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Gacaca courts achieved their objectives

Gacaca courts will be officially closed in June this year – 10 years after they were re-introduced to help dispense justice for crimes that were committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Gacaca courts will be officially closed in June this year – 10 years after they were re-introduced to help dispense justice for crimes that were committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The semi-traditional courts have tried close to two million cases within the last decade, using a budget of Rwf30 billion. This is equivalent to less than 3 per cent of funds used by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which has handled less than 100 cases.

The difference between what Rwanda has accomplished through Gacaca courts vis-à-vis ICTR’s achievements is mindboggling, to say the least.

What Gacaca has delivered to Rwanda is simply a vindication of the country’s choice to resort to home-grown solutions. 

When Gacaca started in 2002, it had three main objectives; to deliver justice, ascertain the truth behind the killings, and promote unity and reconciliation of Rwandans. Today, Rwandans can look back with pride and a good deal of satisfaction on each of the objectives.

By adopting a community-based, home-grown system to help address the challenge, the government was able to instil the all-important spirit ownership, among Rwandans, in finding solutions to the unprecedented problems the country found itself with following of the Genocide.

Nonetheless, it goes without question that Gacaca had its downside. For instance, there are still unresolved issues, especially with regard to the enforcement of court rulings and compensation. It is important that all the stakeholders combine resources to ensure that the remaining issues are ironed out.

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