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Reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. Discourse and practice.

Zorbas, Eugenia (2009) Reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. Discourse and practice. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Many government (and donor) policies in post-genocide Rwanda have been justified in the name of "reconciliation". Yet, reconciliation is almost never defined - in the Rwandan context, or in the literature. This thesis unpacks this nebulous concept by analysing the discourses and expectations of different constituencies - the RPF government, a group of non-govemment elites, the Top Five donors to the country, and respondents from two rural communities. Despite great variance in personal circumstance, significant areas of consensus are found. For example, establishing degrees of responsibility - and punishment - for the genocide was broadly welcomed. However, one way in which this was implemented, through a government prisoner release programme that amounted to "institutionalised forgiveness", was not widely supported. An in-depth study of the rural communities is also undertaken to unearth what factors had an impact on the reconciliation process. Based on these data, three explanatory factors are posited for patterns of reconciliation and non-reconciliation, or, as per the definition of grassroots respondents, for coexistence and non-coexistence. First, at the individual level, life stories since 1994 mattered more in explaining behaviours and attitudes today than experiences during the genocide. Second, the level, depth, breadth and type of social interactions were equally influential, reinforcing the validity of Sociology's "Contact hypothesis". Third, the RPF's top-down style is associated with a negative impact, suggesting the government's strategy is self-defeating. Indeed, the imposition of "mandatory" reconciliation behaviours contradicted one of the pillars of the RPF reconciliation strategy, i.e. the promotion of independent thinking in order to rout out an alleged Rwandan tradition of obedience. Overall, the thesis debunks several misconceptions about reconciliation and about Rwandan politics and society. For example, ethnic heritage did not have an explanatory or predictive quality; more important were class distinctions or, as respondents put it, distinctions between "high" and "low people".

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Public and Social Welfare, Political Science, General, History, African
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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