Researching the politics of development



The politics of state capacity in post-genocide Rwanda: ‘Pockets of effectiveness’ as state-building prioritisations?

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Working paper 170

Benjamin Chemouni

The paper analyses pockets of effectiveness (PoEs) – public organisations that function better than the rest of the state – in Rwanda and their contribution to state building. It does so by exploring three cases of high-performing public sector agencies, namely the Ministry of Finance, the Rwandan Revenue Authority and the Central Bank. The paper shows that the Rwandan case does not seem to follow the patterns of other African countries, whereby a few effective public organisations exist in an otherwise relatively dysfunctional governance context. It argues that the nature of the political settlement and elite vulnerability have led to a top-down and relatively systematic project of state-building. Anchored in the experience of the genocide, ruling elites from a minority group perceive that building an effective state geared towards delivering development in a largely impartial manner is the best response to their vulnerability. Moreover, the political dominance that the ruling coalition has achieved means that it has the capacity to enforce this project. From this perspective, PoEs are best understood as emerging through a project of state-building prioritisation, with organisations supported to deliver their mandate effectively because of their political salience in the ruling coalition’s wider state-building project. Other factors identified in the PoE literature also emerge as important here, including the nature of the task being performed and the role of organisational leadership, although the choice of leaders and the support offered to them are themselves a direct outcome of the governing coalition’s political priorities.