Promoting Reconciliation through Exhuming and Identifying Victims in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide

Africa Initiative Discussion Paper No. 4

July 20, 2012

Drawing upon interviews conducted with 24 Kibuye-based survivors, as well as GOR officials from around Rwanda, the paper argues that survivors — while appreciative of any effort to memorialize the 1994 genocide — are negotiating psychological and spiritual distress as a result of their inability to definitively identify and rebury the remains of their missing loved ones with respect. This distress, in turn, makes it difficult for them to envision a stable future for their communitythat includes multi-ethnic collaboration. For this reason, the paper asserts that the international community, in collaboration with the GOR and survivor communities around Rwanda, should pursue new humanitarian exhumations. These exhumations should be mandated to positively identify the anonymous victims of the 1994 genocide and return any identified remains to their surviving families for reburial.

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Africa Initiative Discussion Paper Series

The Africa Initiative Discussion Paper Series presents policy-relevant, peer-reviewed, field-based research that addresses substantive issues in the areas of conflict resolution, energy, food security, health, migration and climate change. The aim of the series is to promote discussion and advance knowledge on issues relevant to policy makers and opinion leaders in Africa. Papers in this series are written by experienced African and Canadian researchers, and have gone through the grant review process, or, in select cases, are commissioned studies supported by the Africa Initiative research program.

About the Author

Erin Jessee is a Banting post-doctoral fellow with the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She holds a Ph.D. in the humanities from Concordia University in Montreal, an M.A. in archaeology with a specialization in forensics and a B.A. with a double major in archaeology and anthropology from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.