There isn’t enough evidence so far to convince the government that setting up a special court to try corruption cases would reduce the vice, the State Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs has said.
Evode Uwizeyimana was speaking in an interview with journalists at Parliament, yesterday, shortly after appearing before the senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs as part of the senators’ analysis of governance issues raised in the 2015/16 reports from National Commission for Human Rights, Public Service Commission, and Office of the Ombudsman.
The Chief Ombudsman, Aloysie Cyanzayire, has pitched the idea of setting up a special court or a special desk within Rwandan courts to try corruption cases, arguing that it would bring about efficiency in trying corruption suspects and help curb the vice.
Cyanzayire told the parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender, a fortnight ago, that a special court would bring more sensitivity in handling bribery cases and help in building capacities for the staff involved in pursuing corruption cases.
But Uwizeyimana said the country’s conventional courts and other anti-graft institutions such as the police, the Auditor-General and Office of the Ombudsman seem to be enough to deal with corruption at the moment.
“We can’t solve a problem that is not there. Unless we find out that there is corruption because there are no courts to punish corruption cases but they are yet to show us why we need this (special) court,” the minister said.
Uwizeyimana said he would neither admit nor dismiss the notion that the special court is needed unless a thorough assessment was done to prove beyond doubt that the court would make a difference.
“There needs to be a social inquiry for people to tell us whether having this court is necessary. We have many institutions that have been set up here in Rwanda to fight corruption. We wouldn’t say that setting up a special court is a pointless idea but we rather examine it deeply and determine whether the court is necessary or not,” he said.
Currently, corruption suspects are tried in conventional courts and Cyanzayire has said that the complexity of graft cases should be handled by committed judges in the area if more convictions are to be secured.
Against the backdrop of rare convictions for corruption cases involving a lot of money, the Ombudsman told MPs two weeks ago that some of the corruption suspects are acquitted due to lack of evidence or they simply delay the conviction process through endless appeals.
Rwanda, which has maintained a zero tolerance to corruption as a national policy, has, over the years, been rated among the least corrupt countries in the world.
The latest global Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, released in Kigali on Wednesday, placed Rwanda alongside Mauritius as third least corrupt country in sub-Saharan Africa.
The chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda, Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, said the country can still aim higher in the fight against graft and she concurs with the Chief Ombudsman that setting up a special court to try corruption cases would help in that line.
“Setting up an anti-corruption court would have an impact as specialised judges would spend more time looking into corruption cases,” Ingabire told The New Times yesterday.
She said judges in classic courts are often overwhelmed by work and they rarely take their own initiatives to investigate corruption cases, while the latter are often too complex to understand and require digging deeper.