International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Measuring Reconciliation in Rwanda (in 2010)

In October of 2010, Rwanda’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) put forth the Rwandan Reconciliation Barometer (RRB), inspired by the South African Reconciliation Barometer, which has measured public opinion on national reconciliation in South Africa since 2003. The RRB is a “national public opinion survey that intends to track progress on the road to reconciliation in Rwanda by means of a structured quantitative research instrument” (9), with data collected by universal sampling from 3,000 Rwandans from all thirty districts in the country.

It seems as if the study was carried out by a team of consultants from the UNDP – DFID, or members of Britain’s Department for International Development under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program. This adds legitimacy to the survey’s findings, distancing it from the politicized government-run NURC.

If we trust the results of the barometer, it is simply a fascinating study, rich with information for our class – especially the findings on “Understanding the Past” (59-62), “Transitional Justice” (63-72), and “Social Cohesion” (73-88). I highly recommend looking through the tables in these sections, but some highlights in terms of the Gacaca courts include:
– 93.7% of respondents agree that most of what happened during the genocide has become known through the processes of the Gacaca, and 83.4% indicated that they believed in the impartiality of Gacaca judges.
– 89% felt that the punishments received by perpetrators were fair, while 70.8% of respondents felt that genocide survivors were fairly compensated.

The almost overwhelmingly positive numbers throughout the survey definitely spark some incredulity, which might point to methodological shortcomings. However, one figure stands in stark contrast to the rest of the results: a significant percentage of respondents (39.9%) believe that there are people in Rwandan society that would still perpetrate acts of genocide if given the opportunity (58). Does this finding negate the rest of the study? Does this sense of personal insecurity and distrust demonstrate a failure of reconciliation processes in Rwanda?

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One response to “Measuring Reconciliation in Rwanda (in 2010)

  1. patrickwu November 19, 2012 at 4:52 am

    Methodology is often a significant question when it comes to measuring the effects of recent institutions. It is important to note that there is a detailed methodology section in the study that states that citizens “were generally reluctant to participate in interviews related to very sensitive topics” (30). It even mentions that a lot of participants were unwilling to participate unless local leadership explicitly gave them permission to participate in the study. Many people were also reluctant to deal with the issue of race, and claimed that terms such as Hutu or Tutsi were forbidden by the government. Many were under the impression that “they themselves were being evaluated or tested on their knowledge and compliance with government policies” (31). The study claims they attempted to mitigate these effects by using interview scripts that complied with international ethical standards, using identifiable fieldwork badges, having close supervision of fieldworkers by professional supervisors, and guaranteeing the confidentiality and anonymity of all respondents (28). However, these steps are most likely unable to garner the full trust of all respondents because it is difficult to conduct a comprehensive study of the past without bringing up the terms of the past.

    Secondly, most of these surveys are on a scale of “Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, or I Don’t Know.” It is not surprising, given the initial distrust that some of the respondents may have harbored, that most of them would answer “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” when it came to evaluating something like the Gacaca—especially given that the Gacaca were state-run and state-enforced. Some of the surveys are also black and white answers, such as the Perceptions survey on page 68, which was only an agree or disagree answer. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and the survey cannot capture what degree of agreement the individual wanted to convey.

    Lastly, the statistic that showed that 39.9% of respondents believed that, given the opportunity, the genocide would happen again is a bit misleading because you have to think of the converse—this implies that 60% of individuals now believe the genocide would not happen even given the chance. This is a powerful statistic, especially given the conditions of the Rwandan genocide. Like many of the readings and videos we have watched show, many Tutsis were attacked by Hutus that attended their weddings, social events, and were, in general, friendly neighbors before the Rwandan Genocide. To have a statistic that showed that 60% of people trust the genocide would not happen again falls in line with the other statistics in this study.

    This is interesting because it shows how statistical studies, which are supposed to convey unbiased and objective opinions, can be influenced by politics. The way that these studies are designed, worded, conducted, and processed are important to the overall study results. In this study, it is clear that political fear and distrust of the fieldworkers were large contributing factors to how the respondents chose to respond to several of the questions.

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