(Digital) archives, memory and reconstruction in post-Genocide Rwanda (HN)

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Digital Humanities

Abstract

In 1994, Rwanda suffered a Genocide of enormous proportions, and has faced huge challenges in its wake. The Genocide is the pivotal event in the recent history of Rwanda, and much of civic and political life since then has focused on the on-going process of reconstruction. A range of educational and other interventions has been made by the government to further reconciliation between perpetrators and victims and positive relations between communities. The aim is to prevent future conflict, to commemorate the dead and respect the survivors, to construct and preserve a shared memory of the event, and to create a shared identity as Rwandans. Rwanda is now on its way to creating a modern integrated society with a burgeoning economy.

The Aegis Trust, a charity that works towards the prevention of genocide through education and research, has collected testimonies and other documentary material about the Genocide and post-Genocide reconstruction as the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, both as a physical archive but more particularly as a digital archive, transforming access to the material. There is a range of other significant archival holdings that if digitised and integrated would significantly increase understanding of the Genocide, and offer further opportunities for education, research, and public understanding and reconciliation.

Most prominent among these is the archive of the Gacaca Courts, which were based on a traditional method of conflict resolution that was revived to deal with the problem of processing large numbers of accused. The records of these courts form an archive of 60,000,000 pages, and are of unparalleled significance as a record of the process of truth telling, justice, and reconciliation. A project is underway, supervised by a consortium including King's College London and the Aegis Trust, to digitise the documents and create an online archive, with tools and interpretive materials.

These developments can play a key role in the burgeoning digital economy in Rwanda. The government is fostering a knowledge-based economy including ICT, with the aim of becoming a hub of expertise within east Africa, and digital content and asset industries form an important part in this vision. Currently, the skills and knowledge required for managing digital materials are largely lacking, and one of the aims of the Gacaca project is to build this expertise and capacity locally.

These initiatives do however pose fundamental questions about the role and nature of digital archives in Rwanda. The Network will draw upon two areas of research in the digital humanities. The first will explore the role of (digital) archives in transitional justice, the construction of cultural memory, and the impact and potentially transformative effect of mass digitisation. This will provoke an examination of the implications of creating digital archives of records of the Genocide, and of potential uses of the materials, and enable the establishment of policies and processes specific to the Rwandan context. The second will address the infrastructural aspects of digital archives: what forms of archival structures are appropriate and sustainable in the cultural context of Rwanda, and what might their relationship be to the growing digital economy?

We will explore these two themes in two internationally and interdisciplinary conferences in Rwanda and the UK, and as a result we will make specific recommendations for next steps in which the theoretical, practical and pedagogical aspects of the Network's research around digital archives can contribute to social, cultural or economic development in Rwanda, and also build new international collaborations that can take these forward. In particular, we will develop a roadmap for capacity building in digital content technologies in Rwanda, in collaboration archive holders, higher education, and tech industries, with the ultimate objective of creating a "centre of excellence" for the region.

Planned Impact

Government and policy makers in Rwanda, and in other regions emerging from conflict, as well as supra-national bodies, will benefit from an enhanced understanding of the potential role of digital archives and mass digitisation programmes in facilitating transitional justice, peace education, and post-conflict reconciliation, as well as of the issues raised. They will also gain a clearer understanding of how to establish policies and processes for archives and digitisation appropriate to the local context, and how to focus funding for digital projects to maximise impact and utility.

Legal professionals working in transitional justice or post-conflict scenarios will benefit similarly. Most directly this includes the Ministry of Justice and attorneys in Rwanda, but also international bodies such as the UN and the International Criminal Court.

Journalists: There is a substantial media interest in the 1994 Genocide, whose repercussions are far from over. The Genocide informs many aspects of current life in Rwanda, and the process of reconciliation is as yet incomplete, with both refugees and perpetrators still at large. The events that led up to the Genocide also have contemporary echoes elsewhere in the region, most notably in Burundi. However, media coverage often lacks historical context or relies on information derived from third parties. The Network will help to establish a context for journalism in the field, as well as generating research that may itself be the focus of media interest.

Archivists and other heritage: Rwandan professionals and the archives world in general will benefit from an increased understanding of the role of (digital) archives, and in particular of archived experiences and local knowledge, for post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction. The Network will also lead to a greater awareness of issues specific to Rwanda and other post-conflict societies (such as the nature and meaning of "gaps" in the archives), and of the relevance or otherwise of Western archival constructs in non-Western contexts.

Digital technology & content industries in Rwanda: the Rwandan Government's plans for economic development involve include the development of a knowledge-based economy (in particular ICT) with the aim of becoming a hub of expertise in the region. Digital content and asset technologies can form a key part of this. The Network will expand existing collaborations to build expertise and capacity locally in these skills & technologies. While initially focused on traditional archival content, the impact is not restricted to this and has potential for economic developments in media industries and mobile devices.

Public: The general public in Rwanda are key stakeholders in Genocide-related archives, having been affected by the Genocide and its aftermath, either directly - as victim or perpetrator - or indirectly through the loss of family and friends. The impact of the Network on archival digitisation in Rwanda will increase the public's understanding of the Genocide, and allow them to participate more fully in reconciliation through enhanced access to documentary material. It will in particular help them to understand the importance of their own community experiences - embodied in testimonials and other documents - for strengthening the reconciliation process.

Funders: The Network will help to identify areas for which further research, exploration and development would be of value, and provide an evidence base on which funders will be able to draw when establishing priority areas for support. In the context of this Network, this includes not only traditional funders of academic or cultural heritage activities, but also Rwandan Government agencies, agencies of other governments that fund international development activities, and private donors who may wish to sponsor local heritage activities (such as archive digitisation) or to invest in local digital content industries.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The Network explored the implications, impact and transformative effects of digital archives and digital content technologies in the context of socio-economic reconstruction and development in Rwanda. The network identified impacts in relation to memorialisation of the Genocide, and the post-conflict education and peace-building processes that have been implemented to counter the risks of resurgence of genocide ideologies and the recurrence of violence, as well as the effects on social inclusivity and socio-economic development more broadly. This research in addition identified ways in which the theoretical, practical and pedagogical aspects of the research might contribute to concrete social, cultural or economic development in Rwanda.

New research collaborations grew out of the network. Firstly, the PI developed a new collaborative project ISOOKO (http://isooko.eu/), funded by the EU H2020 programme, involving two partners in Rwanda (one of them Aegis Trust) and others in Kenya and Uganda. The core theme of ISOOKO is to research the use of participatory digital platforms in peace education, and peace building more broadly, with trials in Rwanda and Kenya. In addition to this, the PI is working with Makerere University in Uganda (specifically, the East African School of Information and Library Sciences) on developing educational programmes for digital archives, digital curation, and digital asset management; information studies in the region is as yet a much less digital discipline than in the UK, and we are combining the expertise of both institutions to develop programmes that are adapted to local contexts, rather than being imported wholesale from elsewhere.
Exploitation Route The results of the research could be developed further within peace education and peace building programmes and policy, not only in Rwanda, where peace education is strongly supported and embedded in the national curriculum, but also in other post-conflict areas.

The follow-on work on educational programmes for digital archives etc. has the potential to strengthen academic capacity in these fields, and to enable a new generation of students to innovate and contribute to the future development of the digital industries, and the information society more generally, in the region.

The work has also resulted in a process of knowledge exchange with local staff, enabling them to take on responsibility for other archive projects in Rwanda, so that solutions can be developed locally rather than being imposed by external 'experts'.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description To date, the findings are being used to make archives of genocide-related material more accessible to communities as an 'evidence base' of reliable and contextualised information for peace education, peace building, and memorialization of the Genocide. In parallel, to this the work has impacted on the development of policy and good practice human infrastructure creating and sustaining digital archives and for their use in education programmes for sustainable peace. The research has also impacted on education and skills development at several levels, resulting in a local 'centre of excellence' with expertise in archival practice, digitisation, and digital archive systems and technologies, which has begun to take on responsibility for other archive projects in Rwanda, as well as providing skills for the development of the local digital economy more generally.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Policy and good practice documentation for digitization programmes and creation of sustainable digital archives in Rwanda.
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Horizon 2020 (H2020-ICT-39-2016-2017)
Amount € 2,172,964 (EUR)
Funding ID 779793 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2020
 
Description N/A (ad hoc funding)
Amount € 187,804 (EUR)
Organisation Embassy of the Netherlands in Kigali 
Sector Public
Country Rwanda
Start 11/2017 
End 12/2018
 
Description Collaboration with CNLG, Rwanda 
Organisation National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide
Country Rwanda 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Exchange of knowledge and skills through discussion and co-creation of methods, policies and good practice. Contributing to the co-creation of infrastructure, policies, and guides to good practice for creating and sustaining digital archives.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in the Gacaca court process and the related archives. Expertise relating to the Rwandan legal system. Access to Gacaca archive and other archival sources.
Impact Policy and good practice documentation for digitization programmes and creation of sustainable digital archives in Rwanda. Digitisation and archive infrastructure in Rwanda. Other funded projects (ISOOKO, funded by EU 2010; Gacaca Digital Archive project, funded by Dutch Embassy in Rwanda).
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaboration with University of Rwanda 
Organisation University of Rwanda
Country Rwanda 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Engagement and discussion regarding collaborative research and teaching in information science/digital humanities.
Collaborator Contribution Engagement and discussion regarding collaborative research and teaching in information science/digital humanities.
Impact None - discussions still ongoing.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Partnership with Aegis Trust, Rwanda 
Organisation The Aegis Trust
Country United Kingdom 
PI Contribution Exchange of knowledge and skills through discussion and co-creation of methods, policies and good practice. Training staff in digital humanities methods for creating digital archives . Contributing to the co-creation of infrastructure, policies, and guides to good practice for creating and sustaining digital archives and for their use in education programmes for sustainable peace.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in peace education and peace building in Rwanda and elsewhere. Understanding of genocide processes/ideologies. Access to Gacaca archive and other archival sources.
Impact Policy and good practice documentation for digitization programmes and creation of sustainable digital archives in Rwanda. Training courses relating to digital archives. Digitisation and archive infrastructure in Rwanda. Other funded projects (ISOOKO, funded by EU 2010; Gacaca Digital Archive project, funded by Dutch Embassy in Rwanda).
Start Year 2014
 
Description Research collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University Africa (in Rwanda) 
Organisation Carnegie Mellon University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Led on an EU H2020 funding proposal (ISOOKO). The proposal was successful.
Collaborator Contribution Contributed to a collaborative EU H2020 funding proposal (ISOOKO). The proposal was successful.
Impact Funding proposal to EU H2020 programme (ISOOKO project).
Start Year 2017
 
Description Event/symposium at KCL (September 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event aimed to explore the implications, impact and transformative effects of (digital) archives and mass digitisation processes in the context of the Genocide and the subsequent reconstruction, with a range of academic and non-academic stakeholders from Rwanda and the UK, including representatives from government, private industry, charitable organisations, community groups, and others. It addressed these topics under four broad themes - Peace Building and Memorialisation; Archives for Research; Data: openness, ownership and use; Funding and Capacity Building. This event developed further the topics and issues identified at the earlier event in Kigali (in March 2017), and in particular developed a roadmap for capacity building in digital archive/content technologies in Rwanda, to drive new collaborations between archive holders, higher education, and tech SMEs, in terms of (e.g.) training and higher education programmes, and academic-industry partnerships.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Public event/symposium in Kigali, Rwanda (March 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The event aimed to explore the implications, impact and transformative effects of (digital) archives and mass digitisation processes in the context of the Genocide and the subsequent reconstruction, with a range of academic and non-academic stakeholders from Rwanda and internationally, including representatives from government, private industry, charitable organisations, community groups, and others. It addressed these topics under four broad themes - Memory and Memorialisation; Education and Peace Building; Social Justice and Inclusivity; Capacity Building and the Digital Economy - and involved discussion/break-out groups to identify and share initiatives, experiences, and best practice. It identified various ways in which our research could contribute to social, cultural or economic development in Rwanda, and a major output was an action plan identifying various specific recommendations for taking these forward through new initiatives and partnerships. Some of these recommendations are already being put into effect (as of March 2018).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/ddh/newsrecords/2017/Memory-in-the-digital-age-King%27s-College...