Sunday, July 26, 2020

The story of reconciliation and development in the genocide hit Rwanda

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Inshiya Nalawala

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The story of reconciliation and development in the genocide hit Rwanda


Global Views 360

Publication Date

July 26, 2020


Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda | Source: ITU Pictures via Flickr

The genocide and civil war had rendered hundreds of thousand of people homeless and in utter misery. If the Tutsi’s were the primary victims of genocide, the Hutu’s too suffer in the ensuing civil war when Paul Kagame led Rwandan Patriotic Front defeated the government forces and took over Rwanda.

When the genocide stopped by August 1994, the the suspected perpetrators of crime were hounded by the new government forces. Thousands of Hutus left the country and sought refuge in the neighbouring countries. The legal system of Rwanda was in shambles and the vengeance was taking precedence over the quest of justice. Over a hundred thousand suspected genocidaires were put in prison but could not be properly tried due to a strained judicial system.  

Things however started to change from the year 2000, when Paul Kagame became Rwanda’s President. The biggest challenge for him was to rebuild a society that is economically and socially stable. The socio-economic transformation of Rwanda under Kagame is an inspiring story of reconciliation based on acceptance, repentance and forgiveness, the very foundation on which the edifice of Rwanda's reconciliation is standing firmly today.

The first step towards reconciliation started in 2002 when Rwanda introduced the community-based dispute resolution mechanism, Gacaca to try the genocide related crimes. Gacaca was traditionally used in Rwanda to resolve minor disputes. In its new incarnation, the objectives included not only delivering justice, but also strengthening reconciliation, and revealing the truth about the genocide.  

In the Gacaca court the local community elected the judges who then tried the defendants  in front of members of the local community. These community members  were asked to share whatever they knewabout the the role of defendant during the genocide. Gacaca courts functioned extensively during 2005 to 2012 and processed almost two million cases in this duration.

Though Gacaca courts were criticised by many human right organisations for putting speed over fairness in trial, it undoubtedly resulted in giving the opportunity for some genocide survivors to learn what had happened to their relatives. It helped many families of survivors and perpetrators living side by side with peace and contentment in many reconciliation villages, after the ‘perpetrators’ confessed their crimes and expressed repentance.

Taking inspiration from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission” of South Africa, Rwanda established a “National Unity and Reconciliation Commission” in 1999 with an objective to reconcile and unite the Rwandan citizens. This process used four specific tools. (1) Ingandos - to bring normal activities to a standstill in order to reflect on, and find solutions to national challenges, (2) Organising reconciliation summits, (3) Creation of a leadership academy for developing a new set of grassroot leaders, and (4) Frequent exchanges and consultations at inter-community level.

All these efforts along with that of many non-governmental organisations helped to greatly heal the deep wound of sectarian violence in Rwanda. According to the report published by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission of Rwanda in 2016, over 92% of Rwandans feel that reconciliation is happening.  

Alongside the reconciliation process, the government of Rwanda started spending on health, education and other civic infrastructure which has paid a good dividend in last two decades.

Government expenditure on healthcare facilities per person has gone up sixfold from just $21 in 1995 to $125 in 2014) which contributed to the increase in Life expectancy at birth by 32 years between 1990 and 2016 while  reducing the infant mortality by half since 2000.

The focus on the education sector resulted in almost three quarters of girls and two-thirds of boys now completing primary schooling while literacy rates of adult males and females increased to 75% and 68% respectively.

Rwanda now ranks 6th out 149 countries in the global gender gap index and a high proportion of front-line political positions, including 61% of the parliamentary seats are occupied by women. Rwandan women possess the right to inherit property and can also pass citizenship to their children.

The newfound peace, stability and reconciliation in Rwanda gave a boost to the country’s economy which saw per capita GDP growth from $200 to almost $800 between 1994 and 2017. In 2018 the GDP grew at  8.6% and the county rated the second-best place to do business in Africa.

Rwanda today is a shining example that a country with a long and painful history of violent sectarianism, can achieve great success, if it takes every section of the population along on a path of peace, unity and reconciliation.

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April 13, 2021 2:10 PM

Detecting The Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays With Smartphones

Smartphones have become the most commonplace objects in our daily lives. The unimaginable power that we hold in our hands is unrealized by most of us and, more importantly, untapped. Its creativity often gets misused but one can only hope that it’s fascinating abilities would be utilized. For example, did you know that the millions of phones around the globe can be connected to form a particle detector? The following article covers the CRAYFIS (Cosmic RAYs Found in Smartphones) phone-based application developed by the physicists from the University of California—Daniel Whiteson, Michael Mulhearn, and their team. CRAYFIS aims to take advantage of the large network of smartphones around the world and detect the cosmic or gamma rays bursts which enter the Earth’s atmosphere almost constantly.

What Are Cosmic Rays?

Cosmic rays are high velocity subatomic particles bombarding the Earth’s upper atmosphere continuously. Cosmic ray bursts have the highest energy compared to all forms of electro-magnetic radiation. When we say ultra-high energy particles (energy more than 1018^eV), we mean two million times more energetic than the ones that can be produced by the particle colliders on Earth.  These rays are thought to be more powerful than typical supernovae and can release trillions of times more energy than the Sun. They are also highly unpredictable as they can enter Earth’s atmosphere from any direction and the bursts can last for any period of time ranging from a few thousand seconds to several minutes.

Despite many theoretical hypotheses, the sources of these ultra-high energy cosmic rays are still a mystery to us even after many decades of their discovery. These rays were initially discovered in the 1960’s by the U.S. military when they were doing background checks for gamma rays after nuclear weapon testing. Cosmologists suggest that these bursts could be the result of super massive stars collapsing - leading to hypernova; or can be retraced to collisions of black holes with other black holes or neutron stars.

How Do We Detect Them?

When the high-energy particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, the air and the gas molecules cause them to break apart and create massive showers of relatively low-energy particles. Aurora borealis i.e., the Northern and the Southern lights are the lights that are emitted when these cosmic rays interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. Currently, these particles are hitting the Earth at a rate of about one per square meter per second. The showers get scattered to a radius of one or two kilometers consisting mostly of high-energy photons, electrons, positrons and muons. But the fact that these particles can hit the Earth anytime and anywhere is where the problem arises. Since the Earth has a massive area, it is not possible to place a detector everywhere and catch them at the exact moment.

Energetic charged particles known as cosmic rays hit our atmosphere, where they collide with air molecules to produce a shower of secondary particle | Source: CERN

Detecting such a shower requires a very big telescope, which logically means a network of individual particle detectors distributed over a mile or two-wide radius and connected to each other. The Pierre Auger Observatory in South America is the only such arrangement where 1,600 particle detectors have been scattered on 3,000 square kilometers of land. But the construction cost of the same was about $100 million. Yet, only a few cosmic ray particles could be detected using this arrangement. How do we spread this network around the Earth?

In addition to being cost-effective, such a setup must also be feasible. The Earth’s surface cannot possibly be dotted with particle detectors which cost huge fortunes. This is where smartphones come into the picture.

Detecting The Particles Using Smartphones

Smartphones are the most appropriate devices required to solve the problem. They have planet wide coverage, are affordable by most people and are being actively used by more than 1.5 billion users around the planet. Individually, these devices are low and inefficient; but a considerably dense network of such devices can give us a chance to detect cosmic ray showers belonging to the highest energy range.

Previous research has shown that smartphones have the capability of detecting ionizing radiation. The camera is the most sensitive part of the smartphone and is just the device required to meet our expectations. A CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) device is present in the camera- in which silicon photodiode pixels produce electron-hole pairs when struck by visible photons (when photons are detected by the CMOS device, it leaves traces of weakly activated pixels). The incoming rays are also laced with other noises and interference from the surroundings.  Although these devices are made to detect visible light, they still have the capability of detecting higher-energy photons and also low-ionizing particles such as the muons.

A screenshot from the app which shows the exposure time, the events- the number of particles recorded and other properties

To avoid normal light, the CRAYFIS application is to be run during nighttime with the camera facing down. As the phone processor runs the application it collects data from its surroundings using a camera as its detector element. The megapixel images (i.e., the incoming particles) are scanned at a speed of 5 to 15 frames per second, depending on the frame-processing speed of the device. Scientists expect that signals from the cosmic rays would occur rarely, i.e., around one in 500 frames. Also, there is the job of removing background data. An algorithm was created to tune the incoming particle shower by setting a threshold frequency at around 0.1 frames per second. Frames containing pixels above the threshold are stored and passed to the second stage which examines the stored frames, saving only the pixels above a second, lower threshold.

The CRAYFIS app is designed to run when the phone is not being used and when it is connected to a power source. The actual performance would be widely affected by the geometry of the smartphone’s camera and the conditions in which the data is being collected. Further, once the application is installed and is in the operating mode, no participation is required from the user, which is required to achieve wide-scale participation. When a Wifi connection is available the collected data would be uploaded to the central server so that it could be interpreted.

There is much complicated math used to trace back the information collected from the application. The most important parameters for the app are the local density of incoming particles, the detection area of the phone and the particle identification efficiency. These parameters are used to find the mean number of candidates (photons or muons) being detected. Further, the probability that a phone will detect no candidates or the probability that a phone will detect one or more candidates is given by Poisson distribution. The density of the shower is directly proportional to the incident particle energy with a distribution in x and y sensitive to the direction in which the particle came from. An Unbinned Likelihood (it is the probability of obtaining a certain data- in this case the distribution of the cosmic rays including their energy and direction, the obtained data is arranged into bins which are very, very small) analysis is used to determine the incident particle energy and direction. To eliminate background interference, a benchmark requirement has been set that at least 5 phones must detect and register a hit to be considered as a candidate.

It is impossible to express just how mind-blowing this innovation is. As the days pass, Science and Technology around us keep on surprising us and challenge us to rack our brains for more and more unique ways to deal with complex problems. The CRAYFIS app is simply beautiful and it would be a dream-come-true to the scientists if the project works out and we are able to detect these high energy, super intimidating cosmic rays with smartphones from our backyard.

Further Reading

The paper by Daniel Whiteson and team can be found here.

An exciting book “We Have No Idea” by Daniel Whiteson and cartoonist Jorge Cham can be found here.

The CRAYFIS app can be found here.

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