Singing the struggle: ideology, interests, and songs of the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Benjamin Chemouni (University of Cambridge)
Assumpta Mugiraneza (IRIBA Center for Multimedia Heritage)
Paper short abstract:
The article analyses the songs of mobilisation of members and supporters of the Rwandan Patriotic Front's composed before the genocide. The paper systematically delineates the RPF's early ideology. It reveals the surprisingly long-lasting power of ideas despite fast-changing material circumstances.
Paper long abstract:
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 paper argues that ideology should also be conceptualised as a matrix that can reshape material incentives and through which the RPF's interests have emerged. To do so, the paper analyses new source of material, the songs of mobilisation 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.
Normative politics in Africa