Problematizing 'victim's justice' : political reform in post-genocide Rwanda
In this dissertation, I problematize 'victim's justice' in post-genocide Rwanda. I argue that the kind of justice that was meted out in post-genocide Rwanda, namely victors' justice and complementary to it – victims’ justice, does not allow for the political reform required to break the cycle of violence in Rwanda. In the aftermath of the 1994-Rwandan Genocide, both state and society were faced with a moral and political dilemma, because the popular agency or mass participation of perpetrators derived from the Hutu majority, who targeted the Tutsi minority, with intent to annihilate them. There were massacres of both Hutus and Tutsis, but Hutus were targeted as individuals, whereas Tutsis were targeted as a group. It is the specific ‘intent to annihilate’ Tutsis as group, that makes this a Genocide against Tutsis. I draw and develop arguments made by Mahmood Mamdani, elaborating on the specific question of ‘victims justice’ for political reform in Rwanda. Both kinds of justice were outcomes of the logic of the Nuremburg Trials. Since its inception, the legacy of the Nuremburg Trial is demonstrated in how it was idealized at the end of the Cold-War by international law and human rights regime. In essence, the historical and political context of the Nuremburg trial has been removed, as it has been produced into a template- the 'Nuremburg-styled criminal trial'. 'Criminal justice' has come to define how we think of justice after mass violence, as the most morally acceptable form of justice for the victims, and the most politically viable response for constituting a 'new political order' after mass violence. This dissertation addresses the argument made, that victors' justice and victims' justice in Rwanda, has constituted two categories, which collectivise Tutsis as victims and Hutus as perpetrators. In the context of a genocide, where the perpetrators are derived from the Hutu majority and the victims from the Tutsi minority, this present both a moral and political dilemma for Rwanda’s state-building and national reconciliation project. Criminal justice also frames mass violence as being criminal, rather than addressing it as political violence. This has troubling consequences for intervening into the cycle of violence in Rwanda. The 'cycle of violence' in Rwanda, refers to the continuation of political violence, in which 'every round of perpetrators has justified the use of violence as the only effective guarantee against being victimised yet again. Thus, intervention into the cycle of violence would mean thinking out of the logic of victimhood and pursuing an alternative kind of justice. To think of the genocide as political violence, redirects the attention to the issues that made the genocide possible. I establish the importance and necessity of critically interrogating 'victims justice' in Rwanda, by placing the 1994-Genocide in its historical and political context, with a particular focus on the legacy of colonialism. The post-colonial regimes in Rwanda, inherited the colonial institutions of rule; and the politicisation of Hutu and Tutsi into racial categories, which have shaped particular meanings for power, justice and citizenship. I demonstrate in this dissertation that critical issues found in post-genocide Rwanda today, are symptomatic of the inherited colonial legacy. I address the prevailing political crisis through an analysis on post-genocide governance; national reconciliation; the 'land question'; and the Great Lakes refugee crisis. Furthermore, I found that it was critically important for my research question, to also adopt a regional perspective, because Rwanda lies at the epicentre of the Great Lakes regional crisis. This dissertation concludes with returning to the question of political reform, and breaking the 'cycle of violence'. My suggestion is that we need to think of Mamdani's concept of survivor's justice, rather than victims' justice or victors' justice, which assist in confronting the needs of political reform that address colonial legacies.