The ever-changing gacaca

21 April 2008 by Lars Waldorf

The Rwandan Parliament is currently finalizing a new amendment to the gacaca law that will shift more serious genocide cases-including rape-from the national courts to gaca-ca’s 1,545 community courts. This will be the third time the Gacaca law has been formally amended since it was first issued in 2001-and that’s not counting the various executive decrees that have also reshaped gacaca. 

Gacaca has been—and still remains—very much a work in progress. As Johnston Busingye, who was then the second highest-ranking official in the Ministry of Justice, said in an interview in mid-2006, “Gacaca is not a textbook. We are writing the book as we practice it. Sometimes we change the paragraph before we write the next one.” Gacaca has evolved considerably over the past seven years as it has run the gauntlet of legal amendments, official pronouncements, shifting priorities, donor worries, NGO critiques and practical hurdles. Amidst all that flux, there have been three overarching changes.

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