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Journal Article

Gacaca, genocide, genocide ideology: The violent aftermaths of transitional justice in the New Rwanda


Geraghty,  Mark Anthony
Socio-Cultural Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Geraghty, M. A. (2020). Gacaca, genocide, genocide ideology: The violent aftermaths of transitional justice in the New Rwanda. Comparative Studies in Society and History: an international quarterly, 62(3), 588-618. doi:10.1017/S0010417520000183.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-D754-9
This article investigates the violent aftermaths of Rwanda's 1994 Genocide and Liberation war by analyzing its Gacaca Courts, which framed themselves as a “traditional” mechanism of transitional justice. These specialized genocide tribunals, in operation between 2002 and 2012, authorized laypersons to sentence their neighbors to up to life in prison. They passed judgment on almost two million cases, at an official conviction rate of 86 percent. I argue that through their practice, “genocide” came to be constituted as a crime whose contours extended far beyond the boundaries of any international legal definition. It included a wide range of acts, utterances, and inner states, as potentially infinite manifestations of a boundless criminal interiority named “genocide ideology,” the necessary ‘driving force’ behind acts of genocide. Within Gacaca, genocide ideology was constituted as the continuing destructive potential of Hutu to menace or even disrespect innocent Tutsi, who were constituted as metonymic of the “new” state. The paranoid hermeneutics of those trials led them to project such an interiority within ‘others,’ imagined as constantly on the verge of erupting into insurrectionary violence, threatening the state's very foundation. The figure of the “Hutu” was transformed into a negative political category operating as a spectral threat haunting the New Rwanda. Gacaca led to a realization throughout the vast population that it marked as “Hutu” that the crime of genocide could potentially inhabit any and perhaps even all of them, thereby producing a generalized fear and pervasive silence.