Participation without Democracy? Governance, Accountability and Control in Rwanda

Colloquium | March 7 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

 Jessica Piombo, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School

 Center for African Studies


Theories of democracy and governance argue that participation and contestation are two of the cornerstones of the democratic system that foster good governance. Without participation and contestation, regimes rule without accountability and with few links to the citizenry. Many have discussed whether accountability can occur without contestation, leading to a rich body of thought on the varieties of party systems and hegemonic or one-party systems and the building of accountability in autocratic systems via veto players. But can participation occur, even if the overarching system shows democracy deficits? What form does that participation take, and how effective can it be at fostering accountability and/or true voice? Since 1994, Rwanda has developed a political system that is formally democratic, yet which curtails true political competition in a variety of ways. Despite this, there is a vibrant and active system of participation, through which citizens and the government collaborate to develop yearly plans for each level of governance (local through national). Through this process they also collaboratively evaluate the performance. In this way, there is participation and accountability, without true contestation. This presentation will present a project (in its early stages) that attempts to analyze the nature of that participatory process and assess its impact on governance and accountability in Rwanda, and assess the implications of participation without contestation for democratic theory.

About Jessica Piombo

Jessica Piombo is an Associate Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), where she teaches courses on African politics, U.S. Foreign Policy, comparative politics, and ethnic politics and conflicts. Piombo has been a visiting scholar at the University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town, George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Stanford University’s Center for African Studies. Her teaching and research specializes on political transitions and post-conflict governance; statebuilding and peacebuilding; mechanisms to manage ethnic conflict; African security; and U.S. foreign policy in sub-Saharan Africa. Piombo joined NPS in 2003 after completing her Ph.D. at the Department of Political Science of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Piombo is the author of Institutions, Ethnicity and Political Mobilization in South Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); editor of The U.S. Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development? (First Forum Press, a division of Lynne Rienner, 2015); Interim Governments: Institutional Bridges to Peace and Democracy? (with Karen Guttieri, USIP Press, 2007); and editor of Electoral Politics in South Africa: Assessing the First Democratic Decade (with Lia Nijzink, Palgrave MacMillan, 2005). She has authored numerous articles, reports and book chapters on security, counter-terrorism and democratization in Africa. Piombo has conducted extensive research in South Africa (primary country of expertise), has monitored elections in South Africa and Nigeria, and conducted field research in Cambodia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Laos, Rwanda and Uganda.
Her most recent research project, Peacebuilding through Service Delivery, examines the impact of international assistance on post-conflict statebuilding and peacebuilding. Funded by the Minerva Initiative, information can be found at This multi-year project is in collaboration with Naazneen Barma (NPS) and Naomi Levy (Santa Clara University), and involves intensive field research and cross-national data gathering in Cambodia, Laos and Uganda.

 Spring 2017 CAS Colloquium Flyer