600 tried, thousands flee

23 May 2005 by Mary Kimani

Since trials began at the gacaca courts on 10 March, over 600 verdicts have been delivered. This is an impressive result, but one that has not been achieved easily. Attendance is proving a constant problem. For a hearing to be valid, the courts require a quorum of at least nine judges and a hundred members of the community. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has also signalled a new problem: thousands of Rwandans have started fleeing to neighbouring countries to avoid standing trial.

In some areas of Rwanda, the gacaca are popular and active. From a hilltop overlooking Rubengera in Kibuye on a Thursday morning, a trail of people can be seen snaking their way slowly to the Gacaca proceedings there. Hundreds of people attend the courts, eager for an opportunity to have their say. The difference in attitudes from one area to another seems to depend largely on how effective the officials have been in communicating how the courts work. Some gacaca have become popular for their continued efforts to summons high-ranking members of the former regime. Following the appearance last month of the current minister of defence and a province governor *see IJT n° 24+, four members of parliament have come before the gacaca, two of whom have resigned. General Laurent Munyakazi was also called to a Kigali gacaca on charges of authorising militia to take Tutsi refugees to the Sainte-Famille church.

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