Insights from Rwanda: Understanding Genocide and Its Aftermath

Tim Longman

In a reflection on the enduring scars left by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Nature, a weekly international journal publishing peer-reviewed research across all fields of science and technology, recently examined the lessons being gleaned by researchers from the tragic events of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Thirty years after the atrocity, its enduring repercussions continue to reverberate through the nation, leaving marks on survivors and shaping scholarly inquiry into the nature of genocide.

The article, titled “After the genocide: what scientists are learning from Rwanda”, penned by Nisha Gaind, explores the research efforts aimed at comprehending the complex interplay of historical, social, and psychological factors that contributed to the genocide. From the haunting memories preserved in sites like the Ntarama Church to the ongoing psychological trauma suffered by survivors and their descendants, the legacy of the genocide remains a central focus of scholarly investigation.

Among the researchers featured in the article is political scientist Timothy Longman, Professor of International Relations and Political Science and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. Longman, who has devoted decades to studying the Rwanda genocide, offers valuable insights into the broader implications of such research. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing common patterns across different genocides, such as those in Rwanda and the Holocaust, to inform efforts aimed at preventing similar atrocities in the future.

“Researchers can learn a lot from studying cases such as Rwanda, the Holocaust, and other genocides,” Longman states. “It helps you to prevent violence from happening elsewhere.”

Longman’s perspective emphasizes the vital role that scholarly inquiry plays in understanding the root causes of mass violence and developing strategies for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. By looking at the complexities of past genocides, researchers seek not only to honor the memory of victims but also to chart a course toward a more just and compassionate world.

Professor Timothy Longman‘s current research focuses on state-society relations in Africa, looking particularly at human rights, transitional justice, democratization, civil society, the politics of race and ethnicity, religion and politics, and women and politics. He has published two books based on his research in Rwanda: Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda (Cambridge University Press 2011), and Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda (Cambridge University Press 2017). Read more about Professor Longman on his faculty profile.