Deadly ethnic conflict and the imperative of power sharing: Could a consociational federalism hold in Rwanda?

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  • This article was downloaded by: [The University of Manchester Library]On: 08 October 2014, At: 08:06Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Deadly ethnic conflictand the imperative ofpower sharing: Could aconsociational federalismhold in Rwanda?Raphael Chijioke Njoku (PhD) aa Departments of History and Pan-AfricanStudies , University of Louisville , Kentucky, USAPublished online: 04 Aug 2006.

    To cite this article: Raphael Chijioke Njoku (PhD) (2005) Deadly ethnic conflictand the imperative of power sharing: Could a consociational federalismhold in Rwanda?, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 43:1, 82-101, DOI:10.1080/14662040500054487

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  • Deadly Ethnic Conflict and the Imperativeof Power Sharing: Could a Consociational

    Federalism Hold in Rwanda?

    RAPHAEL CHIJ IOKE NJOKU

    Principles of consociationalism and federalism have been successfully

    adopted by the strategic elites in a number of countries, including

    some in Africa, turning their once volatile politics into a more amicable

    order. It is proposed that the best hope for a less conflictual politics in

    Rwanda resides in an elite disposition towards political accommodation

    and the adoption of the non-majoritarian political arrangements associ-

    ated with consociational federalism. This agenda is discussed in light of

    both the structural dimensions of consociationalism and federalism and,

    more briefly, of relevant African examples of their utilisation. Appli-

    cation of appropriately configured consociational and federal arrange-

    ments is presented as an imperative in such a deeply divided polity,

    where power commands monopolistic access to available resources

    and where those in power often employ violence and exclusion to safe-

    guard their interests.

    I N T R O D U C T I O N

    The power sharing approach to ethnic conflicts is based on a record that attests

    that in the vast majority of cases the unilateral imposition of radical and often

    violent responses such as population transfer, partition, ethnic cleansing and

    genocide have failed to provide solutions. Appraising its peaceful precepts,

    Joseph Rudolph Jr. and Robert Thompson stress that the consensus approach

    to ethnic politics is rather more rewarding than alternative approaches that

    usually bring about separation as a goal and political violence as a

    Raphael Chijioke Njoku (PhD), Assistant Professor in the Departments of History and Pan-AfricanStudies, University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

    Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Vol.43, No.1, March 2005, pp.82101ISSN 1466-2043 print=1743-9094 onlineDOI: 10.1080=14662040500054487 # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.

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  • means.1 With the advantages of hindsight indicating its efficacy in more than

    21 countries worldwide, Dutch political scientist Arend Lijphart maintains

    that consociational democracy is the most viable structural model of politics

    for multiethnic societies.2

    Rwanda, with a legacy of deadly ethnic conflicts, provides timely remin-

    ders that a winner-takes-all political game in such contexts produces only cat-

    astrophic consequences. This paper explores the potential of a consociational

    federalism that is, a combination of power sharing principles and constitu-

    tionally guaranteed rights to autonomy as the behavioural and structural

    basis for future pathways to democracy and peace in this restive Central

    African country. It argues that to prepare the ground for a more peaceful

    future in Rwanda, the various competing groups Hutu, Tutsi, Twa, the army,

    politicians, Northern and Southern regions, Muslims and the various Christian

    denominations must seek and find accommodation in the decision-making

    process of their country. To encourage such accommodation it is suggested

    that institutional arrangements for conflict regulation via power sharing be

    inaugurated, thereby concurring with Herman Bakvis that political structures

    can play an important role in defining or promoting consociational arrange-

    ments, even if such structures were originally the result of social forces.3

    Among other cases of reference, this assertion is buttressed by the moder-

    ating impact of federal arrangements in Nigeria and Ethiopia, and the relevance

    of consociationalism to the peaceful and stable transition from apartheid to

    democratic South Africa.4 The intention is not to propose the adoption of

    any specific institutional model or power sharing formula for Rwanda.

    Rather, the object is to explore the institutional bases of conflict regulation

    theory both in the light of the past experiences of other African countries that

    have successfully managed their politics with minimal or limited violent con-

    frontations and with Rwandas past and present problems in mind. As Jurg

    Steiner and Robert Dorff assert, analyzing consociationalism and federalism

    from a structural perspective is a legitimate enterprise.5 This paper seeks to

    build on the implications of this point to suggest the potential relevance of con-

    sociational federalism initially as a practical basis for consensual stability,

    additionally offering the possibility of future democratisation in Rwanda.

    C O N S O C I A T I O N A L I S M , F E D E R A L I S M A N D P O W E R S H A R I N G :

    E X P L O R I N G T H E O R Y A N D E X P E R I E N C E

    For conceptual clarity, consociationalism and federalism are most appro-

    priately viewed as distinctive forms of political organisation, yet also as

    approaches with overlapping rules, sharing both conceptual underpinnings

    and many structural elements. Both concepts are simply employed here as

    COULD A CONSOCIATIONAL FEDERALISM HOLD IN RWANDA? 83

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  • expressions of non-majoritarian forms of democracy as opposed to either

    majoritarian democracy or to non-democratic political systems that sometimes

    employ some elements of consociationalism in their elite politics.6

    Lijphart has identified eight features of non-majoritarian democracy:

    (1) executive power sharing; (2) balanced executivelegislative relations;

    (3) strong bicameralism; (4) multiparty system; (5) multidimensional party

    system; (6) proportional representation; (7) federalism and decentralisation;

    and (8) a written constitution and minority veto.7 From this list, Lijphart

    has highlighted four as the crucial elements of a consociation: (a) proportion-

    ality that is an appropriate degree of representation for every group in

    the decision-making process or in the executive in a multi-party structure.

    (b) grand coalition that is, the guaranteed participation of the representatives

    of all groups in the government of a country. (c) decentralisation that is, a

    high degree of autonomy for each component unit, and (d) mutual or

    minority veto that is, a constitutional safeguard for the minority against

    majoritarian domination. Overall, grand coalition (participation) and segmen-

    ted autonomy (decentralisation) provide the major frameworks on which a

    consociation depends.8

    A grand coalition cabinet in a parliamentary system, for instance, helps in

    the accommodation of smaller groups which may be ignored if the legislature

    were to be formed solely on the outcome of majoritarian elections. In a

    consociation, territorially based autonomy gives protection to geographically

    contiguous minority groups and allows them control over their local affairs.

    Where, however, the ethnic groups are intermixed, autonomy might take

    a non-territorial form or a combination of territorial and non-territorial

    forms.9 Proportionality, which may be based on a predetermined ratio to

    counteract problems related to very large disparities in size between associat-

    ing communal groups, is accepted widely as the most obvious standard of fair

    distribution and representation for ethnic minorities. It might, therefore, either

    be based directly on the population size of each group, or on a formula that

    would allow for a more equal number of representatives for all groups, regard-

    less of their size. Additionally, a minority veto in power sharing arrangements

    is indispensable both as a mechanism for confidence building and as security

    against possible majority control of the executive.10

    Federalism shares its emphasis on non-majoritarian principles with conso-

    ciationalism. If we add a few characteristics of the concept of federalism, we

    arrive at the concept of consociationalism and vice versa.11 Indeed, as Ivo

    Duchachek asserts, consociationalism is the cradle of federalism. As a politi-

    cal device for establishing viable institutions and flexible [inter-state] relation-

    ships, federalism promotes bicameralism and rigid constitutions, regional

    autonomy, and proportional representation, among other devolutionary strat-

    egies for promoting democratic stability in divided polities.12 In Nigeria,

    84 COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS

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  • Ethiopia, South Africa, among other plural societies, federal structures have

    helped in ameliorating ethnic differences.13 Federal systems can be adjusted

    to structure incentives for desired forms of political behaviour of one kind

    or another.14 For example, the Nigerian federal structure has been revised

    several times to meet increasing demand for political autonomy as well as

    to break ethnic cohesion through increase in the number of sub-states and

    local government councils. As Michael Burgess asserts, federal systems

    have had to cope with both old and new affiliations war, want, growth,

    and speed, and have consistently done so with notable success.15 Ethiopias

    and Nigerias systems have further revealed that federalism can reform the

    electoral system, disperse and diffuse the problem of a concentration of con-

    flict at the centre, and unmake legislative majorities by offering minorities

    autonomy in the form of separate territories.16 Generally, new sub-states

    created under federalism provide alternative and new arenas in which intraeth-

    nic rather than inter-ethnic conflict might occur. Additionally, federalism

    creates incentives for inter-ethnic cooperation by way of enhancement of

    some political parties at the expense of others. Federalism also encourages

    alignments based on interests other than ethnicity creating opportunities

    for new actors to emerge, reducing disparities between groups, and creating

    opportunities for groups not previously well represented in the several civil

    services.17 The end result is the creation of new structures for electoral reason-

    ing for both voters and party leaders.18 Thus, contrary to the notion that

    fundamental conflicts in segmented politics cannot be solved by consti-

    tution-writing and constitutional engineering, Donald Horowitz stresses that

    rules can restructure the political system and cause changes in the game

    where there is some determination to obey the rules.19

    Lijphart also offers a number of hypothetical conclusions, which can serve

    as a shorthand way of elucidating how such a hybrid consociational federal-

    ism operates. First, a consociation is also a federation if segmented auton-

    omy is instituted on a territorial basis. Second, there must be a central/

    regional division of power as well as constitutional autonomy and decentrali-

    sation. Third, a written constitution, bicameralism and minority over-rep-

    resentation in the federal chamber are necessary conditions.20 Conversely, a

    federation qualifies as a consociation if it meets all four principles of conso-

    ciational democracy segmental autonomy, grand coalition at the central

    level of government, minority veto and proportionality. Also there must be

    a high degree of decentralisation and autonomy for component units. In

    terms of the numbers of such component units, stability is best served if

    the federation consists of relatively many and relatively small units.21

    In both federalism and consociationalism coalescent elites provide incen-

    tives for political cooperation in deeply fragmented countries aiming to

    preserve political stability.22 In this light, Vincent Ostrom concludes that

    COULD A CONSOCIATIONAL FEDERALISM HOLD IN RWANDA? 85

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  • an exercise of power[-sharing] with others implies both responsibility and

    a willingness to take account of the interest of others in what can be called

    patterns of social accountability.23

    U N D E R S T A N D I N G R W A N D A N P O L I T I C S : T H E I M P E R A T I V E O F

    P O W E R S H A R I N G

    The recurrence of ethnic conflict and genocide in Rwandan politics is best

    situated in a wider context of African political culture in which competitors

    can disregard rules and in which ones political adversaries may be annihi-

    lated. Claude Ake blames this dangerous trend on the pitfalls of state

    control of national resources and the consequentially high premium placed

    on the control of s...

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