Timothy Longman, Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science and Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, recently published Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda (Cambridge University Press, July 2017). Bringing 25 years of research in Rwanda to the table, Longman focuses on the current Rwandan government’s social engineering project and how the population has responded while broadly analyzing the government’s social policies.
Longman argues that despite good intentions and important innovations, Rwanda’s authoritarian political context has hindered the ability of transnational justice to bring the radical social and political transformations that its advocates hoped.
“The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has controlled Rwanda since 1994, has employed rhetoric calling for reconciliation and national unity, but in practice, they have used national unity and reconciliation programs to help consolidate their power,” Longman said. “The RPF government gains considerable praise from development workers and diplomats, because their efficiency and effectiveness in managing the economy. President Kagame uses Singapore as a model, yet the problem is that the regime’s policies do not benefit everyone in the country equally.”
According to Longman, while President Paul Kagame’s government has made important achievements in some areas, many policies intended to promote unity within Rwanda have left the country divided.
“Kagame’s main constituency, Tutsi who were formerly refugees in Uganda, have come to monopolize social, political, and economic life,” Longman said. “The regime depends on considerable international assistance, so the government works hard to give an impression of order and democracy, but my book demonstrates that even though they have made some achievements in some areas, this is a deeply authoritarian regime.”
Longman said that through his research at the local level he found that many Rwandans, including those who are approve of Kagame’s governance, believe the President has served long enough.
“In my local-level work, I found that even people who appreciate Kagame’s management of the country want him to leave office, because he has served long enough. My research also indicates that the policies employed by the regime supposedly to promote unity and reconciliation have actually left the country more deeply divided.”
Longman’s research for Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda began in 2001 and involves hundreds of interviews and multiple surveys that provide deep insight on life in post-genocide Rwanda
“The advantage of the length of time I’ve been working on the book is that it allows me to present the development of politics in Rwanda over two decades,” Longman said. “I worked hard to make this book highly accessible while still maintaining high scholarly standards. I tell a lot of stories from my many years working in Rwanda to illustrate some of the points. This is a very personal book in which I try to confront life in post-genocide Rwanda fully and honestly.”
Longman’s current research focuses on state -society relations in Africa, looking particularly at human rights, transitional justice, democratization, civil society, the politics of race and ethnicity, religion and politics, and women and politics.