Kagame Closes Gacaca Courts
12:00pm: President Paul Kagame is invited to give a key speech by the country’s Attorney General Tharcisse Karugarama.
Kagame opens his speech by welcoming guests to the function and saluting development partners for their financial support in making Gacaca a success.
He says all Rwandans must look forward to the starting of another chapter in the story of justice, unity and reconciliation of our nation following the closure of Gacaca.
The President says Rwandans and the international community should all be pleased that today, his countrymen live and work together for their wellbeing and common good.
Kagame hails Rwandans for full participation and Inyangamugayo (judges) for selfless dedication in hearing and judging the many cases at Gacaca.
“Our gratitude also to friends of Rwanda across the globe in academia, media, industry for supporting Gacaca process in different ways,” says kagame.
He singles out UNDP and governments of Austria, USA, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland for their invaluable support to Gacaca.
“The practice of discussion and consensus “kujya inama” - will continue to be at the centre of our governance and development agenda. The legacy of Gacaca lives on and its legacy will be with us for generations to come because it is part of our heritage,” he says.
“This is the spirit of the new Rwanda – bold enough to tackle complex challenges, and prepared to work together to find solutions. Another legacy of Gacaca is voluntarism, and selfless dedication to duty as exemplified by citizens generally, and the Inyangamugayo,” notes Kagame.
He says in the Gacaca process justice has been literally administered by and in the name of the people.
“In conventional judicial systems justice is rendered in the name of the people, even when they have very little to do with it. Gacaca has been a process where contribution of every Rwandan has been valued, mobilizing of cumulative strength towards common goals,” says Kagame.
The presidents states that there is evidence of empowering of citizens in Gacaca through collective vetting of judges, gathering evidence and hearing of cases to delivering the verdict.
“Nowhere has empowering of citizens been more evident as in Gacaca due to community level discussions and collective decision making. The spirit of openness and readiness to break with past and start afresh taking root in the country will be one of the key legacies of Gacaca,” affirms Kagame.
“Gacaca was an important end in itself, for justice and reconciliation – but it served a purpose far greater than that forgiveness sought and granted is at the heart of our unity and reconciliation efforts and we are stronger as a nation as a result.”
Kagame also points out that truth came out in Gacaca courts, from perpetrators and survivors of genocide, witnesses and the community freely, insisting there was no tutoring of paid lawyers.
“Gacaca has empowered Rwandans in ways few could have envisaged and literally illustrated the liberating value of truth,” he says.
“At considerably less cost, Gacaca has concluded close to two million cases and helped reconcile and unite the nation. ICTR has tried just about 60 cases, cost about 1.7 billion and left Rwandans largely dissatisfied and calling for more justice.”
Kagame further states that Gacaca Courts’ value and effectiveness will be measured against the record of other courts, principally the ICTR.
He said Gacaca process helped Rwanda re-discover her collective self-worth and is now confident to find solutions to other socio-economic challenges.
“We reintroduced Gacaca judicial system with its twin emphasis on restorative justice and reconciliation – each was critical for us. We turned to our cultural, judicial and conflict resolution mechanism and adapted it to respond to the challenges of the day,” says Kagame.
But we chose the more difficult course; he says, to deal with the matter decisively and restore the unity and integrity of the nation.
He says the 1994 genocide and its aftermath presented the RPF with challenges that tested them all to limit.
Kagame notes there were three major choices open to us: path of vengeance, general amnesty and most likely descend into anarchy and destruction.
“As we all know only too well, conventional justice as we know it could not handle the sheer numbers involved and social harmony sought. One of these challenges was redress for victims, perpetrators’ accountability for their crimes and restoring harmony among Rwandans,” says Kagame.
Kagame says the Gacaca process has been an important phase in the history of Rwanda; a period to reunite the nation restore trust among Rwandans.
“Despite imperfections, many challenges, including criticisms from both within and outside Rwanda, Gacaca, has served us very well. There can be no doubt that Gacaca has served us very well in regard to truth-telling, national healing, reconciliation and justice.”
He says Gacaca challenged every Rwandan into introspection soul-searching resulting in truth-telling, national healing, reconciliation and justice.
Gacaca worked because Rwandans believed it was a system that delivered results and the country is now convinced there could've been no better alternative, according to the President.
“Rwandans welcome continued discussion in legal, judicial and academic circles to adapt and improve on Gacaca judicial system. Their response becomes the defining moment, determining whether they prosper, falter or fail,” he says.
However, he adds that “If you stick to convention, you may lose touch with reality – which sometimes demands imaginative and unorthodox answers.”
At this time, Kagame concludes: “It is now my solemn duty to declare Gacaca Courts officially closed.”
11:00am: Policy makers, academics, government officials, journalists, envoys and human rights activists from several countries have Monday gathered at Parliament to mark the end of the Courts which were instituted in the wake of the 1994 tragedy to deliver justice for genocide survivors.
11:00pm: President Paul Kagame, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire are expected to arrive shortly at Parliament.
On Sunday, intellectuals discussed the successes of the Gacaca Courts and brainstormed on the way forward.
After the Genocide, the new Rwandan Patriotic Front's government struggled with developing just means for the humane detention and prosecution of the more than 100,000 people accused of genocide, war crimes, and related crimes against humanity.
By 2000, approximately 120,000 alleged genocidaires were crammed into Rwanda's prisons and communal jails.
From December 1996 to December 2006, the courts managed to try about 10,000 suspects at that rate it would take another 110 years to prosecute all the prisoners.
Latest statistics now show Gacaca has handled at least one million cases.
The Gacaca courts were a method of transitional justice, designed to promote healing and moving on from the crisis.
According to Rwanda Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama, Gacaca has immensely contributed to the reconstruction of what happened during the genocide, speeding up of the legal proceedings by using as many courts as possible, reconciliation of all Rwandans and building their unity.
Earlier, guests visited Nyarugunga where Gacaca trials were held.
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Updated on 2013-06-04 10:39
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