President Paul Kagame on Wednesday appointed Faustin Ntezilyayo, a former Justice Minister, as new Chief Justice, a statement from the Office of the President indicates.
Ntezilyayo replaces Sam Rugege who has been at the helm of the judiciary for the past eight years.
Kagame also appointed Marie-Thérèse Mukamulisa as the Deputy Chief Justice, replacing Zainabu Sylvie Kayitesi.
Ntezilyayo was until his appointment a Judge at the East African Court of Justice, a visiting lecturer of law at the University of Rwanda, School of Law and the Director of the Centre for Trade and Investment Law and Policy.
He has also previously served as a Minister of Justice.
In Rwanda, the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice can only serve one non-renewable term of eight years.
Ntezilyayo takes on the new responsibilities following the many reforms the judiciary has gone through, thanks to the ground that has been laid by former Chief Justice Rugege and the team he has led.
In a recent interview with The New Times, Rugege who first served as the Deputy Chief Justice said the justice system was clogged with cases when they inherited it back in 2004 – there were 54,000 pending cases.
“We introduced contract judges at the primary courts, which helped us engage more judges than we were allowed to have. Having recruited them into the primary courts, then there were those in the primary courts who were temporarily promoted to the intermediate level, and those at the intermediate court went to the high court,” he said at the time.
Within about five years, Rugege said they were able to reduce the number of cases that were stuck in courts. “We have very few cases now that we regard as backlogs.”
That is the ground that the new Chief Justice is finding in his new responsibilities.
But Ntezilyayo also has a challenge ahead of him. The Judiciary has been implicated in reports by watchdogs as being among the sectors with the highest prevalence of corruption.
Wealth of experience
To be appointed as the Chief Justice, one has to be a lawyer of considerable experience. The law says at least one must have at least experience of ten years in a law-related field to be a judge in the Supreme Court.
Ntezilyayo is said to be possessing 30 years of professional experience, having served in various positions within the government including as Vice Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda and Managing Director of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency.
He holds a PhD in law from Antwerp University, a Master’s in Fiscal Law from Free University of Brussels, and an M.A. in international affairs with specialization in international trade policy from Carleton University (2009, Canada), according to his LinkedIn profile.
He has followed various professional training in areas such as arbitration, corporate governance, negotiations of financial transactions, and legal aspects of public debt management, financial regulation, and regulation of telecommunications services, among others.
The new Chief Justice is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIarb-London), a member of the Panel of Conciliators/Arbitrators of the WB’s International Centre for Investment Dispute Resolution (ICSID) and a member of the AfAA.Follow https://twitter.com/Julio_Bizimungu