Asking Questions that Matter

On the evening of Monday, May 1, 2012 I received an email saying:

“Thanks for giving up a part of your day tomorrow to help the Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal team refine our workshop methods before we leave for Rwanda in a couple of weeks.”

I thought to myself, “I did agree to participate in the three-hour session, didn’t I?” I debated whether I should follow through with my agreement or spend the time writing my dissertation proposal.

I decided to go and I am glad I did. It was a thought provoking session where I provided critical feedback, I was in the company of great thinkers and I devoured some delicious snacks.

Background – What Led to “Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal”

About seventeen years ago (between January 1, 1994 and December 31 , 1994) over 500,000 people–men, women and children–were killed in Rwanda. In response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the United Nations Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UN-ICTR) who was to prosecute those accused of responsibility for the genocide and other serious violations. For more information on the ICTR click here.

In 2008, a team of information scientists, legal experts, and cinematographers led by Batya Friedman set out to record the voices of those who were part of the UN-ICTR legal process. This resulted in 48 video interviews with judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, interpreters, court administrators, investigators, and many others associated with the ICTR. For more information on the project click here.

Fast Forward

The goal of Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal’s is “to release the entire collection of video interviews for widespread public access, particularly for the Rwandan people and for the international justice community.” It is with this mission (among others) that they will return back to Rwanda. It is their hope that the adults and youth that they work with will help them answer questions about dissemination.

During the test run we were engaged in several activities. The activities revolved around the following 8 videos

  1. Roland Amoussouga – “…a witness in court”
  2. Ndongo-Keller – communal wrong-doing
  3. Straton Musonera – location of the ICTR
  4. Linda Bianchi – rape is a serious crime
  5. Alex Obote Odora – prosecution and reconciliation
  6. Inés Weinberg de Roca – genocide can happen anywhere
  7. Hassan Jallow – law not revenge
  8. Claver Sindayigaya – innocent until proven guilty

One of the most fulfilling activity came towards the end of the day. It involved providing answers to three questions:

  1. What metaphor best describes the online collection of videos?
  2. What could go wrong with the collection?
  3. What does it look like if there is success?

What metaphor best describes the online collection of videos?

I really enjoyed brainstorming metaphors/titles that I thought best represented the collection.  A took a while, but once I got started, I was on a roll. Some of the ones I contributed included:

  • Stories about the Genocide
  • Recollection of Traumatic Events
  • Moving Forward
  • The Elites’ Perspectives
  • Interpretation of the Unimaginable
  • One Form of Justice

I encourage you to visit the collection of video clips  (click here) and come up with your own metaphors/titles that you think best describes the collection.

What could go wrong with the collection?

This is an important question that most people are afraid to ask. I was glad to see that the Batya and her team are considering this! The question solicited many responses from the audience. My responses include:

  • People become dismissive of the events
  • It rekindles resentment
  • Stirs up emotions
  • Is inaccessible to the ones that should REALLY have access

What does it look like if there is success?

The two things I thought would indicate success were:

  1. The successful integration of the videos into the Rwandan school curriculum
  2. The Rwandan government linking to the collection from their website

Several other indicators of success were described as well.

Off They Go

The group of  us that participated in the dry run provided lots of critical feedback. I was extremely impressed that the Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal team was willing to have us (outsiders) come and provide some critical feedback. As I indicated during the workshop, it would be even more fantastic to have people who will ideally be in the workshops take part in the dry run as well. I look forward to hearing how the actual workshops go.

And for you the reader. I have two (2) tasks.

  1. Visit and try answering the three (3) questions listed above and see how your answers compare to mine.
  2. Try integrating the three (3) questions into some of your work/personal processes and see how it enriches it.

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