28 Sept 2015 – The Aegis Trust has announced the selection of twelve research proposals to receive funding as part of its Research, Policy and Higher Education (RPHE) Department, supported by the UK’s Department for International Development. A selection panel comprising academics from the UK and Rwanda chose from a competitive field of 120 research proposals responding to the call for applications issued to Rwandan academics in January.

The selected innovative research proposals address seven broad themes: 1) memory, identity and narrative, 2) reconciliation and social cohesion, 3) transitional justice, 4) trauma and psychological/ psycho-social issues, 5) gender dimensions of post-genocide recovery, 6) post-genocide economic development, 7) education, media and peacebuilding.

Dr Phil Clark, Head of the RPHE Programme and Reader in Comparative and International Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, commented, “Both our first and second calls for proposals received an incredible response in terms of both quality and quantity, which indicates the breadth and vibrancy of the Rwandan research community. The purpose of this programme is to support Rwandan researchers, to showcase the best of their work internationally and to enhance interactions between the academic and policy fields. The selected projects will undoubtedly do that.”

Successful candidates, who have been notified individually, will benefit from a series of workshops and a programme of peer mentoring that will take place throughout the coming 12 months.

The deadline for the submission of the selected authors’ papers, with accompanying policy briefs, will be in May 2016. The papers will eventually be submitted as articles to peer-reviewed academic journals or as chapters in edited scholarly collections. Unsuccessful candidates are encouraged to apply again during the next call for proposals.

The complete list of selected research proposals follows, together with short resumes of the authors:

“Identity Change across the Lifespan of Genocide Perpetrators: Narrative Research among Prisoners in Rwanda”

Co-Author: Felix Bigabo has worked as a Field Coordinator for the Community Based Sociotherapy Program, a Program Manager at Prison Fellowship Rwanda, and has a Masters degree in Counselling from Atlantic International University.

Co-Author: Angela Jansen is a Program Manager at the Community Based Sociotherapy Program, and has worked as a researcher on gender and conflict issues in many countries; she has a Masters degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

Description: This study will focus on life histories of the genocide perpetrators who are currently incarcerated in Muhanga Prison due to the crimes they committed in 1994, and the way their identity is being shaped and transformed across the lifespan. Aiming at a more comprehensive picture about how identity of genocide perpetrators is in transition across the lifespan, the study can contribute to establish patterns of genocide prevention. Based on a grounded theory approach, ten life histories of genocide perpetrators will be collected through multiple interviews.

“Rwanda’s Inyangamugayo”

Co-Author: Jean Damascene Gasanabo holds a PhD in Education from the University of Geneva, Switzerland and is Director General in Charge of the Research and Documentation Center on Genocide within the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG). He has published and presented widely and has extensive research experience in the University of Geneva.

Co-Author: Donatien Nikuze holds a Masters degree in Genocide Studies and Prevention from the former National University of Rwanda. He is a Research Fellow at the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) and worked on victim and witness assistance and protection for the National Public Prosecution Authority of Rwanda.

Co-Author: Hollie Nyseth Brehm is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ohio State University. Having gained her PhD at the University of Minnesota in 2014, she has a prolific record of publications and presentations.

Description: In response to the 1994 genocide the government of Rwanda created the gacaca courts to address crimes of genocide. Rwandan community members were elected to serve as judges (inyangamugayo). Despite their vital role in both the gacaca court system and in the broader reconciliation process, little is known about the inyangamugayo. Therefore, the project will – based upon interviews – investigate how the inyangamugayo seeked to do justice in the context of mass atrocity and how their involvement in the court system influenced their respective life courses.

“Understanding Gender Equality in Rwanda: The Lived Experiences of People in Rural Communities”

Author: Mediatrice Kagaba is studying for a PhD at the University of Gothenburg and her dissertation is on the complexity of gender dilemmas in Rwanda. She has a Masters degree in development studies from Ewha Women University in Seoul, South Korea.

Description: Recent studies suggest that there are ‘two different Rwandas’ in terms of the outcomes of gender equality policies: at the national level gender equality looks very good, but at the family level, in rural areas, inequalities and violence in homes are pervasive. By addressing the academic void in this area (so far, all studies are quantitative in nature), the study seeks to fill this gap with qualitative interviews, exploring how people in rural communities experience the new gender equality practices in Rwanda today, and how their experiences fit into, fall outside of, or expand on and complicate the ‘two Rwandas’ claim.

“Media Policymaking, Regulation and the Struggle for a Free Media in Post-Genocide Rwanda”

Author: Christopher Kayumba has a PhD in Peace and Development from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and is Senior Lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Rwanda. Dr Kayumba specializes in the nexus between media/communication, development, security/peace and democracy issues.

Description: Ever since the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) captured state power in Rwanda in 1994, its led government has consistently been accused by media watchdogs and human rights groups of press repression. The government addressed these accusations by putting in place a legal, policy and institutional framework. Tracing media policymaking since the end of the genocide in 1994, the aim of this research paper is to measure media freedom in the country while inquiring why – despite media reforms carried out thus far – the government is still perceived by media watchdogs to violate media freedom.

“’The True Healing is Healing Together’: Reconciliation and Social Cohesion”

Author: Regine King is the Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto. Her research interests are mental health in cross-cultural settings, survivors of organized violence, refugees, women’s rights and other issues related to peace and conflict.

Description: Two decades after the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, it is still a puzzling question how survivors, perpetrators, bystanders and their families continue to live side by side in communities. Although there is a huge amount of research literature on the rebuilding of infrastructure and restoring of the social fabric of society, the basic issues of grassroots relationships in communities remain largely understudied and unaddressed. The study therefore seeks to fill this gap by assessing the impact of local initiatives that have assisted with ending aggression, healing psychosocial wounds, promoting reconciliation, and encouraging peaceful coexistence. The project draws upon data collected in a 5-year longitudinal study on a ‘Healing of Life Wounds’ (HLW) workshop from 2010 to 2015.

“New Media and Hate Speech: Ingengabitekerezo in the Age of Social Media”

Author: Gilbert Mucyo is a Communications Researcher at the Office of the Government Spokesperson. He holds a Masters degree from the University of East Anglia from 2015, was a Fellow at the Centre for Global Business Studies at Howard University in 2014, and studied for a BA in Communications at the National University of Rwanda.

Description: Widespread hate speech and genocide ideology is still propagated among various spheres of the Rwandan society. Although Radio is probably still the medium of choice for many Rwandans today, there is a massive increase in usage of social media – not only, but especially within the Rwandan diaspora. This research project will analyse how the genocide ideology is currently portrayed and spread on various social media in post genocide-Rwanda. The goal is to explore whether the pre-1994 genocide discourse is simply pursued on the new platforms, or whether the latter have led to adaptation and transformation of the ideology. The results will then inform policy makers as well as law makers on how to deal with complexities around regulating hate speech.

“The RPF through its Songs: Analysing the RPF Ideology on Reconciliation, Social Cohesion and Development through the Songs of the Liberation Struggle”

Co-Author: Assumpta Mugiraneza is Co-Founder and Director of IRIBA Center for Multimedia Heritage. She lectured at l’Université de Paris VIII, Vincennes-Saint Denis, for the Institute of Distance Learning at the Department of Psychology, Social and Clinical Practices. She contributed to various projects, conferences and films about the history of genocide and memorialization in Rwanda and internationally.

Co-Author: Benjamin Chemouni is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics. In his thesis he analyses state effectiveness in Rwanda and Burundi through the lens of heath and agriculture sectors based on extensive fieldwork in both countries.

Description: Much research on Rwanda often draws a direct line between RPF ideology and the process of reconciliation, social cohesion and economic development in post-1994 Rwanda. Frequently mentioned are the RPF views on national identity (“Rwandanness”) and self-reliance (kwigira) as ideological aspects that deeply shaped Rwanda’s post genocide trajectory. Although often referred to, there have been very few attempts to delineate this ideology and identify its evolution over time. The drawn links between ideology and policymaking are mostly based upon common sense assumptions and lack conceptual clarity. The study will fill this very gap by crystallizing the RPF original ideology regarding social cohesion, reconciliation and economic development through exploring the RPF songs prior and just after 1994 and will also show how this ideology evolved since the genocide.

“The Effects of Women’s Political Participation on Gender Relations in Rwanda: Mirroring Practices at the Grassroots Level, 1999-2015”

Author: Josephine Mukabera is a PhD candidate Seoul National University in South Korea at the College of Social Science in the field of interdisciplinary gender studies. She has been a lecturer in social sciences, project management and psychiatry in Rwanda since 2008.

Description: Gender equality has become essential to the quality of human rights, sustainable development, and democracy so that women’s political participation is promoted in many countries. The Rwandan Government is highly committed to reduce gender-based inequalities in all areas. Although many programs were introduced to face this issue, there is lack of balance between gender equality policy and its translation into practice, mainly due to gender blindness of public laws, patriarchal cultural norms and religious beliefs, customary teaching and practices of institutions. The study therefore seeks to explore what changes in grassroots gender relations are correlated with the high number of women participating in parliament and government of Rwanda, in order to have a better understanding of these links and to suggest appropriate strategies to strengthen the development of equal gender relations.

“Inyangamugayo: Women’s Empowerment through Participation as Gacaca Judges and its Impact on Everyday Life”

Author: Francine Mukandori is a PhD student at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, writing on discrimination against women prior to 1994. She holds a master’s degree in Social Impact Assessment and has a lot of expertise in psychological care and empowerment of women and child protection.

Description: One of the most significant aspects of the transformation of the traditional dispute-settling mechanism known as gacaca into a modern system of criminal prosecution called “gacaca courts” was to allow women to participate at all levels in the gacaca courts. Unimaginable under the traditional form of gacaca because of discrimination against women and the patriarchal structure of Rwandan society, women represented approximately 40% of judges in the gacaca courts. Surprisingly, the empowerment of Rwandan women through their participation in the gacaca courts has not been given sufficient attention. This study will thus attempt to answer the question to what extent the Inyangamugayo women’s empowerment through their participation in gacaca courts as judges has had a positive impact on their private and public lives. The project will be based upon in-depth interviews with women who worked as Inyangamugayo in the gacaca courts and with husbands of Inyangamugayo women.

“On Agaciro: A Decolonial Study of Sovereignty and Self-Determination”

Co-Author: Eric Ndushabandi holds a PhD in political and social science from the University Saint Louis-Bruxelles. His thesis was about the politics of memory before the 1994 genocide, looking at Ingando.

Co-Author: Olivia Rutazibwa received her doctorate in International Relations from the Centre of EU Studies at Ghent University, writing about ‘the Problematics of EU Ethical Foreign Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa and Elsewhere’. She currently is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Käthe-Hamburger-Kolleg at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany.

Description: This paper studies the phenomenon of Agaciro – both a philosophy and public policy in contemporary Rwanda that promotes the ideals of self-worth and value as a path to individual and societal development and reconciliation. Through tri-lingual (Kinyarwanda, English, and French) interviews, systematic (social) media and public documents analysis, and a contextualised scrutiny of selected presidential speeches, this collaborative research effort seeks to document the understudied phenomenon of Agaciro for wider use and to engage the insights of Agaciro for a decolonial contribution to contemporary theoretical debates on self-determination and sovereignty in IR as part of a book project titled “Agaciro, Black Power and Autonomous Recovery. A Decolonial Study of Self-determination in a World of R2P”.

“Rural Women Informal Groups (IBIMINA) as a Factor in Post-Genocide Economic Empowerment”

Author: Venantie Nyiransabimana is in the final phase of her PhD dissertation in Development Studies at Nkumba University in Entebbe. She has been an Assistant Lecturer in Rwanda since 2006.

Description: Rwanda has addressed the issue of feminization of poverty through a number of strategies, including entrenching gender equality and the empowerment of women at the heart of all development strategies, policies and programs. Women became a driving force of the socio-economic development of the country after the 1994 genocide. Informal finance initiatives have existed in Rwanda for some time, such as small self-help peasant organizations (tontines and ibimina) used for agriculture, cattle breeding and the purchase of domestic equipment, but have been initiated after 1994 mainly by women in different areas of the country. Women’s informal groups are crucial to improving the standard of living for women. This quantitative research conducted in two sectors in Gakenke district will try to show how informal groups at grassroots level are a factor of a paramount importance to enable women economic empowerment in post genocide period.

“Citizenship Education in Post-Genocide Rwanda: the Itorero Training Scheme for High School Leavers”

Co-Author: Mr. Sylvestre Nzahabwanayo is a PhD candidate in Philosophy of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Philosophy. His research area is Political Philosophy applied to Education including issues like citizenship, values, peace, democracy, and human rights education. He has been a lecturer since 2010.

Co-Author: Kai Horsthemke is a Research Fellow at the Philosophical-Pedagogical Faculty of the University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany. He is also a Visiting Professor at Wits School of Education at University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Among his broad publication record are books and articles about animal ethics, African ethics, humane education and theory of knowledge.

Description: One of the root causes of the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 was a distorted understanding of citizenship by confining it to ethnic belonging. Post-genocide reconstruction, social cohesion and peace building have to deal with the issue of citizenship. The Rwandan government therefore decided to retrieve its traditional citizenship education school – “Itorero” – to enable Rwandans (mainly the youth) learn values and taboos of their culture. A number of studies have suggested that there is a need to revitalize African non-formal or indigenous citizenship education, in order to strengthen democratic culture and institutions. So far, little attention has been paid to the evaluation of the implementation of such African indigenous practices in citizenship education. The present research aims to fill this gap. It strives to assess to which extent the current Itorero avoids the pitfalls of traditional African citizenship education practices, chief among which is “indoctrination” as opposed to “reflective thinking”, and if it provides a valid perspective from which to view democracy and citizenship education.