Good kings, bloody tyrants, and everything in between : representations of the monarchy in post-genocide Rwanda

Jessee, Erin and Watkins, Sarah E. (2014) Good kings, bloody tyrants, and everything in between : representations of the monarchy in post-genocide Rwanda. History in Africa, 41. pp. 35-62. ISSN 0361-5413 (

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Since assuming power after the 1994 genocide, President Paul Kagame and his political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, have struggled to unite Rwanda's citizens using, among other initiatives, a simplified version of Rwandan history to diminish the ethnic tensions that made the 1994 genocide possible. As a result, Rwanda's history has become highly politicized, with vastly divergent versions of the nation’s past narrated in private settings, where it is more politically appropriate for Rwandans to share their experiences. This paper focuses on divergent representations of Rwandan monarchical figures – often unnamed – whom the narrators imbue with values according to their individual political affiliations, lived experiences, and identity. These narratives are indicative of the broader ways that modern Rwandans narrate their experiences of history in response to Rwanda's current official history, as well as previous official histories. Careful analysis reveals much about the current political climate in post-genocide Rwanda: most notably, that Rwandans continue to see their nation's past through vastly different lenses, demonstrating the enormous challenges facing the Rwandan government as it seeks to reconcile its population using current methods. It also highlights the ongoing need on the part of historians to approach contemporary sources critically, informed by sources produced and debated in the pre-genocide period.


Jessee, Erin ORCID logoORCID: and Watkins, Sarah E.;