Chief Justice Prof. Sam Rugege will soon go into retirement and there is no doubt the judiciary has achieved several milestones under his watch.
While most professional sectors were heavily affected by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the judiciary was most hit as it was small in the first place.
Rebuilding it has taken time, patience, resolve and going off the beaten track as was the case of Gacaca. To bring to justice those involved in the eradication of over a million souls during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the traditional textbook would not do.
Experts had estimated that it would have taken about 60 years to go through all the suspects, so the country turned to its traditions for help, a very unpopular decision among international legal experts who condemned Gacaca because they did not understand it.
Rwanda disregarded all those legal experts’ opinions and did its thing. Today Gacaca is being feted as an effected tool in restorative justice.
It is visible that the many reforms are bearing fruit, the judiciary is robust and; the constitution has been challenged and amendments made. In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court blocked the nomination of a proposed senator on the grounds that the candidate was unqualified, very painful for the nominee but a strong statement on the independence of the judiciary.
And now just this week, the Supreme Court trimmed the wings of a controversial property law after a concerned citizen petitioned it, arguing that that law was “in contravention of fundamental human rights to land and other private property which are enshrined in articles 34, and 35 of the Constitution”.
It is a landmark ruling and it gives credence that all the hard work in the judiciary was not in vain.