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Ethnic or Socio-Economic Conflict? Political Interpretations of the Rwandan Crisis

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Rather than trace the political history of the conflict in Rwanda I will focus on the different interpretations of the conflict by the actors involved. The external identification of the Tutsi refugees as 'Banyarwanda' corresponds with the ideology and self image of the RPF who were recruited among the refugees and their descendants who fled to Uganda during and after 1959. The RPF presents itself as a democratic organisation speaking for all Rwandans and its anti-ethnic stance is designed not only to appeal to Rwandans but also to a Western audience. The RPF's opponent, the Habyarimana government in Rwanda, presented itself as the heir of the 1959 'peasant revolution' which had replaced politics with 'development', and portrayed the RPF as feudal Tutsi revanchists coming to set the garden of Eden on fire. The government also joined Hutu extremists in presenting the Hutu-Tutsi conflict as 'natural', invoking the Hamitic-Bantu distinction.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Ethnology and Africa Studies, Mainz University, Germany


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