Remediation of Rwanda: Harmony and Punishment in Grassroots Legal Forums

Remediation of Rwanda: Harmony and Punishment in Grassroots Legal Forums

Remediation of Rwanda: Harmony and Punishment in Grassroots Legal Forums

Remediation of Rwanda: Harmony and Punishment in Grassroots Legal Forums

Synopsis

Kristin Conner Doughty examines how Rwandans navigated the combination of harmony and punishment in grassroots courts purportedly designed to rebuild the social fabric in the wake of the 1994 genocide. Postgenocide Rwandan officials developed new local courts ostensibly modeled on traditional practices of dispute resolution as part of a broader national policy of unity and reconciliation. The three legal forums at the heart of Remediation in Rwanda --genocide courts called inkiko gacaca, mediation committees called comite y'abunzi, and a legal aid clinic--all emphasized mediation based on principles of compromise and unity, brokered by third parties with the authority to administer punishment. Doughty demonstrates how exhortations to unity in legal forums served as a form of cultural control, even as people rebuilt moral community and conceived alternative futures through debates there. Investigating a broad range of disputes, she connects the grave disputes about genocide to the ordinary frictions people endured living in its aftermath.

Remediation in Rwanda is therefore about not only national reconstruction but also a broader narrative of how the embrace of law, particularly in postconflict contexts, influences people's lives. Though law-based mediation is framed as benign--and is often justified as a purer form of culturally rooted dispute resolution, both by national governments such as Rwanda's, and in the transitional justice movement more broadly--its implementation, as Doughty reveals, involves coercion and accompanying resistance. Yet in grassroots legal forums that are deeply contextualized, law-based mediation can open up spaces in which people negotiate the micropolitics of reconciliation.

Excerpt

This book tells the story of how the Rwandan government aimed to remediate the country’s social ills in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, and to rebuild the social fabric through revitalizing a traditional practice of mediation and embedding it in grassroots legal forums. Government officials hoped to use local courts as part of a broader architecture of social repair to help re-create families, repair communities, and rebuild a unified nation, consistent with the global rise in transitional justice. the three legal forums at the heart of this book—genocide courts called inkiko gacaca, mediation committees called comite y’abunzi, and a legal aid clinic—used mediation by third-party actors with the power of punishment to advocate compromise solutions across a wide range of disputes. This book describes how people’s lives were shaped by law-based mediation. It illustrates how people contested collective belonging through the micro-disputes that formed the warp and woof of daily life, and how people negotiated moral community and imagined alternative futures through debates in these new legal forums. By looking across a range of legal forums, it connects the exceptionalism of disputes about genocide to the ordinary disputes people faced living in its aftermath.

Mediation-based models are by no means limited to Rwanda; they are increasingly implemented by state and international actors, especially in postconflict contexts, often in the name of customary law, local solutions, or restorative justice. This is therefore a story about rebuilding in Rwanda, but also a broader story of how the global embrace of law, particularly in postconflict contexts, shapes people’s lives. Though law-based mediation is . . .

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