Is and democracy. More recently Locke, analyzing the nature

Is government
legitimacy leading to a deterioration of the democracy in Rwanda?





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The concept of
legitimacy has been at the heart of political thought for centuries. In Plato,
he bases the idea of ??justice, and it is also on him that Aristotle bases his
distinction between monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. More recently Locke,
analyzing the nature of government, challenges the legitimacy of the “divine
right” of kings. today, the legitimacy of governments is at the heart of
debates in many countries. This legitimacy is reversed in the case of
democracies where the people hold power in a collective way, that is to say
that all citizens have the power. It is said that the people are sovereign.

This regime is opposed to the monarchy, where the power returns to the king. It
is the “government of the people by the people and for the people,”
as Pericles and Abraham Lincoln have said. In a democracy, the people elect
their representatives and every citizen can give his opinion by voting. The
government thus constituted must then act in the general interest. There is no
internationally recognized criterion for defining democracy. However, it can be
considered that it must respect several principles, such as equality before the
law, respect for freedom, the existence of laws established by the people and
respected by the government. The notions of legitimacy and democracy are
therefore going to be with each other, and imbalance can lead to significant
imbalances within a country. Indeed, legitimacy is the guarantor of the good
development of the fundamental bodies of democracy.

This essay will at first touch notions of
legitimacy and democracy as well as the links that exist between these two
notions. Then, in a second time, the case of Rwanda and how the legitimacy of
the current government is undermining democracy.

Called the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda is
a republic of democratic constitution. The President is elected by universal
suffrage; the parliament consists of two chambers: the National Assembly and
the Senate. Political parties, regardless of their usual activities, meet in a
Concertation Forum, whose decisions are taken by consensus. The current president
re-elected for a third term with 98.6% of the presidential vote of August 5th,
2017, Paul Kagame, will add another 7 years to a reign started in fact 23 years
ago at the head of Rwanda.




I- Literature review


discussing the deterioration of democracy, a subject so delicate for Rwanda, it
is necessary to address the meaning of democracy. Indeed, it is true that there
is no commonly accepted definition of what democracy is or should be, but one
can refer on the one hand to Abraham Lincoln’s definition of “the
democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people ” (Markus G. Jud, 2018).

On the other hand, we can refer to the
definition of Karl Popper, in his book entitled “The open society and his
enemies”, where he defines democracy as “a system in which is
established an institutional control of leaders”. According to this
theory, the people influence the actions of their leaders and they have the
power to rid themselves of rulers without bloodshed. It has the power to judge
the political actions that are implemented (Popper, n.d.).

Generally speaking, a government is said to be
democratic in opposition to the monarchical system on the one hand, where power
is held by one, and on the other hand to the oligarchic system, where power is
held by a small group of individuals.

Returning again to the conception of
democracy, Popper bases himself on Pericles’ celebrated speech, which
formulated the idea that although few men are capable of imagining plausible
policies, all men are in a position to judge a political program and the
consequences of its implementation. By this he emphasizes that democracy gives
citizens do not have the power to govern, but the power to judge. Indeed, an
open society gives the people, not the possibility of governing because it is
impossible for all individuals of a given people to rule at the same time, but
it gives the possibility to control and oust those to whom one has delegated a
collective responsibility. This theory in no way compels us to hold the
decisions of the majority to be good because, what matters are the institutions
and a tradition of critical thinking. So the problem that a democratic regime
tries to solve is to find and test the institutions that make it possible to
avoid abuses of power. So the important thing in a democracy is not who will
govern, but how can a people monitor or oust leaders without having to make a


Legitimacy, for its part, is the ability of
the power-bearer to have his decisions admitted and the enjoyment of that
ability comes from the recognition of his power or the adhesion to his power by
those who have elected the one who has become a leader because in electing him,
the citizens entrusted this person with the authorization to order them on the
basis of the right they had previously enacted. Due to this legitimacy, it
becomes difficult to oppose the leader’s decisions and his power.

Weber distinguishes three kinds of foundations
to legitimacy: traditional where obedience is due to authority emanating from
ancestral authority; charismatic (in the charisma of a providential man) where
the dominant is attributed an exceptional gift; bureaucratic based on the
belief that the order is given in accordance with the positive law. To these
three types of domination correspond three regimes: monarchy, dictatorship,
parliamentarism, and three kinds of elite: elders, prophets, and functionaries.

According to this sociologist, only the last three sources allow a modern
organization to develop harmoniously. Therefore, to direct a society, one must
first legitimize the exercise of one’s power in order to create a relationship
of trust that removes the previous relationship based on subordination (Weber,

Although governance is legal when the exercise
of power is governed by a set of rules and principles derived from tradition or
enshrined in a constitution, written laws and case law. The legitimacy of
governance is a much more subjective notion. It refers to the feeling of the
population that political and administrative power is exercised by
“good” people, according to “good” practices and in the
common interest. This profound adherence of the people and of an entire society
to the way in which it is governed is an essential dimension of governance (Smith,
1998). To last, it can never, whatever the authoritarianism of a regime and the
importance of the repressive means at its disposal, impose itself by pure
constraint; it must meet in the heart of society a minimum of echo and


Democracy tends to consider that a governance
is automatically legitimate since the popular adhesion to the forms of exercise
of the power was manifested by the majority vote of the Constitutions and the
laws and that the adhesion to the concrete modalities of the exercise this power
is periodically renewed by elections. The reality is much more complex than the
theory. If, in some countries, the Constitution is the founding act of the
community, in many others it is a document for specialists, poorly known by the
people and unrelated to the practice of power. The democratic game itself may
well facilitate a tyranny of the interests of the majority, in which important
minorities do not recognize each other. In many countries, in Africa, in Latin
America, in Asia, where the model of parliamentary democracy has been imported
into the bags of the former colonial power, the new political system has been
superimposed on old, consecrated and legitimized by tradition. These old
regulations were forced to disguise themselves or to hide themselves but they
remain alive nevertheless.


II- Case of Rwanda


Alagappa (1995)
provides us with an analysis of the nature and definition of democracy by
highlighting the four key elements of democracy, which are: shared norms and
values, conformity, proper use of power, and consent of the governed. The author
puts forward the importance of shared norms and values, as it is often the main
source of conflict. The element of shared norms and values holds an important
place in the case of Rwanda. Rwanda’s political problems have their origins in
the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in their struggle for economic and political power.

In 1994, Rwanda experienced a genocide that
claimed more than a million lives. This was the product of the genocide
ideology that was manifested upstream and downstream of the massacres. Despite
the efforts made by the Rwandan state to consolidate national unity, the
ideology of genocide unfortunately persists in society.

The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of
June 2003, gives the Senate in addition to the classic missions recognized in
any Parliament, the mission to ensure respect for the fundamental principles
stated in Article 9 of this Constitution, including the fight against the
ideology of genocide and all its manifestations.


In Rwanda, the post-genocide state has done
much to restore peace, unity and reconciliation across the country. The strong
and centralized Rwandan state apparatus facilitated rapid reconstruction.

Unlike most other African states, Rwanda is able to exercise territorial control
with extreme efficiency (ANSOMS, 2005). State institutions have been restored.

Infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and airports, has been rebuilt and in
some areas strengthened. On the African continent, Rwanda is at the cutting
edge of the fields of education and health. It is regularly cited as an example
by international donors, including the United Kingdom, the United States, the
European Union and the World Bank, as a country with low levels of corruption
and institutional stability (World Bank 2009). His economic recovery is
remarkable. Not only has urban poverty declined but also national income has
increased, and the economy has continued to grow at an average rate of 5% per
year since the genocide (Ansoms 2005).


At the same time, some observers have
criticized the Rwandan reconstruction and reconciliation process. The
government seeks to dominate all aspects of socio-political life, from the
lower echelons of the administrative hierarchy to the president’s office. The
government strictly controls freedom of expression and political criticism. In
2003, he banned any public demonstration of “ethnic divisionism”
(between Tutsis and Hutus), any “promotion of genocide ideology”
(against Tutsis) and any “defence of genocide denial” (advocated by
those who believe that Tutsis were not the only victims of the genocide in
1994) (///). These laws are vaguely worded, and arbitrarily applied to all
those who have publicly issued that the government considers critical. They
also affect journalists, perceived as vehicles of divisive opinions.

While Human Rights Watch and other
international human rights groups insist that the state is doing little to
defend these fundamental rights, President Kagame emphasizes the importance of
the security of human rights. State to sustain ethnic unity, the foundation of
present and future security in Rwanda (///).

Thus, since 1994, those in power have been
trying to deny the ethnic fact. In the official texts, it is no longer a
question of Hutu or Tutsi but only Rwandans. This position is understandable
given the excesses associated with ethnicity. However, it comes from a
sanitized reading of history that has little resonance in the population. The
official slogan “We are all Rwandans” alone cannot erase the ethnicity
of individuals. Whether this is the product of political manipulation or the
result of the violence that engulfed the country does not change its character
now operational.



With regard to the proper functioning of
democratic institutions, the current context offers many examples of the
difficulty for the Rwandan population to be entitled to a desirable democratic
alternation. An Amnesty International press release dated 18 February 2010
reports its concern about the widespread intimidation of members of opposition
party leaders (///). The presidential election in August 2010 marks the rise of
these gestures aimed at discrediting the opposition by criminalizing it. As an
example, let us recall the treatment of the leader of the Unified Democratic
Forces (FDU-Inkingi) Victoire Ingabire, who was beaten in a government
building, after being accused of “denial” by the media close to
power, which criticize him for his repeated requests for prosecution to punish
those responsible for crimes committed by the RPF. Ms. Ingabire was arrested in
mid-April and released under conditions. She cannot leave Kigali and is subject
to repeated aggressive criticism from the pro-government media (///). This type
of repression stems from two factors intimately linked to the events of 1994.

First, the legitimate need to ensure that the “genocide ideology”
that played a clear role in these massacres is no longer carried by any political
party , even if it means restricting freedom of association. On the other hand,
asymmetrical judicial procedures and unidimensional international perception of
the conflict lead the government to condemn any other party criticizing or
wishing for fair judicial proceedings. Human Rights Watch notes that the 2008
legislation that establishes the crime of “genocide ideology” remains
vague and is easily enforceable by power. This threat weighing on all the
opposition parties foreshadowed the victory of Paul Kagame in August 2017.


Elections can only make sense in a democratic
context. To elect is to choose. And to be able to choose, you need several
serious candidates who must have had the opportunity to submit their candidacy
in time and then conduct, freely and without fear, an election campaign to
voters across the country to expose their merits compared to others. This right
to choose must therefore be preceded by the right to come and go in the country
safely for all members of all parties, but also the right to freedom of
assembly, expression and opposition. As for the elections themselves, they must
be free and transparent. Finally, limiting the term of office of the President
is an essential and indispensable guarantee of democracy and one of the only
ways to promote free and transparent elections.

In Rwanda, the state of democracy is not at
best at the moment. But democracy is the alpha and the omega of any true
national construction, it precedes the true justice, the true national
reconciliation, and the real development of the country and even the real duty
of memory for all the victims.


The political space is a strategic place for
the Rwanda transformation project designed by the country’s leaders. From its
accession to power in July 1994 to 2003, when the end of the post-genocide
transition period, the RPF, devoid of a political base in the country, made
sure to achieve an undivided and lasting control of Rwanda. . In the aftermath
of Kigali’s takeover in July 1994, he was compelled, in the light of the
international community and donors, and the commitment he had made during the
Arusha Accords of August 1993, to share power with the political parties
recognized by these agreements (///). The post-genocide national unity
government seemed to meet the Arusha criteria. However, from 1994 to 2003, the
date set for the presidential and legislative elections, the political
evolution led to the establishment of the RPF hegemony, and more specifically
to the English-speaking Tutsi elite from Uganda. All competition was eliminated
from the political landscape. Every democrat, every critical voice, whether
Hutu or Tutsi, whether they were members of the government or not, was
gradually and systematically pushed aside: by exile, by imprisonment, by
physical elimination. The investment by the former rebellion of any significant
position of power during this period, the departure in exile of many civilian
and military cadres, including among Tutsis, ensured the establishment and
consolidation of the RPF dictatorship.

In this regime, the presidential or
legislative elections have the expected function of them. They present the
appearance of democratic elections since several candidates or fictitious party
– candidates and parties – satellites of the RPF – participate and return in
this way the image of a popular legitimacy. In addition to the absence of any
genuine opposition, the elections are managed at the national level by a
National Electoral Commission totally devoted to power and, at the local level,
by RPF agents and army auxiliaries. Each electoral exercise arouses its share
of arrests, disappearances, fraud and manipulation. It is also an opportunity
for the RPF to use its control of the media to carry out propaganda operations
throughout the national territory.







To conclude, it is possible to establish a
great relation between the concept of legitimacy and democracy. Therefore, the
legitimacy of a government influences the way democracy will be developing in a
given country.

In the case of Rwanda, although the country
shines for its economic development in Africa, the democracy is slowly deteriorating
due to the lack of legitimacy and bad governance of the current post genocide
government. But, for the supporters of Kagame, the country, with its health
insurance and its parliament with the largest number of women in the world, is
a unique case, impossible to understand from abroad.

The facts are interpreted in a radically
different way depending on the positions. For foreign observers, the political
opposition and the freedom of the press are necessary factors for the good
functioning of a democracy, which is not the case in Rwanda.