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‘Even if I am not here, there are so many eyes’: surveillance and state reach in Rwanda*

  • Andrea Purdeková (a1)


Based on seven months of fieldwork research, the present article explores the nature and ‘reach’ of the state in post-genocide Rwanda, and its effects on decentralisation, participation and assertion of voice at the local level. Rwanda as a case of a ‘strong’ African state is explored through a number of lenses: the vertical structure (administrative and information apparatuses of the state); the lateral structure (multiple responsibilities, imihigo, indirect control); the spectrum of state-led ‘local’ activities; and, last but not least, the ‘counterweights’ to the state. The article suggests an increasing penetration of state in terms of surveillance as well as exactions (couched in terms of umusanzu or contribution) and control over voice at local level. Decentralisation amounts to mere ‘dispatching of control’, making central power more, not less, effective.


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The author wishes to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the article.



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The New Times Kigali (NTK), Kigali.


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