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In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, reconciliation and the building of a unified nation have become key challenges for the new Rwandan political elite. To this end, over almost two decades, the government has introduced a variety of supposedly ‘traditional,’ ‘local’ and ‘participatory’ activities ranging from the well-studied gacaca courts (‘justice on the grass’) (see e.g., Clark 2010, Ingelaere 2009, Rettig 2008, Oomen 2006) to very little known activities such as ingando camps, itorero schools, ubudehe ‘mutual assistance’ schemes, ubusabane ‘get-together’ festivals, abakangurambaga or local ‘promoters,’ among many others. The present paper could have focused on a number of the recently-introduced ‘unity and reconciliation’ activities since all but gacaca have received almost no scholarly attention. Ingando camps, however, should interest us for many reasons, many of which will become apparent throughout the analysis below. Just as with the other activities, ingando offers insights into the performative aspect of nation-building—the ways in which a nation/unity is being ‘enacted,’ what type(s) of ‘unities’ are thus actually being built in Rwanda and how they are being built (official versions versus those that arise from enaction), and what other (non-stated) objectives might be served in the name of ‘nation-building.’ But unlike other activities, the camps provide a unique insight into the way in which spatial and symbolic aspects, especially ‘liminality’ (a camp as a transient and transitional space), are being used to reproduce power (a structural set of relations).

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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