Rwanda Dictatorship Curse

By David Himbara


My students often ask me about leadership transitions in Africa. Today they challenged me to name any peaceful political transition on the African continent. I contrasted the Rwanda and Botswana cases.

Rwanda’s dictatorship curse

There have been six heads of state in Rwanda since independence. Only one temporary leader left office peacefully.

  1. Dominique Mbonyumutwa — Temporary leader left office peacefully.
  2. Gregoire Kayibanda — Overthrown.
  3. Juvenal Habyarimana — Killed.
  4. Théodore Sindikubwabo — Overthrown.
  5. Pasteur Bizimungu — Ousted.
  6. Paul Kagame — End Unknown.

Botswana peaceful transitions

Botswana has had five presidents since independence — and five peaceful transitions.

  1. Seretse Khama
  2. Quett Masire
  3. Festus Mogae
  4. Ian Khama
  5. Mokgweetsi Masisi

Botswana is not perfect, however. It is dominated by one party, namely, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The BDP founded by Seretse Khama has been in power since Botswana gained independence from the UK in 1966. Still, Botswana is heaven compared to Rwanda.