Rwanda’s military as a people’s army: heroes at home and abroad

KUEHNEL Josefine & WILÉN Nina
Taylor & Francis
Journal of Eastern African Studies

KUEHNEL Josefine & WILÉN Nina, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Volume 12, 2018 - Issue 1, Special Collection: African contributions to peace operations: insights from the military; Guest editors: Nina Wilén, David Ambrosetti and Jean-Nicholas Bach, Pages 154-171, Published online: 19 December 2017, DOI:


This article explores the Rwandan military’s central role and functions in both domestic and foreign policy through the two concepts of ‘people’s army’ and ‘hero’. The analysis is informed by material collected during six months of fieldwork inside the Rwandan military. The overarching theoretical objective of the article is to increase our knowledge of the role that narratives play in creating identities in specific contexts. It therefore draws on and contributes to a rich literature grounded in social constructivist ontology, which examines the relationship between narratives and identities. Empirically, the article contributes to the literature exploring the Rwandan military’s collective identity construction in post-genocide Rwanda and the consequences this has for the military’s roles both at home and abroad. The authors argue that the political and military elite’s production of narratives around the concepts: ‘people’s army’ and ‘hero’ in relation to the national military has three aims: (1) to construct a new military identity; (2) to promote domestic stability and to enhance Rwanda’s international status; and (3) to keep the government in power.