Reconciling Rwanda: Unity, nationality, and state control

Jennifer Melvin

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


In the 1990s, a number of countries including Guatemala, El Salvador,
and Bosnia and Herzegovina implemented conflict resolution mechanisms
to confront legacies of past violence. This ‘paradigm shift’ away from the
traditional judicial methods of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals sought to
engage directly with personal experiences of those who were affected by mass
human rights abuses and violations (Kritz, 1996, p. 128). Growing academic
interest in this approach to conflict resolution is evident in literature about
truth commissions and the concepts of unity and reconciliation more broadly.
This volume contributes a case-specific analysis of the National Unity and
Reconciliation Programme in post-conflict Rwanda to the broad sociological
study of reconciliation and human rights.

This book seeks to uncover and interpret how Rwanda’s official
reconciliation programme functions in social and political practice. It utilises
a social constructionist framework to provide a nuanced, theoretical and
empirical understanding of how the stated commitments, power dynamics and
political interests of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government inform
this programme. Moreover, this book critically analyses the National Unity and
Reconciliation Programme according to its own internal logic, international
human right standards, and the theory and practice of reconciliation as a
peacemaking paradigm. Rwanda’s official programme is shaped by three
major themes: justice; nation-building; and an interpretation of Rwandan
history referred to in this work as the ‘victor’s narrative’. The volume examines
how these themes reflect changing political interests and conceptions of
unity, identity, and ‘national reconciliation’ as defined by the RPF. It argues
that Rwanda’s National Unity and Reconciliation Programme is far from an
exercise in equality and engagement in the legacies of past violence. Instead,
it promotes a singular national identity secured by a distorted narrative of the
past and ambitious vision of future development. As such, this programme
is best understood as a nation-building and state-legitimisation project that
bolsters the political control of the current RPF regime.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherInstitute of Commonwealth Studies
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-912250-40-0
ISBN (Print)978-0-9931102-0-7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

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