Editorial: Restorative justice was Rwanda’s only way

In normal circumstances, millions of people doting the hills of this country would be behind bars; but these are not normal times.

The people referred to above are those who participated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but thanks to an extraordinary judicial procedure known as Gacaca, they are free for the sake of reconciliation in the country.

Rwanda has decided to look at incarceration as a solution to crimes under a new light.

At the moment, there is an ongoing debate on the logic of lengthy jail sentences for juveniles as it does more harm to the child as compared to rehabilitation.

In fact, there is no need for a debate on that subject; Genocide convicts were given the option of serving part of their sentences outside performing community service. There were a lot of positive outcomes, including decongesting the over-flowing prisons.

Today, there is no one more grateful to the current judicial arrangements than former genocidaires who would still be in jail had courts followed the traditional judicial process.

The other argument why alternatives should be sought to keep juveniles out of the prison system is that the Government is toying with the idea of introducing half-way houses for prisoners.

Prior to their release, inmates will be taken to live in a controlled environment and get prepared to be reinserted in society. And it has concrete evidence alternatives to incarceration work better.

When Gacaca was first introduced, it was met with a lot of opposition because “experts” were viewing it under normal light, yet what Rwanda needed was restorative justice. The rest is history. But at the end of the day, some sacrifices are needed to serve a higher goal.