The politics of breaking rocks

24 October 2005 by Louis-Martin Rugendo

"Those who say we are in bondage are wrong. They forget the nature of the crimes we committed! They have been lenient with us," says Emmanuel Kamanda with conviction. Assigned to the second category of genocide perpetrators by his sector gacaca, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Kamanda has finished serving height and will perform community service to fulfill the remaining four. He is among the hundreds of people we met at a pilot site in the center of the country. They were crushing rocks to build roads.

According to Rwandan authorities, this "community service" program is a way of "extending a hand" to the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide - a way of pardoning them and reintegrating them into Rwandan society. Governed by a presidential decree dated March 7, 2005, the community service program was officially launched on September 22. With this type of sentence, convicted suspects spend only half of their time in prison. This applies only to the so-called "category 2" suspects - perpetrators, subordinates and accomplices suspected of having committed murder or assault and battery resulting in death during the genocide. "Category 1" suspects, the suspected planners, rapists and renowned killers are not entitled to such sentences.

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