Nationalism and Identity in East Africa:
The Case of Burundi and Rwanda
Okete J. E. Shiroya
Valdosta State University
There is a relationship between nationalism and ethnic identity. Ethnicity is one of the key markers of identity and is therefore an important signifier of political perception and behavior. John Breuilly (1994) proposes three different theories of understanding nationalism: a) as a set of ideas about the origins, characteristics and political destinies of a nation; b) as a sentiment shared by specific groups of people; and c) as a form of politics. As a form of politics, the arena of politics has the emergence of political movements seeking to exercise state power and justifying its power. As such, nationalism operates on the following grounds: 1) a distinct nation exists; 2) the interests and values of a nation are the supreme priority; and 3) a nation must be independent (Breuilly, 1994). The assumption here is; nationalism arises from the ideology and practice of achieving an autonomous modern nation state. Politics is a medium of exercising and controlling power. It is a fundamental locus of critical decision-making.
For Kwame Nkrumah nationalism is the ideological channel of the anti-colonialist struggle and it represents the demand for national independence of colonized peoples (Nkrumah, 1968:16). East Africa in which analyses of this phenomenon is done in relation to identity politics comprises ten countries with a broad range of ethnic identities. These are: Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya. Among residents of this region, the name Eastern Africa usually refers to these ten countries, while the name East Africa means the political region comprising Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania which until recently when Rwanda and Burundi were admitted formed the East African Community. These are countries in which manifestations of nationalism and the respective discourses of this phenomenon have cut out somewhat divergent profiles within the frameworks of ethnicity, religion, class or gender that require to be interrogated as markers of identity.
For Bruce Berman ethnic identities are best understood as complex and contested constructs that are perpetually in the process of creation (Berman, 1998). However, it may be said that the collapse of the nationalist project of development may be attributable to the failure by the so-called nationalists to harness positively the power of political leadership as a national resource that should in effect utilize ethnic identities and cultural values, repertoires of social norms and symbolic paraphernalia to put in place a durable fiber of nationhood.
While the discourses of nationalism are clearly distinctive; the existence of a nation and the allegiance of citizens to it as they are militated by certain national interests and values, these phenomena are closely woven by imperatives of politics of identity represented by not only the nationalist quest for self-determination but also resilient trappings of ethnicity that may have been gestated in primordial crucibles of thought. These negative trappings of ethnicity may sometimes undermine the project of national consolidation that requires visionary statesmen to underwrite. The intersection of consciousness and historical experience may be conceived as the basis of identity construction. In this sense, identity is a product of complex processes of historical interaction between people, institutions and their social practices in expressing a constructive selfhood. As it has been the case in the wider East African region, the construction and expression of identity can either fortify or undermine national solidarity if the leadership function is not played out with vision and tact in mediating difference (Aseka, 2007).
Politics of Identity and Nationalism
Ethnicity has remained a critical defining feature of African society that is often in strong competition with the nation-state. It has, therefore, become necessary to seek out evidence of the fact and nature of ethnic construction and creation in Eastern Africa and reveal how processes of ethnic negotiation and renegotiation are militated by the desire to stake claims to and access resources controlled by the state and its external agents. Although nationalism may be understood in terms of an anti-colonial protest, as Nkrumah admonishes us, independence for which it stands must never be considered as an end in itself but as a stage, the very first stage of the people’s revolutionary struggle (Nkrumah, 1968: 16). It is a protest, which brought together various communities in a supra-ethnic sense in a nationalist struggle that eventually lost focus of its community integration prerogatives. In situating the African demands for self-rule in the larger context of the idea of nationalism James S. Coleman (2004) confronted the ethnic phenomenon and its symbiosis with anti-colonial nationalism in a way that charted a pathway to a profounder conceptual grasp of both nationalism and ethnicity. For him, nationalism and ethnicity are entangled and overlapping concepts, but they are not identical.
In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon blames the failings of nationalism on the intellectual laziness of the middle class in what we may amplify as a lack of intellectual clarity in disentangling and explicating these concepts in terms of their social utility sustainable nation-building. Fanon suggests ways in which intellectual leaders often betray the national working-class. The retrograde steps with all the weaknesses and serious dangers that they entail are the historical result of the incapacity of the national middle class to rationalize popular action, that is to say their incapacity to see into the reasons for that action (Fanon cited in Maspéro, 1965).
A people’s sense of identity influences their thought and behavior. Specific ethnic identities often emerge from shared experience and these experiences contribute to the growth of a social identity characterized by feelings of community, similarity and common purpose (Payne and Nassir, 2002:299). In a definition of nationalism, which is cobbled out by Coleman, a conceptualization of this phenomenon is made in terms of its connection to ideology as a lived relation. The concretization of ideology emanates from the existence of a given human population with a natural solidarity based on shared history and a common destiny. In this sense, the collective identity of a people constituted historically as a people crucially entails the right to build and nurture an independent or autonomous political community. Consequently, the idea of nationalism took form historically in tandem with the doctrine of popular sovereignty that assumed that the ultimate source of authority lies in the people, not the ruler or government (Coleman, 2004).
The East African countries that we are scrutinizing have been configured by differently conceived and articulated nationalist sentiments and lines of social action in their making of respective nation-states. In view of this, it is has become necessary to problematize the notions of nationalism and identity in an intellectual project that is inspired by the history of these nation-states and their record of anti-colonial travails. Nationalism is an important ingredient in the creation and maintenance of nation-states. If it is well mediated it should help maintain cohesion within states (Payne and Nassir, 2002:54). Henry Giroux (1995) says that central to the construction of a right wing nationalism is a project of defending national identity through an appeal to a common culture that displaces any notion of national identity based upon a pluralized notion of culture with its multiple literacies, identities, and histories and which is assumed to erase histories of oppression and struggle for the working class and minorities (Giroux, 1995).
For Aseka, national identity based solidarities are built up in social struggles for emancipation, yet solidarities formed in the course of nationalist struggle have often been abused and wasted away by leaders with narrow political agendas in African countries thereby accentuating instances of social conflict and political instability. Instead of forging a concrete sense of nationhood, alternative identities have been cobbled out which tend to weaken national solidarity by playing out an ominous politics of exclusion thereby undermining the prospect of consolidating citizens’ sense of nationhood and its associated bonuses of harmony and social cohesion. Instead this politics generates multiple terrains of conflict (Aseka, 2007).
Whereas there is a large zone of overlap between nationalism and ethnicity, not all nationalism is ethno-centric, nor does all ethnicity lay claim to nationalism. In its first stages, nationalism was usually ethnic in content, when it took form around historic European states whose name bore the imprint of a dominant group. It makes sense to assume that nationalism seeks to identify a behavioral entity which is termed as the nation and thereafter, leaders who call themselves nationalists who were at the core of the liberation struggle pursue certain political and cultural goals on behalf of it. Moreover, it makes sense to contend that nationalism is a sentiment of loyalty toward the nation, which is shared by people in that country. Identity provides a framework within which people can determine their positions on various issues. This means that prejudice or prejudgment is an important part of identity (Payne and Nassir, 2002:295).
Reiterating what is emphasized in Aseka’s discourse of nationalism and identity; while bearing in mind the notion of the situatedness of the historian there is need to contest beliefs and practices of that ideology upon which the wholeness of perverted identity is constructed. There is need to claim epistemological radicalism that will bring us out of the woods of an ambiguous nationalist project within the nation-state that does not provide for statesmanlike negotiation and re-negotiation of ethnicity. Our sense of focus and profundity of thought must emerge as a product of our present intellectual situatedness in the concreteness of poverty in this region of East Africa whereby our quest for national building should authentically draw from lessons from an already demystified history (Aseka, 2007).
The historian must have a defined role in this demystification. The writing of history is not only the posing of a critique but also a process of nationalization. For this reason, the historian is a very important player in the process of nationalist reconstruction. Why? Because epistemologically speaking identities are impure and unstable and the demystification of our past by historians must provide us with a reasonable basis of crafting a new national consciousness that bellies the requisite political identities that will create and be custodians of a new public morality in the respective countries. This is because identities are open-ended (Appadurai, 1996). There is need for leaders to devise strategies of managing instances of encounter including consequences of historical encounters in the past. Since as Payne and Nassir correctly observe, outsiders often create ethnic consciousness; a group is susceptible to viewing people not as individuals but as stereotypes (Payne and Nassir, 2002:301).
Indeed, nationalism has been the subject of a plethora of historical, sociological and political science analyses some of which have been undertaken within certain defined theoretical premises without much reference to ethnicity and its destructive ethno-dimensional politics. In effect political scientists seem to draw a sharp distinction between the concepts of state and nation in which case the notion of state refers to government and other institutions which run the country. In this sense, nationalism moves closer toward being liberal and democratic to the degree that national identity is inclusive and respectful of diversity and difference. And yet, a civic nationalism that makes a claim to respecting cultural differences does not guarantee that the state will not engage in coercive assimilationist policies where there is no proper architecture of negotiation and re-negotiation. In other words, democratic forms of nationalism cannot be defended simply through a formal appeal to abstract, democratic principles. That is why the notion of nation needs some re-thinking in terms of national interest and the public goods that need to be deployed to protect that interest. As such the concept of nation should be mainly posited as a psychological characteristic emanating from a clear ideological motif that has been assimilated by way of national conscience and which represents what individuals identify with.
The study of nationalism and identity becomes critical in view of unfolding events of regional integration in the East African region of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that has sucked in Rwanda and Burundi. Political instability brought about by rival nationalisms with potentialities of fomenting deleterious clashes in a region as wide as this would serious dangers to the rest of Africa.
Nationalism in Rwanda and Burundi
In the 1960s, the rising tempo of African nationalism and the increasing prospect of African independence gave rise to the study of African political systems (Mustapha, 2006:3). One of the dangers of any ideology is its potential to become totalizing, to erase the nuances and idiosyncrasies of real human beings in an attempt to implement an overly abstract vision of the good society. If nationalism is understood as a given people’s pride or self-esteem, some individuals basing their pride upon personal accomplishment and others taking the added step of systematically eliminating various groups based solely upon their national or ethnic identity, a look at Rwanda shows that it is a land of two nationalisms, that of Rwandan Hutu nationalism and Tutsi nationalism. Since the 1950s through the 60s, and 90s became a tragic land of dual nationalisms that Gregoire Kayibanda described as two nations in one state, two nations between whom there was no intercourse and no sympathy (Clark, 2006:71).
Tutsi nationalism had been characterized by a prevalent attitude of pride and right to rule that inspired the quest to put down surrounding individuals, therefore presenting themselves as superior and as such the legitimate rulers of the country. For a long time in history the Tutsi, based on their mythological aristocratic claims and assertions, tended to degrade and subject other national groups within both Rwanda and Burundi to ridicule and marginalization in the management of societal affairs. Rwanda experienced a rising Hutu nationalism, which culminated in genocidal activities characterized by raping and hacking of the Tutsi in a rampage of genocidal bloodlust (O’Donovan, 2005). Mythology is basically ideological history and the dispositional psychological tendencies, which have influenced the behavior of the members of the two main groups in Rwanda and Burundi, that is, Hutu and Tutsi, have been unequivocally conditioned by a common history of myths, mistrust and fear (Adams, 1994).
It has been stated that the amalgamation of the various “statelets” into a united Rwanda was a process spread over several hundred years (Sellstrom and Wohlgemuth, 2001). That is why in attempting an explanation of Rwanda's protracted conflict; historical elements need to be examined since the past shapes present and future beliefs and actions of individuals and groups. A traditional local justice system called Gacaca predominated in much of the region as an institution for resolving conflict, rendering justice and reconciliation. Notably, in a very critical time of Rwanda’s nationalist history, Gacaca was to be revived as a traditional justice ritual in the post-genocide era but now re-invented by the Rwandan government for perpetrators of the genocidal campaign against the Tutsi people. In a new wake of national consciousness, in this process, a panel of 19 lay judges was constituted to coordinate a process in which survivors and arrested suspects confronted each other without lawyers in a public scrutiny in which the community gave testimony (Weisbord, 2003).
The Tutsi king was the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases that ever reached him in this system of justice. They sought to reconstruct justice in the Rwandan society by re-traditionalizing the process of justice. Despite the traditional nature of the system, harmony and cohesion had been established among Rwandans and within the kingdom in logic of justice that was extremely ancient. The distortions of this logic followed when the Belgian colonizers accepted the prevailing Tutsi class rule already in place, i.e., the minority Tutsi upper class and the lower classes of Hutus and Tutsi commoners with upholding the traditional means by which a Hutu could become Tutsi through ceremonies such as Kuihutra. Oblivious of the social importance of these in maintaining of amicable ties between these communities, the European colonizers gave preferential treatment to the Tutsi class (see Karnavas, 1997).
Inexorably, early European colonists only promoted the class system enforced by the Tutsis when they arrived in Rwanda provoking anti-colonialist and anti-Tutsi nationalist response. The Germans colonized Rwanda until 1917 and the neighboring country of Burundi, which shares a similar arrangement of ethnic make-up in population, in 1899. Rwanda then went under Belgian rule as mandated under the League of Nations until it won its independence in 1962 (see Lemarchand, 1997). In a historical sense, it is clear that racial strains were engrossed in the Rwandan society as early as 1933 when the Belgian government instituted identity cards bearing these specificities of identity, which were required to be on persons at all times. This practice meant that, on the basis of quite arbitrary criteria, every Rwandese was henceforth registered as Tutsi, Hutu or Twa. In their nationalist poise given a regionalist coloring, northern Hutus, who had previously been able to escape Tutsi nobles before the colonization, revolted in the beginning of the 20th century even though the Germans and their Tutsi allies contained them.
Apparently, the Hutu nationalist sentiment was accentuated by the fact that the Belgian colonial rulers unfairly continued to depend on the Tutsi aristocracy to collect taxes and enforce Belgian policies. This practice perpetuated the Tutsi sense of difference and the actual dominance of the Tutsi in local colonial administration and also expanded the Tutsi system of labor for colonial purposes. Given this marginalizing scenario, no wonder, the United Nations was to later decry this policy and demand a greater self-representation of the Hutu in local affairs.
It is important to recall that in 1954, the Tutsi monarchy of Ruanda-Urundi demanded independence from Belgian rule. At the same time it agreed to abolish the system of indentured servitude (ubuhake and uburetwa), which the Tutsis had practiced over the Hutu until then. Therefore, the rise and growth of nationalism in Rwanda and Burundi had a lot to do with the nature of Belgian imperialism and the colonial legacy it bequeathed the region. Considered in this light; what has been the legacy of colonialism in Rwanda? It is evident that the Belgians, after the First World War, continued the German policy of indirect administration that favored the Tutsi, perhaps because it was cheaper, but most importantly this act undermined any pretence towards the so-called civilizing mission of Western colonialism. The Belgians sought to re-stratify the Rwandan society (Waller, 1993:6).
Violations of human rights and dignity attended these processes of rule. According to Keane, bitter memories lingered from the suppression of the Hutu rebellion against the Belgian policy that cushioned and buttressed Tutsi aristocratic dominance. Northern Rwanda was a hotbed of Hutu nationalism (see Keane, 1995:12). There was a religious dimension to the whole saga of colonialism in its subjugation and control of Rwandan society. The Catholic Church that was a dominant force in colonial Rwanda openly favored Tutsis and it discriminated against Hutus. That is why in 1959 a new thrust of nationalism culminated in the promulgation of the Bahutu Manifesto, which was a pronouncement against Tutsi dominance, a kind of profession of faith in the Hutu cause and a plea for social reform.
Exigent colonial policy aroused a nationalist instigation of the Hutu revolution against Tutsi rule that eventually led to the proclamation of a de facto republican regime. Along these nationalist charters of anti-Tutsi and anti-colonial struggles, the Hutu emancipation movement was in essence spearheaded by Gregoire Kayibanda, who was the founder of PARMEHUTU, the nationalist movement of the Hutu. Kayibanda was the writer of the Hutu Manifesto that was written in 1957 and he led a group, which quickly became militarized thereby generating yet an opposing nationalist wave from the Tutsis when in 1959, in reaction to these events; the UNAR party was formed by Tutsis who desired an immediate independence for Rwanda-Burundi. The Tutsi nationalist leadership sought independence to be given to the two territories based on the existing interests of the Tutsi monarchy. To counter the armed Hutu threat, the Tutsi group also became quickly militarized in view of the two nationalisms confronting each other. Inevitably, this resulted in the onset of skirmishes between UNAR and PARMEHUTU groups.
It is interesting to see how the existing dichotomy in identity formation influenced perceptions of the Rwandese and influenced their lines of action following happenings that seemed suspicious in the dichotomized struggle for decolonization. As pointed out earlier, a group’s identity is based largely on adversarial relationships on the basis of us versus them. In 1959, an uprising of the Hutu, then comprising 85% of the population, occurred with devastating consequences for the Tutsi who had ruled as feudal overlords over the Hutu in a system of servitude that only became abolished as late 1954 (Mazrui and Tidy, 1984:219-220). When in November 1959, Tutsi forces beat up a Hutu politician, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, and rumours of his death set off a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as the wind of destruction, thousands of Tutsis were killed and many thousands more, including the Mwami, fled to neighbouring Uganda. As pointed out elsewhere, migration whatever its cause contributes to the development of ethnic consciousness (Payne and Nassir, 2002). However, as Adadevoh says, if ethnicity is legitimated, then it can be diffused, controlled and managed rather than be approached as if it is an illegitimate social phenomenon (Adadevoh, 2002). These immigrants remained in Uganda before Belgian commandos arrived to quell the violence. Worth noting is the fact that several Belgians were subsequently accused by Tutsi leaders of abetting the Hutus in this particular violence.
When the Tutsi Mwami Matara III died without an heir the Belgians decided to establish a republic but the Tutsi aristocracy in extraordinary maneuvers at the burial ceremony foiled their schemes. The accession of Mwami Kigeri, Matara’s half brother, led to the Tutsi embarking on a ruthless plan of crushing the Hutu leadership in a wave of killings and intimidation. An attack on a Hutu chief is what provoked a widespread and spontaneous Hutu uprising involving bloodshed and looting and burning of Tutsi homes while the Tutsi responded with killing of various Tutsi leaders. These events culminated in the Mwami Kigeri fleeing the country and displacement of 22,000 Tutsis as refugees (Mazrui and Tidy, 1984: 220). It was during this period that a considerable number of Tutsi refugees also fled to the South Kivu province of the Congo, where they called themselves Banyamelenge. They eventually became a primary force in the First and Second Congo Wars. Much later in the late 1990’s, the Banyamulenge were to be a notable element in the uprising, which brought Laurent Kabila to power in the post Mobutu Congo in a regional crisis of the Congo which sucked in Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola in what came to be called the Great Lakes Crisis.
Ethnicity is a social phenomenon, a category of ascription and identification, which characterizes interaction between the people. The major consequences of ethnic conflict are destructive rather than constructive and it must be managed rather than eradicated within the context of democratization in any ethnic torn society (Adadevoh, 2002: 91). With regard to the decolonization arrangements of the Rwanda-Burundi territories that did not address the ethnic animosities attending this nationalist process, the United Nations administered the new elections held in September of 1961, which merely confirmed the de facto supremacy of the pro-Hutu party, perceived as the Parti de l’Emancipation du Peuple Hutu (Lemarchand, 1997). Hutu nationalism had come of age. This perhaps helps to explain why those who came to dominate Rwandan politics after the first stage of independence, including President Habyarimana, basically came from the north, a region that had been outside the direct control of the Tutsi aristocracy. Hence, there had been fomented in the region more spirited anti-Tutsi political struggle following the adoption of the policy of re-stratifying the Rwandan society by which the Belgians sought to rely on one supposedly superior group called the Tutsi.
Nationalism is a state of mind or feeling based on belonging to a nation. The intensity of that feeling can, sometimes, be so strong as to drive people to extremes (Payne and Nassir, 2002: 52). Whimsies of historical circumstance galore and the re-stratification of Rwanda Burundian society was rationalized and legitimized by an imaginary distinction between a superior race of immigrants called Tutsi (supposedly Hamites) and the Hutu, the so called primitive indigenous Negroes. The absurdity of the Hamitic hypothesis is apparent in this thinking and although long-since discredited, the Hamitic Myth continues to be the source of untold misery and suffering because of the stereotypes that it has inspired in the people of this region. This Myth notwithstanding, migration whatever its cause contributed to the development of ethnic consciousness and ethnic diversity (Payne and Nassir, 2002: 301).
In this unfortunate Hamiticized view of society, the imperialist and ethno-nationalist perspective in which the Tutsi were held to be more civilized, physically closer to the Europeans, and therefore deserving of greater power, privilege, and status than the Hutu became a source of conflict and instability. Therefore, the blame for the regions miseries lies in the pseudo-racial hierarchy created by re-stratification as a key component of colonial policy (Adekanye, 1996:41). Benedict Anderson argued in his influential Imagined Communities, conflicts in Burundi as in Rwanda and other societies such as Yugoslavia, Armenia and Azerbaijan testify to ethnic passions gone haywire, all followed elections that brought to power leaders who, in the absence of established levers of authority, seized on xenophobia as a means of consolidating power (see Schmemann, 1999).
In Burundi, a genocidal onslaught against the Tutsi prepared by Hutu extremists but caught by the government in the late 1960s led to a maliciously conceived genocide against the Hutu, mostly perpetrated by the intellectuals in Burundi. Consequently, an estimated 100,000 Hutu and moderate Tutsi died as a result of this mayhem. The difference between Rwanda and Burundi was that in Burundi the ruling Tutsi aristocracy also led the nationalist movement. The Mwami Mwambutsa’s eldest son Prince Louis Rwagasore led the Union for National Progress (UPRONA), which built up its support between 1958 and 1961 by cutting across ethnic and social divisions. Rwagasore’s success alarmed the Belgians and a European assassinated him on October 13 1961 after his nomination as Prime Minister and only months before independence (Mazrui and Tidy, 1984:221).
Tutsi ethnic supremacists went out of their way to purge UPRONA of Hutu and to maintain Tutsi supremacy. When the Hutu secured a majority in the 1964 elections and the Mwami Mwambutsa refused to appoint a Hutu as a Prime Minister, this resulted in a Hutu uprising in October 1965. The Mwami fled Switzerland when a group of Tutsi supremacists seized power in a coup thereby purging Hutu from the army and bureaucracy. Nevertheless, intra-Tutsi rivalry led to yet another coup in July 1966, which brought Colonel Michel Micombero to power and the deposition of the new Mwami Ntare V while on a trip abroad (Mazrui and Tidy, 1984:221).
Until the downfall of the monarchy in 1966, kingship remained one of the last links that bound Burundi with its dichotomous past. From independence in 1962, until the elections of 1993, Burundi was controlled by a series of military dictators. These years saw extensive ethnic violence making conflict and instability a crisis of everydayness as states Henri Lefebvre (cf Schroyer, 1973:221). In 1965 Hutu extremists attempted to wipe out ethnic Tutsi at Busangana in the central province of Muramvya. In 1972, 1988, and 1993, the Tutsi minority was victim of a genocide at the hands of Hutu extremist organizations such as UBU (Umugambwe w'Abakozi b'Uburundi or Burundi Workers Party), PALIPEHUTU, FRODEBU, and subsequently, at the hands of the ruling CNDD-FDD.
The notion of crisis of everydayness as an explanation of the Rwanda and Burundi nationalist dilemma may not be far-fetched given that when in 1993 Burundi held democratic presidential elections that were won by the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), the FRODEBU leader Melchior Ndadaye became Burundi's first Hutu President, but a few months later he was assassinated by a group of Tutsi army officers. The killing was a pretense for the ruling party FRODEBU to start a new genocide against the Tutsi minority. Hutu extremists massacred thousands of Tutsi civilians. Years of instability followed until 1996, when former president Pierre Buyoya took power in a coup. We need to interrogate processes of transition and make rational conclusions in view of what Habermas terms instrumental rationalization. This means a distinction has to be made between the institutional framework of society or the socio-cultural life world and the sub-systems of purposive rational action, which are embedded, in the institutional framework of conflict resolution (Schroyer, 1973:217).
The framework of negotiation in much of Africa has been shaky in a continent wracked by some of the most socially deleterious conflicts. Negotiation should be streamlined and driven by a certain nationalist and patriotic intent. Conflict resolution and the mediation mechanisms which this process defines should be guided by the purposive rational modes of action which secures the human capacity to satisfy human needs and symbolic interaction systems form the institutional framework of society based upon rules and social norms that facilitate communication and interaction (Schroyer, 1973: 217). When in August 2004, there was a massacre of 152 Congolese Tutsi refugees at the Gatumba refugee camp in western Burundi, in response to the attack, the Burundian government issued arrest warrants for the FNL leaders Agathon Rwasa and Pasteur Habimana, and declared the group a terrorist organization. A few months later, the UN representative to Burundi went to meet the two men in Nairobi, Kenya. In May 2005, a cease-fire was finally agreed between the FNL and the Burundian government, but fighting continued.
Despite there having not been a clear entry into what would appear as instrumental rationalization, renewed negotiations were undertaken amid fears that the FNL would demand a blanket amnesty in exchange for laying down their arms. Against a background of an established sub-system of purposive rational action, a series of elections, were to be held in mid-2005 which were won by the former Hutu rebel National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). On September 7, 2006, a second ceasefire agreement was to be signed but as of November 2007 the British government was still advising against travel to Burundi due to increased tension as the implementation of the agreement dragged on. Nationalist statecraft should be part of a technocratic consciousness, a kind of new nationalist ideology which facilitates conception and design of interactional systems within which negotiation takes place (cf Schroyer, 1973).
While bearing in mind that there is a dearth of nationalist statesmanship in addressing conflicts in Africa, it is worth emphasizing that, as pointed out earlier, migration contributes to the development of ethnic consciousness (cf Payne and Nassir, 2002:301). A study of Hutu refugees who had fled Burundi and a 1972 bloodbath engineered mainly by the rival clan, the Tutsi, who controlled the state apparatus shows how diasporic conditions contribute towards the emancipatory quests of nationalism. Exile conditions provide
gestating conditions in which nations and nationalism are infused by fantasies indeed, one might say that fantasies that are the sine qua non of nationhood, the emotional tie that binds the refugees to their homeland since language, culture, and history are core constituents of memory, the emotional channel to their homeland. That is why Anderson talks of long-distance nationalism in terms of the capacity of diasporic groups to participate in the political life of their homelands to the extent that the twin developments; enormous flows of dispossessed people, and the ability to stay in touch once departed in essence alters the very concept of nationalism, its composition and practice (See Anderson, 1995).
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