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Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence

by Alana Tiemessen
Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence (Critical Human Rights) an edited volume by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf, has recently been published by the University of Wisconsin Press. The book is dedicated to the memory of Alison des Forges, the former senior advisor to Human Rights Watch�s Africa Division and renowned Rwanda expert.

Remaking Rwanda

The editors set out to accomplish three objectives:

  • fill the gap on scholarly literature on post-genocide Rwanda
  • challenge the prevailing positive reviews of Rwanda�s recovery (emanating primarily from donors and media)
  • highlight Rwanda�s importance for post-conflict recovery (in the theoretical framework of James Scott�s �Seeking Like a State.�)

In their introductory chapter, the editors state that �in challenging what has been the prevailing view of post-genocide Rwanda and complicating existing theories of post-conflict reconstruction, this volume intends to contribute � in whatever way outsiders can � to a robust social and political system that will avoid the terrible violence of Rwanda�s past.� The volume includes contributions from notable veteran and new scholars whose research on Rwanda is nuanced, provocative, and above reproach.

Not surprisingly, the book and its authors have come under attack by proxy spokespersons of the Government of Rwanda. But the hyperbolic response of the RPF regime merely underscores the credibility of the authors� claims. Namely, the claims that that the RPF has used the created a veneer with the internationally lauded benchmarks of democracy, macro economic progress, and rule of law to entrench and centralize its power through �deft authoritarianism� � and thus paradoxically suppressing dissent, deepening inequality, and furthering a culture of impunity. Some have challenged that �only Rwandans can remake Rwanda.� No one denies that Rwandans, from elites to peasants, should have agency in their country�s political discourse. But as Straus remarks to the Chronicle of Higher Ed, �it is left to outsiders to make critical comments if the domestic political space is largely closed.�

There are several chapters in the volume that address transitional justice and reconciliation issues � ranging from crimes committed in the Congo, Gacaca, ICTR, memorials, ingando, and the laws on �genocide ideology.� I�ll provide a thorough review of these chapters in a future post, but for now here are the authors and titles:

  • Lars Waldorf. �Instrumentalizing Genocide: The RPF�s Campaign against �Genocide Ideology.�
  • Jason Stearns and Federico Borello. �Bad Karma: Accountability for Rwandan Crimes in the Congo.�
  • Victor Peskin. �Victor�s Justice Revisited: Rwandan Patriotic Front Crimes and the Prosecutorial Endgame at the ICTR.�
  • Don Webster. �The Uneasy Relationship between the ICTR and Gacaca.�
  • Max Rettig. �The Sovu Trials: The Impact of Genocide Justice on One Community.�
  • Carina Tertsakian. ��All Rwandans Are Afraid of Being Arrested One Day�: Prisoners Past, Present, and Future.�
  • Jens Meierhenrich. �Topographies of Remembering and Forgetting: The Transformation of Lieux de Memoire in Rwanda.�
  • Susan Thomson. �Reeducation for Reconciliation: Participant Observations on Ingando.�

[Global Transitional Justice]


1 Alexandre Gitego { 05.10.11 at 1:00 pm }

It is the first time in Rwandan tragedy I stumble on foreign individuals or groups who have tried to do a serious reasoning on what really happened in Rwanda. I used to read what is written by ignorant researchers or accomplices of Rwandan leaders. Again, thank you. I encourage you to continue working on the hidden truth about what really happened in Rwanda. Your good work will make changes in lives of millions of people who are not allowed to talk. I will by your book.
Thank you.

2 aunzamu { 06.16.11 at 4:52 am }

What I can say on this post is that, Rwandans are the ones concerned with their problems, so I don’t think that you foreigners are concerned with Rwanda and its issues. You are only deceiving people. Deal with your own country’s problem and leave Rwanda’s!

3 karege { 06.20.11 at 7:11 am }

For sure,there is what these Human rights watch never understand about Rwanda,Those ideas you are putting forward about human rights in Rwanda would really be contributing to a country that never had tribal conflicts but when i see this report it really supports hatred again amaong Rwandan citizens e.g if you say that Rwanda is only led by Anglophones that’s the first hatred that human right group is creating in the Rwandan society (yet am sure all people are included in the leadership) that is trying all the best to see how it can get out of troubles it passed through..,First of all, this group has to know that genocide was done by Rwandese to Rwandese and healing this society needs lots of tactics…so far the government has been trying but when this group writes books like these,it’s all about discouraging the government and again changing the mindsets of citizens that have been trying to reconcile….Please,plz,plz am Rwandan but not politician and i do value the loss of death of Rwandese that has happened in the past….do try not to divide people by only looking at your interests..thanks

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