Elisabeth King


Intrastate wars and genocides result in devastating losses and leave deep and lasting scars on those who survive. Making space for civilians to share their experiences of violence and to have them publicly acknowledged—especially by their own governments—can be important parts of (re)knitting the social fabric. This article focuses on the experiences of ordinary Rwandans during and after their country’s civil war and genocide. It is centered on excerpts from a series of field interviews and highlights Rwandans’ memories in their own words. This article contrasts this cross-section of civilian narratives with the official memories of violence that the national government disseminates through memorials and schools. The central argument is that, in order to legitimate its rule, the Rwandan government selectively highlights some memories of violence, and represses others, and that this is likely to hinder sustainable peace.