Transitional justice is crucial in post-conflict countries as it not only promotes justice, but also unity and reconciliation, the Minister for Justice Johnston Busingye has said.
Busingye, who was yesterday opening a regional course on transitional justice and peace building at the Rwanda Peace Academy in Nyakinama, Musanze District, said whereas the fruits of transitional justice are a given, they might not necessarily be heralded under the conventional system.
The one-week course has brought together military, police and civilian officers from six African countries.
“Transitional justice has gained popularity in post-conflict jurisdictions. The international centre for transitional justice defines it as a set of judicial and non-judicial measures that are implemented by various countries to address human rights abuse,” said Busingye.
“Such measures include criminal prosecutions, institution of reparation programmes, and establishment of unity and reconciliation programmes, truth seeking initiative and security system reforms,” he added.
The minister said he appreciated efforts by regional military and beyond to address transitional justice and urged them to keep it up and apply what they will learn from the course to further long-lasting peace.
The minister told participants that transitional justice is not a kind of justice but rather an approach that certain jurisdiction opts for achieving justice, peace and reconciliation during transition from conflict.
“In terms of conflict, massive human rights violations do not only affect the direct victims but also wider societies; the whole social fabric of communities is shaken to its core. Transitional justice aims largely at preventing future or cyclic recurrence of conflicts,” said Busingye.
He shared with them the experience of Rwanda to achieve durable peace two decades ago despite tragic period of genocide through which it passed using traditional and internal ways of justice and reconciliation.
Participating officers are from Burkina Faso, Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda and hosts Rwanda according to academic officials
The Rwanda scenario
Rwanda has been hailed for introducing and successfully implementing the Gacaca semi-traditional judicial system, which disposed of more than two million cases of persons accused of responsibility in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The courts are hailed for having not only expeditiously dealt with the backlog of cases that would have taken decades, but also formed a major catalyst for national unity.
Col. Jill Rutaremara, the director-general of Rwanda Peace Academy, said the course will provide a holistic overview of the current transitional justice strategies and mechanisms, their nature and practical application, and the challenges and lessons learned that various actors may encounter and apply in post-conflict settings.
The participants said they expect to learn a lot from Rwanda’s experience during the training.
“We know that Rwanda faced problems in 1994, but the leadership has made tremendous transformation and this is a lesson we will take home. Good leadership can change a country which had problems and take care of the common good of the people,” said Walter B. Ongeri, senior director of communications in the Kenyan defence ministry.
He added: “We also strongly feel that there is a need for Africans to look for ways of solving problems amicably.”