Truth and Reconciliation in Rwanda

We should all be familiar with the Rwandan genocide. Not only is it a prime example that genocide can happen anywhere and anytime — from Armenia to Germany to Rwanda — but it is also a prime example of the failures of the international community (including the UN) in preventing local atrocities from taking place. Furthermore, most of us are familiar with the blockbuster-hit Hotel Rwanda, the Oscar nominated film that illustrated these two points to the masses. However, if I asked you “what’s going on in Rwanda today?” would you have an answer? Until a few days ago, I certainly would not have had one. It seems as though everybody has moved on to fight the next big battle, leaving Rwanda as forgotten as it was before the terrible genocide took place.

Everybody that is, except for filmmaker Anne Aghion, who will make her second Global Voices appearance in the 2009 festival with her documentary My Neighbor My Killer. This is Anne’s third and final film about Rwanda, and so far My Neighbor My Killer has received tremendous reviews from the New York Times, Los Angles Times, Newsweek, and others. We are also happy to announce Anne will join us for the screening and discussion of My Neighbor My Killer, and our audience will have a chance to hear her speak directly about her trials and tribulations in Rwanda.

My Neighbor My Killer is the third and final documentary in a series of films Anne has made about the post-genocide reconciliation work going on in Rwanda. This documentary specifically details the Gacaca Courts’ impact on a local village in Rwanda. The Gacaca Court system (of which, sadly, I was completely ignorant until reading these CNN and Washington Post articles) is similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa after the abolition of Apartheid. The mission of these courts was to achieve truth, justice and reconciliation and to provide Rwanda with a way to move forward and rebuild. By 2000, there were over 130,000 genocide prisoners and thousands yet to be tried, and the government had to find a way to expedite both the justice and healing processes. Therefore, it released many of the prisoners and had them tried by local tribunals, with the ultimate goal of having the truth revealed rather than punishing the criminals. (Note, the leaders of the genocide were still tried in an official court). Ideally, families would have obtained closure much more quickly while thousands of Rwandans would have returned to society and helped it progress.

The Gacaca Court System is complex and its pros and cons are plentiful. It faces harsh criticisms and strong praise, both of which are depicted in the film. Ultimately, as Anne says in this interview with Voice of America News, it is too early to tell whether these trials attained their mission. Mostly Anne hopes that this documentary will “help… in bringing about conversation and discussion around issues of coexistence.” Well, Anne, Global Voices is ready to do just that!

Stay informed and enjoy the film,

Dan

p.s. this will be my last blog post as my summer internship with UNAGB has ended. I hope you found my posts informative and I would like to wish UNAGB best of luck with the festival. See you in October!!!

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