This article, first given as a talk to a seminar of the Uganda Parliament in 2000, is a reflection on that aspect of the colonial political legacy that passes for common sense in the region of the African Great Lakes. The author takes a fresh look at recent events leading to civil war in Uganda (1981–6), Rwanda (1990–94) and eastern Congo (1997–.) The article contextualizes three issues: citizenship, civil society and political majorities and minorities as outcomes of the democratic process. To explore how notions of these issues have been changing over the past decade, the author examines the dilemma of a particular cultural group in the Great Lakes region—the Banyarwanda.
Comment: Drawing on particular cases from the East African region, the author reflects on the notion of citizenship in formerly colonised East African nation. This text can accompany a discussion on the notions of citizenship and the nation-state, and their colonial foundations and legacy. As a western construct, it is important that we study the implications of the continued use of colonial structures such as citizenship, and attempt to reform it in such a way that cultural identities are considered. Thus, this article intervenes in debates regarding citizenship, ethnicity and minority/majority interactions and rights.