Kwibuka25: Major progress made on preservation of Gacaca archives

Some of the boxes that contain Gacaca archives at Police headquaters. File.

scanning and digitalising of Gacaca court archives have successfully been completed and the next stage, according to the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide, (CNLG), is to index the archives for easy access.

Speaking to The New Times, Jean Damascène Bizimana, the CNLG Executive Secretary, said that indexing of the archives collected during the 10 years of the semi-traditional courts, has already kicked off and will be concluded by mid next year.

Gacaca justice system officially closed in 2012, after trying more than 1.9 million Genocide crimes in ten years.

This was followed by the process of scanning and digitalising the case files in 2015 which, according to Bizimana, is a milestone.

Indexing Gacaca archives will include listing them and making them accessible online complete with reference to the pages and categories of cases in which they fall to help researchers easily locate them.

“The act of digitising 45 million pages was completed by the end of 2018 and the indexing phase has started with a plan to complete this phase within two years,” he said.

By indexing the archives, the material will easily be accessible to different institutions and indviduals.  Readers will be able to locate case by case which is not easy at the moment. For instance, if it is about rape cases, you will be directed to this category once the process is complete,” he said.

Besides digitising 45 million pages, 42,849 registers were also scanned, Bizimana said.

Initially, there were over 60 million pages but some pages were found blank and without any notes and were hence dropped.

The New Timesunderstands that, as part of the 2018-2019 budget for CNLG, Rwf991.6 million was allocated to the indexing exercise under which 979,316 cases have to be indexed.

Other related activities currently ongoing include training of staff on the indexing process, developing Gacaca archive glossary, customising the digital repository and indexing system, and installation of indexing system for audio-visual.

Call for special documentation centre

Meanwhile, Members of Parliament last week urged government to establish a special documentation centre for both Gacaca courts archives and a collection of literature about genocide.

The literature, according to the legislators, should be tailored to districts for easy understanding and reference.

The recommendations are part of the report tabled to the plenary by members of the parliamentary standing committee on unity, human rights, and the fight against genocide.

“The Ministry of Infrastructure should find space that is big enough dedicated for a documentation centre for all archive related to the Genocide against the Tutsi to ensure they are kept for posterity,” said MP Elizabeth Mukamana, the committee chairperson.

Bizimana told The New Times that the Gacaca documents remain temporarily stored at the Rwanda National Police headquarters in Kacyiru, adding that after the indexing, a proper Gacaca Archives Centre could be set up considering required standards and security.

He said that even after all the documents have been digitalised and made accessible online, it is important to keep the physical documents because of the historical significance they hold for the country.

He said that they are also working with Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) to ensure safety of the digitised archive.

“After completing all phases of indexing, we will sit and decide whether they can be stored at National Archives Centre, that is under construction, or if a special facility can be created for Gacaca and other documents related to the Genocide against the Tutsi,” he said.

The commission, he added, has started research that involves gathering and documenting testimonies about the history of the Genocide in all administrative territories, that were previously known as prefectures during the time of the Genocide.

So far, the process has been carried out in the former prefectures of Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Kibungo.

Data collected from the former prefectures of Cyangugu, Gikongoro, Butare, and Gitarama is being analysed, Bizimana said.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, there country was divided into 10 prefectures and Kigali City.