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Abstract

Though references abound to Rwandan women holding the world’s highest percentage of parliamentary representation at 56%, what is rarely addressed is the confluence of two opposing trends in Rwanda’s post-conflict environment: that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)-led government has advocated for women’s greater political inclusion under the premise that women will ‘better’ the political climate, while simultaneously excluding any form of political dissent or ethnic identification. This article ventures into uncharted territory by asking two questions: first, does the discourse surrounding the Government of National Unity’s (GNU) campaign to increase women’s participation in formal politics uncritically assume that women parliamentarians will have a different relationship to politics, paring women representatives’ identities down to non-ethnic female subjects, seen only as promoting peaceful reconciliation? Secondly, given what external actors increasingly term an ‘authoritarian state’ that lacks political space, does the notion that women will change the political climate have any substantive meaning in post-genocidal Rwanda? The answers to such queries show that viewing the Rwandan case with a critical and gendered lens generates deeper meaning for how women political representatives’ identities can be dangerously frozen and ‘subjectified’ in post-conflict contexts; particularly those intent on building ‘national unity’ by way of quieting dissent.

Note on the Author

At the time of writing this paper (2008) C. L. Hogg was undertaking an MSc Gender, Development, Globalization at The London School of Economics and Political Science.

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