Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace

In This Review

Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace
By Susan Thomson
Yale University Press, 2018
344 pp.

Despite a steady supply of books about the Rwandan genocide of 1994, there exist remarkably few serious studies of the regime that emerged from the devastation, led by President Paul Kagame. Under Kagame, Rwanda has become a darling of international donors and has consistently received more foreign aid per capita than most other developing countries. Media reports often laud the government’s focus on economic development—Rwanda has boasted an average annual growth rate of eight percent since 2001—and describe its autocratic tendencies as unfortunate but understandable given the country’s history and continuing security concerns. Thomson offers a much more complex analysis, revealing how the regime continues to define itself in relation to the genocide and that, as a result, it has never quite escaped the logic of ethnic partisanship. The Kagame government, in her account, is a dictatorial police state that systematically favors a narrow stratum of urban Tutsi elites at the expense of the rest of the population. The government’s backers argue that ensuring rapid economic growth will inoculate the country against ethnic conflict, but Thomson suggests that resentments are mounting below the surface, as growth has only modestly reduced poverty and dramatically increased inequality.


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