The Documentalist

Documenting Documentation Practices in Rwanda: Your Assistance Please!

Posted in Editorial by Sarah on May 12, 2010

Next Friday, May 21, 2010 I will be heading to Kigali, Rwanda, where I will engage in two weeks of field work investigating how human rights groups there document their work.  Like my trip to Mexico in February, this trip is part of CRL’s larger “Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study.”  The general purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of “life on the ground” for a variety of human rights organizations and how that affects their documentation practices.  An ultimate goal in this work is to provide profiles of strategies that help organizations meet their immediate goals, as well as to think about how the variety of documentation that gets collected can serve long term work in scholarship, legal proceedings, and policy-making at local, national, and international levels.  Hopefully, this work will engender and support dialogue between human rights organizations on the one hand, and larger institutions such as libraries and intergovernmental organizations on the other so that creative strategies can be developed for catloguing and preserving these valuable materials.

A call for input/advice/help

As with my first trip to Mexico, my task in Rwanda will be to actually see documentation practices in action and better understand why and how a variety of human rights groups collect and save (or not) the materials they need for their work. Unlike my Mexico trip, however, I have no clear idea of which groups I will actually get to visit, with one exception–I am traveling with colleagues from The University of Texas Libraries who work closely with the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center on a ground-breaking collaboration focused on digitizing and archiving the center’s physical collections of genocide materials.  See the post on UT Human Rights Archiving and Glifos for a brief overview of the work they have been doing there.  I will spend part of my time in Kigali helping my UT colleagues as I can with their work and learning as much as possible bout the center’s collections and preservation efforts.  I look forward to reporting on what I learn when I return.

However, beyond this one “sure-thing” site, I have nothing else fixed at this point.  Rwanda is apparently a seat-of-your-pants kind of place-at least according to the few people I’ve been able to talk to so far, and this is just the first of many cultural differences that impact how we understand documentation practices around the world. So, in fine anthropological fashion, I will arrive and start knocking on doors.  Thus, readers, if you know of groups or individuals that I should approach, please let me know! Below is a preliminary list of groups I hope to visit, but I would love to have more leads to follow up on once I get there.  Please post any suggestions using the comments feature of the blog–they might be useful to others as well.

  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) documentation centre at the Gasabo Judicial Palace, the seat for the Gasabo Tribunal of Higher Instance.
  • Offices for the UN Development Program in Kigali
  • Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL)–Human Rights League of the Great Lakes.  This will be tricky for me, as I don’t speak French, but I will engage an interpreter once I am in Kigali.
  • Voices of Rwanda

Seeing the ICTR collection is a high priority for me because of the international profile of this work–the tribunal serves as a model for future reconciliation and justice efforts, so understanding the disposition of their collections could provide ideas to smaller organizations with useful documentation that they might want to send up to the international courts.  I also plan to visit the Kigali Peace Corps offices to see if they know of anyone I should contact.

This will be a grand adventure!  I thank all of you in advance for any and all suggestions. The more potential resources I have, the better the field data I can collect, and the more I will be able to share with you.

Thank you in advance for your help,



4 Responses

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  1. Kristin Antin said, on May 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Sarah – I would suggest possibly visiting the torture treatment center based in Rwanda:

    Rwanda, Forum for Activists Against Torture (FACT)
    KUBAHO Plaza
    Kacyiru Rue 729 Umuganda
    BP 4580
    Kigali, Rwanda
    Telephone Number: +250 51 18 30
    Fax Number: +250 51 18 31

    FACT-Rwanda fights against torture and organized violence by recognizing and treating victims of torture and organized crime. In order to achieve this goal, services are provided through medical care, psychosocial care and legal services. FACT-Rwanda provides a unique treatment plan for each survivor, which lasts until the patient is no longer in need.

    I hope you have a wonderful and educational trip to Rwanda!


    Kristin Antin
    New Tactics in Human Rights Online Community Builder (a project of the Center for Victims of Torture)

    • Sarah said, on May 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      Hi Kristin

      Thank you for the suggestion! I will add this to my list and pay them a visit. Do you happen to know anyone personally there that I should contact?

      Thanks again!

  2. alice ingabire said, on May 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Hi sarah,
    I suggest you visit never Again Rwanda. Its a Human Rights and peace building organisation. I attended some of the Workshops on Human Rights that they do organise.
    In kigali contact its president , he is called Josep email
    Tel 0788302821

    • Sarah said, on May 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm

      Thank you Alice! I will contact Joseph as soon as I arrive in Kigali. I see that you are posting from Never Again Rwanda–perhaps I can say hello to you as well while I am there.


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