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Rethinking Reconciliation: Concepts, Methods, and an Empirical Study of Truth Telling and Psychological Health in Rwanda
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Peace and Conflict Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3298-8848
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation combines psychology with peace and conflict research in a cross-disciplinary approach to reconciliation processes after intrastate armed conflict. Two overarching contributions are made to the field of reconciliation research. The first is conceptual and methodological. The vague concept of reconciliation is defined and operationalized (Paper I), and a method is proposed for how reconciliation may be studied systematically at the national level (Paper II). By discussing what reconciliation is and how we should measure it, comparative research on reconciliation is facilitated which is imperative if we wish to learn of its promises and pitfalls in post-conflict peacebuilding. The second contribution is empirical. There has been an assumption that truth telling is healing and thereby will lead to reconciliation; healing is the assumed link between truth and reconciliation. This assumption was investigated in two studies in Rwanda in 2006. A multistage, stratified cluster random survey of 1,200 adults was conducted to assess whether witnessing in the gacaca, the Rwandan village tribunals for truth and reconciliation, was beneficial for psychological health; thereby investigating the claim that truth telling is healing (Paper III). The results of the survey are disconcerting. Witnesses in the gacaca suffered from significantly higher levels of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder than non-witnesses also when controlling for important predictors for psychological ill-health such as gender or trauma exposure. To acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the experience of witnessing in the gacaca, in-depth interviews were conducted with 16 women genocide survivors who had witnessed in the gacaca (Paper IV). The results of this study challenge the claim that truth telling is healing, suggesting instead that there are risks for the individuals on whom truth-telling processes depend. Traumatization, ill-health, isolation, and insecurity dominate the lives of the testifying women. Insecurity as a result of the truth-telling process emerged as one of the most crucial issues at stake. This dissertation presents a novel understanding of the complexity of reconciliation in post-conflict peacebuilding, demonstrating that truth and reconciliation processes may entail more risks than were previously known. The results of this dissertation can be used to improve the study and the design of truth and reconciliation processes after civil war and genocide.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning , 2008. , p. 34
Series
Report / Department of Peace and Conflict Research, ISSN 0566-8808 ; 81
Keywords [en]
Peace and conflict research, reconciliation, truth commissions, truth telling, peacebuilding, internal conflict, security, witnessing, psychological health, Rwanda
Keywords [sv]
Freds- och konfliktforskning
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-8530ISBN: 978-91-506-1992-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-8530DiVA, id: diva2:171573
Public defence
2008-04-18, sal X, Universitetshuset, Uppsala, 10:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2008-03-28 Created: 2008-03-28 Last updated: 2017-05-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Reconciliation: Theory and Practice for Development Cooperation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reconciliation: Theory and Practice for Development Cooperation
Chapter in book (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-96850 (URN)
Available from: 2008-03-28 Created: 2008-03-28 Last updated: 2017-05-03Bibliographically approved
2. Analyzing Reconciliation: A Structured Method for Measuring National Reconciliation Initiatives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Analyzing Reconciliation: A Structured Method for Measuring National Reconciliation Initiatives
2008 (English)In: Peace and Conflict: The Journal of Peace Psychology, ISSN 1078-1919, E-ISSN 1532-7949, Vol. 14, no 3, p. 291-313Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Reconciliation efforts have become an almost routine element of postconflict peacebuilding. From a scientific point of view, we need tools to enable systematic studies of reconciliation. In this article a structured method for studying national reconciliation initiatives is suggested, focusing on public statements and behaviors of those in power. The aim is to contribute to the development of systematic research in the field, by designing a structured method to measure if, when and what kind of reconciliation initiatives promote durable peace and if and when they instead might be an obstacle to peacebuilding. Two widely used sources in peace and conflict research were used for coding: the Regional Survey of the World (RSW) and the Africa Research Bulletin (ARB). The analytical framework, built on Galtung’s well-known conflict triangle and applied to Rwanda and Mozambique, proves to be useful for structuring the analysis of reconciliation at this level. In addition, three hypotheses on reconciliation are generated which would benefit from further research.

Keywords
reconciliation, national level peacebuilding, method and hypotheses development
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-96851 (URN)10.1080/10781910802017354 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-03-28 Created: 2008-03-28 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
3. The Trauma of Truth Telling: Effects of Witnessing in the Rwandan Gacaca Courts on Psychological Health
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Trauma of Truth Telling: Effects of Witnessing in the Rwandan Gacaca Courts on Psychological Health
2010 (English)In: Journal of Conflict Resolution, ISSN 0022-0027, E-ISSN 1552-8766, Vol. 54, no 3, p. 408-437Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Truth telling has come to play a pivotal role in postconflict reconciliation processes around the world. A common claim is that truth telling is healing and will lead to reconciliation. The present study applies recent psychological research to this issue by examining whether witnessing in the gacaca, the Rwandan village tribunals for truth and reconciliation after the 1994 genocide, was beneficial for psychological health. The results from the multistage, stratified cluster random survey of 1,200 Rwandans demonstrate that gacaca witnesses suffer from higher levels of depression and PTSD than do nonwitnesses, also when controlling for important predictors of psychological ill health. Furthermore, longer exposure to truth telling has not lowered the levels of psychological ill health, nor has the prevalence of depression and PTSD decreased over time. This study strongly challenges the claim that truth telling is healing and presents a novel understanding of the complexity of truth-telling processes in postconflict peace building.

Keywords
truth commissions, truth telling, reconciliation, witnessing, PTSD, depression, Rwanda
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-96852 (URN)10.1177/0022002709360322 (DOI)000278482400002 ()
Available from: 2008-03-28 Created: 2008-03-28 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
4. Truth Telling as Talking Cure?: Insecurity and Retraumatization in the Rwandan Gacaca Courts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Truth Telling as Talking Cure?: Insecurity and Retraumatization in the Rwandan Gacaca Courts
2008 (English)In: Security Dialogue, ISSN 0967-0106, E-ISSN 1460-3640, Vol. 39, no 1, p. 55-76Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article presents unique material from in-depth interviews with 16 women in Rwanda who have testified in the gacaca, the village tribunals initiated to enhance reconciliation after the 1994 genocide. The aim of the interviews was to learn more of how testifying in such a public event as the gacaca affects psychological health. Do the women find the experience healing or retraumatizing? Are there other effects involved? There has been an assumption that testifying in truth and reconciliation commissions is a healing experience for survivors, and healing has been a central concept in the general reconciliation literature and in political rhetoric around truth commissions. However, the findings of this study are alarming. Traumatization, ill-health, isolation, and insecurity dominate the lives of these testifying women. They are threatened and harassed before, during, and after giving testimony in the gacaca. The article provides a picture of the reconciliation process that we seldom see.

Keywords
truth and reconciliation commissions, healing, security, psychological health, Rwanda
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-96853 (URN)10.1177/0967010607086823 (DOI)000253378000003 ()
Available from: 2008-03-28 Created: 2008-03-28 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved

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