Based on long-term fieldwork in urban and rural Rwanda between 1997 and 2002 as well as on recent focus groups and interviews conducted in May and June 2007, this article explores local perceptions of the Gacaca process and asks whether Gacaca is fulfilling its primary goals to "end impunity," promote reconciliation, and establish, in the words of Paul Kagame, the "real truth of what happened during the Genocide." The findings indicate that how well Gacaca is functioning varies a great deal from community to community. The most important variable appears to be the character of the inyangamugayo ("persons of integrity") who serve as both judge and jury in the Gacaca system. Regardless of how well Gacaca is operating, in communities where research was conducted, the process has increased conflict in local communities (or at least brought it to the surface) and intensified ethnic cleavages in the short term. Since the Gacaca process began its pilot phase in 2001, community-based organizations that had reestablished or built new cross-ethnic relationships have faced extreme difficulties as other people (both Tutsi and Hutu) within the community have tried to destroy solidarity across ethnic lines. Increasing ethnic cleavages in the short term would not necessarily be a negative outcome if the long-term prospects for building a peaceful society were good. Unfortunately, given local perceptions of widespread injustice in the Gacaca process, the latter is not the case.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 173-193
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.