Singing the struggle: The Rwanda Patriotic Front’s ideology through its songs of Liberation

Aegis Trust’s department of Research, Policy and Higher Education (RPHE) in collaboration with IRIBA Center held a knowledge exchange seminar on “Singing the struggle: The Rwanda Patriotic Front’s ideology through its songs of Liberation.” on Friday January 25, 2019 at IRIBA Center. Assumpta Mugiraneza who is the director and founder of IRIBA Centre and Dr. Benjamin Chemouni who co-authored with her on the stated paper through the generous support of Aegis Trust, presented their research project that was accompanied with songs and dance.


“When we speak about the ideology, we tend to think about the ideology of the genocide.  We don’t think about the ideology of the RPF. The word ideology itself is not a bad word, in political science: ideology is a shared framework of mental models that groups of individuals possess that provide both an interpretation of the environment and a description of how the environment should be structured.” Benjamin said.


After submitting this working paper to the academic reviewers Assumpta and Benjamin were asked why they chose the RPF songs ideology. “We chose the RPF’s songs of liberations as a window to look at the ideology, because the songs were a powerful means of expression for the RPF and its supporters, they are traditionally a crucial form of artistic expression. The songs helped to understand how, before reaching power, the RPF made sense of its environment and issues it faced, how it envisioned the proper order of society and how such order was to be achieved,” they replied.


The ideology in the working paper is analysed through 20 songs of liberation that were put together by the RPF members and their supporters between 1988 and 1994.

The main goal of the front before others such as a military victory was liberation of Rwandans and development of the country.


Among those songs, the researchers grouped the 20 songs into 4 main ideological themes: Unity and the nation, How the RPF portrays/describes itself, How the RPF describes the enemy and the anti-imperialism of the RPF.


Hon. Musoni Protais as a practitioner and Prof. Ntakirutimana Evaritse were the discussants of the presentation.

“I am not a researcher, but I have found this very interesting. I have not yet analysed these songs and think they had ideology in them. This was very well put, I can’t add anything to it,” said Hon. Protais. “Picking RPF’s songs of liberation is a very good idea, since songs are better way to give out a message,” said Prof. Evariste. They also enquired on the criteria used to pick the 20 songs and encouraged other researchers in attendance to dig deeper and research on other songs.

The audience also had time to share their feedback and a key among the comments was that the paper should be done in Kinyarwanda since it is a rich language and there is a risk of losing some vital information while translating.

In conclusion, Assumpta urged everyone to take the RPF’s liberation songs ideology seriously, as it embodies the conditions to ultimately improve mutual understanding and render the interactions with Rwandan Government more productive.

After the event, we had a reception. Guests were treated to drinks and snacks and there was a team that sang and danced to those songs bringing back fond memories.


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