Lecture 3. The Image of Development in Kigali, Rwanda

This lecture will look at the historical development of Kigali, beginning from its founding as a German outpost in 1907. It will trace Kigali’s subsequent development as a Belgian colonial administrative center, and then its transformation into the capital city of an independent nation. It will also look at how some historical sites in Rwanda have been transformed into sites for tourist consumption, as certain building materials or forms become coded as “traditional,” while other sites are demolished in order to make room for new development. Both preservation and destruction are carried out in order to demonstrate how modern Rwanda is today. The Rwandan state seeks to replace negative associations with the genocide and build a new sociotechnical imaginary for Rwanda which legitimizes the state’s power, boosts international status, and raises national morale. Above all, they strive to counter stereotypes of “tribal conflict” and underdevelopment commonly associated with Africa by putting forth new expressions of modernity. In Kigali, selective beautification and development has been especially targeted at those areas which will be seen by visitors and important persons. However, while these efforts may seem to focus primarily on the interface between the city and its foreign visitors, they also reveal the nature of the interface between the powerful elite and the domestic masses in Rwanda. National and local authorities have used the rhetoric of beautification and development to justify expropriation and displacement of the poor. They have also used traditional practices and forms of governance as mechanisms to carry out these improvements. While a focus on the image of development may seem superficial, it actually reveals deeper truths about the nature of power in Rwanda. List of sites and objects presented: 1. Dr. Kandt’s House, 1908 2. Kimironko Market (older style market) 3. Typical residential neighborhoods of Kigali 4. Kigali City Master Plan renderings 5. Kigali Heights shopping mall 6. Kigali Special Economic Zone 7. Kigali City Tower 8. Kigali Convention Centre 9. King’s Palace (traditional royal residence) 10. Manila City of Dreams (Philippines)

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