This week, the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Abdirahin Haithar Abdi recommended that East African countries adopt Gacaca system of jurisdiction to clear the backlog of cases in their judicial system.
He also described it as the best way of resolving local disputes.These courts could be used to try perpetuators of the insurgency in northern Uganda, Burundi, crimes against humanity in eastern DR Congo and communal clushes in Kenya and Tanzania.
In Rwanda, these courts were revitalised by the post-Genocide government as a response to the accumulation of untried Genocide cases and by 2004, about 250,000 community members had been trained to participate in 19 panels of judges.
A few years down the road, Gacaca courts can largely be seen helping in speeding up of justice, peace, and reconciliation in Rwanda.
Gacaca as a form of restorative justice has not only been practiced in Rwanda, but also in Acholi, a sub region in Uganda. ‘Mato oput’ is a communal justice system among the Acholi people that seeks to restore social harmony by having people who commit wrongs own up to their crimes publicly and carry out a form of contrition by swallowing bitter herbs. There after they are reintegrated into society.
Notwithstanding, the Speaker also noted that the system helps in collection of data from the grassroot level since it uses people with integrity and therefore information can be used in planning and improving people’s wellbeing from an informed point of view.
This system is deterrent, convinient and easy to monitor.However, before Gacaca is fully adopted training of judges, harmonising local languages cannot be understimated.
Fear to give evidence against the accused has been branded as one of the failures of Gacaca because many survivors are afraid of retribution. The system stands out to be the best way for reconciliation.Ends