OXFORD - The University of Oxford this week hosted a conference to mark the 15th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, an event that coincided with the launching of a new book; ‘After Genocide’ that explores present and future issues that face Rwanda.
The symposium that took place Tuesday brought together research scholars, members of the UK government, journalists and aid agency staff and was opened by Professor David Anderson, Director of the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, and the Rwandan Ambassador to the UK, Claver Gatete.
During the symposium, contributors presented papers on different high profile topics that shape Rwanda today.
Dr Phil Clark, co-founder of Oxford Transitional Justice Research, focused his talk on the Gacaca process.
He explored how Gacaca had moved the whole concept of post-genocide justice and reconciliation forward in a positive way that had surprised its many initial critics – including human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
While pointing out that no system of justice could ever be seen as infallible, the scholar said that Gacaca was overall an impressive achievement.
Gacaca courts were established to deal with the backlog of over a million cases involving suspects of the Genocide and are set to wind up their activities this year.
As the French Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere report is finally exposed as a disastrous work based on insinuation and untruth that many critics believed it to be from the start, Andrew Wallis, from the University of Cambridge, saw a glimmer of a hope that Franco-Rwandan relations could again begin to normalise.
This, he observed, would be possible if President Nicholas Sarkhozy and Foreign Affairs Minister Kouchner can fight free of hard-line ties in the Champs Elysee (the French Presidency) and the French military.
Wallis, a former British journalist wrote different books attesting to the role of the French in the 1994 Genocide and one of them is titled ‘the Silent Accomplice.’
Jean-Baptiste, Kayigamba a former journalist with Reuters and genocide survivor, urged the continuation of efforts to combat genocide ideology, especially in rural areas where such views continue to threaten survivors and the stability of relations between Rwandans.
Former European Commission Economist for Rwanda, Bruno Versailles, showed statistically the importance of ‘aid volatility’ – that donor nations should give more flexibility and less conditionality to their funding that can otherwise seriously curtail and damage effective use of their money to target nations such as Rwanda.
Zachary Kaufman, Olin Fellow at Yale Law School, told the symposium how the United States had pushed for the setting up of an International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1994, and the argument that this act was based on guilt it felt for.
The symposium speakers, while not fighting shy of the challenges that lay ahead for a country that in real terms is still coming to terms with decades of economic, political and human trauma, were united in the view that there were great seeds of hope for its future.
While the international community often seemed to demand change that was inappropriate or unsustainable in Rwanda, and failed to show appropriate empathy with its terrible past, there continued to be positive and impressive moves forward, economically, politically, judicially and socially.
The book ‘After Genocide’, edited by Dr Phil Clark and Zachary Kaufman was launched at the end of the symposium. It features contributions from a wide range of international academics, politicians and genocide survivors, and includes an unprecedented debate between President Paul Kagame and Professor Rene Lemarchand from the University of Florida on post genocide memory and governance in Rwanda.
Other contributors include Hassan Jallow and Luis Ocampo (Chief Prosecutors at the ICTR and the International Criminal Court respectively) and Rwanda’s Prosecutor-General, Martin Ngoga.
The symposium also featured Dr Jennifer Walsh and Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis from the University of Oxford. The book will be officially launched in Rwanda with a symposium in Kigali on 3rd April.
All proceeds from the book will go towards the Kigali Public Library project – which when completed will give free access to written works that are often unavailable to many in the country.