Working Paper
Local Agency, Development Assistance and the Legacies of Rebellion in Burundi and Rwanda

Rwanda and Burundi have both emerged from civil wars over the past 20 years and foreign donors have provided significant contributions to post-conflict reconstruction and development in the two countries. Yet although Rwanda and Burundi share several important characteristics, the social, political and economic trajectories of the two countries have been different. The paper argues that the nature of the ruling parties in Rwanda and Burundi is key to understanding the countries’ relationships with donors. Rather than seeing aid as an exogenous factor causing particular development outcomes, the paper shows how local party elites exert considerable agency over the aid relationship. Their agency, however, is influenced and constrained by a number of different local contextual factors, including pre-civil war structures. Thus, the paper provides an analysis of how local context matters in understanding donor-recipient aid relationships, and how the ruling party in Rwanda (the RPF) and in Burundi (the CNDD-FDD) emerged from their respective conflicts with different relationships with international donors.