Rwanda hailed for consensus democracy after genocide

Rwandese in Kenya light candles to commemorate International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi, at United Nations headquarters in Nairobi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Rwanda has been hailed for its strong consensus democracy after the 1994 genocide.

Dr Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist with a special interest in political economy and who is based in Rwanda said:

“The political arrangements put in place after the genocide is what has been the source of the strong consensus democracy. As you know, Rwanda has a government of national unity since the genocide.” 

Dr Mutebi was among the panellists of the conference organised by the Rwanda High Commission at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre(KICC) in Nairobi.

The Thursday event was a curtain raiser conference ahead of the 30th commemoration of the genocide, commonly called Kwibuka (remembering).

The official annual commemoration will start in Rwanda on April 7 and run for 100 days.

It will also happen in their diplomatic offices with Nairobi's High Commission holding theirs on Tuesday 9 at United Nations headquarters at Gigiri.

 Dr Mutebi said Rwanda has a consensus-built political system noting that it is a rejection of conventional or adversarial political contestation that is the answer for its continuous stability.

"The government is not interrupted from what it should do in terms of building the country but is allowed to focus on important things that concern the citizens,” said Dr Mutebi.

He said the few political controversies, no or less corruption in the country cases are as a result of the consensus foundation.

Consensus, unlike majoritarian democracy, is the application of consensus decision-making and super majority to the process of legislation in a democracy.

He said Rwanda is not a one-party state as many think, having 11 political parties with only two smallest that are not supporting the government.

The two, he said, still meet with the nine during the National Consultative Forum of Political Organisations (NCFPO) and the annual National Dialogue Council, where dissent is allowed since decisions are made by consensus.

Martin Ngoga, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Kenya said the conference provides a platform to delve into the root causes of genocide.

He said it also helps to examine the systemic failures that allowed such unimaginable violence to take hold, and to reaffirm commitment to preventing future atrocities.

“It is also an occasion to honor the victims and survivors and to extract from this senseless slaughter the lessons that can still be learned to prevent genocides in the future,” said Ngoga.

He added: “It is our moral obligation to ensure that the voices of the innocent lives that perished during the genocide are heard, their stories are told, and their legacy is preserved for future generations.”

Ngoga said justice is the cornerstone in preventing genocide and ensuring accountability for the perpetrators.

"... it is therefore imperative for the international community to support efforts to prosecute and bring to justice those who orchestrated and carried out the genocide against the Tutsi."

Prof. PLO Lumumba said the gains of stability must be guarded so that the country does not go back to what happened 30 years ago.

“African countries should determine how they will govern themselves and adopt political systems that are acceptable by the majority people and not what outsiders want. There are forces within and without Rwanda that would want to disturb the current peace and we must be vigilant not to allow them oxygen for such forces to thrive,” he said.

He hailed the ‘Gacaga’ courts, a system of transitional justice in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide, which he said if adopted in more African countries can be used to solve many local problems.

Prof. Lumumba said African media should tell their own story and not leave it to foreign media, who do that while abroad and thus do not articulate well the understanding of Africa’s own governance.

For Dr Lonzen Rugira, an applied policy researcher,  said those who do not want peace in Rwanda are behind the push for adversarial politics, which were factor in setting up genocide.

“That kind of democracy is bad and does promote peaceful co-existence and unity and that is why you have not seen political violence in Rwanda since the genocide. This is something worthy of emulation in Africa because parties work together to solve the country's problems,” said Dr Rugira.