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Rwanda: Civil–Military Relations  

Marco Jowell

The army has been a central part of Rwanda’s political system from the precolonial period until the early 21st century and is intrinsically part of the construction and politics of the state. Civil–military relations in Rwanda demonstrate not only the central features of transitioning a rebel group to a national defense sector but also how some states construct their armed forces after a period of mass violence. Since the civil war and genocide in the early 1990s, the Rwandan military has been the primary actor in politics, the economy, and state building as well as in regional wars in central Africa and the Great Lakes region. Practical experiences of guerrilla insurgency and conflict in Uganda and Rwanda, postconflict military integration, and the intertwining of political and economic agendas with the ruling party have shaped civil–military relations in Rwanda and have been central to how the Rwandan defense sector functions. Contemporary Rwandan civil–military relations center around the two elements of service delivery and control, which has resulted in the development of an effective and technocratic military in terms of remit and responsibilities on the one hand, and the creation of a politicized force of coercion on the other hand. The military in Rwanda therefore reflects the pressures and dynamics of the wider state and cannot be separated from it. The Rwandan army is thus a “political army” and is part and parcel of the political structures that oversee and govern the Rwandan state.