How Well Has Rwanda Healed 25 Years After the Genocide?


25 years after the genocide, Rwanda is still an enigma. Its recovery in economic, social, and psychological terms is hotly debated, and almost every aspect of the past and present is still argued over.

A year after the genocide, about 120,000 suspected perpetrators were put in prisons built for 45,000. Another 300,000 were eventually incarcerated in appalling conditions. Some 46,000 Rwandans are still behind bars. Such was the scale of the genocide that from 2002 until 2012 a huge web of community courts known as gacaca was set up to dispense justice in a more traditional fashion, by asking witnesses to tell their stories before amateur judges. “No one claims that gacaca justice was perfect but very few here doubt that it saved Rwanda,” says Nick Johnson, a British law professor.

President Paul Kagame takes great pride in the fact that there has been no large-scale violence inside Rwanda for the past 24 years. In part, this has been achieved through a widely understood, if unspoken, contract whereby people have traded political freedom for peace and economic development. Few Rwandans have the nerve to dissent. In the words of one Rwandan journalist, “no one will ever tell you truly what they think.”

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The Economist