This debate article reflects upon four articles recently published in this journal as part of a special Forum on Rwanda (Volume 8, Issue 4, 2014)—released to coincide with the 20-year commemoration of the 1994 genocide. In doing so it highlights what this author considers to be a crisis in contemporary ‘Rwanda studies’. This crisis—referenced and reproduced to some extent in all four articles—combines methodological (‘how can we write about Rwanda?’) and epistemological (‘how should we write about Rwanda?’) uncertainty against a backdrop of highly polarized, partisan and sometimes personalized research agendas. In exploring this phenomenon, the study explores not only the role of academics (mainly European and Rwandan) but also of the Rwandan government itself, highlighting the rise of ‘activist polities’ such as that in contemporary Kigali. These regimes consider knowledge production to be an aspect of their own sovereignty and this poses fundamental challenges, as yet largely unacknowledged, to parts of Western Africanist scholarship.