Review by Professor Christine Stansell
Reviewer: Professor Christine Stansell, Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago
Source: The New Republic, September 9, 2009
The September 9, 2009, issue of The New Republic contains a book review, "The Aftermath and After," by Professor Christine Stansell, the Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago. The piece reviews After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond and other recent literature on Rwanda. An excerpt from the piece, which can be found online at http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/the-aftermath-and-after, is below.
The furious temper of the debate about gacaca and other matters of reconciliation is evident in Phil Clark and Zachary Kaufman’s book, a singular attempt to bring together conflicting points of view. The book begins with an extraordinary preface by Rwanda’s president, who, among other things, eviscerates the most hostile essay in the volume, which accuses his government of manipulating genocide memory for Tutsi political advantage. Whether you agree with Kagame or not, the sharp intelligence and moral passion of his piece are undeniable. Clark and Kaufman, practitioners and scholars of international law who are well versed in Rwandan affairs, are rare among Western academics and lawyers in acknowledging the full range of Rwanda’s difficulties. They reject the current academic fashion of scapegoating Kagame, and they call attention to two alarming trends in academic studies: “a neglect of basic truths about the genocide, and the proliferation of genocide denial and other forms of damaging revisionism.” Their fine tone of broadmindedness, combined with the unusual presence of Rwandan writers working inside the country, opens up a more realistic and generous assessment of the country’s accomplishments, and provides some basis for cautious optimism about the future.
Clark’s pieces on transitional justice are among the best in the volume. In a subtle analysis of gacaca, he goes beyond the best-among-bad-options defense to enumerate the system’s successes. Gacaca defied predictions that it would dispense victor’s justice or, worse, lynch law. It involved masses of Rwandans in rule-based procedures and deliberations—an impressive experiment in a country that lacks traditions of civil society. The courts (officially numbered at 12,000) tried tens of thousands of cases, and collected masses of evidence on what actually happened in 1994.