Rwanda’s Gacaca (truth and justice) courts


Am reading Romeo Dallaire’s memoir, Shake Hands with the Devil, of his time as UN commander in Rwanda before and during the 1994 genocide. It is amazing that this man isn’t in a psychiatric ward given his position as “observer” of the genocide and no power to do much of anything, even protect his own troops.

But last night I watched the documentary, In the Tall Grass, the story of a woman seeking justice in the village court (aka gacaca courts). The village turns out to hear her complaint that her neighbor killed her husband and children for being Tutsis. The villagers are asked what they saw and only one or two admit to seeing anything though it is assumed most know. The accused man admits to being present and “participating” in the killings but denies he struck the fatal blows. (They remain neighbors). His story is inconsistent. She claims she will forgive him if he confesses fully. He sticks to his story as being a witness to the events. But one woman stands up and tells the crowd how the children were murdered and where they are buried (the mother did not know this). So, the village goes and digs many holes in the area in order to find the children’s bodies–now 10 years later. They find them and several undertake, on film, to wash the bones and prepare them for proper burial. The accused participates in the washing and this woman watches it all.

I cannot fathom the experiences of 1994, of living next door to those who murdered your family, nor that of watching someone tenderly wash your child’s skull, rib-bones, etc.

1 Comment

Filed under book reviews, conflicts, Cultural Anthropology, Forgiveness, Historical events, Movies, Rwanda

One response to “Rwanda’s Gacaca (truth and justice) courts

  1. Lightbearer

    I feel your pain. I was in the Persian Gulf War; some of the stuff I saw there took me a long time to process.

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