Gacaca: truth, justice, and reconciliation in postconflict Rwanda?

In institutionalizing gacaca, the government of Rwanda has launched one of the most ambitious transitional justice projects the world has ever seen. Based on traditional forms of conflict resolution, gacaca is a local, participatory legal mechanism that seeks to blend punitive and restorative justice. But gacaca is controversial, and its contribution to postconflict reconciliation is unclear. Through public opinion surveys in 2006 and 2007, trial observations, and interviews, this study provides a window into how gacaca has shaped interethnic relations in one community, Sovu, in Rwanda’s South Province. It discusses gacaca procedures, attitudes towards gacaca, testimonies, and security issues. It demonstrates that although gacaca has brought more people to trial than the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), transnational trials, and the ordinary Rwandan courts combined, gacaca exposes and perhaps deepens conflict, resentment, and ethnic disunity. More than two-thirds of Sovu residents say that reconciliation is taking hold, but there is considerable evidence suggesting that gacaca has not eradicated mutual distrust in the community. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]

Title: Gacaca: truth, justice, and reconciliation in postconflict Rwanda?
Author: Rettig, Max
Year: 2008
Periodical: African Studies Review
Volume: 51
Issue: 3
Pages: 25-50
Language: English
Geographic term: Rwanda
External link: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/african_studies_review/v051/51.3.rettig.pdf
Abstract: In institutionalizing gacaca, the government of Rwanda has launched one of the most ambitious transitional justice projects the world has ever seen. Based on traditional forms of conflict resolution, gacaca is a local, participatory legal mechanism that seeks to blend punitive and restorative justice. But gacaca is controversial, and its contribution to postconflict reconciliation is unclear. Through public opinion surveys in 2006 and 2007, trial observations, and interviews, this study provides a window into how gacaca has shaped interethnic relations in one community, Sovu, in Rwanda’s South Province. It discusses gacaca procedures, attitudes towards gacaca, testimonies, and security issues. It demonstrates that although gacaca has brought more people to trial than the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), transnational trials, and the ordinary Rwandan courts combined, gacaca exposes and perhaps deepens conflict, resentment, and ethnic disunity. More than two-thirds of Sovu residents say that reconciliation is taking hold, but there is considerable evidence suggesting that gacaca has not eradicated mutual distrust in the community. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]