Widows and Community Based Transitional Justice in Post Genocide Rwanda

Published 13/06/2012
Type Article
Author(s) Angela Tobin
Corresponding Authors Angela Tobin, Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Edge Hill University

After decades of cycles of violence between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, 1994 witnessed genocide more effective than Hitler’s gas chambers (Carlsson, 2005) costing the lives of estimates between 500,000 (Desforges, 1999) to one million people (Gourevitch, 1998). The way communities and families killed neighbours and relatives has been documented by many. In light of the localised nature of this conflict, this contribution suggests that the community should be involved in the delivery of justice as part of an effort to repair the social bonds that were damaged. This article will focus on women’s relationship to transitional justice in the aftermath of the conflict. The role of communitybased organisations and the support they provided to widows of the conflict will be considered. Widows have been selected as the focal point as they represent a distinctive group: they must contend with gender-specific challenges in the wake of their loss and adapt to become responsible for tasks which they previously depended on male relatives to complete. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Gacaca, the formal judicial and quasi judicial models developed to aid all concerned with the means to face what had happened in order to live together peacefully, have been subject to much criticism; these will be discussed. The article will draw on empirical research exploring  community-based projects that were supported by a women’s charity, established to support widows and orphans in the aftermath of the genocide. Their efforts will be presented as an efficient and effective strategy of transitional justice, due to its location in the community.