Anu Chakravarty

Investing in Authoritarian Rule

Punishment and Patronage in Rwanda's Gacaca Courts for Genocide Crimes

Cambridge University Press 2016

New Books in African StudiesNew Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in Global Ethics and PoliticsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 28, 2017 Kelly McFall

In my time doing this podcast, I’ve covered a number of books about transitional justice. All have been insightful and interesting. But few of...

In my time doing this podcast, I’ve covered a number of books about transitional justice. All have been insightful and interesting. But few of them focused carefully on the trials themselves.

Anuradha Chakravarty seeks to remedy this. Her book Investing in Authoritarian Rule: Punishment and Patronage in Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts for Genocide Crimes (Cambridge University Press, 2016) looks carefully at the processes and people involved in Rwanda’s Gacaca courts. She looks at the recruitment and training of judges. She looks at the incentives offered for denouncing others as genocidaires. And she examines the ways in which the incentives and context led many defendants to confess.

In doing so, Chakravarty significantly advances our understanding of the workings of transitional justice in Rwanda. But she also uses Rwanda as a lens to try and understand the challenges faced by authoritarian leaders. She argues that the RPF engaged in a kind of clientalistic bargaining with Hutus. By offering targeted grants of clemency and patronage to defendants and to those who denounced others, the RPF secured its political control over Rwanda as a whole. Chakravarty argues that other autocratic leaders have often used a similar strategy of “authoritarian clientelism” to secure their power. It’s a persuasive argument.


Kelly McFall is Associate Professor of History at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, where he directs the Honors Program. He is particularly interested in the question of how to teach about the history of genocides and mass atrocities and has written a module in the Reacting to the Past series about the UN debate over whether to intervene in Rwanda in 1994.

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