The Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye, has urged legal practitioners in the country to dispense their duties with competence and integrity.
Busingye was addressing the general assembly of the Rwanda Bar association in Kigali on Saturday. The association comprises over 1,000 members.
“The market is growing wider for you. Do not say you are limited to this country yet there are more opportunities across the region and beyond,” Busingye said.
He challenged the lawyers to upgrade their capacity so that a foreign investor with a case that is international in nature can choose a Rwandan lawyer rather than having to look elsewhere.
Athanase Rutabingwa, the president of the association, said lawyers have continued to benefit from different capacity building initiatives and these efforts have paid off, citing an example of some advocates who have participated in some cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
He said Rwandan lawyers are ready to compete with their colleagues from the East African Community (EAC).
He appealed to the minister to advocate for the Bar, so that if there is a case abroad involving a Rwandan suspected of Genocide against the Tutsi, for example, the defence team in that country can consider getting a Rwandan lawyer to help them understand the context of the crime.
“This will help a lot because in some instances, foreign lawyers miss alot especially in evidence,” he explained.
Busingye challenged them on honesty, especially while defending pro bono (free of charge) cases.
He said the government is developing a framework to support lawyers in such cases, by providing them with transport and accommodation.
Busingye urged the lawyers to handle these cases the way they do while handling paid-for services.
During an interactive session, lawyers asked the Justice minister to organise a forum for lawyers and other actors in the judiciary to discuss issues regarding the sector and collectively seek remedies to existing challenges. Attorney’s fees, which are perceived to be high, dominated the discussion.
But lawyers explained that their tariff is prescribed by law and those who criticise them do not bother checking it.
On the shortage of government attorneys, Busingye said they are conducting a study that will allow the learned friends to take charge of some cases involving government institutions.