Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Angela M. Moe

Second Advisor

Dr. David Hartmann

Third Advisor

Dr. Ronald Kramer

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Harry Mika


Rwandan gacaca, Rwandan diaspora, justice and reconciliation, United States, Canada, sociology


This dissertation analyzed the attempts at achieving justice and reconciliation among the Rwandan diaspora located in Canada and the United States. Following the 1994 Rwandan genocide, many Rwandans fled and a modest diaspora found a home in various locations throughout Canada and the United States. The diaspora, located thousands of miles from the institutional mechanism of justice and reconciliation in Rwanda, are subject to many of the same concerns regarding justice and reconciliation as those who remain in Rwanda. This research focused primarily on how this specific diaspora attempted to achieve justice and reconciliation, if institutional mechanisms (gacaca) in Rwanda have a residual effect on the diaspora, and if the diaspora has created any diaspora-specific mechanism to facilitate justice and reconciliation among one another. This research also addressed current political concerns in Rwanda and how these concerns affected the diaspora.

Telephone and face-to-face interviews were conducted with eight members of the Rwandan diaspora located in a variety of locations in the United States and Canada between May 2015 and March 2016. As a supplement to diaspora participant interviews, telephone interviews with four experts on the Rwandan genocide were conducted in February and March 2016. Interviews with diaspora participants revealed that there exists a culture of silence among them, largely as a result of the authoritarian leadership of Rwandan President, Paul Kagame.

Diaspora members believed that it was dangerous to speak negatively about Kagame (including political topics such as justice and reconciliation) and that there are personal and legal consequences both for those in Rwanda and among the diaspora who do so. More specifically, diaspora participants suggested that there is a belief that they may be monitored by the Rwandan government. Diaspora participant interviews revealed that justice among the diaspora is inherently connected with justice in Rwanda. If justice has not been served in Rwanda, justice has not been served for the diaspora. Diaspora participants do not feel that justice has been achieved in Rwanda or among the diaspora. Reconciliation among the diaspora, while tied to attempts at reconciliation in Rwanda, may be its own construct. Interviews demarcated “thin” reconciliation (peaceful coexistence among different ethnicities) and “thick” reconciliation (creation of meaningful relationships among different ethnicities) (Pozen, Neugebauer, & Ntaganira, 2014). Diaspora participant interviews reflected that “thin” reconciliation exists among the diaspora, but that “thick” reconciliation is a rare occurrence. Additionally, diaspora interviews suggested that “thick” reconciliation occurs less frequently among the diaspora than in Rwanda because it is not forced. However, when “thick” reconciliation does occur among the diaspora, it is authentic, precisely because it is not forced. Diaspora members did not heavily discuss the effects of gacaca courts on the diaspora, largely because they did not feel that it addressed justice and reconciliation in Rwanda. Diaspora participants did not report any diaspora specific mechanism regarding attempts at justice and reconciliation. Expert participant interviews supported the claims of diaspora participants regarding the culture of silence both within Rwanda and among the diaspora, and confirmed diaspora participants statements regarding justice and reconciliation.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access