Regine U. King


Post-conflict governments and multilateral organizations have advocated truth commissions since the end of the Cold War. The mandate of truth commissions has been to combine the rule of law with psychosocial goals in the hope that they will break systemic cycles of violence and facilitate reconciliation. While these com- missions emphasize the dimensions of truth telling, apology, forgiveness, and recon- ciliation, in practice, they are often challenged to fulfill the mandate of healing psychosocial traumas through these dimensions in countries that suffer not only from the traumatic experience of wars and genocide, but also from the multiple psychosocial issues that result from these forms of mass violence. The present article examines the psychosocial role of gacaca, a form of truth commission that was introduced in post-genocide Rwanda in 2002, and argues that relying on gacaca alone to heal psychosocial trauma in Rwanda underestimates the depth of suffering that genocide created both at the individual and collective levels in Rwandan communities. Writing as a Rwandan community-based mental health researcher and practitioner concerned with the mental well-being of individuals and communities that survive mass violence and genocide, I suggest that well- assessed models adapted to the issues at hand should be considered to promote the healing of psychosocial wounds and supplement the work of gacaca in the rebuilding of peace and reconciliation in the country and in similar contexts else- where. Mental well-being is central to the sustainable rebuilding and development of countries recovering from wars and genocide.