The 4th Session of African Studies Lecturer Series: Tradition, Integration and Change | Traditional Institutions and Modern State Governance: The Politics of Post-war Reconstruction in Rwanda
On the afternoon of May 17th, 2021, the fourth session of “African Studies Lecturer Series: Tradition, Integration and Change” was held in Auditorium 205 of the Central Main Building, with the theme of “Traditional Institutions and Modern State Governance: The Politics of Post-war Reconstruction in Rwanda”. Prof. Zhao Jun, Research Associate of the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, was invited as the keynote speaker. Doctorate candidates and research professors at Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) attended the offline lecture, while some external participants watched the live stream.
At the beginning of the lecture, Prof. Zhao introduced the theme of the lecture by explaining the concepts of local creation/endogenous scheme, post-war reconstruction and political science. He pointed out that the lecture focused on two key issues, i.e., how to rebuild Rwanda after 1994 and the conditions for balancing the so-called international norms and local values in the reconstruction of African countries. Then, Prof. Zhao analyzed the historical background of national reconstruction as a “political process” from three aspects, namely ethnic relations, colonial heritage and legitimacy crisis, and also elaborated Rwanda’s official interpretation of the Holocaust.
In the second half of the lecture, Prof. Zhao briefly introduced the four traditional systems in Rwanda – Ubuhake, Ubwiru/Ubiru, Ubukonde and Ingabo, as well as more than ten Rwandan “native creations” including governance, society, economy and justice. He further stressed that “native creations” as political acts are the modern governance system based on of traditional culture/system.
At the end of the lecture, Prof. Zhao drilled down into Rwanda’s reshaping of its political relations through three aspects, namely central-local relations, ethnic relations and consultative democracy (party system). He pointed out that the particularity of Rwanda’s national governance model comes from its historical dividend and the result of war. Without touching the bottom line of international norms, African issues should be solved by Africans.
After the lecture, Prof. Zhao and the audience online and offline had a heated discussion on the reasons for Rwanda’s high executive power, whether Rwanda’s development concept was influenced by the western neoliberal tradition, and the role of China’s foreign aid in Rwanda’s reconstruction.
Prof. Zhao Jun is Research Associate at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University. His research interests cover Rwandan ethnic politics, Rwandan traditional system and national governance. At present, he led the National Social Science Fund project of “The Influence of African Traditional System on the Reconstruction of African Countries”.
Text by: Wang Zijing
Typesetting by: Wang Zijing
Reviewed by: Dong Hui