Bringing the peasants back in, again: state power and local agency in Rwanda's gacaca courts

Bringing the peasants back in, again: state power and local agency in Rwanda's gacaca courts

Author: 
Clark, Phil
Publisher: 
Taylor & Francis
Date published: 
2014
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Journal of Eastern African Studies
Source: 
Journal of Eastern African Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, May 2014, pp. 193-213
ISSN: 
1753-1055
Abstract: 

Rwanda's genocide trials through the gacaca community courts, between 2002 and 2012, have attracted substantial critique and also become a key vehicle for analysing wider political and social dynamics, including policy-making under the Rwandan Patriotic Front. A common criticism of gacaca is that it allowed the Rwandan state to deploy the language of devolved, popularly owned justice while further centralizing and consolidating state power. Based on fieldwork conducted over ten years, including more than 650 interviews and observations of 105 gacaca hearings, the article responds to this criticism and argues that while we should be sceptical of the Rwandan government's overly romantic depiction of gacaca as organic, decentralized justice and critical of other dimensions of state policy, we should be equally sceptical of characterizations of gacaca as simply another means for the state to entrench its power and influence in the countryside. This article contends that both perspectives are reductionist and fail to acknowledge the complex ways in which Rwandan citizens engage with the state and participate in government-initiated community-level processes such as gacaca.

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Country focus: 

CITATION: Clark, Phil. Bringing the peasants back in, again: state power and local agency in Rwanda's gacaca courts . : Taylor & Francis , 2014. Journal of Eastern African Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, May 2014, pp. 193-213 - Available at: http://library.au.int/bringing-peasants-back-again-state-power-and-local-agency-rwandas-gacaca-courts-3