One of the main points President Paul Kagame emphasized to the current Minister of Justice and Attorney General at the latter’s swearing in after he had been appointed on August 4, 2006, was the quickening of the Judicial Reforms.
The President said then that “the reform process should continue in all areas of interest, including business, investment and all commercial and economic activities”, adding that “all should be carried out with the view of establishing a good environment in all areas vital to the development of the country.”
Less than two years later, a landmark international conference for the purpose of reviewing the effect of the accomplished reforms and progress of the continuing process, is underway in the country’s capital, Kigali.
New legal structures are among the highlights of the revamped judicial system, a set-up Minister Tharcisse Karugarama prides in as characteristically Rwandan.
The innovative approach to the reforms, given the unique nature of the challenges in Rwanda, is the single reason they won’t be found anywhere else in the world.
In the past, however, innovation in the justice sector aimed at coming up with solutions to overwhelming Genocide cases was criticized by foreigners as not conforming to conventional trends.
Arguments flew everywhere that ignored the fact that Rwanda faced a very special situation and needed special interventions to try Genocide perpetrators.
One of the innovations was the establishment of Gacaca Courts to try Genocide cases. Gacaca Courts exact different penalties including compensation, but most importantly emphasize two aspects of confession and forgiveness as a way to healing wounds.
Fortunately, the presence of representatives in the three-day conference at Hotel de Mille Collines of countries such as the US, Canada, France, UK, Belgium, Switzerland, and bodies like ICTR and Human Rights Watch, makes the process more participatory.
Hopefully their views will be made here and all suggestions on how to make improvements will be agreeable to all stakeholders.