This year’s edition of the Annual Legal Aid Week was launched Saturday with officials announcing that the drive will help collect information pertaining to all the yet-to-be-executed Gacaca judgments related to property loss.
Officials say nearly 40,000 property-related judgments of the now defunct Gacaca courts are yet to be executed but fear that the number could even be higher, thus appealing to anyone who may not have reported such rulings to come forward and share the details with the Justice ministry.
This, it is hoped, will help to understand the real scope of the challenge at the national level, thereby allowing for an appropriate solution to be found.
And, as witnessed at the launch of the ‘week’ on Saturday in Kabarore Sector of Gastibo District, where four families forgave some 103 former convicts deemed indigent and therefore unable to pay for the property damage, it is expected that by the end of this drive on Friday, many similar cases will have been settled, especially since citizens have demonstrated willingness to collaborate in this effort.
Legal Aid Week traditionally addresses a wide-range of issues, including extending free legal aid to juvenile suspects, incarcerated pregnant women or mothers who are in detention along with infants; educating inmates about the law and specifically their rights; and sensitising the general public about new legislations that are critical to social harmony. This particular edition is no different. Officials will be looking to cover a lot in such a limited time (from Saturday through Friday).
However, while every activity of the Week is super important and should be attended to as much as possible, it is critical that more efforts are put into sorting the issue of property-related cases inherited from the Gacaca jurisdictions.
Five years after the official closure of the Gacaca tribunals, which did a great job during their decade-long work, it is a shame that we still have non-penal cases that remain unresolved to-date.
The action by the survivors in Kabarore on Saturday to forgive the more than a hundred former convicts who had been ordered by courts to pay for property damage is an indication that many more citizens around the country may be willing to do the same, especially in a situation where the offender is indigent and has shown genuine remorse.
Notably, Gacaca courts were built around the principle of a restorative justice system that actively promotes reconciliation, rehabilitation and social cohesion.
The Ministry of Justice and all its stakeholders must leave no stone unturned to find a lasting solution to this challenge to help Rwandans continue to forge a bright future as one people.