Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Habari ya asubuhi!

Good morning to you in swahili (which by the way is a made up language to facilitate trade on the East African coast). I am back in Arusha after 8 days on Kilimanjaro and 6 on safari. Feeling weary, wizened, finally washed, and very much in love with everything Tanzanian. The rest of my comrades in the W&L Outing Club are mid-flight to Amsterdam right now and it feels a little eerie to be finally on my own. I'm staying at the Naaz Hotel, and though my gut clinched when they dropped me off at its grimy facade, an alley opened up to a beautiful little courtyard and I'm staying in a chic room with a tile floor, a self-contained hot shower, and a double bed--couldnt be much better after 15 days camping in the bush! It's currently 3:00 am and I'm awake because I've just spoken with my parents (the seven hour time difference is a bit taxing) and also because something has been biting me all night. I've just smothered myself in deet for the second time and I have so much on my mind, I think I'll spend an hour or so blogging and swatting mosquitoes before I drift off. Haven't found wireless in Arusha yet, but I have the laptop I purchased for the library and will transcribe word for word at the internet cafe tomorrow, if need be.

I've pushed my flight to Kigali, Rwanda back to the 29th so I can attend hearings of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICT-R) for a few days. As amazing as these past two weeks have been, the politics geek inside me has been clamoring for this part of my journey. The ICT-R is charged with bringing the main perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide to trial, and I've been engrossed with the reconciliation process in my studies this past year. After having spent a summer in South Africa, I am interested in comparing the levels of reconciliation the two countries have achieved for myself. Both atrocities occurred/ended in 1994 and both countries have been widely praised for their progress in the past thirteen years, but there are fundamental differences in the way they have gone about the peace-making process.

South Africa underwent a peaceful transition from the Afrikaner-led National Party to the majority black African National Congress (ANC)under the remarkable leadership of individuals like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu. The church played a prominent role in the reconciliatory process and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to help the South African people confront their painful past,and in many cases, grant amnesty to the perpetrators in exchange for a full disclosure. The entire proceedings were organized and held within South Africa, and I'm curious to know whether the particular combination of elements that seem to have worked so well in SA are unique to its space and time, or whether they can be applied in similar reconciliation processes.

Rwanda's situation is a bit different. The genocide was far more horrific--killing approx 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just under 90 days. Neither is the history of the ethnic conflict within Rwanda cut-and-dry. Under Belgian colonization, the minority Tutsis were placed in power and repressed the majority Hutus. After independence, the process was reversed and the Hutus repressed the Tutsis. Rwanda is overwhelmingly Catholic, but many bishops were connected to the government and were implicated in the genocide. For that reason, it is impossible to hold the reconciliation process through a filter of Christian faith and forgiveness. Equally impossible would be jailing half of the country's population. So instead of Rwanda dealing with its country's painful past internally, the UN set up a Tribunal in neighboring neutral Tanzania (similar in many ways to the ICT-Yugoslavia). It is here in Arusha that the masterminds of the genocide are being tried. Meanwhile, there is a second set of proceedings within Rwanda called Gacaca hearings, where the individual killers are being held accountable. There was a severe shortage of judges in the country following the genocide (I read somewhere that it was only 12 but dont quote me :) so local community members who are highly esteemed are elected as honorary judges and are trained for the proceedings. Community members are required to attend these hearings, I believe, and I hope that I can also observe some while I am in Rwanda. In short, Rwanda lacked the important variables such as strong leaders and religious faith that made the reconciliation process after apartheid such an organic success in South Africa. I look forward to speaking to Rwandans about their views and observing the state of harmony myself.

I have to run because Bishop John Shumbusho (the lead interpretor at the Tribunal) has invited me to dinner with his family. I promise to write all about Kili, the safari, and my favorite part of Tanzania so far--the incredible Maasai people tomorrow!

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

to the Politics Geek Inside Logan: The following quote shows up at the bottom of a frequent emailing friend. I believe you would appreciate it:

The penalty that good [people] pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by [people] worse than themselves. -Plato, philosopher (427-347 BCE)

I think the courtroom visitation equals all the safari treks you can squeeze into a summer.

You do your dad proud!