Add to Collection
About

About

We are unsatisfied with the thought that people have within them a capacity to commit horrific crimes against each other. When faced with the que… Read More
We are unsatisfied with the thought that people have within them a capacity to commit horrific crimes against each other. When faced with the question of understanding violence that seems outside human ability and beyond our comprehension, we seek another explanation. Many anthropologists seek to provide explanations for the unthinkable violence that occurred between racial and ethnic groups as in Rwanda and South Africa. Others, picking up where the previous group left off, chronicle attempts at justice following these atrocities and provide normative suggestions for future cases. These authors examine the difficult challenge of trying to provide a post-conflict justice appropriate for the violence that took place. Combined, all of these authors make the statement that even when machetes reassume their intended agricultural use, the culture of violence continues. In creating explanatory frameworks for crimes against humanity, anthropologists seek to answer several crucial questions surrounding the involved individuals and their methods. Authors quickly dismiss a tribal explanation because that would indicate that the groups would never get along (section 12/1). Setting that possibility aside, one of the most important considerations is to look at the perpetrators of the violence. We want to believe, and have evidence to indicate, that no individual would start on an ethnically motivated killing spree of his own accord; what influences previously normal people to kill? In Rwanda and in South Africa, leaders gathered directionless youth to escape economic collapse and join their ranks. In Rwanda where acts of genocide were described under the language of collective work, “The economic collapse of the late 1980’s had left tens of thousands of young men without any prospect of a job, wasting in idleness…and ripe for recruitment.” These men and other Hutus became the force of the men who “understood that in order to move a huge number of weak people to do wrong, it is necessary to appeal to their desire for strength” (Gourevitch 93 & 128). In South Africa economically oppressed black youth were recruited and quickly fell into the discipline and uniform of the ANC/MK to fight for liberation (”A Long Night’s Journey Into Day”). The obvious corollary to the identification of the perpetrators is a look at the identity of the victims. In South Africa, the victims could not have been more obvious. They were a single, identifiable race, corralled through Group Area Acts into all black communities (lecture 12/2). According to Mandami, what differentiated the violence in Rwandan genocide from previous violence was that Tutsis were killed as Tutsis for the first time. Despite the fictitious nature of the racial divisions between Tutsi and Hutu, the perspective victims were easy to seek out because of government issued identification cards and because people were killing the neighbors that had previously trusted them. The proximity of victims and killers in the Rwandan case formed the basis for the method of the genocide and dictated the type of violence. While in South Africa, whites had to venture from their communities to the black townships to carry out the killing, Rwandans received the signal to kill and turned on their Tutsi neighbors. Even the weapons of genocide are significant to understanding the violence and how people feel about if afterwards. The intimacy of the Rwandan genocide was energized by use of the machete as a tool of violence instead of guns or bombs, leading to laborious confrontations between Tutsi victims and their Hutu killers. It is easy to assume that such violence, chaotic as it may have been, could not be associated with the bureaucratic regime-led violence that we think of in the Holocaust and even in Apartheid. Power claims, and Gourevitch supports, that there was in fact a mechanism in place (lecture 11/23, Gourevitch 94-96). Identifying the existence of a mechanism for top down political violence is crucial for justice in the aftermath of genocide. Explanatory frameworks for the violence that composed genocide are crucial for deciding how to prosecute and restore afterwards. Following the overturn of the murderous regime, the new regime must decide the goals for the transitional period. One goal is individual justice for the survivors. Hayner says that this is “a fundamental difference between trails and truth commissions” which are “designed to focus primarily on victims” (Hayner 28). Another goal, often more popular with new governments, is national reconciliation. In Rwanda, where killers will eventually return to their villages to live beside the surviving Tutsis, national reconciliation cannot be attempted without a measure of individual justice. Individual justice for acts of violence, if not properly carried out, creates a risk of perpetuating a cycle of violence and impunity. The forms that try to answer for both of these demands are truth commissions and tribunals. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said in their mission statement that ‘the symbolic effect of prosecuting even a limited number of the perpetrators, especially the leaders who planned and instigated the genocide, would have considerable impact on national reconciliation” (”International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda” 509). Once formed, these courts face challenges including determining what role the violence of the acts perpetrated by an individual should play in their prosecution and punishment. The highly visible South African Truth Commission was forced to sort out from a culture of violence which crimes the truth commission should investigate and which should be left for ordinary judicial proceedings. They were offering amnesty and to be granted it, criminals had to prove that their violent act was politically motivated; a senseless murder in an environment of political unrest is not excusable even if that political unrest has created a broader tendency for violence (”A Long Night’s”). Mandami also believes that since the violence “involved large masses of people in common action, and not small groups or individuals in conspiracy, the violence needs to be understood as political, and not criminal” (Mandami 202). The Truth Commission believed that the motivations behind a crime should have bearing on the punishment; other anthropologists do not agree. On who and what to punish in South Africa, Juan Mendez sates “In cases involving ongoing armed conflict, similar crimes committed by insurgent forces should not be swept aside or pardoned” (”Dealing with the Past” 90). The question “are all murders equal?” was difficult for the South African Truth Commission because they had to address violence committed by both the apartheid forces and by the ANC anti-apartheid forces. In the film, Robert McBride was definitely guilty of the murder of several white people and there was much debate over whether his guilt was similar to that of apartheid forces (”A Long Night’s”). Beside from what group one acted with, what actions actually were committed also determines degree of guilt. In Rwanda, the Gacaca divided people into four categories “Leaders, ordinary men, those who wounded without the intention to kill, and blameless ones” (”Gacaca”). These categories were based on degrees of both violence and leadership. In civil court, degree of violence is sufficient. In the case of crimes against humanity, the leader’s crimes are often less violent than those acting below them. Juan Mendez makes a distinction between crimes against humanity such as murder that leave lasting personal damage and so called administrative crimes that he claims do not leave personal damage (”Dealing” 90). He does not think that the latter can be prosecuted and punished, including crimes of apartheid. A specific group he believes unpunishable is “political supporters, cheer leaders, or providers of moral or political support to the perpetrators of these abuses. Prosecutors are not in the place to make historical judgments” (”Dealing” 93). According to his framework, the radio executives at Rwandan station RTLM who gave the fighting orders for Hutus to attack specific groups of Tutsis should not be held accountable. Many in the US State department shared this view. “When Bushnell raised the issue of radio jamming, a Pentagon official chided her for her naivité: “Pru, radios don’t kill people, people kill people” (Power 102). Their broadcasts “often served as a highly accurate political weather forecast” and urged “listeners not to take pity on women and children” (Gourevitch 115). Mendez’s argument is weak because although these criminals may not personally have taken up arms, they were certainly a powerful force that caused “lasting personal damage” in the form of the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. The ideals of the Rwandan criminal tribunal also would have disagreed with Mendez’s claim. They logically decided that a direct causal link with a specific murder was not required to prosecute radio executives, high level planners, or government officials who called for “final solution, Rwandese-style” (”The International” 506). The statement that Truth Commissions are intended to help victims does not mean that the victims and survivors will be satisfied with the outcomes. Truth commissions assume that what the survivors of violent crimes want is legal or retributive justice. Some claim that what survivors of violence want is “to uphold the rule of the law” (”Dealing” 99). Few, if any people whose families have been slaughtered with machetes care about the law; the deaths were, of course, legally sanctioned at the time. Others propose that the goal of prosecution is to defend the norms that oppose violence, which is largely a statement of deterrence (”Dealing” 92). The situation in which a survivor of violence would want a Truth Commission is if they want revenge. Jacoby argues the utilitarian benefits of punishment including deterrence, distancing criminals from victims, and rehabilitation and questions our taboo against wanting revenge. “A victim wants to see an assailant punished not only for reasons of pragmatic deterrence but also as a means of repairing a damaged sense of civic order and personal identity” (Jacoby 9). The need for revenge may be stronger among survivors of brutal violence because not only their safety but also their personal identity was affronted by the violence and punishment may serve as a means of restoration. In the films on both Rwanda and South Africa, surviving family members said that they wanted the killers to suffer for the brutality they had inflicted. Minow cautions victims against thinking that “revenge will bring relief, even though the fantasy of revenge simply reverses the roles of perpetrator and victim…does the victim ever master the violence or instead become its tool?” (Minow 13). She leads us to believe that although one may not want to forgive, future violence may be prohibited if a people can learn to peacefully coexist (lecture 11/15). The case of the South African Truth Commission-in which national reconciliation was highly valued while individual apology and forgiveness were not-may suggest that her focus falls to heavily on national and elite reconciliation instead of on victims. Minow also argues that punishments like the death penalty set the precedent of repaying violence with violence but in Rwanda, the more important consideration who will be eligible for the death penalty. There, the Truth Commission, established to try the top officials, would not administer the death penalty because it was not progressively minded while their minions could receive the death penalty form the Rwandese courts. Often, instead of revenge, victims’ families want apologies. Truth Commissions may not give a stage for apologies. In South Africa, high officials got official forgiveness without any remorse or apology, appearing before the families who were allowed to attend as no less a heartless man than they were when they murdered a family. Mbelo offers an apology for violence so he can “face his black brothers and sisters daily” (”A Long Night’s”). Similarly, in the Gacaca tribunal, victims were face to face with killers and could ask for apologies that they often received because their neighbors turned murderers want to return home. As one Tutsi woman said “we will pardon those who ask for it” (”Gacaca”). One often forgotten justice desired by the families of violence victims is distributive justice (lecture 11/15). In both Rwanda and South Africa, there were economic precursors to violence like work forced out of the Hutus by the Tutsis and a history of slavery and general economic oppression by Afrikaners (Gourevitch 75, lecture 12/2). Killing ones family creates a lasting economic problem, which makes it harder to move on and creating a “political economy of forgiveness” (Hayner 18, lecture 11/15). Even if a person decides that they are going to forgive the violence perpetrated against them, they may not be able to overcome the economic exploitation that accompanied the violence. In the Gacaca court, many survivors said that they were willing to forgive as long as the criminal returned the cow because seeing him with it was a constant reminder of past wrongs. These demands may seem trivial to our minds but in an agricultural society, a family is necessary for survival. These victims realize that their families cannot come back and worry that there will be no one to fix a broken roof or to pay for a child’s education (”Gacaca”, “A Long Night’s”). Although victims may want to move on, they resent that the killers can return from prison and continue to enjoy the spoils of years of violence. The scarcity of attention paid to distributive justice makes difficult the noble goal of moving past roles of violence. Mandami asks if it is possible to stop thinking about victims and killers and begin to think about survivors. (Mandami 267-268, lecture 11/23). Post conflict violence lasts as long as the roles last; in Rwanda, the new president was even compelled to say “Let me appeal to those who have chosen the murderous and confrontational path, by reminding them that they too are Rwandans. I am calling upon you to abandon your genocidal and destructive ways, join hands with other Rwandans, and put that energy to better use. Once again, welcome home” (Gourevitch 308). South Africa tells us that violence during the conflict and post-conflict justice predicts post conflict violence. Lack of focus on distributive justice and punishment of beneficiaries of apartheid has left South Africa with an extremely high rate of violent crime. Although blacks are no longer lawfully oppressed, they cannot escape from their poverty stricken townships. In Mother to Mother, “white people live in their own areas and mind their own business-period. We live here, fight and kill each other. That is out business…I do not understand why it is that the government is giving him so much now when it has given him nothing all his life” (Magona 3-4). In South Africa, roles are not changed and from their position as victims, they can blame the poverty for violence. Rwanda is different because the power roles did in fact change. It was neither an inversion of power as in the Hutu uprising of 1959 nor was it a failed attempt at equality as in South Africa. In Rwanda where 70% of the Tutsi population was killed, there was much opportunity for economic profiteering. “Most of Taba’s Tutsis were killed then…With no means to rebuild and afraid to stay amid neighbors whose conduct during the killings they remembered all too well, many survivors had moved to this center to squat” (Gourevitch 304). In Rwanda, economic constraints were a main factor in preventing progress immediately after the genocide. Redistributive justice seems to be the answer for ending a culture of violence. The Gacaca ordered return of possessions and community service. The South African truth commission failed to ask for redistribution of generations of lost wealth. Unlike South Africa, Rwanda was a genocide fought out among relative economic equals and thus if they can forgive their neighbors, they will not be constantly reminded of the lasting inequality that accompanied the killing. Read Less
Published:
We are unsatisfied with the thought that people have within them a capacity to commit horrific crimes against each other. When faced with the question of understanding violence that seems outside human ability and beyond our comprehension, we seek another explanation. Many anthropologists seek to provide explanations for the unthinkable violence that occurred between racial and ethnic groups as in Rwanda and South Africa. Others, picking up where the previous group left off, chronicle attempts at justice following these atrocities and provide normative suggestions for future cases. These authors examine the difficult challenge of trying to provide a post-conflict justice appropriate for the violence that took place. Combined, all of these authors make the statement that even when machetes reassume their intended agricultural use, the culture of violence continues.
In creating explanatory frameworks for crimes against humanity, anthropologists seek to answer several crucial questions surrounding the involved individuals and their methods. Authors quickly dismiss a tribal explanation because that would indicate that the groups would never get along (section 12/1). Setting that possibility aside, one of the most important considerations is to look at the perpetrators of the violence. We want to believe, and have evidence to indicate, that no individual would start on an ethnically motivated killing spree of his own accord; what influences previously normal people to kill? In Rwanda and in South Africa, leaders gathered directionless youth to escape economic collapse and join their ranks. In Rwanda where acts of genocide were described under the language of collective work, “The economic collapse of the late 1980’s had left tens of thousands of young men without any prospect of a job, wasting in idleness…and ripe for recruitment.” These men and other Hutus became the force of the men who “understood that in order to move a huge number of weak people to do wrong, it is necessary to appeal to their desire for strength” (Gourevitch 93 & 128). In South Africa economically oppressed black youth were recruited and quickly fell into the discipline and uniform of the ANC/MK to fight for liberation (”A Long Night’s Journey Into Day”).
The obvious corollary to the identification of the perpetrators is a look at the identity of the victims. In South Africa, the victims could not have been more obvious. They were a single, identifiable race, corralled through Group Area Acts into all black communities (lecture 12/2). According to Mandami, what differentiated the violence in Rwandan genocide from previous violence was that Tutsis were killed as Tutsis for the first time. Despite the fictitious nature of the racial divisions between Tutsi and Hutu, the perspective victims were easy to seek out because of government issued identification cards and because people were killing the neighbors that had previously trusted them. The proximity of victims and killers in the Rwandan case formed the basis for the method of the genocide and dictated the type of violence. While in South Africa, whites had to venture from their communities to the black townships to carry out the killing, Rwandans received the signal to kill and turned on their Tutsi neighbors. Even the weapons of genocide are significant to understanding the violence and how people feel about if afterwards. The intimacy of the Rwandan genocide was energized by use of the machete as a tool of violence instead of guns or bombs, leading to laborious confrontations between Tutsi victims and their Hutu killers. It is easy to assume that such violence, chaotic as it may have been, could not be associated with the bureaucratic regime-led violence that we think of in the Holocaust and even in Apartheid. Power claims, and Gourevitch supports, that there was in fact a mechanism in place (lecture 11/23, Gourevitch 94-96). Identifying the existence of a mechanism for top down political violence is crucial for justice in the aftermath of genocide.
Explanatory frameworks for the violence that composed genocide are crucial for deciding how to prosecute and restore afterwards. Following the overturn of the murderous regime, the new regime must decide the goals for the transitional period. One goal is individual justice for the survivors. Hayner says that this is “a fundamental difference between trails and truth commissions” which are “designed to focus primarily on victims” (Hayner 28). Another goal, often more popular with new governments, is national reconciliation. In Rwanda, where killers will eventually return to their villages to live beside the surviving Tutsis, national reconciliation cannot be attempted without a measure of individual justice. Individual justice for acts of violence, if not properly carried out, creates a risk of perpetuating a cycle of violence and impunity. The forms that try to answer for both of these demands are truth commissions and tribunals. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said in their mission statement that ‘the symbolic effect of prosecuting even a limited number of the perpetrators, especially the leaders who planned and instigated the genocide, would have considerable impact on national reconciliation” (”International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda” 509). Once formed, these courts face challenges including determining what role the violence of the acts perpetrated by an individual should play in their prosecution and punishment.
The highly visible South African Truth Commission was forced to sort out from a culture of violence which crimes the truth commission should investigate and which should be left for ordinary judicial proceedings. They were offering amnesty and to be granted it, criminals had to prove that their violent act was politically motivated; a senseless murder in an environment of political unrest is not excusable even if that political unrest has created a broader tendency for violence (”A Long Night’s”). Mandami also believes that since the violence “involved large masses of people in common action, and not small groups or individuals in conspiracy, the violence needs to be understood as political, and not criminal” (Mandami 202). The Truth Commission believed that the motivations behind a crime should have bearing on the punishment; other anthropologists do not agree. On who and what to punish in South Africa, Juan Mendez sates “In cases involving ongoing armed conflict, similar crimes committed by insurgent forces should not be swept aside or pardoned” (”Dealing with the Past” 90). The question “are all murders equal?” was difficult for the South African Truth Commission because they had to address violence committed by both the apartheid forces and by the ANC anti-apartheid forces. In the film, Robert McBride was definitely guilty of the murder of several white people and there was much debate over whether his guilt was similar to that of apartheid forces (”A Long Night’s”). Beside from what group one acted with, what actions actually were committed also determines degree of guilt. In Rwanda, the Gacaca divided people into four categories “Leaders, ordinary men, those who wounded without the intention to kill, and blameless ones” (”Gacaca”). These categories were based on degrees of both violence and leadership. In civil court, degree of violence is sufficient.
In the case of crimes against humanity, the leader’s crimes are often less violent than those acting below them. Juan Mendez makes a distinction between crimes against humanity such as murder that leave lasting personal damage and so called administrative crimes that he claims do not leave personal damage (”Dealing” 90). He does not think that the latter can be prosecuted and punished, including crimes of apartheid. A specific group he believes unpunishable is “political supporters, cheer leaders, or providers of moral or political support to the perpetrators of these abuses. Prosecutors are not in the place to make historical judgments” (”Dealing” 93). According to his framework, the radio executives at Rwandan station RTLM who gave the fighting orders for Hutus to attack specific groups of Tutsis should not be held accountable. Many in the US State department shared this view. “When Bushnell raised the issue of radio jamming, a Pentagon official chided her for her naivité: “Pru, radios don’t kill people, people kill people” (Power 102). Their broadcasts “often served as a highly accurate political weather forecast” and urged “listeners not to take pity on women and children” (Gourevitch 115). Mendez’s argument is weak because although these criminals may not personally have taken up arms, they were certainly a powerful force that caused “lasting personal damage” in the form of the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. The ideals of the Rwandan criminal tribunal also would have disagreed with Mendez’s claim. They logically decided that a direct causal link with a specific murder was not required to prosecute radio executives, high level planners, or government officials who called for “final solution, Rwandese-style” (”The International” 506).
The statement that Truth Commissions are intended to help victims does not mean that the victims and survivors will be satisfied with the outcomes. Truth commissions assume that what the survivors of violent crimes want is legal or retributive justice. Some claim that what survivors of violence want is “to uphold the rule of the law” (”Dealing” 99). Few, if any people whose families have been slaughtered with machetes care about the law; the deaths were, of course, legally sanctioned at the time. Others propose that the goal of prosecution is to defend the norms that oppose violence, which is largely a statement of deterrence (”Dealing” 92). The situation in which a survivor of violence would want a Truth Commission is if they want revenge. Jacoby argues the utilitarian benefits of punishment including deterrence, distancing criminals from victims, and rehabilitation and questions our taboo against wanting revenge. “A victim wants to see an assailant punished not only for reasons of pragmatic deterrence but also as a means of repairing a damaged sense of civic order and personal identity” (Jacoby 9). The need for revenge may be stronger among survivors of brutal violence because not only their safety but also their personal identity was affronted by the violence and punishment may serve as a means of restoration. In the films on both Rwanda and South Africa, surviving family members said that they wanted the killers to suffer for the brutality they had inflicted. Minow cautions victims against thinking that “revenge will bring relief, even though the fantasy of revenge simply reverses the roles of perpetrator and victim…does the victim ever master the violence or instead become its tool?” (Minow 13). She leads us to believe that although one may not want to forgive, future violence may be prohibited if a people can learn to peacefully coexist (lecture 11/15). The case of the South African Truth Commission-in which national reconciliation was highly valued while individual apology and forgiveness were not-may suggest that her focus falls to heavily on national and elite reconciliation instead of on victims. Minow also argues that punishments like the death penalty set the precedent of repaying violence with violence but in Rwanda, the more important consideration who will be eligible for the death penalty. There, the Truth Commission, established to try the top officials, would not administer the death penalty because it was not progressively minded while their minions could receive the death penalty form the Rwandese courts.
Often, instead of revenge, victims’ families want apologies. Truth Commissions may not give a stage for apologies. In South Africa, high officials got official forgiveness without any remorse or apology, appearing before the families who were allowed to attend as no less a heartless man than they were when they murdered a family. Mbelo offers an apology for violence so he can “face his black brothers and sisters daily” (”A Long Night’s”). Similarly, in the Gacaca tribunal, victims were face to face with killers and could ask for apologies that they often received because their neighbors turned murderers want to return home. As one Tutsi woman said “we will pardon those who ask for it” (”Gacaca”).
One often forgotten justice desired by the families of violence victims is distributive justice (lecture 11/15). In both Rwanda and South Africa, there were economic precursors to violence like work forced out of the Hutus by the Tutsis and a history of slavery and general economic oppression by Afrikaners (Gourevitch 75, lecture 12/2). Killing ones family creates a lasting economic problem, which makes it harder to move on and creating a “political economy of forgiveness” (Hayner 18, lecture 11/15). Even if a person decides that they are going to forgive the violence perpetrated against them, they may not be able to overcome the economic exploitation that accompanied the violence. In the Gacaca court, many survivors said that they were willing to forgive as long as the criminal returned the cow because seeing him with it was a constant reminder of past wrongs. These demands may seem trivial to our minds but in an agricultural society, a family is necessary for survival. These victims realize that their families cannot come back and worry that there will be no one to fix a broken roof or to pay for a child’s education (”Gacaca”, “A Long Night’s”). Although victims may want to move on, they resent that the killers can return from prison and continue to enjoy the spoils of years of violence.
The scarcity of attention paid to distributive justice makes difficult the noble goal of moving past roles of violence. Mandami asks if it is possible to stop thinking about victims and killers and begin to think about survivors. (Mandami 267-268, lecture 11/23). Post conflict violence lasts as long as the roles last; in Rwanda, the new president was even compelled to say “Let me appeal to those who have chosen the murderous and confrontational path, by reminding them that they too are Rwandans. I am calling upon you to abandon your genocidal and destructive ways, join hands with other Rwandans, and put that energy to better use. Once again, welcome home” (Gourevitch 308). South Africa tells us that violence during the conflict and post-conflict justice predicts post conflict violence. Lack of focus on distributive justice and punishment of beneficiaries of apartheid has left South Africa with an extremely high rate of violent crime. Although blacks are no longer lawfully oppressed, they cannot escape from their poverty stricken townships. In Mother to Mother, “white people live in their own areas and mind their own business-period. We live here, fight and kill each other. That is out business…I do not understand why it is that the government is giving him so much now when it has given him nothing all his life” (Magona 3-4). In South Africa, roles are not changed and from their position as victims, they can blame the poverty for violence.
Rwanda is different because the power roles did in fact change. It was neither an inversion of power as in the Hutu uprising of 1959 nor was it a failed attempt at equality as in South Africa. In Rwanda where 70% of the Tutsi population was killed, there was much opportunity for economic profiteering. “Most of Taba’s Tutsis were killed then…With no means to rebuild and afraid to stay amid neighbors whose conduct during the killings they remembered all too well, many survivors had moved to this center to squat” (Gourevitch 304). In Rwanda, economic constraints were a main factor in preventing progress immediately after the genocide. Redistributive justice seems to be the answer for ending a culture of violence. The Gacaca ordered return of possessions and community service. The South African truth commission failed to ask for redistribution of generations of lost wealth. Unlike South Africa, Rwanda was a genocide fought out among relative economic equals and thus if they can forgive their neighbors, they will not be constantly reminded of the lasting inequality that accompanied the killing.