Friday morning brought with it a different sort of energy in Parliament as the Executive Secretary of Gacaca courts; Domitilla Mukantagazwa, presented one of the most sought after reports to members of the Lower Chamber of Parliament, The New Times reports.
Mukantagazwa, who has been at the helm of the jurisdiction since its inception in 2003, was in parliament to present a report detailing the challenges and achievements and providing a roadmap that would see her office close its doors at the end of this year.
Emotions and questions
The rollercoaster of emotions began with MP Françoise Mukayisenga, who took the floor immediately after Mukantaganzwa made her presentation.
“I would like to thank Mukantaganzwa and her team from the bottom of my heart for the work they have done all these years. This was not a simple job and I hope the government can look for a way of giving her a token of appreciation,” Mukayisenga’s voice wavered emotionally.
Henriette Mukamurangwa also praised Mukantagazwa for “ carrying such a load on her shoulders and asked that she be recognised for her contribution towards making Rwanda a better place.
“I would like to thank Mukantaganzwa, but also appeal that while we are recognising persons of intergrity (Inyangamugayo) with accolades, we also need to recognise her work in this noble cause,” she said.
All the 19 lawmakers who took the floor showered Mukantagazwa with emotional praise for her work, some calling it “challenging”, others calling it “noble” but all recognising its contribution to the road towards reuniting Rwandans.
Mukantagazwa informed lawmakers that her office was planning to recruit a team of foreign experts to evaluate the work done by Gacaca courts and provide recommendations to the nation.
Her revelation prompted a lot of curioisty in the Lower Chamber where members wondered why the office was recruiting foreigners when there were locals who are well acquainted with the genocide and its aftermath.
“We all know that Gacaca courts are our initiative, that came after the international community failed Rwanda. Why are we using foreigners again?,” Mukayisenga wondered.
Marie Rose Mureshyankwano also voiced her concern over the team of foreign experts.
“ I am also wondering about this idea of foreign experts. We all know about the issue of Ceceka (be quite) where people were not providing any information to help gacaca courts. How can we trust their evaluation? Why not mix them with our local experts?,” she asked
Jean Damascène Gasarabwe, another lawmaker was also skeptical on the idea of using to evaluate Gacaca.
“I do not believe in the idea of using foreign experts. Foreigners were watching when the genocide took place. The people who killed were Rwandan, those who were killed were also Rwandan. Who is better at evaluating gacaca courts than Rwandans?” he asked.
Mukantagazwa explained to the House that the idea of using foreign experts was well researched and its advantages were many.
She however cooled down the tension by informing them that the foreign experts would be joined by a local team for different reasons, including the language barrier.
“We decided that we would use foreign experts from all corners of the world because we mainly want different opinions and we also want their final findings to work as a tool against those who deny or underlook the Genocide,” she said
The Lawmakers also raised the corruption allegations that continue to taint the image of the Gacaca judges otherwise known as Inyangamugayo.
“There is an issue of corruption among witnesses and some Inyangamugayo. What are you and your team doing about it,?” Espérance Uwimana asked.
Mukantaganzwa admitted that there was still the issue of corruption but hastily added that her office was taking serious measures to curb it.
“We are aware of that problem, but I can assure you that everything is being done to curb it. For example, our statistics indicate that of the 120,000 judges, 483 have been expelled as a result of corruption and I must inform you that some of these have been prosecuted over the vice,” she explained.
She explained that with the closure of the gacaca courts, ordinary courts would take over some of the cases that would come up.
She however said that cases to do with compensation will still be handled by a section of her office.
Mukantagazwa also informed the lawmakers that her office was ditributing some cases to other courts to speed up and ease Gacaca proceedings.
Speaking of the remaining cases, Mukantaganzwa explained that currently, only 967 cases are being tried in the Southern Province where 78 of these are Category One, 767 in Category Two and 122 in third category.
In the Northern province, 77 cases were yet to be tried, with 5 of them being in category one, 68 in category two and 4 in category three.
In the Western Province, 472 cases were being tried with 30 of these in category one, 322 in category two and 120 in category three.
In Eastern province, 550 cases are on trial 35 of them being category one, 390 in category two and 125 in category three.
Meanwhile in Kigali, only 195 cases were still being tried with 30 of them in Category one, 74 in category two and 91 in category three.
All together, gacaca courts have to deal with 2,263 cases before they close shop.
Gacaca courts were introduced by the Rwandan government to try cases related to the genocide mainly as a means of providing justice to those who lost their loved ones but also to foster unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.
Over one million cases have been disposed off by Gacaca courts.