SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Clark, Phil (2014) 'Negotiating Reconciliation in Rwanda: Popular Challenges to the Official Discourse of Post-Genocide National Unity.' Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 8 (4). pp. 303-320.

Full text not available from this repository.


Reconciliation is among the most contested terms in current peacebuilding and transitional justice debates. Critics often view reconciliation as romantic—expecting immediate harmony after enormous harm—or imposed on victims by religious groups or governments that prefer the language of ‘moving on’ to addressing systemic causes of conflict. This essay reconsiders the concept of ‘reconciliation’ by drawing on community-level experiences in post-genocide Rwanda. This context highlights nuanced interpretations of reconciliation that, in key respects, respond to critics' concerns and call for reappraisal of reconciliation as a central objective after mass violence. In particular, many Rwandans' participation in the gacaca community courts—which, between 2002 and 2012, prosecuted 400,000 genocide suspects in around 1 million cases in 11,000 jurisdictions overseen by locally elected lay judges—represents a form of negotiated reconciliation. This version emphasizes long-term formal and informal negotiations between antagonistic parties during gacaca hearings but crucially long after trials have ended. In contrast, the transactional reconciliation advocated by the Rwandan government through its discourse of ‘national unity’ views reconciliation as immediate and elite-imposed—a perspective that rightly raises the ire of critics but to which negotiated reconciliation offers an important riposte. This essay is based on more than 650 interviews between 2003 and 2014 with Rwandan genocide suspects, convicted perpetrators, survivors, gacaca judges and policymakers as well as observations of 105 gacaca hearings in 13 communities across Rwanda.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Rwanda, reconciliation, unity, locality, justice, gacaca
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Politics and International Studies
ISSN: 17502977
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2015 13:42

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item