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facilitate national reconciliation processes in South Africa, Rwanda . religious elites used a remarkably similar language of reconciliation, and their discourse . Rwanda. In 1994, almost a million Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed in. Rwanda during the three month government-led genocide. Prior


25 RECONCILIATION FROM THE TOP DOWN? GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA, RWANDA AND BURUNDI* Cori Wielenga Department of Political Sciences University of Pretoria, South Africa Abstract National reconciliation has increasingly become an integral part of postconflict recovery processes in Africa What national reconciliation means, how it differs from interpersonal reconciliation and to what ex tent governments can facilitate reconciliation at all remains under debate This article examines government institutions intended to facilitate national reconciliation processes in South Africa, Rwanda and Burundi Rather than normatively prescribing what governments should be doing, this article seeks to examine what governments are doing as a starting point to understanding what national reconciliation is 1 Introduction In the past few decades, national reconciliation has become an in tegral part of postconflict recovery processes (Bloomfield et al 2003; McGregor 2006; Broneus 2007; Sarkin 2008) Peace agreements, policies, laws and institutions have been formed in order to facilitate reconciliation within a nationstate (AbuNimer 2001; Murphy 2007) This article is particularly interested in institutions that have been Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 36, No 1 Cori Wielenga ____________________ *This research had been made possible by support from the Social Science Research Council's African Peacebuilding Network research grant, with funds provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York 26 established by governments in Rwanda, Burundi and South Africa for the purpose of facilitating national reconciliation It seeks to contribute to how we understand reconciliation on the national level in an African postconflict context Although much has been written about institutions that facilitate reconciliation in South Africa (Boraine et al 1997; James and Van der Vijver 2007), Rwanda (Clark 2010; Clark 2011; Reyntjens 2013), and to a lesser degree, Burundi (Vandeginste 2012), far less comparative work has been done between these cases This kind of comparative work has the potential to contribute to the conceptualisation of recon ciliation, which is described time and again as a vague, amorphous and difficult term to work with (Bloomfield et al 2003; McGregor 2006; Bronéus 2007) Since it has started to be commonly used in political discourse (for example, in peace agreements, constitutions and pol icies), its meaning has become particularly contentious This article is going to use Crocker's (1999) 'spectrum of re conciliation' as a starting point, where he arranges the multitude of definitions for reconciliation along a spectrum from 'thin' or minimalist definitions to 'thick' or maximalist ones 'Thin' definitions consider recon ciliation as peaceful coexistence, or as Kriesberg (2001: 48) states "the process by which parties that have experienced an oppressive rela tionship or a destructive conflict with each other move to attain or to restore a relationship that they believe to be minimally acceptable" On the 'thick' end of reconciliation Lederach (1997: 26), describes, people on all sides of the conflict engaging each other as 'humansin relationship' and the restoring of relationships through healing and forgiveness Bloomfield et al (2003: 19) describe reconciliation as a process rather than a spectrum, suggesting that reconciliation has three stages, namely, replacing fear by coexistence, building confid ence and trust and developing empathy In this article, institutions that facilitate reconciliation refer to structures and mechanisms implemented by a national government to facilitate national reconciliation within a nationstate using state re sources 'National reconciliation', according to various scholars,

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