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April 2017 Vol. 54 No. 8

University of Wisconsin Press

The following review appeared in the April 2017 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences
Political Science - Comparative Politics

Ingelaere, Bert. Inside Rwanda's Gacaca courts: seeking justice after genocide. Wisconsin, 2016. 234p bibl index ISBN 9780299309701, $64.95; ISBN 9780299309732 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Among numerous publications on the subject, this is the most rigorous and reliable. It has much to say about the difficulties of reconciliation politics. Ingelaere (Antwerp Univ., Belgium) spent months observing and interviewing participants in many locations. He observed 2,000 proceedings. He found that of the four goals set for Gacaca, only one was fully achieved. Gacaca mimicked the traditional cultural approach to conflict resolution but was absorbed into the judicial system; thus it was ultimately a hybrid. It became much less confessional, as initially intended; rather it was increasingly accusatory and adversarial in its orientation. Participation was generally low and declined over time. Gacaca often failed to provide “truth” (a concept Ingelaere considers from different perspectives) to many victimized survivors, except in a pragmatic sense, e.g., for those who had to coexist with their perpetrators. Ingelaere describes the invisible, pervasive presence of authority that "shapes speech and actions” previously suggested by Susan Thompson's Whispering Truth to Power (CH, Sep'14, 52-0509); that presence was only partly a consequence of Gacaca. A related chapter, "The Weight of the State,” should be required reading for scholars concerned about contemporary Rwanda.

--P. G. Conway, SUNY College at Oneonta

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals.