Gacaca archives digitisation starts in January, CNLG says

The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), in partnership with Aegis Trust, will next month embark on a project to organise, catalogue and digitise Gacaca courts archives to preserve and make them accessible.
A Genocide suspect  appears before Gacaca court in the past. (File)
A Genocide suspect appears before Gacaca court in the past. (File)

The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), in partnership with Aegis Trust, will next month embark on a project to organise, catalogue and digitise Gacaca courts archives to preserve and make them accessible.

The plan, an outcome of about 18 months of research and a feasibility study by Aegis Trust, will digitise and preserve an estimated 60 million pages of documents and 8,000 audio visual files.

On completion of the process, the archives will be beneficial in judicial procedures that use material as evidence, researchers, students as well as serve for memorial purposes.

The digitisation will utilise efforts from international organisations with expertise in the field such as Kings College London, NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies and USC Shoah Foundation.

Addressing organisations partnering in the initiative in Kigali, yesterday, CNLG executive secretary Jean De Dieu Mucyo said the project was significant as it would not only preserve information about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but also make the information accessible to people across the world.

He said the three-phase project will stretch five-and-a-half-years.

“It will require considerable funding but the benefits will be enormous. The funding for the first phase has been secured and the process is expected to begin in January,” Mucyo said.

Transfer of expertise

Mucyo added that the process will also see expertise transferred from international partners to local professionals involved in the process of creating a cadre of trained personnel to manage and run the archives.

Sports and Culture minister Joe Habineza said Gacaca courts helped lay foundation for unity and reconciliation by bringing to light what happened in 1994.

“Preserving the results of the courts work and ensuring people can access them for research and learning is important for government,” Habineza said.

The minister termed it as Rwanda’s contribution to humanity to ensure that genocide never reoccurs.

The feasibility study conducted prior to the launch of the project showed that documents in the Gacaca archives were deteriorating and risked being lost or misplaced.

Elaborating on the study’s findings, Yves Kamuronsi, of Aegis Trust, said there were no modern archiving tools available and it would take weeks to retrieve them when required for judicial procedures.

“The environment was not appropriate to archive materials let alone retrieve them. The physical archives did not meet the acceptable standards,” Kamuronsi said.

He added that they are also in the process of establishing standards for intellectual property and rights to access to make sure that they were not used for malicious purposes.

According to the Aegis Trust country director, Freddy Mutanguha, modern shelves to preserve the documents that were said to be in bad conditions were ordered from the Netherlands and are expected in the next three weeks.

Gacaca have been widely described as one of the most inclusive transitional justice systems in the world.

The more than 12,000 courts that tried nearly two million cases, recorded a total of about 60 million pages before wrapping up its work in 2012.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi in 2010 opened a documentation facility to collect, store and manage archived materials of the genocide, some of which will also be digitised.