Ideology and interests in the Rwandan patriotic front: Singing the struggle in pre-genocide Rwanda

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Mugiraneza, Assumpta 

In the study of African Politics, the analysis of political ideologies as a normative engine of political action seems to have receded in favour of a treatment of ideology as the support of actors in their pursuit of material interests. Rwanda is not an exception. The ideology of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has been predominantly analysed as a self-serving strategy geared towards the reinforcement of the party’s power. Such treatment of ideology prevents a full understanding of the RPF. This article argues that ideology should also be conceptualized as a matrix that can reshape material incentives and through which the RPF’s interests have emerged. To do so, the article analyses new sources of material, the songs of mobilization from RPF members and supporters composed before the Front took power during the genocide, to systematically delineate the RPF’s early ideology. The analysis centres on four main themes—Rwandan national unity, the RPF’s depiction of itself, its depiction of its enemy, and its relationship with the international community—and traces their influence on RPF interests in the post-genocide era. It reveals the surprisingly long-lasting power of ideas despite fast-changing material circumstances.

4408 Political Science, 44 Human Society
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African Affairs
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Oxford University Press (OUP)
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Isaac Newton Trust (Unknown)
Leverhulme Trust (ECF-2018-150)
We wish to acknowledge the Aegis Trust and the Leverhulme Trust financial support