Living the transition : a bottom-up perspective on Rwanda's political transitionLiving the transition : a bottom-up perspective on Rwanda's political transition
Institute of Development Policy and Management
Political Economy of the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa
Antwerp :UA, 2007[*]2007
IOB discussion paper / UA, Institute of Development Policy and Management; 2007:06
University of Antwerp
Political transitions are dominantly analyzed top-down and focus on a narrow range of political processes and institutions. Critical rethinkings of the transition paradigm entail that structural factors, such as historical legacies and ethnic make-up, determine the trajectory of political transitions. In this paper we intend to complement top-down approaches by offering a bottom-up perspective revealing what it means to live through a transition in the ordinary perception. We use the Rwandan transition as case-study. An analysis of over 400 life histories of ordinary Rwandan peasants and their subjective ranking exercises over time on a ladder of life portrays the trajectory of the Rwandan transition as perceived from below. The ethnicity of the respondents functions as pivot to shed light on the structural factor underlying the Rwandan transition: the Hutu-Tutsi bi-polarity.