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Reading: The Performance of International Diplomacy at Kigali Memorial Centre, Rwanda


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Research Article

The Performance of International Diplomacy at Kigali Memorial Centre, Rwanda


John Giblin

Africa Section, The British Museum, GB
About John

John has responsibility for the curation, presentation, development and research of the Africa collections at the British Museum. He has carried out fieldwork in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. Before taking up his current position, John was a Lecturer in Heritage Studies at the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, and a member of the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia. John completed his PhD, Reconstructing the Past in Post-Genocide Rwanda: An Archaeological Contribution, at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, following which he undertook a post-doctoral fellowship concerning Post-Conflict Heritage in Western Great Lakes Africa at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg. John’s current research interests include the post-conflict use of heritage and practice of archaeology in post-colonial contexts.

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Every year in Rwanda, a week of national mourning commemorates the Genocide of Tutsi, a brutal episode that began on April the 7th 1994 and resulted in the murder of up to one million people in 100 days. The genocide was returned to the global stage in 2014 when world leaders joined Rwandans in marking the twentieth anniversary of this event. In Kigali, the capital city, two decades of political elites witnessed highly emotive and politically charged performances of the causes and events of the genocide that placed responsibility for this tragedy at the feet of the international community. By positioning themselves within the frame of this nationally and globally televised event, many world leaders acknowledged both a great human tragedy and the failure of their respective nations and organisations to recognise and stop the genocide. This collective international act of apology was the culmination of a decade of individual actual or implicit ‘apologies’ by political leaders such as Tony Blair, Nicholas Sarkozy, George Bush Jnr, and Ban Ki Moon. This paper explores the performative use of the Kigali Genocide Memorial by national and political actors engaged in diplomatic acts that aim to generate national post-conflict development and international cultural capital.

How to Cite: Giblin, J., 2017. The Performance of International Diplomacy at Kigali Memorial Centre, Rwanda. Journal of African Cultural Heritage Studies, 1(1), pp.49–67. DOI:
Published on 27 Oct 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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