From genocide to Gacaca : historical and socio-political dynamics of identities in the late twentieth century in Rwanda : the perspective of the Durban based Rwandese.
Shongwe, Emelda Dimakatso.
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In April 1994 Rwanda encountered the most gruesome political conflict, which was widely motivated by decades of ethnic tension, and resulted in the massive participation of ordinary Hutus slaughtering Tutsis, who are a minority along with the so-called moderate Hutus. Large numbers of ordinary Rwandans became killers, some willingly and some by force. About one million Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, lost their lives during the killings. Hence this historic event was declared to be genocide. The post-genocide government of Paul Kagame has been faced with the mission not only to reconcile the nation but also to forge a justice system that will assure Rwandans and those who committed crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity will be punished appropriately. It is outmost important to note that emphasis on justice in cases such as Rwandan genocide might be seen to be most desirable to victims in particular. This idea can be more dangerous particularly if the process takes place in an atmosphere which is characterised by political environment which is oppressive and autocratic. Realising the complexity of the conflict and inability of the conventional justice system to in dealing with the massive cases of people alleged to have participated in the killings or committed crime of genocide. The victims impatiently sought not only justice but answers to what has happened to their loved ones. On the other hand those labeled as perpetrators also wanted to clear their names since some of them believed that they were wrongfully accused and the process was taking too long. The Rwandan government was left with no option and decided to reintroduce the traditional justice system called the Gacaca. The Gacaca system was not only pioneered to render justice to the victims and those wrongfully accused but to reconcile as well as bring peace to the Rwandan society. This study is therefore aimed at providing a comprehensive and compelling explanation of the process and the operations of the Gacaca tribunals. Thus by means of both historical and empirical analysis, the study hopes to determine the challenges confronting the system and the promise it holds, if any, and to recommend the need to adopt and adapt to an approach which is wider and more integrated in dealing with reconciliation in the region. To accomplish this study, data was predominantly sourced from primary sources such as media reports and personal interviews with Rwandan community living in Durban, South Africa. The study revealed that the Rwandan genocide was marked by overwhelming public participation which makes Rwandan conflict even more complex. Killing was seen as work, as well as fulfilling the country's duty. On the other hand not killing was viewed as betrayal especially for thousands of peasants. Almost the entire population took part in the killings. The Gacaca is a unique approach of trying genocide perpetrators adopted in Rwanda. In this thesis I argue that it is through examination of different historical and social factors that the relevance of the Gacaca can be assessed. Furthermore my argument is that Rwanda needs a multi-faceted approach to confront complex problems that it faces politically and socially.
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