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Mount Muhabura in Rwanda, photography.
Mount Muhabura in Rwanda.
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The initiation of a justice norm from the global South

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The Gacaca justice system has been influential on justice norms in the global North. In her doctoral thesis, Alice Urusaro Uwagaga Karekezi argues that the Gacaca system has pioneered the “Traditional” transitional justice norm and that the study contributes to decolonizing academic debates on norm creation and the important role of global South countries in international politics.

In her doctoral thesis, Alice Urusaro Uwagaga Karekezi investigates how the Gacaca justice system has been influential on justice norms applied in the global North. The Gacaca transitional justice system emerged in post-genocide Rwanda as a way to process the perpetrated genocide.

– I explore how policy actors played an important role in laying out a case for why and how the Gacaca system could be an appropriate way to deal with the perpetrated genocide and how the Gacaca practice altered the global normative structure regulating transitional justice generally on how to deal with perpetrated violence, says Alice Urusaro Uwagaga Karekezi.

Framework to identify dynamics in the global South

To examine the Gacaca justice system, Karekezi uses norm theories with postcolonial and decolonial perspectives.

– Postcolonial and decolonial frameworks are more sensitive to dynamics taking place in the global South and can help to address bias. Significantly, the analysis of the norm-taking scheme of the UN implies that other actors from the global South can also help powerful actors of the global North accept norms originating from, and rooted in, the cultural heritage of the global South, says Karekezi.

Small low income countries influence the global North

The study shows how low income, small countries in the global South not only “take” new ideas originating in the global North, but also “make” ideas that become adopted by actors located in the global North. It, therefore, calls attention to key components missing from prevailing understandings of norms within International Relations research.

– The study broadens our understanding of the diversity and changing nature of the roles that actors play in the international scene as they interact on issues of global concern. The thesis has the potential to raise interest and contribute towards decolonizing academic debates on norm creation and the important role of global South countries in international politics, says Alice Urusaro Uwagaga Karekezi.

Text: Evelina Assarsson

More information

Alice Urusaro Uwagaga Karekezi successfully defended her thesis The Initiation of a Norm from the Global South: Rwanda’s Gacaca, Pioneering the “Traditional” Transitional Justice Norm, at the School of Global Studies on December 18, 2020.

Read Alice Urusaro Uwagaga Karekezi’s doctoral thesis (Gupea)