Rwanda Revisited

I am again in Kigali, two years after my initial visit in 2007, this time with three of my students who are working on separate research projects. Whereas the first time I was here by virtue of “coming along” on a trip that was planned by someone else, this is one of our own making: my students and I worked together on the proposal. So in that respect it feels more like “ours.” Still, as with most things, we received a great deal of help from others in making contacts for site visits, for which I am very grateful.

I just re-read the posts I made the first time I was here and realized that in my second post, I mentioned that I would ruminate on a number of topics that interested me during that visit. Of course, I never completed those. Hopefully this time I will be able to do some of those, and perhaps some new ones, from a fresh perspective and point of view.

Even though we’ve only been in-country for less than a day, it feels very familiar and comfortable to be back here. One of my students, Amanda, was with me on the last trip. Both she and I have grown quite a bit in the past two years, so it will be interesting to see how our knowledge and insights into this place have evolved over time. For the other two students–Ashley and Rob–this is their first time in Africa, and so it will be fun to watch their sense of discovery unfold.

We are all interested in Rwanda’s supposedly “post-ethnic” environment and the development projects that are framed in that context. The project that I was interested in pursuing has become moot–or rather, I now have an answer to my initial research question. I was interested in whether the Rwandan government might seek to mount a case in the International Court of Justice over their “finding” in the Mucyo Commission Report about France’s complicity in the genocide. The answer now seems to be most certainly, “no,” since it appears there has been a diplomatic rapprochement between Kigali and Paris in recent months. This seems to suggest that my initial intuition about the Mucyo findings was simply to put the question of complicity to rest (by finding that, despite France’s rejection of the accusation, it was indeed true) while at the same time saying to the Rwandan people, “we’re finished with this question. It’s time to move on.” Even though I believed Rwanda had a much better case of complicity against France than Bosnia did against Serbia, it appears that was not what motivated the constitution of the Mucyo Commission in the first place.

Still, my own interest aside, my reason for being here is really to help out my students in their own research. Amanda is writing a senior thesis on health financing in the areas of HIV, TB and malaria. Ashley’s project (again, a senior thesis) is exploring the claim of many microcredit programs that they “empower women,” without offering a great deal of empirical evidence (or not really defining what they mean by “empowerment.”) Rob in interested in the effects of Rwanda’s efforts at land reform–a vital component to Rwanda’s post-conflict development plans.

So, here we are, ready to get started…

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~ by de cive on January 3, 2010.

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