Judgement on the Grass: One Community’s Search For Reconciliation In Post-Genocide Rwanda
In the spring of 1994 the small east African country of Rwanda was devastated by a genocide which claimed the lives of an estimated one million people. Within hours of the president’s ominous assassination, neighbors killed neighbors, teachers turned on students, and priests betrayed their parishioners. In the most densely-populated country on the continent, no one was left untouched. When the Rwandan Patriotic Front finally overcame the Hutu Power government and put an end to the genocide, the remaining Rwandans were left with a deeply divided society infused with fear, anger, and resentment. In an effort to bring both justice and reconciliation to survivors and perpetrators, the newly instated Government of National Unity established a modernized version of the traditional dispute resolution system called gacaca. Starting in 2001, community members in every neighborhood across Rwanda gathered once a week for gacaca to testify about what happened during the genocide and to judge the suspected perpetrators. Using renowned scholar and peacebuilder John Paul Lederach’s four building blocks of reconciliation – Truth, Justice, Forgiveness, and Peace - this capstone assesses the role that gacaca plays in rebuilding the relationships between neighbors in a single community on the outskirt’s of the nation’s capital called Kimironko. Through interviews with survivors, witnesses, convicted killers, and acquitted defendants as well as first-hand observations of gacaca trials, the author explores the unique meaning of reconciliation in Rwandan culture and looks at how real people are attempting to live alongside one another in the wake of violent conflict.