Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Advisor's Name
John F. Clark
First Advisor's Committee Title
Chair and Advisor
Second Advisor's Name
Second Advisor's Committee Title
Third Advisor's Name
Erin K. Damman
Third Advisor's Committee Title
Fourth Advisor's Name
Jean M. Rahier
Fourth Advisor's Committee Title
Civil Society, Africa, Democracy, Democratization, Rwanda, Political Culture, State-Society Relations
Date of Defense
This dissertation offers a single case in-depth analysis of factors precluding civil society from democratizing African polities. Synthesizing existing literature on Rwanda, I first undertake an historical search to trace the origins and qualities of civil society in the colonial era. This effort shows, however, that the central authority—commencing before the inception of the Republic in 1962—consistently organized civil society to buttress its activities, not to challenge them. Next, using ethnographic research, I challenge conventional economic and institutional accounts of civil society’s role in democratization. I show that institutional change and the economic clout of organized groups are marginal and transient in effect, and hence possess considerable limitations to democratize state and non-state-groups relations. I argue that the Genocide and its historical materials, social and economic precariousness, and neo-patrimonial power configurations have erected a prevailing political culture that still conditions how Rwanda’s state-society relations are imagined, realized, and challenged. Conversely, just as that political culture has lengthened the reach of the state into society, limiting the potential autonomy of civil society, it has also been the basis for rebuilding the society, restoring the state’s authority, and enacting major state-building oriented reforms. Consequently, for CSOs to induce a liberal democratic order in domestic politics, subsequent activism will require long-term strategic and organic investment of actors into the dispersed, parochial strands of democracy first, not into ongoing confrontational, yet fruitless, political warfare that hinders social capital formation and that civil society is not yet equipped to win.
Bienvenu, Fiacre, "Making African Civil Society Work: Assessing Conditions for Democratic State-Society Relations in Rwanda" (2018). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3822.
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