they say, is that predation by the elite is limited and that control by the elite is restrained. What is needed to make that happen, say Higley and Burton, is a circulation of the elite, an orderly process for the selection of the elite, a peaceful transition whenever one elite group replaces another, and a pattern of the elite following the rules they have developed and promulgated. Under this definition of democracy, one-party rulers, ethnic monopolies, or regional cabals might hold power and divert government resources to their own supporters. However, such governments could be considered minimally democratic if there is a pattern or mechanism of transition and a method of containing the rapaciousness and venality of the ruling elite. In writing about politics in East Africa, Aili Mari Tripp seems to support this definition of democracy when she says that even autocratic governments may provide some space for muted criticism, which can result in cautious policy changes or even the removal of officials. 9
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
Type Four: Virtual Democracy (Although Architects of a Virtual Democracy Claim to Have Met the Criteria for Polyarchy and Perhaps Even the Criterion for Deep Democracy, Those Politicians Only Play Lip Service to Those Elements. In Reality None of the Criteria Have Been Met). A term coined by Richard Joseph, virtual democracy describes autocratic systems with only a thin veneer of citizen participation. 10 In a virtual democracy, elections are rigged, opposition political parties are shams and secret puppets of the ruling group, both the judiciary and the legislature are rubber stamps of the executive, the press is a propaganda arm of the state, and civil society is neutered. Because there is no accountability, public resources and public agencies are used in ways that benefit only the elite and their supporters. Massive corruption, egregious court decisions, and police and army misconduct are examples of what takes place in virtual democracies. Wamba dia Wamba describes this system as a corruptocracy; 11 others label it a kleptocracy or even a criminal state. Frequently, such political systems persist because one or more members of the international community perceive a strategic or economic benefit from extending support. In the waning years of the twentieth century, Daniel Arap Moi, Paul Kagame, Jerry Rawlings, Charles Taylor, Mobutu Sese Seko, Robert Mugabe, and Laurent Kabila were among the leaders who presided over virtual democracies. Although not consistently the case, these rulers were often able to claim a personal monopoly on force and violence, one of the most elementary characteristics of a government. Not surprisingly, only one, the Rawlings regime, willingly transitioned into a more genuine form of democracy. Type Five: Anarchy (Associated with the Complete Absence of Criterion Number 6—Adequate Security) Tragically, another term first coined to describe African polities was “failed state.” Essentially, a polite name for anarchy, the phrase refers to a state that is nonfunctional, a shell of a polity that is unable to exert internal or external control. In territories ruled by failed states, governance often does not extend beyond the boundaries of the capital or even the presidential compound. The president or prime minister of a failed state might be accorded legitimacy by a few other countries, but such a leader is unable to wield a monopoly over force and violence within his territory. Although Somalia was and is Africa’s worst example of a failed state, Congo may qualify as well. In the recent past, Liberia and Sierra Leone were failures. 12
MEASURING DEMOCRACY IN CONGO, LIBERIA, AND SIERRA LEONE Instead of measuring any of these three African states against the unrealistically high standard of deep democracy, I attempt to locate them on a continuum based on the five types described above. Using evidence linked to recent elections, I argue that Liberia has certainly reached the level of type three, “reasonable constraints on the elite,” that it has elements of type two, “polyarchy,” and that there is evidence that some of its leaders have genuine aspirations for type one, “deep democracy.” However, the prospect of reversal ever lurks. The temptation to see politics as a strategy to attract (or extract) aid, the possibility of slipping back into virtual democracy, and even the chance of anarchy remain on the horizon. For Sierra Leone, the evidence points to a solid dedication to the reasonable constraints on the elite, but to only a weak commitment to polyarchy. The Congo, for its part, has not moved above the “virtual democracy” category and vast areas are in a state of collapse. Although in the Congolese elections of 2006 there was a faint articulation of deep democracy, its voice was that of the aging Antoine Gizenga or of exiled intellectuals. Evidence of Deep Democracy Evidence of a commitment to deep democracy in any of the three countries under consideration can be found in the campaign rhetoric. During the 2005 elections in Liberia, the leading candidates, George Weah and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, articulated alternative visions of the common good. From all accounts the two standard bearers were sincere in their presentations. In fact, by their very persons, both were regarded as symbols of selflessness. Weah, a former professional soccer player who had once been named the world’s player of the year and who had achieved fame, fortune, and tranquility, did not need political office for financial gain. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former World Bank and UN official, was enjoying a comfortable retirement in Washington, DC. In general, voters were attracted to one of the two because they thought their candidate placed the good of the country above private interests. In addition, both Weah and Johnson Sirleaf articulated a vision for the common good. Citing her many years in top echelons of banking and international civil service, Johnson Sirleaf argued that her experience, network of connections, and extensive education (a degree from Harvard) would enable her to gather a team of competent experts who could run the country honestly and efficiently. Weah, on the other hand, pointed out that international connections, technical expertise, managerial experience, and advanced education had consistently been used by the Liberian elite to make them more effective
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
in exploiting the country and its citizens. Reaching out to the youth and the poor, Weah claimed that he “had the people at heart” and that even though he had only an elementary school education he would be able to use the presidential office to better the lives of the disadvantaged. Even the negative campaigning conveyed messages about the common good that transcended ethnic or regional lines. For its part, Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP) questioned whether a man with only a sixth-grade education would be able to manage a nation. UP propaganda hinted that should he be elected president, Weah would become a puppet of the same selfish, sinister, and shrewd people who had plundered Liberia for the past twenty years. On the other side, Weah’s Congress of Democratic Change (CDC) attacked Johnson Sirleaf by associating her with Charles Taylor and war. Because early in the 1990s she had made statements supportive of Taylor— who at the time was thought by many Liberians to be a liberator—CDC partisans frequently described her as a woman who wanted war. They also suggested that the educated people surrounding Johnson Sirleaf had been complicit in the fifteen-year civil war. The following CDC campaign jingle voiced that accusation: You got book, you kill my Ma, You got book, you kill my Pa, You got book, you give guns to kids, What book is that you got? 13
With this negative attack chant, Weah’s people suggested to Liberians that many of the educated people surrounding Johnson Sirleaf were indiscriminate in their political alliances and intent on serving themselves, not the common good. What is remarkable about the positive and negative rhetoric coming from both parties was the lack of ethnic or regional references. Even in attacking the other side, each party claimed its candidate would be best for the nation as a whole, not just become the champion of one class, ethnic group, or area of the country. Beyond the rhetoric of the campaign, Liberians found other ways to present the case for the common good. During the electoral period, civil society groups called on people to vote on the basis of issues, not ethnicity or personal gain. In the primary elections, which featured seventeen contenders, the one candidate who tried to buy votes by offering bags of rice in exchange for support (certainly the antithesis of encouraging voting for the common good) was soundly defeated. And, in talking to dozens of voters, international election observers consistently were impressed with the pride people had in plebiscite and the respect they had for people voting for other candidates. Liberians, who saw the election itself as a vote for peace, often attended the rallies of other parties as an expression of solidarity and support for the national good. Pride in the secrecy of ballot was evident all over the country.
One example from my own interviewing is suggestive of that pride. In a rural village, where male dominance and deference to chiefs were the norm, the elderly wife of a village official announced to all who could hear, “Even my husband, the chief doesn’t know how I will cast my vote.” While the platforms of Liberia’s major contending parties addressed a number of key concerns related to the common good, they did not deal with the issue of bringing closure to the intense wounds caused by the atrocities of the long civil war. These wounds have economic, psychological, social, religious, and legal implications. In a July 2009 address at the University of Liberia, Dr. Amos Sawyer reminded Liberians that they have repeatedly avoided confronting this issue in a meaningful and direct manner. Sawyer is deeply concerned that continuing to ignore the past, often by blaming fate or spiritual forces instead of dealing with it in a mature way, risks jeopardizing Liberia’s fragile progress toward peace, reconstruction, and democracy. If Sawyer is correct in his diagnosis, then the 2005 political process failed to help Liberians envision a way to remove a great obstacle in the path toward the common good. 14 Both in Congo and Sierra Leone, political concern for the common good was much less obvious. In Sierra Leone, the absence of any distinctive party message about specific plans for the entire nation was the most noticeable evidence that the common good was not a party preoccupation. While the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) called for peace and progress, the All People’s Congress (APC), the leading opposition party, criticized the SLPP for having little to show for six years in office. Those messages were actually coded assertions about ethnicity rather than suggestive statements about how the party would respond to any of the many nationwide needs. From the first day I arrived in Sierra Leone in September 2007, I asked people in the media, ordinary citizens, business people, party officials, and party members to explain the ideologies of the contending parties. My goal was to determine if either party had a vision for the entire country. What was most striking was the fact that virtually no one, not even top party leaders, could articulate any difference between the parties or their agendas. While this might be interpreted as evidence of a powerful national consensus regarding the common good, the lack of ideological differences actually reflected the fact that the parties represented competing ethnic groups, not competing visions. Legally, they were not allowed to refer to ethnicity, and the absence of important goals left them with little in the way of message except shallow platitudes. Unlike Liberia, where ethnicity was overshadowed by nationwide issues, the parties in Sierra Leone had no common vision upon which to campaign. In Sierra Leone, the fact that even the message in the party platitudes was a veiled ethnic assault rather than a diluted call for the common good was made clear by a local polling official—a school headmaster, who was knowl-
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
edgeable, perceptive, and honest. He explained the matter to me near the end of a long election day when most people had already voted and when there was little work for him to do. During this late-in-the-day lull, I asked if he could explain any difference between the party statements. His response was that the party slogans had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with ethnicity. In fact, although trying to be objective and above politics, the polling official himself slipped into the language of ethnic denigration. He began by stating the obvious, that the SLPP, based in the south and east, was the party of the Mende and that the APC, supported in the northwest and Freetown, was the party of the Temne. Although the contending parties could not campaign openly on the basis of ethnic differences, the headmaster said that when the SLPP referred to “progress and peace,” the party was actually reminding Mende people that the “more aggressive” Temne had caused the civil war. According to him, Temne were uninterested in education, and they lacked the ambition to create wealth in their own region. Temne, he said, came from an area of the country that had poor land and no minerals and were now moving into the southeast to find jobs “given” to them by the Mende. The headmaster/poll official told me that the Mende, for their part, had traditional rights to the best land and mineral resources, they worked hard, valued education, and eschewed violence as a way to solve problems. They had tolerated the Temne and magnanimously offered them work on Mende fields and in Mende mines. 15 While Sierra Leonean political parties and candidates fell short of serving as a voice either for the common good or even for framing issues in a nonethnic fashion, the national police and the military understood their role as protecting the nation as a whole. Although in the August primary elections, there were allegations that the military and police had become involved as partisan players on behalf of the incumbent party, by the time of the September presidential runoff, the situation had changed. In part, this can be attributed to determined work on the part of British military trainers. In briefings to international observers, Sierra Leonean military and police officials said that the national military would assume a very low profile during the elections and that the police would handle security. Furthermore, and this was repeated by regional police officials, the police saw their task as providing security for the country as a whole, not for any one political party or even for the sitting government. Their loyalty was to the nation of Sierra Leone, not to the country’s president or current regime. Furthermore, the national police had developed a robust communication and transport system, which enabled them to implement their mandate. When discussing the upcoming elections with the regional police commander in Bo, a town where electionday violence was anticipated, international election observers were told that
the police had identified potential troublemakers, that they had several levels of redundancy built into their communication systems, and that they had backup plans for controlling any disorder instigated by any group or party. In the Congo, the campaign rhetoric and political parties gave little explicit attention to issues that might be identified with the common good. A major issue in the campaign was the fact that one candidate was called an outsider from the east while the other candidate was identified as a true Congolese from the west. People supporting Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC) reminded voters that Kabila had links to Rwanda, that Kabila’s father had been propelled to power by Paul Kagame, and that Joseph Kabila did not even speak Lingala. Such rhetoric was designed to turn the people of Kinshasa, the nation’s largest voting bloc, against the interloper Kabila. Such rhetoric was intended to capitalize on the division between eastern and western Congo. In spite of the fact that the ensuing election results reflected clear regional preferences, election observers commented that ethnicity did not seem to be a major issue. 16 Also, in a country whose history had been marked by civil war and succession, not one of the candidates—even those supported by militant rebel warlords—ever suggested the country should be divided. The goal of all politicians and political parties was control of the entire nation along with its people and resources. No one talked of expelling ethnic groups, no one spoke of breaking off an area, and no one suggested the Congo as an entity was illegitimate or artificial. While those facts cannot be equated with a vision for the common good, they could be interpreted as a measurable movement in that direction. Perhaps because of their common history of colonial oppression, the abuse they suffered at the hands of Mobutu, their shared economic privation, or even their collective musical heritage, the people living within the boundaries of the state consider themselves as one. They regard themselves as a people with a common destiny. However, that reality must be tempered with the fact that for most of the Congolese elite any desire for national unity was motivated by a desire to enrich themselves by monopolizing the nation’s natural resources and by controlling the fruits of a nationwide patronage system. Evidence of Polyarchy In both Liberia and Sierra Leone, the logistics of the election (thus, the mechanics of polyarchy) ran smoothly. Because of the centrality of elections for polyarchical systems, this bodes well for democracy. Also, because elections are enormously complex operations with seemingly myriad moving parts, a nation that can implement an election presumably has the capacity to run a bureaucracy. Because neither Liberia nor Sierra Leone had phalanxes of trained election officials or of citizens knowledgeable about election pro-
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
cedures, officials at the national, regional, and local levels had to develop and learn a very complicated process. As a result, before and during the election, rules often had to be devised, modified, clarified, and promulgated within a very short span of time. At the precinct level, officials had to improvise when situations arose for which there were no clear guidelines. After the elections, counting and reporting were carried out under tight time constraints and in less than optimal circumstances (no electricity, erratic transportation, and vote counters with rudimentary math skills). Although there were some irregularities, many innocent and unintentional, in general the electoral process functioned extremely well. This was especially notable in Sierra Leone, where the National Election Commission (NEC) was almost completely in charge of the process. Unlike Liberia, where the United Nations provided a great deal of support (security, logistics, training, and legal advice), Sierra Leone had little outside logistical assistance (aside from international monitors and some British technical assistance in support of the elections). Also, while in Liberia the entire election was funded by the international community, the Sierra Leonean government paid for 30 percent of the costs. 17 The example of Sierra Leone gives confidence in the ability of the country to manage the bureaucratic mechanics of a polyarchical system. Not just the mechanical aspects of elections/polyarchy, but also the politics of polyarchy (the will and capacity to articulate interests and issues) are essential for effective elections and for democracy. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, civil society contributed significantly to the electoral process. Prior to the elections, churches and mosques, drama groups, civic organizations, and UN Voter Education Advisors instructed voters about the mechanics of casting a vote, the sanctity of the ballot, the need for tolerance, and the importance of accepting the results of the process. In Sierra Leone, the NEC and civil society made a special effort to admonish traditional leaders and paramount chiefs to remain neutral and allow all political parties to campaign in their regions. 18 Unfortunately, during both the first and second rounds in Sierra Leone, a number of chiefs used intimidation against candidates they opposed. By contrast, in Liberia, the interfaith group Women for Peace held prayer sessions in support of peaceful elections, which they regarded as essential to bringing closure to the years of conflict and privation. Finally, in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, the presence of cell phones was extremely important to the smooth electoral process. Cell phones enabled NEC officials to relay instructions to distant areas and they contributed to calm by allowing monitors and election officials to check on rumors, thus preventing the spread of false inflammatory tales. Most important, cell phones were an essential factor in preventing fraud. As soon as tallies were posted at polling stations, election monitors (both partisan and neutral observers) called into their headquarters to report the results. Consequently,
citizens and candidates alike had a high level of confidence that votes would not be added or subtracted between the polling place and the tally centers and between the tally centers and the capital. In part because of their confidence in the electoral process, in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, candidates believed they had a chance to win. They also believed they represented real interests and real constituencies. Further evidence of polyarchical election success is the fact that in the second round, parties and candidates engaged in coalition building. This is an essential step in using elections as a tool in gaining support through the give-and-take of democratic deal making. In Congo the situation was far different. 19 Similar to the Liberian and Sierra Leonean elections of the late 1990s, Congo’s 2006 preliminary and runoff election took place in an environment of conflict, bureaucratic weakness, and deep national polarization. Consequently, the election process itself was fraught with problems. Allegations of vote rigging, a chaotic process of collecting the results from polling stations, and a very unsettled security situation raised serious questions about the process. Although the Carter Center and other international monitors certified the election’s first round on July 30 as reasonably free and fair, a number of observers were much more critical. 20 In addition, the plethora of candidates, thirty-three in all, appealed to patron-client interests, bribery was widespread, and politicians relied on wealth looted during the interim government period to finance their campaigns. Because the interim government included many former warlords, who now used their wealth and guns to campaign, the playing field was quite uneven. Not only was the campaign unfair, but stuffed ballot boxes, burned ballots, and the length of time it took to collect and count the ballots (up to three weeks in some rural areas) brought the entire process into question. In part these were problems of geography. The vast size of the Congo made it impossible to conduct an election with the same efficiency and dispatch as in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Furthermore, although ethnicity did not play an obvious role in the elections—unless one takes into account opposition charges that Kabila was not really of Congolese origin—regional parties all but monopolized the votes in any given area. A key player, Etienne Tshisekedi, whose base was in the Mbuji Mayi area, called on his regional supporters to boycott the election, hoping to delegitimize a plebiscite he regarded as fatally flawed. The result was rioting and delays in Mbuji Mayi. In the eastern part of the country, voting took place in a context of great insecurity. General Laurent Nkunda, who was both a warlord and a presidential candidate, used his army as a tool of intimidation during the voting process and as a bargaining chip to seek concessions from the election winner. The first round reduced the field to Joseph Kabila (45 percent of the vote), whose support was in the east, and Jean-Pierre Bemba (20 percent of the vote), whose support came from the west. The two men then faced each other
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
in a runoff on October 29. The election in Congo was also complicated by the fact that a number of politicians received substantial assistance from outside interests in the west, Angola, and Rwanda. For example, western mining interests provided air transportation and financial backing for favored candidates. Unfortunately, this type of support did not advance the common good. Evidence of Constraints on the Elite The most important evidence that the elite are willing to follow their own rules—the rules embedded in the constitution and laws—is that after an election, the loser is willing to concede defeat and, if the loser is also the incumbent, step down from power. As seen in both Kenya and Zimbabwe in 2008, clinging to power in the face of electoral defeat is a great temptation for African leaders. In the Congo, electoral constraints on the ruling elite were weak. Not only was Kabila interim president, the fraud, violence, and unequal access to the media that characterized Congo’s elections were evidence that Kabila and the ruling party had no intention of allowing an election to remove them from power. In Liberia, the situation was far from perfect. First, not all party members had a deep commitment to the concept of competitive elections and to the constitution. Prior to the first round, a number of party activists in Bong County told Carter Center and National Democratic Institute (NDI) observers not only that Weah would win, but that he should be reelected for as many terms as he wished. The activists went on to say that at the point Weah wanted to retire, he should then choose his own successor. When Weah emerged as the winner of the first round, many in his party were unhappy that a runoff election would take place. Since Weah had gained the most votes (albeit less than 50 percent), they could not understand why Johnson Sirleaf should have another bite at the apple. Furthermore, the fact that large numbers of enthusiastic followers attended Weah rallies convinced many CDC partisans that the country was solidly behind their candidate. Not surprising, in the week prior to the runoff, campaign workers and even higher-level party officials hinted that they might not accept the results of the election if Weah suffered defeat. Their rationale was that Weah could only be defeated through fraud. Once the runoff took place and Johnson Sirleaf was declared the winner, Weah refused to concede for more than a month. Only after intense behind-the-scenes activity within the international community, including pressure from Nigeria and other West Africa states, did he reluctantly accept the outcome. Weah’s unwillingness to concede may have reflected his own lack of commitment to the democratic process and some of his top officials urged him to hang on as a bargaining chip. On the day after the election, when it was clear that Johnson Sirleaf had won, several top CDC party officials told me that they were pressuring Weah to challenge the
results so that they themselves could gain concessions from the UP. They frankly stated that they had no interest in protecting Weah but were hoping to leverage a Weah holdout into government positions for themselves. They expressed disappointment that UP leaders had not reached out with offers of jobs. They indicated that as soon as they received such offers they would withdraw their support for Weah. Clearly, these individuals were more interested in patronage than in protecting their standard-bearer or in a particular ideology. Nevertheless, in the end, the CDC accepted defeat and recognized Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s legitimate leader. Also in the Liberian elections, disregard for legal constraints on people in power was evident in the fact that some election officials treated public resources as a reservoir for personal enrichment. While this may not be surprising given the country’s history of endemic corruption, it is disturbing that such a celebrated event would be marred in such a way. While visiting a polling station in southern Bong County, I was approached by several members of the polling staff, who said they wanted to talk in private. They then informed me that the regional official overseeing the elections had not paid them the daily salary as promised by the National Election Commission. When the workers informed him they would go on strike, the official both threatened them and appealed to their sense of public duty. He told them that it would be unpatriotic to obstruct such a pivotal national event. While the election official’s corruption was completely apolitical in nature—designed to steal money, not to affect the election outcome—it was potentially just as corrosive in the long run. 21 In Sierra Leone, the situation was far more complex, a mixture of SLPP vote manipulation and of National Election Commission rectitude. I present the following analysis not to argue that one party had a monopoly on dirty tricks, but to explain how the entire electoral system, including key parts of the system controlled by SLPP leaders, was able to respond in ways that maintained the essential integrity of the process. In other words, although the 2007 Sierra Leonean elections were not perfect, the overall system was able to limit the damage from a number of serious attempts to subvert the election. Clearly, officials in Sierra Leone were willing to use fraud and violence to win the election. In the northeast part of the country, a virtual no-go area for APC politicians, there were many stories of physical and supernatural intimidation. It was widely rumored that leaders of the Poro secret society had threatened anyone who did not vote SLPP. In east central Sierra Leone, also an SLPP stronghold, the party used some physical violence to intimidate rival politicians. Furthermore, the SLPP organized a ballot-stuffing effort that they hoped would tip the election in their favor. What is more important, however, is that the attempt was thwarted by the electoral system.
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
Because I was a direct witness to a carefully organized scheme to throw the election, I will describe that example in some detail and explain why, in the end, it did not compromise the election outcome. Soon after arriving in Freetown, I was assigned to an election-monitoring team deployed to the town of Bo in east central Sierra Leone. Several days before the election, the NDI team discussed the upcoming runoff with the head of the SLPP in Bo. When asked why SLPP anticipated victory even though all objective indications suggested they were losing ground, the party official smiled and said, “We have a strategy, a strategy I can’t reveal to you.” Although I cannot be sure what he meant, it is my belief that the strategy involved systematic ballot stuffing in a large number of rural precincts surrounding Bo. 22 On the morning of election day, after witnessing a poll opening in Bo, my NDI partner and I traveled about 30 km south and west of Bo to begin a sampling of precincts. At the first polling station, in a small rural village, I noted that the process seemed far less orderly than in Bo. Not only were too many people admitted to the polling station, once in the room the people jostled each other and the polling officials. Furthermore, the officials did not always stamp voters’ hands, and there were an uncommonly large number of “blind” people in need of assistance in marking their ballot. Also, the official in charge of handing out ballots had torn a large number of unmarked ballots from the ballot booklet, stamped them, and placed them in a stack on his table. When I asked about this irregularity (ballots are to be taken from the booklet one at a time and stamped as individual voters file past and take a ballot), the official told me he was just trying to be efficient and anticipate the voters’ needs. Although I was a bit uneasy about what I saw, I assumed that in rural areas people were less familiar with bureaucracy and therefore the process would not be as smooth as in Bo. Furthermore, my partner, who had been in the area as a long-term NDI observer, told me that this was a region with a high incidence of river blindness. In the end, I reassured myself that I had seen nothing that had seriously jeopardized the election’s outcome. Although I observed similar “minor” irregularities at other stations, I was comforted by the fact that election observers from both major parties were present at all voting stations and that they all reported that everything was operating according to protocol. However, by noon, it became obvious that what I had witnessed earlier was part of a larger pattern of fraud. Arriving at a polling station located in a small town at a major crossroad on the main highway, I was surprised to see no voters. All of the poll workers, police, and party observers were sitting quietly doing nothing. When I asked about the lack of activity, the head poll official told me that everyone had voted and that the work was done. When I asked to see the voter registration list, I was astonished to discover that of the 387 registered voters, each and every person had cast his or her ballot. In fact, because poll officials, observers, and security people from other pre-
cincts were allowed to cast their ballots in the polling station where they were assigned to work, the actual number of votes cast was 403, meaning that the total turnout was 104 percent! Although someone suggested to me that such a high turnout was wonderful evidence of enthusiasm for democracy, I was not convinced. I demonstrated my skepticism about the process by asking to photograph pages in the registration book. After taking pictures, I said to the head poll official, “Did you ever go to the church or mosque and find absolutely 100 percent of the congregation in attendance? Isn’t it strange that 100 percent of the people had already voted, six hours before the polls are due to close? Was no one sick today? Has no one died since registration took place? Has no one decided to go to their farm and not vote? Did no one look at the long lines in the morning and decide to cast their vote later in the afternoon?” Grinning a bit, as if to concede my point, the official simply said, “We had 100 percent turnout.” Immediately thereafter, my partner and I checked three other polling stations in the same town. The situation was exactly the same. No voters present, 100 percent-plus turnout, and smuglooking election officials. Clearly fraud was involved, but how did the fraud escape the notice of the opposition party poll watchers? That question was answered for me when I chatted with a young man working as an APC poll watcher. Not only did he tell me that all the poll watchers were good friends, he introduced the opposition SLPP poll watcher, a much older man, as “my uncle.” Because poll watchers in rural areas were not vetted by the party, the party simply took people at their word when they volunteered to serve as partisan observers. Therefore, it was a simple matter for the SLPP to offer its own junior party members as APC observers. Although I cannot be sure of the exact mechanism of how the ballot boxes were stuffed, my suspicion is that officials handing out the ballots slipped multiple ballots to trusted loyalists, that people in the village were told not to come after midmorning, and that poll officials then voted for anyone who had not cast a ballot by noon. Assuming a normal 60 percent turnout (the national average), that meant that party leaders would be able to add about 150 extra ballots (the other 40 percent) to each box. Repeating the action over a large number of precincts could result in enough votes to tip the election. Whatever the techniques used, obviously there was a pattern of ballot stuffing in the Bo region. For at the end of the day, when the votes were counted, a large number of precincts reported 100 percent voter turnout. In each of these precincts, the vote went by more than 80 percent to SLPP. In the end, the effort to throw the election failed because multiple actors and systems in the process joined together to counter the fraud. The actors included people from the local, national, and international level. The systems included elements from civil society and the national government. First, even though rural poll watchers had been compromised by family or ethnic loyalty, in the cities, which had much higher concentrations of voters, the poll
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
watchers performed well. As someone who for many years had lived near Chicago, I expected the urban areas to be at greatest risk for malfeasance. In fact, the opposite was true. Because cities in Sierra Leone have a much more diverse and politicized population base, the voters, polling officials, and poll watchers are not homogenous in terms of class, ethnicity, or party loyalty. Thus, they are more vigilant in monitoring the activities of other players and elections are less likely to be corrupted on a massive scale. As a result, unless the election is close, even widespread fraud in less-populous rural areas will not be enough to negate the larger urban vote. Second, although it was possible to stuff the ballot box, the mechanics of registration, balloting, and especially counting and reporting limited the damage. Presumably, the ballot stuffing occurred only after most of the regular voters had cast their ballots. This meant that voters for the opposition were not disenfranchised and also that only about 40 percent of the vote was left to be cast by the ballot stuffers. Also, the fact that at the end of the day the ballots needed to be accounted for, counted publicly, recorded, and then placed in a sealed box made it difficult to manipulate the overall tally. Although not a factor in preventing fraud at polling stations where everyone collaborated in a scam, the ubiquitous presence of cell phones all over the country meant that once the ballots had been counted, the likelihood of adding to or subtracting from the final tally was greatly reduced. Across the country, at polling stations where legitimate poll watchers from all parties were present, observers relayed the count to a center in Freetown as soon as the local tabulation was complete. In fact, during the process of counting, observers called in to report the trends. Thus, hundreds of people all over the country had a clear idea of how the overall vote was going. This instant transparency meant that it would have been very difficult to commit widespread fraud by tampering with the ballot boxes after they left the polling stations or by inflating numbers at the official tabulation centers processing the countrywide vote. Third, the presence of international observer teams meant that the ballotstuffing problem was identified and reported promptly. As the first international observer to encounter the problem, I reported the matter by cell phone to NDI headquarters in Freetown. People at the headquarters then relayed the information to other observers and asked them to be alert to the problem. By the end of the day, several teams of observers, mainly in the Bo region, reported that a significant number of precincts had a turnout of 100 percent or higher. Although the tendency of international observer missions is to accentuate the positive, after a vigorous discussion the NDI team issued a report which, although emphasizing the peaceful nature of the election, contained one sentence noting the problem of 100 percent turnout and one sentence indicating NDI’s concern about the matter.
Fourth, an energetic and alert press publicized the issue of ballot stuffing. Although buried in the NDI report, the brief mention of polling fraud was enough to catch the attention of the media, which received the NDI report at a press conference held two days after the election and prior to the National Election Commission’s (NEC) announcement of the final results. At the press conference, most of the questions focused on the problem of ballot stuffing. As one of the official co-leaders of the NDI delegation, Ken Nnamani, former Speaker of the House in Nigeria, responded to those questions with candor and vigor. Nnamani knew that many of the NDI observers felt very strongly about the matter. Instead of attempting to sidestep or downplay the issue, which would have been the polite and politic approach, Nnamani expressed grave concern about what he called “magical votes” and he said NDI expected the NEC to take the matter seriously. The next day the Freetown newspapers featured Nnamani’s remarks prominently. Fifth, perhaps because of concerns expressed in the press, the NEC moved very quickly to disqualify all polling stations where the vote had been 100 percent. Most of these stations were in SLPP regions. Although there was some grumbling on the part of SLPP, the decision of the NEC was not challenged. In part, acquiescence was easier because the NEC also announced the preliminary overall vote count very quickly. As pointed out by NEC officials, the tally showed that the country had gone overwhelmingly to the APC and even if the numbers from the precincts suspected of fraud had been counted, the final outcome still would have favored the APC. Sixth, although there were hints from SLPP supporters that they might not accept the results, Tejan Kabbah, the incumbent president and SLPP member who had served the two terms in office allowed by the constitution, quickly conceded his party’s defeat and publicly congratulated the APC party for its victory. The incumbent president’s actions brought definitive closure to the matter. What can be seen from the Sierra Leonean example is that the system worked in spite of serious efforts to circumvent the legal process. In the end, the elite abided by the rules and a peaceful circulation of elite players took place. In part this was because President Kabbah clearly favored peace over partisanship and in part this was because the mechanics of the election process, the instant reporting of local results, the presence of international observers, the vigor of the press, and the integrity of the NEC all worked together to support fair elections. The process was not perfect or free of fraud. However, the fact that a concerted effort to undermine the process failed suggests that the system worked and that safeguards were sufficiently robust to counter those using deceit to retain their hold on power. Just as no one can know if the security system on a bank vault really works until it has
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
been challenged by a skilled bank robber, one cannot be sure the electoral safeguards are adequate until they have been tested by attempts at fraud. The system in Sierra Leone, run by Sierra Leoneans, held firm. Evidence of Virtual Democracy and Anarchy Although the possibility of virtual democracy is very real in any post-conflict state, Liberia and Sierra Leone made far more progress in the direction of real democracy than has the Congo. In the Congo, there was never any real possibility that Kabila would not emerge as the eventual victor. Also, because he is still quite young there is little prospect that he has any intention of ever stepping down voluntarily. Furthermore, during the Congo election, the media were not nearly so free as in Liberia and Sierra Leone. For example, the Congolese media were ordered not to report on insecurity in Kivu, and when they did, journalists were arrested for “public insult” and for inciting “hatred and violence.” Nor were political candidates safe from danger. As a presidential candidate and MP, Jean-Pierre Bemba should have been immune from arrest. Yet government tried to detain him. In many ways, the situation in Congo was similar to that which obtained in Liberia when Taylor ran for office in 1997. Finally, as was true for Liberia during the Taylor years, Congo is constantly teetering on the verge of anarchy. A METRIC FOR AN ELECTORAL-BASED STRESS TEST OF DEMOCRACY Although the discussion above has been anecdotal, the chapter concludes with a simple metric regarding elections. The metric will be used as the basis for conducting a stress test assessing the strength and predicting the future of democracy in societies emerging from conflict or authoritarianism. The metric, based on a scale of 1 to 5, reflects my attempts to measure each of the categories used in this paper. In each category, a score of 5 indicates a high level of compliance with the category’s goal. A score of 1 indicates a strong rejection. Metric Used to Determine the Scores 23 Category One: A Voice for the Common Good 5—clear vision of the common good embedded in the rhetoric articulated by all of the major parties, candidates, and citizens 4—somewhat clear vision of the common good embedded in the rhetoric of at least some of the parties, candidates, and citizens
3—veiled ethnic, regional, or class rhetoric used by citizens and parties 2—overt and divisive ethnic, regional, or class rhetoric used by citizens and parties 1—veiled or overt rhetoric suggesting that other candidates and parties represent external non-national interests (or rhetoric that clearly voices the interests of non-national powers) Category Two: Logistical Measures of Effective Polyarchy 5—well-ordered elections, organized, managed, and financed by local and national authorities 4—well-ordered elections, organized and managed by local and national authorities, but financed by outside authorities 3—well-ordered elections, but organized, managed, and financed by outside authorities 2—poorly organized and managed elections, perhaps in part because authorities and parties obstruct the process (campaigning, voting, counting, tabulation) 1—massive electoral mismanagement and organizational breakdown Category Three: Political Measures of Effective Polyarchy 5—parties and civil society (especially the press) make the issues clearly known; civil society groups and citizens have an important role in shaping the issues, and people’s interests are represented by a viable political party 4—issues articulated, but the issues are framed with little input from civil society; parties, candidates, and civil society are unable to communicate the issues effectively 3—issues articulated, but the issues represent the interests of narrow groups (economic, regional, class, or ethnic) 2—little or no articulation of real issues; elections feature multiple candidates running on a patronage platform; candidates engage in vote-buying and party leaders are most concerned about gaining access to politically derived rents 1—control or threat suppresses the articulation of interests and issues important to major segments of society Category Four: Evidence of Constraints on the Elite 5—elite pledge to hold themselves and allies accountable to election rules and laws; losing candidates and party concede the election in a timely manner; low levels of fraud 4—parties and candidates attempt to circumvent the rules and law; some evidence of corruption, but national election officials contain the problem
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
3—moderate levels of fraud and/or threats of not being bound by the election results 2—high levels of fraud and/or candidates and parties threaten violence; national election commission plays an overtly partisan role 1—parties and candidates turn to armed violence when results announced Category Five: Adequate Security Provided 5—adequate security and order provided and financed by local and national authorities 4—adequate security and order provided and financed by outside authorities 3—precarious security, serious threats of violence with occasional attacks on citizens, party offices, and/or candidates 2—high levels of civil violence and/or threats of military-level violence 1—military-level violence, possibly civil war STRESS TEST RESULTS The following totals offer a rough assessment of the strength of democracy and a prediction about the future of democracy in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Congo. For comparative purposes, I have added two countries I know relatively well, the United States and South Africa. While scholars, citizens, and election observers might challenge some of my numbers, I doubt that many people would change the results drastically (see table 6.2). CONCLUSIONS AND NEXT STEPS In reflecting on the elections in Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, three conclusions emerge, which have implications for election monitors, policy makers, and researchers. The most important conclusion is that elections have significance beyond serving as markers of a regime’s legitimacy. In examining elections, one finds evidence about a country’s dedication to democratic values and about a country’s ability to implement those values. Consequently, election observers should think of themselves as more than agents giving a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to a specific plebiscite and to the winning candidates. Observers should do more than merely certifying elections as free and fair. Instead, they should analyze the entire electoral process with an eye to developing a deeper understanding about a country’s commitment to and capacity for democracy. That kind of analysis will re-
Table 6.2. Comparison Countries U.S.
Adequate Security Provided
Category One: A Voice for the Common Good Category Two: Logistical Measures of Effective Polyarchy Category Three: Political Measures of Effective Polyarchy Category Four: Evidence of Constraints on the Elite Category Five:
quire attention to anecdotal, even one-of-a-kind bits of information that may not have a direct bearing on an election’s validity but that may be suggestive of significant strengths or problems. Like a stress test on a bank, which tells us much more than the state of an institution’s daily balance, elections are intense exercises, which can yield a rich harvest of data that are useful for more than certifying winners and losers. Second, the information presented in this essay suggests that external assistance in the form of technical support and neutral election observers can have a very salutary effect on the process of democratization. However, it is clear that such assistance is effective only if it supplements domestic sentiments and systems. Also, electoral data may be useful in suggesting the direction domestic and international promoters of democracy should take. For example, in Sierra Leone, it will be important to encourage political parties and civil society groups to articulate issues in a way that gives voters a choice about policy and not just a referendum about ethnicity. In Liberia, it will be important to build logistical and security capacity, to give attention to the endemic problem of official corruption, and to address issues arising from the atrocities of the civil war. Third, comparing Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone against the relatively robust democratic systems in the United States and South Africa, it is clear that even if Congo’s election was free and fair (and that is in dispute), the
Elections as a Stress Test of Democratization in Societies
fundamental building blocks of democracy are almost completely absent. In terms of any commitment to the common good, any ability to manage the logistics of a modern democratic state, any capacity to frame and articulate competing issues, any semblance of effective constraints on elite behavior, or adequate strength to provide security, the Congo has not made much progress. While Liberia and Sierra Leone will need continued support if their nascent democracies are to flourish, they have made substantial progress, which can be the foundation of future advances. One element of a continuing research agenda would be to measure the predictions growing out of the election metric used in this paper against the actual progress of democracy in these or other countries. According to the evidence gleaned from the elections of 2005, 2006, and 2007, Congo will likely continue to flounder while both Liberia and Sierra Leone have a good chance of moving forward. NOTES 1. Freedom House claims that between 1998 and 2007, Sub-Saharan Africa became much more democratic and that its progress toward democracy and was exceeded only by countries from the former Soviet Union. According to Freedom House, the number of “not free” countries dropped from thirty-two to fourteen, the number of “partially free” increased from twelve to twenty-three, and the number of “free” from two to eleven. 2. Michael Bratton, “Do Free Elections Foster Capable Governments? The DemocracyGovernance Connection in Africa,” Afrobarometer Working Papers (Working Paper No. 104, 2008). While Bratton says elections lead to an increased sense of legitimacy, he recognizes that they do not diminish corruption, improve transparency, or boost responsiveness on the part of elected officials. Larry Diamond also worries that an endemic culture of corruption has reversed democratic progress won at the ballot box. See, Larry Diamond, “The Democratic Rollback: The Resurgence of the Predatory State,” Foreign Affairs (March/April 2008). 3. While anarchy may seem out of place on a continuum of democratic forms, the ancient Greeks and Romans considered anarchy as an exaggerated manifestation of democracy. I place it on the continuum because it represents the absolute opposite of good governance, the goal of democracy, because a virtual democracy may easily degenerate into anarchy, and because each of the three states described in this essay were plagued by the symptoms of failure. 4. See www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/40306. 5. Robert Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971). 6. See http://allafrica.com/stories/200703100133.html. 7. Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009). 8. John Higley and Michael Burton, The Elite Foundations of Liberal Democracy, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006). Elsewhere Higley, who calls this “practical democracy,” acknowledges that it is not ideal. See Higley, “Elite Theory in Political Sociology,” (2008), www.montreal2008.info/site/images/PAPERS/section1/RC%202.%20-%20Higley%201.3.pdf. 9. Aili Mari Tripp, “Political Reform in Tanzania: The Struggle for Associational Autonomy,” Comparative Politics 32, no. 2 (2000): 191–214. 10. Richard Joseph, “From Abertura to Closure,” Journal of Democracy, 9, no. 2 (1998): 3–17. 11. See www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/40306.
12. “Failed State Index,” Foreign Policy, in the 2008 Failed State Index, Somalia was at the top of the list. The DRC ranked sixth, Sierra Leone thirty-first, and Liberia thirty-fourth. The ranking is based on both political and non-political indicators. See www.foreignpolicy.com/ story/cms.php?page=1&story_id=4350. 13. This is reminiscent of a 1997 chant used by the supporters of Charles Taylor, which went as follows: “He kill my pa, I vote for him. He kill my ma, I vote for him.” The meaning of the chant is disputed although most Liberians say it refers to the fear that it would be prudent to vote for someone with such power. Should Taylor not win, they said, he would continue the killing. 14. Amos Sawyer, “Remembering Tajudeem Adbul-Raheem and Pondering the Challenge of Reconciliation in Liberia,” Remarks at the Tajudeem Adbul-Raheem Memorial Program, University of Liberia Auditorium, July 30, 2009. The Perspective, August 4, 2009. See www.theperspective.org/submittingarticles.html. 15. Interview in Bo, September 2007. 16. Personal communication from Carter Center Long-Term Observer, Ron Mininger. This view also was expressed at a panel at the African Studies Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco 2006. Members of the panel included Michael Schatzberg and Aliko Songolo. 17. National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, “NDI Final Report on Sierra Leone’s 2007 Elections,” (2008), 16. 18. National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, “NDI Final Report on Sierra Leone’s 2007 Elections,” (2008), 17. 19. My description of Congo’s election is far less detailed than my descriptions of the plebiscite in Liberia or Sierra Leone. However, it is clear that in terms of the mechanics and the politics (ability to articulate issues beyond patron clientage), the Congolese election was far less free and fair. I drew my information on the Congo elections from reports in AllAfrica.com, from Carter Center Reports, and from conversations with Carter Center observers, both longterm and short-term. 20. The South African monitoring group certified the first round as did the Carter Center. The Carter Center’s report used the word “credible” and it reported an absence of “widespread or systematic manipulation.” The Carter Center did, however, note “procedural flaws” and a lack of transparency. 21. At the post-election debriefing, when they prepared the official statement for the press, some members of the NDI and Carter Center observer delegation were reluctant to make mention of the incident. The delegates were hesitant to cast a shadow on an election which was clearly very successful. To his credit, in his statement to the press, President Carter spoke about the episode and noted that Liberians would need to make a diligent effort to combat the deeply rooted culture of corruption. 22. The SLPP had engaged in ballot stuffing in prior elections. As in 2006, a number of polling stations reported 100 percent turnout. 23. This metric might better be labeled a rubric. Teachers will see the similarity between this instrument and rubrics used to evaluate student work.
Partners or Adversaries? NGOs and the State in Sierra Leone Fredline A. O. M’Cormack-Hale
Given the post-9/11 world, where post-conflict states have been targeted for interventions designed to strengthen the state and enhance democracy, international organizations have played a growing role in making this possible. However, interventions geared at strengthening the state and increasing democracy and development can actually lead to the undermining of the same, if promoted interventions do not engage with already existing indigenous or informal institutions. This chapter argues that current efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to build the state in Sierra Leone must address on-the-ground realities, including preexisting decision-making structures, if interventions are to be both sustainable and successful. 1 Much has been written about the nature of the state in Africa. For some authors, the colonial legacy has bequeathed states that are too weak, where weakness is understood as a lack of capacity to implement programs and policies benefiting the citizenry. 2 Others have argued that these states lack coercive power and broad legitimacy: the state has yet to fully penetrate society, and localized forms of governance remain most relevant in people’s lives. States have little ability to influence or direct societal behavior, and the absence of capitalist modes of production results in systems of rule where the personal takes precedence over impersonalized and bureaucratized forms of rule. 3 In such contexts, the state is unable to enforce its policies because it has little relevance to citizens’ economic well-being and overall existence. Regardless of how the state in Africa is conceived, most authors seem to agree that African states are only weakly connected to their societies, where the ideal-type reference draws on Max Weber’s definition of the state, encompassing monopoly over the legitimate use of force, de jure as well as de 137
Fredline A. O. M’Cormack-Hale
facto juridical sovereignty, and legal-rational rule. Thus, a key assumption of rebuilding failed states is the need to restore order and correspondingly state authority as vested in formal institutional structures like the judiciary, justice sector, the electoral system, and so on. What such interventions fail to recognize is the contested nature of state sovereignty that obtains in most African states. Rather than the sovereign state envisioned by most social contract theorists, it is more accurate to speak of multileveled and networked governance in African states. Governance, then, is the outcome of a complex interplay of actors situated at different territorial levels and transcends the formal institutions of the state, including both state, non-state public, and private actors. What implications does this have for state-society relations specifically— and democratization, broadly speaking—in postwar states, in light of interventions undertaken by international aid institutions in general and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) 4 in particular to rebuild failed states? Drawing on the experience of postwar Sierra Leone, in this chapter I argue that interventions suffer from contradictory objectives, which ultimately undermine the state. The central objective of democratization centers on the establishment of the following: free and fair elections, accountable government, civil and political rights, and democratic (civil) society. 5 To accomplish this, on the one hand, measures are undertaken to strengthen democracy by building or reconstructing state institutions as well as implementing decentralization. On the other hand, parallel interventions are employed that are designed to strengthen society—through increasing people’s capability to undertake development themselves, or to express their development preferences to the state and hold the state accountable. Thus, NGOs engage in civil society building. At the same time, there exists a third arena, which, while not subject to direct interventions by international assistance, is nevertheless important. These are indigenous or informal institutions that some would argue are the most salient in people’s lives. 6 These three arenas—formal state institutions, NGOs and civil society, and traditional institutions—all constitute important sources of authority and governance in many African states. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the implications of NGO democracy and development-building efforts on state-society relations, one of the arenas of effective democratization and development. Drawing on research conducted in 2006 in two districts in Sierra Leone, I argue that postconflict interventions are limited on three grounds. First, civil society building initiatives encourage citizens to make demands that the state might not be in a position to fulfill and in so doing raise expectations that cannot be met. Second, the promotion of a liberal vision of democracy that turns the focus of development activities on enhancing citizens’ capacity to engage in community-driven development marginalizes the state. Given that state legitimacy is
Partners or Adversaries?
often rooted in the relevance that people see the state having in their lives, interventions must find a way to engage the state in these development activities. Third, NGOs must take into account the contested nature of authority in African states in order to successfully promote democracy and development and encourage the organic development of institutions that bridge indigenous and formal divides. This chapter is organized into three parts. In the first part, I review the theoretical underpinnings that support the thesis that NGOs support democratization and development building in post-conflict states. In the second part, I explore the specific components of NGOs’ activity as it relates to the discussion above and examine their work in the communities under study. Finally, I consider the implications such activity might have on state-society relations. STATE FAILURE AND RECONSTRUCTION IN AFRICA: A BRIEF OVERVIEW Toward the end of the twentieth century, while general wars saw an overall decline in incidence, limited wars, and more specifically, civil wars, rose as countries transitioned from authoritarian rule to pluralist systems. In the wake of 9/11, the threats posed by failed states as possible breeding grounds for terrorists resulted in the prioritization of such states. Now, not only were failed states deemed important because of the humanitarian tragedies to which they gave rise, the security implications for citizens in developed countries made intervention even more pressing. 7 Thus, alongside efforts to understand state failure is the development of policy to address failure before it occurs or to reverse it and ensure that such states do not fail again. 8 From states like Afghanistan and Iraq to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the state building and reconstruction project is an active one, encompassing a wide variety of initiatives. For the international community, prominent among the plurality of approaches geared at rebuilding the failed state are those undertaken under the broad umbrella of promoting democracy and development. Where development was once deemed necessary for democracy to take place (see, for example, Cutright and Lipset ), contemporary orthodoxy now states that democracy must come first. 9 Only through the institutions as well as attitudes and beliefs that come with liberal democracy can the enabling environment needed for development occur. This represents somewhat of a shift in the locus and objective of international assistance over time. 10 In the immediate aftermath of colonialism in Africa, states received an influx of aid slated for development purposes. However, in the 1970s as states became
Fredline A. O. M’Cormack-Hale
mired in debt and reported declining levels of growth, the locus for development changed; structural adjustment and neoliberal policies instead called for a rolling back of the state in favor of privatization and reduced state intervention in the economy. 11 This was accompanied by a rise in NGOs operating in social service delivery as they were seen as more efficient, less corrupt, and closer to beneficiaries than the state. 12 In the 1990s, as political conditionalities (where states had to meet certain political conditions such as democratization and liberalization in order to qualify for aid) increasingly replaced economic ones following the recognition that governance matters and that adverse policies and politics constrain economic development, NGOs have also played a role in democracy-building efforts, in addition to their traditional concerns of development. While bilateral and multilateral funding tends to go toward institutional support—focusing on the supply side of governance through strengthening institutions like the electoral system, the judiciary, and the media—NGO support often focuses on the demand side, on increasing citizen engagement with the state, as well as service provision. 13 NGOs are theorized to promote good government performance by advocacy and substitution—either training people on articulating their needs and holding government accountable, or providing the services that failed states cannot provide. The advocacy model suggests that governments provide public goods because civil society groups bring their shortcomings in this arena to their attention. 14 Substitution, on the other hand, points to activities that mobilized citizens undertake themselves, providing public goods in the absence of a functioning and/or capable state. Through community organizing and, in some cases, NGO funding and direction, roads and schools are built, rotating credit associations facilitate investment by providing loans that would otherwise be unavailable, and agricultural inputs are provided, among other benefits that the state cannot or will not provide. Clearly then, in the context of resuscitating states after failure, NGOs have played central roles in light of their theorized abilities to positively impact both democracy and development. Sierra Leone is no exception to this. However, to what extent does the increased presence translate into strengthened citizen-state relations? In Sierra Leone, the role of NGOs can be problematic, given unexpected outcomes of their work, which include a tendency to raise citizen expectations and the potential to undermine state legitimacy and marginalize traditional institutions that often command greater loyalty than the state. This becomes evident when we examine NGOs’ role and activities with respect to civil society promotion, community development, and decentralization. These conclusions were derived from fieldwork conducted in Sierra Leone in 2006. During this time, the author undertook intensive research in two districts (Kailahun and Koinadugu) in Sierra Leone designed to assess the
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role and impact of NGOs in building democracy and development. In Koinadugu, four communities in two chiefdoms were selected, while in Kailahun, three communities in three chiefdoms were selected using non-random techniques. The research involved focus groups and surveys of community residents, as well as separate interviews with local authorities including paramount chiefs, women, and youth leaders. Also interviewed were heads of a number of INGOs and NGOs active in the surveyed communities. In focus group discussions, participants were asked about political values, understandings of democracy, and reasons for political participation. The survey protocol included questions taken from the AfroBarometer and the World Bank Social Capital Assessment Tool examining, among other things, satisfaction with democracy, familiarity and trust of elected and local leaders, as well as participation in political and development groups. Participants were asked to compare current understandings of democracy and levels of group participation prior to exposure to NGO projects. One respondent per household was identified, alternating by gender in each subsequent household. Although the initial target was ninety interviews in each community, in smaller communities this number was reduced to sixty or thirty, depending on community size. A total of 420 interviews were disseminated in the five communities. Out of these questionnaires, four were refused, resulting in a total number of 416 completed questionnaires. In the section below, the activities of NGOs in Sierra Leone will be considered, including specifically in the communities under consideration, before presentation of research findings and subsequent analysis. NGOS AND POSTWAR RECONSTRUCTION IN SIERRA LEONE For at least some, if not all of the period between 1991 and 2002, Sierra Leone was designated a failed state, unable to ensure the security of its people, maintain order, or provide social services. 15 Following the cessation of violence, the country followed a similar trajectory of assistance as other states recovering from conflict: international assistance rose (with the exception of a decline in funding between 2003 and 2004 when many emergencyrelief programs closed down), transitioning from an initial focus on emergency relief in the immediate post-conflict era to interventions stressing more long-term recovery, development, and democratization. In 2003, overseas development assistance (ODA) in Sierra Leone represented 30.2 percent of GDP. Estimates in 2006 put that figure to at least half of Sierra Leone’s budget. 16 While bilateral assistance and budget support are the primary areas through which assistance is channeled, a significant amount of assistance is also directed at NGOs. In 2006, NGOs and INGOs received 26 percent of
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non-ODA and ODA assistance to carry out activities in Sierra Leone. 17 The focus of this aid has also shifted: from an initial focus on development, democracy-building initiatives such as institution strengthening, decentralization, civil society, and social capital building have become prominent. NGOs are quite prolific in Sierra Leone, expanding considerably in the aftermath of war. 18 For example, from thirty in 1996, ninety organizations were reported in 2002. In 2005, over 300 national and international NGOs were registered with the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning (MODEP). 19 They are far from monolithic actors, however. Given that the central aim of policies targeted at rebuilding failed states is to prevent conflict from recurring and promote stabilization, implemented projects straddle the divide between development and democracy, with objectives reflective of either side, or both. The goal of development projects and programs is often to boost the capacity of community residents to improve their quality of life and living standards, through not only increasing access to discretionary income but also improving the conditions under which people live. NGOs that focus on democracy building, on the other hand, concentrate their efforts on building civil society and sensitizing people on the importance of demanding their rights, articulating their preferences, and keeping government accountable for their development promises. Still other organizations utilize a combination of these two approaches. Thus the activities of NGOs can be perceived as running parallel to the state, where they operate in a supply-side capacity, providing goods and services (in the form of development projects) alongside the state, or encouraging people to play an active role in their own development. In the second capacity of civil society promotion, they encourage marginalized and oppressed groups to articulate their concerns as well as preferences to government and thus build up the “demand-size” capabilities of these groups and ensure policy accountability. In so doing, they ostensibly open the political space for alternative voices to express dissent and monitor state performance in a bid to increase accountability. In Sierra Leone, donor programs such as the UK’s Department for International Development’s (DFID) Enhancing the Interface between Civil Society and the State (ENCISS) as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded and Management Systems International (MSI)-implemented Strengthening Democratic Governance (SDG) project, designed to broaden grassroots participation and increase citizen knowledge and awareness of democratic processes, share the aim of increasing citizen input into development policies, boosting citizens’ ability to express their development preferences as well as monitor government performance and enhance accountability. Another related component of building democracy in which NGOs have participated is that of democratic decentralization. A number of scholars have attributed the war to the marginalization of certain segments of the
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population, such as the youth in rural environs. 20 Decentralization, in shifting power away from centralized authority to more representative, locally elected ones instead, is seen as the best way to ensure development driven by local demands and expectations. In addition, the proximity of local government to their constituents is believed to boost their ability to provide feedback and hold government accountable. Consequently, NGOs have held training sessions with various stakeholders on the decentralization process, including training on government responsibilities as well as citizens’ rights and responsibilities. NGO ACTIVITY IN SURVEYED COMMUNITIES Selected chiefdoms had different experiences of NGO activity. Communities in Kailahun overall had higher levels of exposure to democracy-building NGOs, while Koinadugu communities were more familiar with development-oriented ones, if at all. Although civil society building interventions assume a variety of forms, in the applicable regions surveyed, the emphasis tended to be on the education of citizens about the meaning of democracy and the role they should play in such a democracy. Through good governance sensitization meetings run by local and international NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Africare, the 50/50 group, and Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), as well as radio programs aired by stations like Radio Moa, citizens received sensitization on topics ranging from the importance of equal gender representation in development groups to holding political leaders accountable. USAID was a primary donor of these initiatives. One notable program was its three-year, $4.5 million Strengthening Democratic Governance (SDG) program (originally with a March 2008 end date). Implemented by MSI in partnership with a number of different NGOs depending on the region, the overall goal was to strengthen citizen participation in democracy. In Kailahun, where the International Rescue Committee was the implementing partner, the program worked on broadening community-based political participation in national dialogue through a variety of activities, including the training of regional coordinators and local mobilizers responsible for sharing the information received with ward committee members and interested residents. Through workshops and seminars, residents were educated about their rights and the importance of their involvement in all stages of development in their communities: from articulating priorities to the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of development projects in their communities.
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On the other hand, surveyed residents in Koinadugu were exposed more to development-oriented NGOs than democracy ones and had less exposure to NGOs overall, given the remoteness and difficulty of access of communities surveyed. Regarding development-oriented projects, communities in both districts were exposed to a variety of projects, including organization for community-driven development (CDD) activities like shelter rehabilitation, road construction, and rehabilitation of schools and hospitals as well as agricultural inputs for improved farming. RESEARCH FINDINGS: NGOS AND CIVIL SOCIETY PROMOTION Respondents with some exposure to NGOs appeared to have greater levels of political awareness and knowledge. For example, these respondents were more likely to indicate knowing the name of the president in survey responses, 21 as well as more likely to have heard of democracy and decentralization. 22 When it came to definitions of democracy, the two most frequently cited responses characterized democracy in largely liberal terms, emphasizing freedom (32 percent) and government by, for, and of the people (14.7 percent). Only 2.5 percent associated democracy with economic development. In terms of political participation, while overall few respondents mentioned actively contacting politicians or community leaders to get things done in the community, overall, those with NGO exposure were more likely to respond in the affirmative. At the same time, they were less likely to consider Sierra Leone a full democracy 23 and expressed greater dissatisfaction with how democracy worked in Sierra Leone. 24 Some of the reasons behind this were made clear in focus group discussions (FGDs), where respondents clearly articulated knowledge of the steps necessary to hold government leaders accountable but noted that the state did not meet its commitments and expressed dissatisfaction with state performance generally, and service provision in particular. From these observations, it is clear that citizens are speaking the language of an informed and active citizenry familiar with the processes of effecting change through recognized formal political channels in their communities. However, the state at present lacks the capacity to implement many of these development needs for a number of reasons. Postwar states such as Sierra Leone are still weak in terms of capacity. Despite the aggressive promotion of decentralization and the district councils and ward committees, the government has failed to provide a correspondingly stable revenue base through which communities can finance their own development. 25 Given the low standards of living currently in rural areas, a dependence on taxation is clearly inadequate. Other sources of income such as NGO grants are not
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sustainable. Thus, encouraging citizens to go through the formal channels to implement community-based development could not only fail to effect tangible change, but also lead to frustrations as newly expectant citizens find government unresponsive to their demands due to a lack of fiscal and implementing capabilities. RESEARCH FINDINGS: NGOS AND DEVELOPMENT PROMOTION In addition to civil-society building, NGOs in Sierra Leone are very active in community-driven development (CDD). Thus NGOs such as Oxfam and Catholic Relief Services have worked on increasing citizens’ access to credit, rebuilding destroyed houses, and crop production. Many of these interventions mobilize people to take a proactive role in their own development. In so doing, they often build on preexisting institutions and organizations to which much of the rural populace belong, and on a longstanding tradition of selfhelp for development, as many are used to little or no state presence in their lives. The majority of respondents (76.4 percent) reported belonging to at least one group or more, and 64.9 percent reported they were members of groups with development-oriented missions as a primary objective. Furthermore, respondents exposed to NGOs reported belonging to more groups than participants with no record of participation in NGO projects, with NGOs acting as a primary vehicle to mobilize community-driven development works. In so doing, NGOs help fill a very real need for the rural populace in the absence of state welfare safety nets. However, this presents a twofold danger because while people-directed development often proceeds hand-inhand with other interventions geared toward increasing state accountability, it could paradoxically undermine it. The first danger is there is an apparent disconnect between “African” and “western” conceptions of democracy. On the one hand, the vision of democracy that appears to be promoted by these organizations coheres with a minimalist version, one that emphasizes civil rights and liberties as articulated in many of the definitions offered by respondents. However, this neoliberal vision of the state and version of democracy is often at odds with an “African” vision. 26 For Ake, as well as other theorists in this vein, Africans are less interested in abstract political rights and more interested in the realization of social, economic, and other rights pertaining to well-being and quality of life. Thus, even for authors who find that Africans conceptualize democracy through a neoliberal framework that prioritizes rights and liberties, of more urgent concern is how the government is addressing socioeconomic issues. 27 Such scholars have spoken about the importance that people
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attach to the state and the expectations they have of it. Survey responses to questions about the characteristics of good government appeared to affirm these points: in contrast to the definitions offered on democracy, when respondents were asked to list the attributes of good government, economic and social considerations took precedence over individual rights and liberties. Socioeconomic development was listed as the most desirable characteristic (by 69.4 percent of respondents), followed by peace and unity as a distant second (8.5 percent). What then are the implications of promoting a vision of democracy at odds with what people want at the grassroots? The second danger is that by moving those activities that help make the state relevant and legitimate in people’s eyes outside of the state, such efforts can serve to further marginalize and undermine the state. Despite the state’s lack of presence in rural areas, many still believe that the state should be the locus of social and economic development in society, as the responses to the question on characteristics of a good government imply. While some might argue that CDD is important because the state lacks the capacity to implement social and economic development, by taking on these activities or promoting self-organization of community residents to address these needs, NGOs do not encourage the state to play a more visible role in society, which would help confer legitimacy. Instead, NGOs are seen as an alternative and perhaps even more reliable source of assistance. Survey responses indicated that respondents viewed NGOs as desirable development partners, as they could provide the financial resources to assist community members in varied developmentoriented activities and tasks, in lieu of government. This can potentially undermine government accountability to citizens as well, as these organizations not only provide an alternative revenue base outside of citizen taxes, but they might be better placed to implement programs and projects since they do not have to rely on limited revenue generated by such taxes. 28 Although decentralization is supposed to address the question of effective state delivery of public services, in practice CDD remains the primary way for citizens to implement development projects in surveyed communities. A relative newcomer to the list of policy prescriptions in post-conflict states, decentralization is seen as the most appropriate way to broaden participation and allow people in rural areas most familiar with their environs a say in the development programs and policies implemented in their communities. 29 It theoretically allows local priorities to drive decision making at the local level. Moreover, the election of local officials provides the incentive for performance, as ineffective leaders can be voted out of office, ostensibly resulting in improved service provision. Per the 2004 Local Government Act, revenue collected in the districts is allocated to development programs and projects identified from consultative meetings at the ward level open to all community residents. 30
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In practice however, the onus of development is still on the people, and citizens are expected to play a role in implementing the development projects identified and funded by the local government, under the concept of community-driven development. Thus the purpose of these decentralized institutions is, in some ways, to mobilize citizens for self-help purposes and development. 31 This absolves the state from any sustained responsibility in improving people’s lives. Instead, the onus is on citizens to take on this role. In addition to this, service delivery is still perceived as shaky. Education is poor and hospitals remain understaffed and poorly equipped, not to mention the condition of roads and other public goods. Decentralization also remains incomplete, with key sectors yet to be fully devolved. 32 Consequently, the vision of development presided over by the local councils would not appear to differ significantly from what was obtained before. Rural Africans are long used to the absence of the state in their lives as an instrument through which economic development occurs. 33 To make up for the state’s lack of penetration in rural areas, citizens are embedded in a mesh of reciprocal ties, rooted in cultural arrangements that provide the social and economic safety nets that help people survive. They are active in multiple social organizations that provide economic development and social support. While these organizations can serve to build trust (social capital) that holds communities together, they can also eclipse or replace the state, which does little to solidify state-society relations. 34 Second, as Olowu, Wunsch, and Ayee have argued, effective decentralization needs, among other things, a capable and well-functioning central state. It also needs finances to implement identified projects. 35 Local councils are funded through a combination of central government and donor funds and local taxation. However, donor funding is not sustainable, and revenues collected from communities is variable, depending as it does on the wealth of the community as well as ability to collect taxes. 36 Not only can this potentially undermine the service provision capability of local councils, but the different levels of service of various councils could exacerbate perceptions that some regions are favored over others. Another concern is the existence of competing sources of legitimacy for development efforts. While decentralization is relatively new (district councils returned in 2004), chiefs have long been the vanguards of development initiatives. This essay now turns to the marginalization of traditional institutions of which chiefs are primary representatives.
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RESEARCH FINDINGS: CONFLICTS WITH PARALLEL INDIGENOUS INSTITUTIONS CDD is rooted in preexisting forms of social organization for development. The lack of a functioning state at local levels often meant that people would work together toward their own development. 37 “Indigenous” forms of leadership, notably chiefs, were instrumental in identifying and mobilizing citizens for collective development. While a number of scholars have criticized the chieftaincy system—blaming it for a host of ills ranging from exploitation of the rural populace to corruption and greed 38 —as well as questioned its indigeneity, arguing instead that it was not immune from external manipulation by colonial powers as scholars including Abraham have observed, the relevance of the chieftaincy system in rural communities remains unquestioned. They are the “mainstays” of local government in rural areas. 39 As Fanthorpe has documented, following the war, chiefs’ resettlement patterns were the yardstick that others used to judge the safety of return. In addition, chiefs are often the first point of contact for citizens interested in community development projects, and along with NGOs, were considered integral resources for activities as varied as building of roads, schools, and other infrastructure and the establishment of seedbanks. 40 Significantly, respondents were more likely to know the name of their paramount chief than their local councilor. 41 Despite overall low levels of trust in post-conflict societies, chiefs received the highest number of positive responses in the category of trust for local officials. However, although chiefs play an important role in their communities, they are not incorporated well into the systems of local governance. 42 Furthermore, the survey data point to the fact that people trust councilors less than they do paramount chiefs, mainly because these councilors are often not resident in their communities, or people do not know who their councilors are. This does not mean that rural residents do not realize the problems within the system or that they place blind trust in the traditional political institutions. Responses to questions of trust of local institutions such as the native courts indicate that respondents are well aware that these systems are corrupt. Respondents felt that these courts worked more in the interests of elites and those with money who could pay to have cases resolved in their favor. In addition, during FGDs with male youth members, chiefs were criticized for being too controlling and levying unfair fines for minor infractions. Some scholars have also pointed to the excesses of chiefs, and more generally, the exploitation of youths by unjust rural institutions, as one of the root causes of the war. 43 These seeming contradictions—the recognition of the corruption within the traditional systems while at the same time their importance in people’s lives—point to the need for reform rather
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than the marginalization that Fanthorpe finds donors advocating for: “When asked if the chieftaincy system has a future, informants tend to reply that institutional reforms are urgently needed. But the predominant response is that chiefs still have a vital role to play because they (and by implication not the state) ‘know a person’s right,’ i.e., the customary rights and properties that establish de facto local citizenship.” 44 Given the role that chiefs play in people’s lives, a focus on local government reform that neglects reform of the chieftaincy can risk putting in motion the same forces that contributed to the war. 45 However, instead of prioritizing chiefdom administration reform, even supply-side initiatives run by democracy-oriented NGOs concentrated on building the capacity of political leaders within the formal arena. Training activities by organizations such as Oxfam and IRC focused on providing councilors and ward committee members information on how to best serve their constituents and improve accountability. In so doing, it can be argued that such activities, and the emphasis on decentralization in general, ignored on-the-ground realities—notably, existing power structures in communities and entrenched ways of accomplishing community goals and objectives. Admittedly, local councils do recognize the need to work with chiefs, and in the Local Government Act not only are chiefs represented on ward committees, they retain key duties within their chiefdoms, including responsibility for tax collection, although they appear to be technically subordinate to the local councils. However, the precise relationship between the two remains unclear and is considered by many as a competitive, rather than complementary one. As others have argued, the continued relevance of chiefs suggests that attention must also be paid to chiefdom administration reform—it is the form of government that most people are familiar with, given the absence of the central government in their lives. 46 Data culled from FGDs and surveys support this, with the evidence indicating that even after some experience of local government, people find that it has yet to deliver and still turn to the paramount chiefs. NGO POLICIES AND STATE STRENGTHENING: TOWARD BUILDING COMPLEMENTARY GOALS For scholars writing about the African state, regardless of the moniker given, there is some consensus on the limitations of the state and its inherently problematic character. Whether the state is seen as too strong (in its authoritarian nature) or too weak (and unable to project its authority on its citizens), scholars agree that the state needs to change in some fundamental way. Ironically, despite decrying the state, it remains both a relevant and important actor for many Africans.
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State failure has been met with policies aimed at strengthening the state, building democratization, and fostering development. NGOs are playing an ever-increasing role in implementing programs and projects of donors as well as programs of their own, stemming as far back as the 1980s when the dominant neoliberal paradigm advocated taking development out of the hands of the inefficient, bloated, and corrupt state. Furthermore, as adjustment policies called for privatization of social service delivery and cuts in government expenditure on social services such as health, education, and rural development, NGOs stepped in, receiving money from donors to implement the service delivery functions formerly (if nominally) provided by the state. Although since the end of the twentieth century donors have seemed to be showing renewed trust in the state, the still dominant paradigm that prioritizes privatization means that donors are still channeling significant levels of funding through NGOs. However, the twin objectives of democratization and development that these organizations favor might actually undermine the overarching policy objective of rebuilding and strengthening the failed state. First, interventions targeted at civil-society building as one of the efforts toward strengthening democratization can be problematic. Building a vibrant civil society without corresponding increases in state capacity, or before the state has increased its capacity, is counterproductive. As others have noted, the notion of the state as the harbinger of development remains very salient for Africans. Thus legitimacy is rooted in the service delivery capabilities of the state. Citizens need to be able to see the government as playing an important role in their lives. Ironically, the promotion of community-driven development, where people are still very much responsible for their own development, does little to promote a vision of a state that is in touch with people’s needs and is meeting them adequately. In addition, New Institutional Economics (NIE) tells us that institutions matter. However, emphasizing formal institutions without adequately considering realities on the ground, and especially ignoring sustained discussions and actions around the need to integrate informal or indigenous institutions, will also hinder democratization. While having the admirable goal of expanding participation and bringing development to the local level, local councils risk continued marginalization of locals if they do not address the role of the chiefs. What is needed is institutional syncretism, 47 defined by Galvan as “the intentional recombination of institutional elements of diverse sociocultural, geographical, or temporal origin in a coherent manner that yields correspondence and supportive articulation between institutional superstructure and infrastructure.” 48 Successful decentralization, and much more, democratization, is going to take the melding of both the informal rules that structure people’s lives as well as the formal ones newly imposed by the state. Finally, the complexities hinted at in this chapter suggest that the proponents of liberal democracy must also address the realities through
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which people view democracy and good government—as that which implements social and economic development as these guide the relevance of the state in people’s lives. Working within this context is the most appropriate way to rebuild the state, rather than pushing a vision that could potentially further undermine the role of the state in people’s lives, and correspondingly state legitimacy as well. This work thus reinforces Posner, who argues that civil society can contribute in rebuilding failed states only where the state itself has been “rejuvenated,” or Olowu and colleagues, who state that the challenge “is not overpowering indigenous institutions, but learning how to build on and with them.” 49 NOTES 1. Research for this chapter was supported by the Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship, United States Institute for Peace. 2. Robert I. Rotberg, ed., State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror (Cambridge, MA: World Peace Foundation, 2003); and ed. Robert I. Rotberg, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004). 3. Joel S. Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States: State-society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press,1988); and Göran Hydén, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980). 4. In this paper, my discussion of nongovernmental organizations is constrained primarily to not-for-profit, voluntary organizations active in relief, development, human rights, environment, and democracy promotion. Civil society organizations are considered a subset of NGOs, and the term is used to describe NGOs whose primary focus is on advocacy, rather than service provision. 5. David Beetham, Defining and Measuring Democracy, Sage Modern Politics Series 36 (London: Sage Publications, 1994); and Krishna Kumar, Rebuilding Societies after Civil War: Critical Roles for International Assistance (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1997). 6. Peter Ekeh, “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 17, no. 1 (January 1975): 91–111. 7. Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, and Ramesh Chandra Thakur, Eds., Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2005); and Rotberg, State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror. 8. Jeroen De Zeeuw and Krishna Kumar, Eds., Promoting Democracy in Post-Conflict Societies (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006); Rotberg, State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror; Rotberg, When States Fail; and Kumar, Rebuilding Societies after Civil War. 9. Philips Cutright, “National Political Development: Its Measurement and Social Correlates,” in Political and Social Life, ed. Nelson W. Polsby, Robert A. Dentler, and Paul A. Smith (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963), 569–82; and Seymour M. Lipset, “Some Social Requisites for Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy,” The American Political Science Review 53 (1959): 69–105. 10. Thomas Carothers, Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1999). 11. Thomas M. Callaghy and John Ravenhill, Eds., Hemmed In: Responses to Africa’s Economic Decline (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993); and Nicolas Van de Walle, African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979–1999 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
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12. David Hulme and Michael Edwards, Eds., NGOs, States and Donors: Too Close for Comfort? International Political Economy Series (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); Michael Edwards and David Hulme, Eds., Beyond the Magic Bullet: NGO Performance and Accountability in the Post–Cold War World, Kumarian Press Books on International Development (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1996); and A. Fowler, NGOs in Africa: Comparative Advantage in Relief and Micro-Development, IDS Discussion Paper 249 (Brighton: IDS, 1988). 13. De Zeeuw and Kumar, Promoting Democracy in Post-conflict Societies. 14. The advocacy role of civil society is a popular conceptualization in the civil society literature. See for examples, Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, “Civil Society in Africa,” Journal of Democracy 7, no. 2 (April 1996): 118–32, and John Harbeson, Donald Rothschild, and Naomi Chazan, Eds., Civil Society and the State in Africa (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996). 15. William Reno, “Sierra Leone: Warfare in a Post-State society,” in Rotberg, ed., State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror, 71–101. The causes of war, sequencing of events, and journey to peace have been covered extensively elsewhere and will not be reviewed here. See for example, De Zeeuw and Kumar, Promoting Democracy in Post-Conflict Societies; Ibrahim Abdullah, ed., Between Democracy and Terror: The Sierra Leone Civil War (Dakar, Senegal: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2004); Jimmy Kandeh, “Ransoming the State: Elite Origins of Subaltern Terror in Sierra Leone,” Review of African Political Economy 81 (1999): 349–66; Ibrahim Abdullah and Patrick Mauna, “The Revolutionary United Front: A Revolt of the Lumpenproletariat,” in African Guerillas, ed. Christopher Clapham, 172–93 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998); Paul Richards, Fighting for the Rainforest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone (Oxford: James Currey, 1996); and Arthur Abraham, “War and Transition to Peace: A Study of State Conspiracy in Perpetuating Armed Conflict,” Africa Development 22, nos. 3–4 (1997): 101–16. 16. Eurodad and Campaign for Good Governance, in Old Habits Die Hard: Aid and Accountability in Sierra Leone (European Network on Debt and Development, 2008), http:// eurodad.org/?p=2038 (accessed April 4, 2009). 17. Government of Sierra Leone and Development Assistance Coordination Office (DACO), Development Assistance to Sierra Leone, 2006 (2007), www.daco-sl.org/reports/ Dev_ass_rep06.pdf (accessed February 8, 2009). 18. Alfred Zack-Williams, “Sierra Leone: The Political Economy of Civil War,” vol. 20, no. 1, 1999, 143–61. 19. Interview with Mr. Eric Jumu, conducted by the author, February 2006. 20. Richards, Fighting for the Rainforest; and Paul Richards, “To Fight or to Farm? Agrarian Dimensions of the Mano River Conflicts (Liberia and Sierra Leone),” African Affairs 106, no. 417 (2005): 571–90. 21. Of the respondents who had some level of NGO participation, 96.7 percent reported knowing the name of the president, compared to 57.3 percent of respondents who had no exposure to NGOs reporting knowledge of the president’s name. 22. A total of 32.5 percent of respondents with NGO contact indicated they had heard of decentralization, and 80.1 percent indicated they had heard the term democracy. In contrast, only 10.7 percent without NGO exposure had heard of decentralization, and 53.3 percent, democracy. For knowledge of political leaders and knowledge of political terms, results were statistically significant (p