Questions pile up for swamped gacaca

24 October 2005 by Louis-Martin Rugendo

Officially begun on March 10, 2005, Rwanda's community-based gacaca courts are facing major difficulties and ambiguities. Expectations for the gacaca are divergent, to say the least, and the main challenges for these courts include: lack of resources, political interference, lack of qualified judges and the complexity of the cases being tried. Six months later, only 10% of the gacaca have begun trials and Rwandans are testing the impact of these courts.

In six months, 2,698 people have stood trial in cases before the 751 gacaca courts in Rwanda that have reached the trial stage. The 12,000 or so remaining courts are still in the "information gathering" stage. According to estimates from the National Service for Gacaca Jurisdictions (NSGJ), over 750,000 people are now suspected of having participated in the 1994 Tutsi genocide and are thus likely to stand trial. More than 100,000 of them are already in detention in Rwanda. Based on these figures and the gacaca's initial objective to settle all the genocide-related cases in five years, the courts are far from reaching cruising speed.

The law of silence

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