Twenty Years After Genocide: The Role of Psychology in the Reconciliation and Reconstruction Process in Rwanda


  • Craig McGarty


This Special Thematic Section brings together eight papers that showcase different aspects of the contribution of psychology to the processes of recovery in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide. The Section is noteworthy in part because a majority of the papers have Rwandan authors. In summarizing the contributions I make six observations about the remarkable context of the genocide and its aftermath: a) it was distinctive from previous mass violence in its intensity and character; b) it has been characterized by bystander inaction and the problems of positioning outsiders to help; c) hundreds of thousands of accused or convicted perpetrators have lived alongside survivors; d) electronic media played a profound role not only in promoting violence but also in building peace; e) Rwanda has been the site of unprecedented societal interventions with political goals that have the character and content of social psychological experiments; and f) the role of memorialization in repairing or sustaining harm needs further examination. I conclude by noting that the study of recovery is clear proof that the genocide in Rwanda, as is the case with genocides of the past, failed to achieve its aims.