The Political Legitimacy of What?
The publication of the Duclert report responds to a political request aimed at deconflictualising diplomatic relations between France and Rwanda. Any deconflictualisation process requires a first step enabling the reduction of perception disparities between actors. And in this case, such disparities have been highlighted: topological disparities since, unlike several English-speaking studies, the United States and the PDD25 directive are not considered in the Duclert report. And systemic disparities since, unlike the Quilès report, the Duclert report does not mention the French requests for the abolition of the ethnic identity card. Thus, reducing these disparities would require in particular that the media be more critical and diversify the coverage of expressed opinions.
Beyond these first findings, the media coverage of the Duclert report also illustrates one of the basic axioms of Cindynics: the pharmakon principle, or ago-antagonicity principle, which states that any action aiming at risk reduction can give rise to new risks. And this may require broadening the horizon of the situation analysis.
Fact: interviewed on France Inter by Eric Delvaux, Vincent Duclert describes the RPF as "a political movement" having a "legitimacy to exist in the Rwandan political field"2 . Besides, Alex de Waal3 expressed a comparable idea by mentioning a "political opposition, both civilian and armed". Issue: the concept of "armed political opposition" seems quite antagonistic to that of democracy. And jumbling or conflating war and politics is a conflictogenic stance or, rather, a polemogenic stance.
Some historical facts: the RPF's Tutsis are second generation "59ers". The 59ers are the Rwandans who fled to Uganda when Rwanda gained independence4 . A few thousand second-generation 59ers joined Yoweri Museveni's guerrillas and the National Revolutionary Army (NRA). This armed movement overthrew the Ugandan President, Milton Obote, in 1986. The Tutsis of the NRA were then integrated into the Ugandan army, and Paul Kagame became deputy director of Ugandan military intelligence. They then formed the RPF, with the objective of seizing power by gun in Rwanda, and began military operations against the Rwandan army from Ugandan territory in early October 1990.
It seems problematic to praise the political legitimacy of an organisation which is actually an armed group of a few thousand men attempting to take power by gun in a country of several million inhabitants. Even among the Tutsi refugees in Uganda, support for RPF was not unanimous: Bruce Jones5 notes a growing disagreement between the Banyarwandas refugees in Uganda, gathered within the Rwandan Alliance for National Unity (RANU) to gain the right to return to Rwanda, and the second generation 59ers. The latter considered the RANU to be too passive, so they created the RPF in 1987, in particular with the aim of gaining the return of the refugees to Rwanda by gun. And Paul Kagame himself recognised6 that the RPF could not have taken power in Rwanda democratically.
Moreover, a disparity is highlighted between the explanations that Vincent Duclert provides to the media and those of the report of his commission, which considers that the power enforced by the RPF in Kigali was at that time illegitimate: "At the international level, the new power must acquire legitimacy. The seizure of power by the RPF was carried out by gun".
The highlighted pharmakon: while the Duclert report commissioned by the French President and Vincent Duclert's press statements are undoubtedly guided by an intention to reduce the conflictuality of Franco-Rwandan relations, presenting the RPF as a legitimate political organisation at a time when its action was military and aimed to seize power by gun in Rwanda is a polemogenic behaviour: from now on, in Africa, any armed group seeking to seize power by gun can refer to Vincent Duclert's stance in order to claim political legitimacy. Two factors amplify this risk: first, journalists will probably not correct this statement, in particular because they will not have time to read the thousand pages of the Duclert report and to notice that, on the contrary, the report presents the RPF as an illegitimate organisation having seized power by gun. And second Vincent Duclert's status, since he made his statements to the media as Chairman of a commission appointed by Emmanuel Macron, which for many listeners could be sufficient to a priori ensure the credibility of his statements.
This additional risk is inopportune against an African background characterised in particular by the persistence of jihadist armed action in the Sahel-Saharan strip, the state of siege in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu due to endemic activity of armed groups in eastern DRC, and the development of a jihadist front in Cabo Delgado. Among others.
Vincent Duclert, on France inter on March 27, 2021.
DE WAAL, Alex. Genocide in Rwanda. Anthropology Today. 1994, Vol. 10, no 3, p. 1‑2. DOI 10.2307/2783474
P. Kagamé: "I don’t believe so. I wouldn’t assume anything given these circumstances. We were not known, so to just appear and suddenly be elected doesn’t seem highly probable."
SOUDAN, François. Kagame: conversations with the president of Rwanda. New York : Enigma Books, 2015. ISBN 978-1-936274-80-2