Barbara M. Oomen works as an assistant professor in law,
governance and development at the Van Vollenhoven Institute
of the Law faculty of Leiden University in the Netherlands.
She has taught courses on South African law, law and governance
in Africa, legal anthropology and socio-legal research methods.
Her research interests include law and culture, constitutionalism,
customary dispute resolution, traditional leadership, globalisation
and the law, the changing role of the nation-state and post-conflict
Previously, Dr. Oomen worked as a co-ordinator of the South
African Netherlands Programme on Alternatives in Development
(SANPAD), and of the Leiden University research programme
on Law, Governance and Rural Development in South Africa.
Additionally, she was responsible for the research and teaching
component of Leiden University's legal co-operation with
Mali, West-Africa. She serves as a board member of the International
Commission on Folk Law and Legal Pluralism and of the Human
Rights Committee of the Advisory Council on International
Affairs to the Dutch Government.
Dr. Oomen graduated in both law and political science (cum
laude) at the University of Amsterdam in1996. In 2002, she
received a PhD (cum laude) from Leiden University: the revised
version of this work "Chiefs! Law, power and culture
in contemporary South Africa" will be published with
James Currey. She published extensively on this research
and was invited to present results at conferences in South
Africa, the USA, Chili, Nigeria, the UK and Germany. Her
present research, concerning the institutional responses
to the Rwanda genocide, was granted a stipend by the Niels
Oomen, Barbara. "Chiefs! Law, Power and Culture in
Contemporary South Africa." PhD thesis, Leiden University,
2002. (To be published with James Currey: Oxford)
Oomen, B. ""We Must Now Go Back to Our History":
Retraditionalisation in a Northern Province Chieftaincy."
African Studies 59, no. 1 (2000): 71-95.
Oomen, Barbara. Tradition on the Move: Chiefs, Democracy
and Change in Rural South Africa. Edited by Madeleine
Maurick and Marlene Cornelis. Vol. 6, Niza-Cahiers. Amsterdam:
Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, 2000.
Oomen, Barbara. "Group Rights in Post-Apartheid South
Africa: The Case of the Traditional Leaders." Journal
of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 44 (1999): 73-103.
Oomen, Barbara. "Women Challenging Society: Stories
of Women's Empowerment in Southern Africa." In Niza-Cahiers,
edited by Madeleine Maurick and Bram Posthumus, 11-18. Amsterdam:
Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, 1999.
My research proposal constitutes a comparison between the
various institutional responses to the 1994 Rwanda genocide
and the legitimacy of these varied responses with the genocide
victims. If the 1994 Rwanda genocide forms one of the most
horrific examples of ethnic conflict of our times, its aftermath
potentially contains some powerful lessons on the ways in
which to balance the need for truth, reconciliation and
justice in post-conflict societies. This research aims to
draw these lessons by systematically comparing the judicial
institutional responses to the genocide, particularly in
terms of their objectives, their ideology of justice, their
sources of legitimacy, the political arena in which they
operate and the way in which they are viewed by genocide
What is striking about Rwanda's responses to the genocide
is their kaleidoscopic character: there is the revival of
the traditional grass-roots gacaca courts, the revision
of Rwandan domestic law, the establishment of a National
Unity and Reconciliation Commission, the trial of the accused
by the domestic legal systems of countries like Belgium
and the foundation of an International Criminal Tribunal.
Because of this richness of legal responses to the genocide,
Rwanda could be considered as a paradigm case, not only
for the study of the changing role of the nation-state and
the 'globalisation' of justice within the contemporary world
order but also for the different ways in which to deal with
the legacy of violent conflict. It is my intention to not
only map out the background of the responses, but also the
way in which they are assessed by the genocide victims who
are, after all, the most important keys to breaking the
"cycle of hatred".
In mapping out and comparing these responses and their
legitimacy, this research hopes to contribute to an understanding
of the role of legal institutions in settling ethnic conflict
and thus to NCS-topics as "innovative governance in
multi-ethnic states", "new initiatives for the
resolution of ethnic conflicts" and "democratic
solutions to long-standing conflicts".