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By Kellie Bancalari

My time in Rwanda is quickly coming to an end, but not without wrapping up my research on the coexistence of free speech and state stability in post-genocide Rwanda.

This Friday marked the final day of my internship with Rwanda's leading english daily, The New Times. For the past month, I have interned with the news team and covered a myriad of topics and events including, the Africa Day of Information, the training of top officials on nuclear security, and even a UN FAO treaty signing on genetically modified plants. One of the coolest assignments I had while on the job was shooting a short-documentary on two brothers who fought off their killers during the genocide.

Through the internship, I was able to fully understand the current state of the media in Rwanda and how journalists here conduct their work. This internship served as an integral part of my research as I was able to observe how the post-genocide environment journalists operate in is affecting their work.

One of the findings during this observation period was how the media has been an integral part of the healing and reconciliation process of Rwanda. The stories that are published in nearly all of the Rwandan newspapers are focused on topics of reconciliation between people and the overall development of the country. These stories, my colleagues at The New Times have told me, help fight genocide ideology and bring the people of Rwanda together as one people (instead of divisions in the ethnic groups like in the past).

...continue reading "Free Speech vs State Stability: A Rwandan Case Study"

By Kellie Bancalari

Tomorrow marks the official start of my research period. As I explained in previous posts, I will be researching the limits of free speech in a post genocidal society -- basically trying to answer the question of whether or not free speech and state stability can co-exist in Rwanda.

Since returning from my travels in Uganda, I've been working very diligently on completing my research proposal for the Local Review Board to have my research approved. This meant drafting my methodology, literature review, background to the study, and ethical considerations. Thankfully, my research was approved a few days ago with flying colors.

In the next four weeks, I will be interviewing journalists, government officials, and local people to find out what the state of media is really like from the local perspective. In my time here, I have found that what organizations like Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International write about the state of free speech in Rwanda is not a complete truth.

Speech I have found, in nearly every society, is not completely free. And honestly, I don't think it can be. You can't yell fire in a movie theater because you can kill people, just like in Rwanda you can't spread genocide ideology because, as we have seen, you can kill millions.

...continue reading "Can speech really be free in Rwanda?"

This past month found me in two very interesting and personally formative places: a TIG camp on the outskirts of Kigali and Gulu Town in Northern Uganda.

After the Rwandan Genocide ended 100 days after it began in 1994, Rwanda needed to find a way to establish a transitional justice system. The Gacaca Courts, established in 2002, was the government's answer to trying over 2 million people for crimes committed during Genocide. For those who confessed to their crimes, they were given the opportunity to serve out part of their sentence doing community service outside of the prison in what are called TIG camps.

I had the opportunity to visit one of the five TIG camps that was located just outside the city limits of Kigali. At this camp, I spoke with TIG members who had committed acts of Genocide. To be honest with you, what I found at this camp was not at all what I had expected.

...continue reading "Rwandan reconciliation and the real "Kony 2012""

By Kellie Bancalari

"Muzungu!" The local Rwandan kids giggle as my friends and I walk passed and smile. Muzungu or white person in the local language is a common word I hear when walking the streets of Kigali.

It's been a full five weeks since I've touched down here in the capitol city of Rwanda and to be honest with you, I feel more like a local than a Muzungu by now.

Kigali is a city full of life. Motor bikes speed by in and out of traffic, kids play soccer on the street, friendly locals dance the nights away. Its so similar, yet so different to any city in the USA.

When I was a freshman in high school, I dreamed of the day I’d travel to Africa. It's funny how dreams have a way of becoming reality. Little did I know back then though, Rwanda is nothing like people think it is. Its not a jungle, with poverty enveloping every citizen, there are no vicious animals roaming the streets, and tribal clothing is definitely not the style.

Kigali, from what I’ve seen so far, is the cleanest city I’ve ever been to. Every citizen here is so proud of what they have built. The first thing they ask you when you meet them is “What do you think of our city?” They boast about their economic progress and how they are much more peaceful than surrounding nations. They truly have come so far from the  1994 Genocide.

...continue reading "Welcome to Rwanda, muzungu"