Bilateral cooperation and local power dynamics: the case of Rwanda

Research reports and studies
October 2013
Frederick Golooba-Mutebi and David Booth
In order to understand political dynamics in a country, it is not sufficient to know what formal institutions it has. It is necessary to grasp the nature of the prevailing elite bargain or political settlement – the particular way the institutions shape and are shaped by structures of power.

According to the authors of this paper, Rwanda has a political settlement featuring three distinct but interdependent elements: a commitment to power-sharing among (but only among) parties that are firmly aligned against a revival of ethnic sectarianism; the pursuit of development, not negotiation, as the principal path to national reconciliation; and the search for an alternative to clientelistic political competition.

The bargain includes a robust, ‘European’ rather than ‘American’, stance on hate crimes and freedom of speech; constitutional rules that strongly favour parties other than the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF); and a preference for decision-making by consensus.