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Post-Conflict Reconciliation: A Humanitarian Myth?

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Abstract

The aim of the paper is to question the scope and limits of reconciliation as an effective peace-building process. It is to problematize a notion that is often taken for granted and to contribute to the understanding of the dynamics that take place between former enemies, and between various groups of actors on each side (be they survivors, policy-makers, perpetrators or outsiders such as international donors, practitioners, diplomats and scholars). To understand these dynamics, it seems fundamental to question the normative frame of reconciliation after wars and mass atrocities. Is reconciliation an unequivocal goal to be pursued whatever the circumstances? Beyond a theoretical interest, this question has a direct impact for practitioners; a better understanding of the issue is actually a sine qua non condition for more efficient interventions. The paper is divided into three parts. The first emphasizes the major conceptions of reconciliation as a peace-building process. The second stresses the attitude of the reconciliation advocates in Rwanda. Beside the official authorities, most peace builders called for reconciliation and forgiveness. The third and final part serves as a reminder that some survivors decided to resist this call for reconciliation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Gardner-Feldman (1999) distinguishes philosophical-emotional and practical-material components of reconciliation. In the same line, Long and Brecke (2003) analyse two main models of reconciliation: a signalling model and a forgiveness model. Hermann (2004) discerns cognitive, emotional-spiritual and procedural aspects of reconciliation. Nadler (2002) puts an emphasis on socio-emotional and instrumental reconciliation. Schaap (2005) emphasizes restorative and political reconciliation approaches. Galtung (2001) refers to no less than 12 different conceptions of reconciliation.

  2. 2.

    Herman Van Rompuy, 1 July 2013, Zagreb.

  3. 3.

    Ibidem.

  4. 4.

    Filmed over the course of 3 years, Icyizere Hope is a documentary by filmmaker Patrick Mureithi about a reconciliation workshop in Rwanda that brings together ten survivors and ten perpetrators of the 1994 genocide (2009, 1 h 35, Josiah Film). As We Forgive is the 2008 student documentary film by Laura Waters Hinson (53 min, produced by Stephen Maceevety). The film tells the story of two Rwandan women who come face-to-face with the neighbours who slaughtered their families during the 1994 genocide. The documentary Ingando – when enemies return (2007, 33 min, Safari Gaspard) tells the story of the troublesome relationship between ex-combatants and genocide survivors. The film by Martin Bush Larsen and Jesper Houborg follows two former soldiers’ lives in the Ingando, and gives a voice to their thoughts and dreams of a positive return. In Raindrop over Rwanda, the American philanthropist Charles Annenberg Weingarten tours Rwanda with host Honore Gatera to uncover the tragedy of the 1994 genocide (2010, 23 min, Annenberg Foundation).

  5. 5.

    See the website of As We Forgive.

  6. 6.

    See the of As We Forgive documentary film.

  7. 7.

    See the documentary Beyond Right and wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness, The Forgiveness Project.

  8. 8.

    In 2012 only, see the speeches made on 7 February, 30 March, 9 and 13 April, 16 May, 3 et 9 July. See the website http://www.presidency.gov.rw/, accessed 6 October 2014. The notion of resilience has also been chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the independence of Rwanda. See in this regard the event “A journey of Resilience” organized on 30 June 2012 the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington.

  9. 9.

    In 2012, see among others the speeches pronounced on 31 January, 1st and 21 May, 13 June, 31 August, 3 and 11 September.

  10. 10.

    Interviews made in Washington between February and June 2011.

  11. 11.

    See, for instance, the radio series produced by the Belgian NGO RCN—Justice et démocratie, “Si c’est là, c’est ici”, the impressive number of prizes won by the documentary film As we forgive or even the TV success of Immaculée Ilibagiza on CNN and CBS. The development of a real market in this field is also significant. See, for instance, the possibility to buy the ‘As we forgive movie event kit’ or the ‘4give T-shirt’ (during the screenings of the film and on line), the possibility to register for a conference, a retreat or even a pilgrimage (in Kibeho in Rwanda or in Banneux in Belgium) with Immaculée Ilibagiza. In 2012, the fees to participate in the Kibeho’s trip were 2,950$ (the price of the flight being not included). See http://www.immaculee.com, accessed 6 October 2014.

  12. 12.

    This part of the chapter is based on a research carried out with Brudholm and Rosoux.

  13. 13.

    All the stories can be read on the website of The Forgiveness Project.

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Rosoux, V. (2015). Post-Conflict Reconciliation: A Humanitarian Myth?. In: Gibbons, P., Heintze, HJ. (eds) The Humanitarian Challenge. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-13470-3_4

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