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The motivations, attitudes and behaviors of the quarter million lay judges who ran the mass prosecutions for genocide is a curiously under-studied topic in the growing literature on the local gacaca courts in Rwanda. The state would have failed to prosecute thousands of citizens without the cooperation of these judges. Yet this post-genocide Tutsi-dominated authoritarian state allowed these courts to run more or less independently and left this all-important task in the hands of lay judges. The judges too volunteered to work without compensation. Who were the judges? Why did they agree to take on the social and economic risks of allocating punishment to their peers? How did the formal independence of the courts square with the authoritarian state? This paper ventures to answer these questions and using a combination of survey data and deep ethnographic work presents a re-thinking of the conventional answers to questions of state control and popular participation in post-genocide Rwanda.


2014 Law and Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop selection.