Monsieur Mathias De Roeck : Aid and the State. Explaining (Divergent) Political Regime Dynamics in Rwanda and Burundi, 1994–2015 

E-CA – CRE-AC ivzw/aisbl organise sa 60 ième Rotonde Policy Talk le lundi 1 avril 2019.

World policy theory argues foreign aid facilitates the spread of Western institutions, including democracy. While Rwanda and Burundi, two small countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, were both highly dependent on foreign aid throughout the post-Cold War period, the two countries did follow different paths of political development. Both countries were heavily affected by the 1993-4 genocides and subsequent political turmoil. Where Burundi experimented with democracy, and made a democratic turn in 2005, Rwanda remained a stable authoritarian regime for most of this period. We explain this difference by introducing a political economy model of democracy diffusion. The model argues that democracy diffusion is conditional upon donor pressure to democratize and state despotic capacity to mediate this pressure. When pressure to democratize is high, and state despotic capacity (relatively) weak, democracy diffusion occurs. Yet, when in such a context state despotic capacity is rather strong, state elites address despotic infrastructures to adopt the form but not the substance of democracy. The outcome is a hybrid regime and substantial democratic window-dressing. Finally, in case donor pressure to democratize is absent, state elites use aid as they see fit, strengthening despotic infrastructures and authoritarianism in turn. The model is illustrated through a comparative historical analysis of donor pressure to democratize and state despotic power in Rwanda and Burundi after the 1993-4 events based on primary and secondary sources of data. 


Mathias De Roeck (1987) studied sociology at Ghent University. He is currently finalizing a PhD in Development Studies at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB) of the University of Antwerp. The PhD investigates the complex interplay between international relations, the state, and political regime stability and change making use of large-statistical and small-comparative historical research. One part of the PhD examines divergent political regime paths in Rwanda and Burundi after the Cold War.