Megwalu '06 explores community justice to prosecute genocide crimes
Amaka Megwalu, '06, who wrote a highly lauded Woodrow Wilson School senior thesis on the role of the Gacaca courts - the traditionally-inspired system of community justice - to prosecute genocide perpetrators in post-conflict Rwanda, has adopted the thesis for an article to appear in the African Journal of International and Comparative Law.
Megwalu’s thesis, “Looking Back, Moving Forward – the Gacaca courts in Rwanda”, won the WWS Senior Thesis Prize “for a thesis of unusual merit.” It was also cited as the best thesis in ethics and human values by the Center for Human Values and was awarded the prize for a distinguished thesis in legal studies by the Program in Law and Public Affairs.
Megwalu, who now attends Harvard Law School, co-authored the article, “Dilemmas of Justice and Reconciliation: Rwandas and the Gacaca Courts,” with Neophytos Loizides, who was her thesis advisor and is now at Queen’s University, Belfast.
Megwalu received WWS funding for two research trips to Rwanda. Gary Bass, Faculty Chair of the School's Undergraduate Program, has called her work “absolutely outstanding – possibly the best thesis I have ever read.” He said that he was “absolutely delighted that her scholarship will gain a wider recognition through the publication of this article.”
The Gacaca courts were established in 2001 to bring community participation to the trials of those charged with acts of genocide during the mass violence between Hutus and Tutsis in 1994. Megwalu concluded that these courts strengthened the justice process “given the limited capacity of international trials to contribute to national reconciliation, assuage the needs of survivors, or even significantly contribute to national accountability."