A new report dubbed, ‘The National reconciliation Barometer’, by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), showed that at least 93 percent of the population believe that Gacaca courts played a critical role in dispensing justice and promoting reconciliation among Rwandans following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Ten years ago, the Government decided that Gacaca courts were the most effective judicial system that could help expedite hundreds of thousands of Genocide related cases, promote reconciliation and bring out the truth about the Genocide. The decision was reached after it became clear that it was going to take no less than 100 years to try all genocide cases in classic courts.
In that situation, there was no better option than Gacaca, at least in the eyes of Rwandans, who were determined to rebuild their social fabric.
This traditional participatory grassroots-based judicial system is one of many uniquely Rwandan solutions that the people chose as a way of addressing their peculiar challenges, as they sought to build a more united and prosperous country.
Gacaca courts system, like many other domestic initiatives, was heavily criticized by the usual suspects outside the country. Yet, its critics could not provide any alternative.
The heavily funded and UN-backed ICTR has only managed to hand down 30 sentences since its establishment, 16 years ago. Yet, Gacaca courts – which have already closed – successfully prosecuted 1,244,000 suspects in a record four years, from 15, July 2006–August 5, 2010.
While Rwandans are relishing their accomplishments under the Gacaca justice system, such successes should motivate us to undertake more homegrown initiatives to solve our own problems.
We should continually devise and promote initiatives we believe will deliver our own aspirations, regardless of the views of the cynical world.