Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch

Welcome to
Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rwanda: Gacaca Court, justice or injustice

From Africa Global Village By Jennifer Fierberg, MSW

In 2001, after the 1994 genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) attempted to develop a human detention and prosecution method of those accused of genocide and war crimes.  They came up with decision called A System of Community Justice.  Since the beginning of this “humane” system there have been 120,000 possible genocidaires crammed into Rwanda prisons which would take more than 110 years to try all the accused prisoners under this rule of law.  Therefore, a more efficient system of justice had to be developed.

The Gacaca court was changed in 2007 to a more transitional method of justice.  The goal of this new court system was designed to promote healing and change from the thought processes of the horrific memories of 1994 to a new beginning.  Moving forward from genocide, and the painful memories therein, requires fairness, equality, honesty and justice where there once was none.  But, under this new system of court none of those expectations are being met.  This system of justice promotes much more of an injustice.  Many legitimate prisoners accused of genocide actions are being released while others are being unjustly imprisoned without trials or equal representation.  Recently the niece of a 70 year old woman commented on one of my articles and reported that her aunt had been sentenced to 30 years in prison without any representation.  She stated she will never see her Aunt alive again due to the harsh and inhumane conditions within the Rwandan prison systems.

In 2007 a children’s activist for an NGO serving  children in Rwanda and serving for the rights of the most vulnerable, was found to guilty in a trial Amnesty International found to be unfair. The judge in the case was alleged to have raped a young girl therefore creating a conflict of interest in this case but the higher courts upheld the 19 year sentence and gave no reason for not looking further into the allegations of the judge.  The NGO Amnesty International has called for a review of this case in line with international standards of a fair trial.
In August of 2010 Rwanda held a key presidential election. Many in the media, political arena and around the world believe the re-election of Paul Kagame was a fixed victory.  Victoire Ingabire, President of the united Democratic Forces (UDF)  gave a speech in January 2010 at the Gisozi Genocide Memorial calling for the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Hutu by the RPF. She also stated that she seeks political neutrality among the national army and desires lasting stability and sustainability through democracy. She clearly stated “social development is required and democratic governance is rooted in the rule of law.” This statement under Rwandan law was equated to “genocide ideology.”  She was arrested, briefly imprisoned also accused of collaboration with the Hutu group FDLR which is mainly composed of Rwandan Hutu. This group does contain former Rwandan soldiers responsible for the 1994 genocide as well as those not included in the 1994 genocidal actions.  Due to this speech she was arrested and is facing the same treatment under Gacaca Court for alleged genocide ideology as well as collaboration with terrorists groups.  Amnesty International is calling for a fair trial in her case as well as urging the Rwandan Government to ensure Ingabire is tried promptly and in accordance with International fair trial standards.  There have been accusations of intimidation and harassment of witnesses in her case.  The FDU is still seeking political registration in Rwanda and continues to be denied this political right along with many other groups seeking to bring democracy to Rwanda including the RPP-IMVURA.  The FDU is in direct opposition to the current leading party RDF. 

On the 23rd of April 2010 Rwandan immigration rejected a work visa re-application by a Rwandan based researcher for the International Human Rights Watch group. Two Rwandan newspapers have also been suspended until after the August election due to their open criticism of the current government. Under these circumstances how can Ingabire or any other person or group opposing the current government expect to receive a fair and just trial? Ingabrie is scheduled to face this "legal" system Friday December 17, 2010.  Hope for fairness seems grim.

Under the current Gacaca Court who can achieve justice when a part of the oppositional national party cannot even expect this treatment?  Evidence of this is seen on Iwawa Island and the many human rights activists who have been unjustly imprisoned.  The ruling political party holds total power and can imprison anyone deemed to be holding mere thoughts against them without rule of law. The current Rwandan government is also shutting down public newspapers and outspoken journalists are missing.

Where is the democracy in these actions? Where is the justice? In a country that has seen the worst of injustices in the 20th century while the world turned their back it seems that they would seek justice at any cost.  But that form of justice seems to only be sought if the “correct” ruling party is in place and all opposition is shut down and quieted. 
A recovering nation building toward hope is beginning to expose to the world the harsh underbelly of domination through political power.  The genocide ended in1994, the UN must wake up and take a roll allowing democracy a fair chance in a country that deserves fair and strong Political leadership

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