"Reflections from the Kwibuka 30 Symposium: Commemorating the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda"

    Dr. Judith Rafferty, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow of the Cairns Institute, participated in a thought-provoking symposium at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, on April 11th and 12th. The symposium, titled "Kwibuka 30: Making Memory and Legacy in Rwanda," commemorated the 30th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. This two-day event, funded by the Strassler Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, brought together an international and interdisciplinary cohort of scholars.

    The symposium featured two keynote lectures, one by Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, former Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and another by Melanie O’Brien, Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Western Australia. Melanie O’Brien shared insights on recent developments in cases related to the Genocide Convention brough before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Justice Jallow reflected on the achievements and challenges of prosecuting the leaders of the Genocide against the Tutsi, drawing on his extensive experience at the ICTR and other international courts. Throughout the symposium, Dr. Rafferty had the privilege of engaging with Justice Jallow, gaining valuable insights into the inner workings of the prosecution team and the complexities of preparing and presenting cases against genocide suspects at the ICTR.

    Beside the key notes, the symposium comprised a one-day workshop focused on scholarship on the Genocide against the Tutsi. Together with the other workshop participants, Dr Rafferty discussed the question of who gets to tell Rwanda's story and the challenges of representation in scholarship. As part of a panel on "actors, violence, and survival," Dr. Rafferty presented her research on Rwandan women who suffered sexual violence during the genocide and subsequently had their cases tried at Rwanda’s community courts, known as "gacaca." Her presentation, titled "Giving Voice to those Who Suffer in Silence: Challenges of Including the Stories of Victim-Survivors in the Public Discourse of the Genocide against the Tutsi," shed light on the experiences and consequences faced by Rwandan victim-survivors, including physical, psychological, social, and economic repercussions.

    Dr. Rafferty’s contribution to the symposium deepened the ongoing dialogue on critical issues experienced by Rwandan victim-survivors, including stigma and community ostracism, which she previously explored in a policy brief co-authored with US scholar Nicole Fox, one of the organizers of the Kwibuka 30 event. The paper that Dr Rafferty presented during the Kwibuka 30 workshop constitutes a chapter in her forthcoming book “Justice Needs of Victim-Survivors of conflict-related Sexual Violence: Post-Genocide Justice and the Rwandan Gacaca Courts” (working title).

    The Kwibuka 30 Symposium provided a platform for meaningful reflection, collaboration, and exchange of ideas among scholars from various disciplines, contributing to a broader understanding of the genocide against the Tutsi and its lasting impact on Rwanda and the world.

    Image credit: Judith Rafferty

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