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Gacaca lacking in political support

The recently launched traditional gacaca courts set up to try tens of thousands of people suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide are still lacking political support to kick off more effectively, Johnston Busingye, the Secretary General in the Ministry of Justice has said.
16 March 2005 - Nasra Bishumba

Gacaca are traditional courts that were reintroduced in 2001 to relieve the pressure from Rwanda's conventional courts that are set to try some 80,000 suspects awaiting trial in Rwandan prisons.

They are being looked upon to deliver judgments to suspects who fall under categories three and four. Categories one and two will be tried by the ordinary courts.

In an exclusive interview, Busingye said that there were hundreds of political and opinion leaders who were in Rwanda at the time of the atrocities who have not come out to provide information about what they know or saw at the time.
“ We have not seen any enthusiasm from leaders. We have got commendable external support that does not match the internal support” Busingye said.
Busingye says elected inyangamugayo (people with integrity) with support from local government were so far going through the motion of what he calls ‘investigation and information gathering’. Though most gacaca court proceedings are expected to begin in April, Busingye says that for each file completed, the case is obliged too kick off immediately.

Four different categories were formulated by the government of Rwanda to help classify the different classes of suspects in line with the weight of each crime.

Category one was put aside to cater for the planners, organisers and leaders of the genocide, those who acted in a position of authority, well known murderers and those guilty of rape and sexual torture.
Category two is for those guilty of voluntary homicide - of having participated in acts against persons resulting in death, of those having inflicted wounds with intent to kill or who committed other serious violent acts which did not result in death.

Category three is for those who committed violent acts without intent to kill while category four is for those who committed crimes against property.
Busingye said that with leaders willing to come out to say what they know about the killing of 1994, there was hope that gacaca will be able to roll out much easier and faster.

He said that though the gacaca courts were not logistically sufficient, the government of Rwanda had so far received a lot of support from development partners and foreign governments.

A survey conducted by a local human rights organisation; LIPRODOR, in 2001 says that three Rwandans out of found were in support of gacaca traditional courts. It also revealed that 81 percent of the people questioned believed that ‘there was any other way of dealing with the legal aftermath of thee genocide than through gacaca courts’.

However, according to Hirondelle Foundation, an organisation that deals with justice issued, 51 percent of the people questioned feared that ‘failure of gacaca courts would lead to ethnic conflict, with inevitable socio-political consequences’.

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