The Social Life of Policy Reports: Reporting as a Tool in the Transitional Justice Battlefield in Rwanda

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Policy Points:

• Given the ubiquity of reports in aid-dependent policy implementation, this article draws attention to the complex politics and to the contentious role played by international aid organisations involved in the production of policy reports.

• It is inevitable that the use of policy reports would shift from their envisioned role to their actual performed functions.

• Through a scrutiny of reports produced in relation to the Gacaca process in Rwanda, I demonstrate that reports are used in policy implementation to wage political battles, with texts arguing against each other, almost as if reports were being thrown at each other.

• Ultimately, depoliticised battles about the past are taking place in the production and dissemination of transitional justice reports. This leads to unexpected consequences. By not tackling these unexpected outcomes, reports have become professionalised legitimation tools for international aid, without necessarily enhancing the promised social changes.

Abstract: Adopting a Latourian approach, this article examines the social role played by policy reports, which are produced and used in the everyday implementation of transitional justice, using the Gacaca Courts in Rwanda as a case study. As glossy end products, transitional justice reports create the image of more efficient processes unaffected by difficult politics. The article traces the journey of Gacaca policy reports and the shift from their envisioned role to their actual performed functions: considered as technical safeguards, reports become central tools in the transitional justice battlefield – almost as if reports were used as weapons while arguing about the past and the nature of the transition. Since transitional justice processes mostly culminate in the production of reports which presume to clarify and make accountable complex legacies of violence, such an analysis contributes significantly to addressing the construction of transitional justice narratives critically. Given the ubiquity of reports in aid-dependent policy implementation, this article draws attention to often glossed-over aspects of complex politics and to the contentious role played by international aid organisations. By doing so, the paper encourages discussions about the materiality of international aid and its social consequences.

Keywords: conflict, transitional justice praxis, policy reports, politics of aid, NGOs, donors, Rwanda

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