7 December 2005
Justice, Reconciliation and Good Governance: the Case of Rwanda a Decade on
By: H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete— 2005-2006
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete is Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda Seminar on 7 December 2005
It is my great pleasure and honour to be invited, by the Thomas More Institute, to share with you our experience in rebuilding justice and reconciliation after the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda.
Rwanda’s history was characterized by a highly centralised and autocratic system of government that institutionalised ethnic differences. This culminated in the 1994 genocide. The genocide completely devastated the country’s political, social and economic fabric. Since 1994, after stopping the genocide and putting in place a government of national unity, Rwanda has embarked upon a deliberate and focused gradual process of democratisation, and of rebuilding a system of justice, unity and reconciliation.
The year 2003 was a turning point in Rwanda’s transition to democratic governance. A new constitution was adopted after a referendum, and presidential and parliamentary elections were held in a peaceful, free and fair atmosphere. The judicial and law reform process was also accelerated and successfully concluded in 2004.
This paper highlights some of the major steps undertaken to entrench the rule of law and promote unity and reconciliation after the tragic events of 1994.
In 1999, the Legal and Constitutional Commission was created in the framework of the Arusha Peace Agreement to elaborate the new Constitution. The new Constitution adopted in June 2003 was formulated through a fully participatory process that represents the views of all sectors of Rwandan society (political organisations, civil society organisations, religious groups, women, youth, professionals, Rwandan refugees abroad, community groups and Rwandans at grassroots levels, including Rwandese in the Diaspora and those in prisons).
The major principles of the Rwandan Constitution include:
- equitable sharing of power
- promotion of national unity and eradication of ethnic, regional and other divisions;
- promoting dialogue and consensus building as a means to resolve national issues;
- building a state governed by the rule of law, a pluralistic democratic government, equality of all Rwandans and between women and men (ensuring that women are granted at least thirty per cent of posts in decision-making organs);
- building a state committed to promoting social welfare and establishing appropriate mechanisms for ensuring social justice.
The adoption of the Constitution in June 2003 paved the way for the presidential and parliamentary elections in the third and fourth quarters of 2003.
Rule of law
In our Vision 2020, in line with the justice policy, the Government decided to promote justice in general as a tool for sustainable development, for enhancing reconciliation, and for protection and participatory justice for all, aiming to eradicate the ‘culture of impunity’ and overcome the big number of Genocide cases pending.
In order to entrench and reinforce the independence of the Judiciary, the Supreme Council of the Judiciary was set up to:
- examine and give advice on matters related to the functioning of the justice system;
- take decisions relating to the appointment, promotion, or removal from office of judges and management generally of the careers and discipline of judges;
- advise on all proposals relating to the establishment of a new Court or bill governing the status of judges and other judicial personnel for whom it is responsible.
To guarantee the independence of the Council, it is composed of the following:
- the President of the Supreme Court, who chairs it;
- the Vice-President of the Supreme Court;
- a Judge of the Supreme Court elected by his or her peers;
- the President of the High Court of the Republic;
- one Judge from each provincial court and the Kigali City Court;
- two Deans of the Faculties of Law of recognized Universities elected by their peers;
- the President of the National Commission of Human Rights;
- the Ombudsman.
The Government’s investment in judicial reform has started to bear fruit in protecting the rights of the population and decentralising the justice system so that it is accessible to the people. It is clear that our judiciary has undergone far -reaching reforms and we are today the only country on the African Continent to have in place a justice system that marries the Civil and Common Law.
The reform has also led to the creation of an independent public prosecution service which is administratively and financially autonomous. It is also decentralised at provincial and district levels.
In order to complement the classical justice system so as to address the challenges of the post- genocide era, alternative justice and dispute resolution mechanisms have also been put in place. These include Gacaca jurisdictions and mediators (abunzi).
Gacaca jurisdiction provides an alternative to the classic justice system in addressing the post-genocide challenges to justice. If the classic justice system was applied in trying genocide suspects in Rwandan prisons it would take over one hundred years to bring some of those responsible to justice. By this time suspects and victims would be dead. But for justice to be effective it must be done and be seen to be done. The GACACA system was therefore seen to complement the classic justice system.
Gacaca courts are aimed at:
- finding out the truth of what happened during the genocide;
- speeding up cases of genocide and crimes against humanity;
- punishing those involved in the genocide, but striking a balance between punitive justice and the political considerations of re-building national unity, reconciliation and social cohesion;
- strengthening national unity and eradicating the culture of impunity; and
- ensuring citizen participation in the process of genocide trials, which ensures that the truth about what happened comes out to help the healing and reconciliation process.
The Gacaca judges were elected in October 2001 and the system has been operational since June 2002. The pilot phase of Gacaca was important and very successful as it:
- helped in gathering all possible information on how the genocide was organised and carried out;
- provided proof that the Gacaca system will work and is really the best alternative to the classic justice system in speeding up genocide trials while cementing national unity and reconciliation; the local judges proved efficient and the population was generally enthusiastic and participated in the process fully apart from a few isolated cases;
- brought to the surface some of the weakness and gaps in the laws, institutions and the process of Gacaca that had not been foreseen; this became the basis for reforming the Gacaca law and institutional framework.
Based on the lessons from the pilot phase conducted over a two year period, Gacaca has been restructured in order to achieve efficiency in process.
In that perspective, the law N° 40/200 of the 26 January 2001 establishing Gacaca Courts and instituting the investigation and execution procedures for cases of genocide and crimes against humanity committed between 1 October 1990 and 31 December 1994 was adopted. It was amended by organic law N° 16/2004 of 19 June 2004 establishing the structure, jurisdiction and functioning of Gacaca Courts in charge of the prosecution and trials of perpetrators of the crime of genocide and other crimes against humanity committed between the 1 October 1990 and 31 December 1994. This law is also in line with the 1996 organic law on investigation and categorization of genocide suspects according to the degree of involvement of each individual.
Community service is one of the measures taken by the Rwandan Government to overcome serious consequences of the 1994 genocide. One of these is the large number those suspected of genocide crimes and other crimes against humanity, including both those detained and those still at large. Detainees constitute a heavy burden on the Government because it would naturally rather spend the large portion of the budget allocated to them on developmental activities.
For the immediate social reintegration of those involved the in genocide in Rwandan society and the return to peaceful cohabitation among Rwandans, the organic law establishing Gacaca Courts provides that those convicted of Category III offences serve half of their sentence in jail and the other half in their homes doing community service on specified days.
Community service was pre-determined by Presidential Decree N° 26/01 of 10 December 2001, treating of penalties alternative to imprisonment, and was later on amended by Presidential Decree N° 10/01 of 7 March 2005 establishing its formal implementation.
In general therefore, GACACA provides sentencing alternatives which foster national unity and reconciliation, and contribute to the country’s development. We have set up a mechanism of punishment for those involved in the Genocide who have entered a guilty plea and sought forgiveness, with the aim of enhancing national unity and contributing to national development.
In addition to the Gacaca system of justice, and in order to bring participatory justice closer to the people, in July 2004, mediators were elected through-out the country and are being trained. Mediation committees are a very important mechanism for streamlining the Justice system as they will handle many cases and only a few unresolved issues will have to be referred to the courts of competent jurisdiction. This is a mechanism empowering citizens to participate in the process.
Promotion of national Unity and reconciliation
The government of Rwanda is fully committed to promotion of national unity and reconciliation and to cementing social cohesion. It has undertaken bold steps to remove all forms of discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, region or sex. One important step in this direction was the banning of identity cards showing ethnic group and their replacement by a new national identity card. Uprooting all forms of discrimination is a very important step in addressing the mistakes of the past and rebuilding a new and confident future for all Rwandans. Laws have been enacted to ensure that this is realised, and they apply equally to all Rwandans and organisations operating in Rwanda irrespective of any other considerations.
In conformity with the Arusha Peace Accord, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission was set up in March 1999, to spearhead the process of putting in place and developing ways and means to restore and consolidate unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.
Promotion of national dialogue and consensus building
One of the key elements in sustaining unity and reconciliation is the promotion of national dialogue and consensus building. In order to realise the principle of dialogue and consensus building on issues of national interest, the Constitution provides for the creation of a National Dialogue Council (Article 168). The Council is a national dialogue and consultative forum that brings together the President of the Republic and five representatives of each district, municipality, and town council designated by their peers. Members of Parliament, Cabinet ministers, provincial governors and other leading opinion formers in the country also participate in the Council. The National Dialogue Council meets annually and debates, among other things, issues of national importance like unity and reconciliation, the economy, the state of local government, issues of governance and of the rule of law, and the human rights situation.
The first National Dialogue Council meeting was held in November 2003. Resolutions of the Council are submitted to relevant state institutions to enable them to improve services to the population.
Demobilisation and reintegration Programs
The Unity and Reconciliation Commission has also played a key role in demobilisation and reintegration programs after the genocide.
In 1997, the Government of Rwanda designed and implemented the first stage of demobilisation and reintegration of RPA and Ex-FAR combatants into civilian life. The program was co-financed by the Government of Rwanda and various donors through UNDP. By the end of 2001, a total of 18,692 RPA soldiers (of whom 2,364 were child-soldiers) and 15,000 Ex-FAR were demobilised and reintegrated into civilian life.
With the current second stage, the Government of Rwanda envisages demobilising and reintegrating into civilian life 20,000 Government forces and 25,000 members of former armed groups. The budget for this program amounts to US$ 53.3 million , of which, US$ 25 million is a loan from the World Bank, US$ 25.6 million is found in grants from development partners, and the remaining US$ 2.7 million will be provided by the Government of Rwanda.
Key Achievements of Unity & Reconciliation
Since its establishment, the major achievements of the NURC include the following, among others:
- three national Summits on Unity and Reconciliation have been organised (2000, 2002 and 2004), bringing together Rwandans from all walks of life, including the diaspora;
- the peaceful reintegration of over 4 million refugees (old and new caseloads) and social cohesion at community level;
- removal of the ethnic label from the national identity card;
- merging of RPA and ex-FAR forces to form the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF);
- communities’ participation in maintaining national security;
- equal opportunity for all in education, the labour market (including public administration, the security forces, etc.), and promotion of gender equality; today, with 49% of Members of Parliament, 44% of Judges of the Supreme Court and 33% of members of the Cabinet being women, Rwanda shines as an example of female empowerment not only in Africa but also worldwide;
- smooth implementation of decentralisation and democratisation programmes as reflected in peaceful elections at grass-roots level;
- significant improvement of human rights observance and in the rule of law as a result of the creation of the National Human Rights Commission and support for the work of civil society organisations;
- demobilisation and the reintegration of ex-combatants into civilian life;
- the release of prisoners without files, young and elderly prisoners, as well as prisoners with chronic illnesses, has continued (the initial operation involved about 45,000).
With these few remarks, I would like to reiterate that over the last ten years, the Government of Rwanda has made significant progress in addressing the enormous problems arising from the country’s tragic history, a deeply divided past and the devastating consequences of the 1994 Genocide. I have presented some of these achievements in re-establishing the rule of law and promotion of unity and reconciliation this evening. However, it is particularly important to note that in 1994, there were no functional institutions, the economy was completely destroyed, the country largely insecure, the population deeply traumatised and the social consequences of the genocide deep and far-reaching. Hence the challenges of rebuilding the country from scratch have been greater than you can imagine.
Therefore, judgements on the country’s achievements and on the challenges that still lie ahead should be made with a deep consideration of the country’s past.
There should be no doubt that Rwanda is committed to working with all its partners towards building an open and free society that is governed on democratic principles with respect to the rule of law and civil liberties.
Let me conclude by saying that though I may have talked a bit too long, I can assure you that I have not said all I would have liked to say about this complex subject. I hope to have laid the foundation for an intelligent and lively debate to follow. I shall be very happy to answer your questions. Once again thank you for according me this precious opportunity to address you.
Thank you and may God Bless you.
Discussion following paper by H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete
Andrew Hegarty: Might I just start by asking what relation there might be between the Gacaca courts, to which you referred, and about which I know very little, and the Justice and Truth Commission which operated in South Africa and which was seemingly less ‘judicial’, if I am not mistaken, in its approach. Clearly they are both trying to get at the truth and, as you say, to balance justice and important political considerations in building national unity. Why has Rwanda gone down a more judicial route than South Africa?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Let me first of all explain what Gacaca means. It is not something new that sprang up after the Genocide. In Rwandan society it has a long history. When I was growing up we all knew Gacaca, which means sitting on the grass and judging yourself. People living in a community, rather than accusing each other in courts of law, bring their cases before impartial elders. A failure to appear or to respond in such a setting might lead to the person concerned – and indeed his family and children – being cast out from that community. We have all been accustomed to such a system in Rwanda. It offers not only justice, but also healing, forgiveness and the ability to live together as a community. So the system was in place before, and that is why we have utilised it to combine reconciliation and justice. There has to be justice, but there must also be reconciliation. Maybe our case is slightly different from the one in South Africa. Our people did not have to be educated about Gacaca, since they knew it already. What was crucial was ensuring that it should be applied in a structured manner in rural communities. How might we ensure that formal appeals could be made? How might we compile information on cases to be judged so that it would be available to future generations? We had to put a structured framework to make of it an acceptable form of justice and reconciliation.
Neil Pickering: In the process of rebuilding Rwanda what kind of support did you receive from your neighbours?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: It was initially very difficult. Let me give you an example. I recall that it was in 1997, when I was working in Canada, that I first saw the initial numbers with which we had to deal. The Genocide had targeted, among others, educated people. A report declared that 36% of those working for government had only completed primary school. 34% had completed high school. It was very difficult to compile statistics in the Ministry of Finance, for by then there were distinct sets of numbers emanating from the World Bank, the IMF, the UNDP, the Central Bank and the Government. I found that among the people running the Statistical Bureau we had only one graduate who had only three months of experience. That shocked everybody. There was no accountability, no Auditor General, no budget system, no Tender Board, and no independent Central Bank, let alone Electoral Commission or Ombudsman. It was a Ministry that collected taxes, rather than another agency. There was no promotion of investment. Given all that the question was about where we should make a start.
Initially, therefore, we looked to the experience of Uganda in building institutions. Uganda had experienced a similar state of affairs, but in its case these institutions had at least been in place beforehand. In our case, although it is true that some institutions had been destroyed, many were in fact non-existent prior to the crisis. We had to tackle institutions while at the same time building the economy. In 1995 the economy had diminished by 50% and inflation stood at 65%. You can imagine the situation. There is no way in which you could talk seriously about economic management. All the indicators were really bad.
We are have certainly looked hard at our neighbours. In terms of accountability we looked at the way in which Tanzania built its own financial system. We looked to Kenya for the building of the private sector. Initially in Rwanda we had only one Chamber of Commerce, and that was created by Government, rather than by the private sector. We looked at how the Investment Authority and Central Bank were working in Kenya, and we have recently gone there again to see how its Stock Exchange works because early next year we are starting our own. We have borrowed from our neighbours quite a lot.
Andrew Hegarty: Have they been cooperative?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: I would say that they have been cooperative. We have, of course, had problems with some of our neighbours, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo to which most of the former militia soldiers had fled. In Uganda there was an organised government which had control over its borders with us. Tanzania held plenty of people who had left Rwanda but they were not allowed to engage in rebel activities because again the government there was organised. The same can be said of Burundi. In Congo, however, because nobody was really in charge, former Rwandan government soldiers and militia were actually manning the whole eastern frontier. More recently there have been positive achievements there. A referendum is anticipated soon, and more than 20 million people registered to vote. We believe that in the end they will be able to bring together all the different factions and create a government with control over the whole of the Republic. We should be able to work with such a government.
Andrew Hegarty: A stable Congo is presumably very important for a stable Rwanda?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Exactly. It is very important. We used to have what was called the Economic Community for the Great Lakes. We shared various institutions and had free trade with Congo and Burundi. These have all been affected negatively by the war in the Congo.
Russell Wilcox: I should like to know, first of all, whether or not the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has represented an obstacle or a help to the process of reconciliation. Secondly, in terms of the definitions of genocide used, do the courts draw upon precedents of international law and the developing case law of the newly emerging international criminal courts, and, if so, to what extent?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: I will say a few words and then I think my colleague, the First Secretary of the Embassy, should come in also at this point in the discussion. I do not consider myself an expert in matters concerning the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. What we have wanted to achieve in Rwanda is not only justice but also reconciliation. The Tribunal, with its relatively large resources, has been a success. But, despite its resources, it is judging less than one case a year, and we, with our much slimmer resources, are dealing with 1500 murder cases a year. At the end of the day you have to ask how long it will take about its work. How is it going to help Rwanda in terms of that reconciliation process? It is independent. We have asked them to bring the Tribunal to Rwanda so that the people might testify and help us achieve our objective of reconciliation as well. It is important to us that the Tribunal should be in Rwanda and call on the cooperation of everybody. There are people who say suspects should not be returned to Rwanda and the alternative is the International Tribunal for Rwanda. Well, at least it helps that suspects are tried somewhere rather than remaining at large.
Russell Wilcox: Was there not a sense in which it ‘creamed off’ only the most heinous villains, producing the paradoxical state of affairs in which, because it could not impose the death penalty, those most responsible for the genocide had less severe punishments to face than many of their subordinates in Rwanda?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: You are absolutely right. The people it is trying are Category 1 accused, namely the planners and masterminds of the whole Genocide. With all the evidence the Tribunal has to hand, the convicted receive a less harsh sentence of life imprisonment in some country where they will be well treated. They are responsible for the deaths of over a million Rwandans and the death sentence is unavailable. This does not seem right to us. The people of Rwanda and the relatives of those who died would really like to see them tried in Rwanda using Rwandan law, so that justice may be done and so that Rwandans may come to believe that justice really is done.
James Wizeye, First Secretary, Embassy of Rwanda: The Ambassador has answered this question very well. I should like only to emphasise that we are not very satisfied with the ICTR because, despite the resources poured into it by the United Nations, it has tried no more than 20 cases since its inception. We are certainly disappointed on that count. The only real contribution we can see the ICTR having made is the heightening of awareness internationally that those who commit genocide in future will not get away with it. The mere fact that it was established and given its mandate is an important point on the credit side and a warning to all who might commit genocide. Still, its performance remains certainly unsatisfactory.
Might I comment briefly on the comparison an earlier contributor wanted to make between Rwanda’s approach to reconciliation and the South African Justice and Truth Commission. It is difficult to make a comparison. While there may be similarities between the two the background differs a lot. While there was apartheid in South Africa there was no genocide. In Rwanda we had a Genocide that killed more than one million people. So you must expect differences. But you wanted to compare it specifically with the Gacaca?
Andrew Hegarty: I was wondering if yours was more ‘judicial’ than the South African institution.
James Wizeye: Gacaca is completely different. It has a different mandate which is to help the classical justice system, to quicken the process, to get to know the truth about what happened, and to foster a sense of forgiveness amongst the people. While there is an element of the judicial about Gacaca, it is the people within their own areas who handle the cases. In any district you will find a number of Gacaca courts. The judges are people who lived in that very area and therefore know exactly what happened. At the end of the day they may say, ‘Well, you participated in the Genocide, but you are ours and we cannot throw you out of society’. There is usually that political consideration in play but it brings with it the benefits of reconciliation.
Russell Wilcox: Might I just come back to you on the ICTR? The ICTR, of course, did not have in place the mechanisms now available at the International Criminal Court. Because the ICC only comes into action when crimes are not punished in a particular nation state, it would appear to have some of the benefits of the ICTR without some of its drawbacks. Was Rwanda a signatory to the statute of the International Criminal Court?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: I remember it was recently suggested. There are certain considerations to be made. We have seen from past experience how the ICTR was politicised by some other countries. The Government is considering when to join, and how this should be handled.
Russell Wilcox: That is interesting because the legal mechanism which operates in the ICC is quite different from that of the ICTR in terms of procedure. The jurisdictional mechanism, that which enables the court to claim jurisdiction, is interesting. I think it must have drawn lessons from the ICTR which was, incidentally, developed under resolutions of the Security Council. There was potential for conflict between justice and the securing of peace and security. There is not that potential conflict in the ICC and a number of things have been incorporated into the Statute in a sense to avoid the problems to which you have pointed.
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: That is why it is now on the table and is being considered by the competent authorities. They have yet to give their verdict on it.
Ludek Rychetnik: What was the leading social force behind the reconciliation process? Who were the key people, and what was their social background? This sounds like another miracle in Africa, after the peaceful termination of South African apartheid. Is it possible to characterise a certain group of people who were behind it?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Let me give you some background. When we talk of the 1994 Genocide that was not the only genocide. Killings took place in 1961, 1962, 1972, and kept going, but they were not on as large a scale as what happened in 1994. So, when the rebels fighting the then government came together with them in what I referred to as the Arusha accord, all agreed that at the end of the process, once there was a common Government, there had to be a reconciliation between all entities. So that was the basis, one that sought to make sure that all Rwandans would be reconciled. Anything that might cause divisions in the process was, of course, against the law, and the legal framework was very important. When it was suggested it was not known that there would be an even bigger genocide. That is why use had to be made also of the Gacaca system. We had to overhaul the entire legal system which was very weak. At the same time we had over 200,000 people on trial, together, of course, with all the others charged with ordinary criminal offences. We had few people and resources, so that is why we had to combine classical justice, Gacaca and the use of mediators.
Recourse was had to mediators because most cases are about land and about small things which can be handled by people who bring the two parties together and work with them to see if the issue can be resolved. If one of the parties is still not satisfied that is when recourse must be had to courts of law so that the matter can be taken forward. Most cases are resolved by mediation before recourse to law. Once we had in place a combination of mediators, Gacaca and the classical law system we could handle all the cases, and certainly faster than if we could resort only to classical process.
Andrew Hegarty: But what sorts of people were behind all of this thinking? Were they jurists? Who drove the process forward?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Initially it was the Government and the rebels working together. Now we are blessed by people at community level. Rwanda as a community is very important. Everyone feels he or she belongs in his or her home area more than anywhere else. That is why reconciliation must starts at community level. Civil society comes to play a very crucial role. At the conference that takes place every year people ask all the questions that are relevant to their own communities, from developmental activities to reconciliation to human rights. These are the people really behind reconciliation. Civil society is fully behind it. It must work in the communities or we are wasting our time.
Denis Chang, QC: Your Excellency, you said that Gacaca means sitting on the grass? It is clearly more than ‘palm tree justice’. Is it a process of evidence-gathering plus adjudication? Do you restrict the penalties that can be imposed? Would Category 1 crimes also be judged by Gacaca or would they be dealt with by special courts?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: During the Genocide there were people who planned it. After them came the people who led the teams, and then there were ordinary people used to carry out the crimes. Then, of course, there were others who took advantage of the situation to loot and indulge in other crimes. Those in this last category are the ones dealt with by Gacaca.
Denis Chang, QC: The Category 3 crimes?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Yes. The other crimes are definitely not dealt with by Gacaca. Those operating Gacaca were trained in how to bring criminals to justice, to understand fully what happened, and who did what, so to make sure that there is accountability.
Denis Chang, QC: So it is very much Judge as well as Jury. That means that the maximum punishment would include imprisonment?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Well, it varies from case to case. There are people who committed rape. There are those who watched the Genocide taking place and did nothing to hinder it. Others killed because they were told to kill. Punishments differ in terms of years. Maybe two years, maybe five years; but the convicted person might spend only half of that time in jail and the other half in the community contributing to development.
Denis Chang, QC: But Category 1 crimes would be judged by the classical justice system?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Yes, Gacaca would not deal with that.
Andrew Hegarty: Who would determine the classification?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Well, a 1996 decree placed the accused in different categories. If a person is accused of this then he stands in this category; if he did that, he is in that category. It is quite clear.
Andrew Hegarty: Is there a preliminary hearing to determine which category the person is in?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Once the file with all the evidence has been put together, the material may already show in which category the accused is likely to be.
Andrew Hegarty: So is that the prosecution service?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Yes.
Denis Chang, QC: Amnesty. Do you use that much?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Yes. It has been given several times. Even quite recently over 40,000 people were granted amnesty. It is granted under powers given the President by the Constitution. A start was made with under-age people, the elderly, and the very sick.
Denis Chang, QC: Are we talking in terms of hundreds of thousands of people being released?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Yes. But once this happens reconciliation must play its own part. In order to reintegrate these people have to be educated to understand what the Government is doing, and the importance of reconciliation. They are not simply released straight into their own communities.
Andrew Hegarty: Might I just turn the conversation a little bit here towards economic considerations. It has been said in the context of developing countries that people are often prepared to accept a trade-off between prosperity and full democratic rights. If prosperity is increasing and there is more in the pocket each year, many may be inclined not to question structures that are not entirely just. If the Government of Rwanda is trying to promote justice and economic development at the same time, how does it balance the two, how does it rate the two? Clearly, if someone lacks the most basic necessities of life and struggles on a hand-to-mouth basis day by day, it is very difficult for him or her to think of other considerations.
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Let me start by explaining something about the Rwandan economy. From 1995 to 1997 there was effectively no money coming into the Government. There was a trust fund established by the UNDP to which donors contributed $2.2 billion, but this was managed by the UNDP, not by Government. We did not then have institutions, or any system to make sure we could use money properly. When we had in place these institutions in 1998 that is when we were able to set up a programme with the IMF, the Enhanced Structure Adjustment Facility. Then it was focusing on growth and little else, but it is necessary also to consider the distribution of the income that comes. When we did the first income experiments and examined distribution we found poverty increasing at the same time as growth was taking place. That is why we said this could not work in the long run. We are the first country in Africa to have a programme in place that looks to both growth and poverty reduction. That programme turned into the Poverty Reduction Strategy. When in 2000 the IMF agreed we should have a program combining growth and poverty reduction we already had one in place that was very advanced. In this way we can see how the economy is growing and use all the tools of economic management, but we can also see how the money accruing is affecting the lives of ordinary people. Every year we look at the figures, poverty levels and growth levels, according to sectors, communities and areas. Then we can measure whether growth is proportional or otherwise. That helps us to determine where to invest money during the next year.
We also discuss with all our development partners how we plan to develop for three years ahead. Rwanda now is one of many countries that plan three years ahead with what we call our Medium- Term Policy Framework.
David Burke: During his election campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party here in the United Kingdom David Cameron said that a key to economic development in Africa was protection of property rights and of the banking system. Then money could be lent. He said that that basic element was absolutely essential to economic growth. Do you think that a naive view, or would you agree, and, if so, how is the matter being tackled in Rwanda?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Well, it is actually very relevant. One of the main things making for economic security is property rights. That is why in Rwanda we had to review land law. You say he also referred to the banking system? Well, as an economist I can tell you that a structured banking system and financial system are vital to making things work. Now we have a clear financial system. We have made our Central Bank independent. We must also make sure it is competent, and that those who work there follow certain rules of the game. We do not want people to be cheated and want it all to be sustainable. Now figures are published from every bank, and all over the country financial institutions have sprung up which are also being regulated by the Central Bank. Initially, insurance companies were not regulated, but now we have a commission for that. Now we are establishing a Stock Exchange. This has all been done looking at examples in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, but also Singapore and Malaysia. We have developed our systems looking at these different experiences, but regulation is really very crucial. Without the banking system poor people cannot get access to money. Micro-finance institutions have changed quite a lot. We have also introduced co-operatives whereby people from certain areas can lend to each other via certain mechanisms.
Ludek Rychetnik: I understand that the state administration and civil service had to be rebuilt from scratch. Where, and how, was training done? Is corruption a big problem in Rwanda?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Thank you. Let me first give you some figures.
From 1994 numbers in higher education institutions have increased more than sixfold. The numbers in secondary school have increased more than fourfold, and in primary school more than threefold. We were deficient in almost every area and knew we could only survive by educating as many people as possible. At the same time it must be recognised that one of the reasons why there was Genocide was precisely because people were not educated. We had only one University that took a few hundred students every year. Now we have six universities. At the same time we have been training our people abroad and in neighbouring countries. To India initially we were sending 500 a year. In South Africa we have numbers way beyond that. We are sending people to neighbouring countries because it is cheaper there. We have also established a mechanism which is very helpful in educating our people abroad in Sweden. Because money was a problem we asked South Africa if it would train Rwandese in South Africa as if they were South Africans, even though we are not members of SADC. When they agreed we were able to educate several times more people because they are paying fees like South Africans. We are already doing the same with Kenya. Rather than sending fewer people to the best schools in the UK we prefer having many more people going to a school in South Africa or in India. We have a hybrid, a combination of different ways of educating people. In some areas we are still very deficient, such as in the environment, engineering, tourism and so on. At the same time we are developing our own Universities. In 1996 we started a school of science and technology which is now one of the best in Africa. So really it has grown at full speed.
Then in the Government we have also done something almost unique. Working hours start at 7:00am and end at 3:30pm because most civil servants are going to school in the evening. Everybody is going to school. It does not matter if someone is working as there is still the opportunity to go to school in the evenings. Even the First Lady is going to school, and, as you can imagine, that has set a very good example to everybody that education is crucial.
You also asked about corruption? If you have been reading reports like those of the World Bank you will have seen that there is very little corruption in Rwanda. We have a zero-tolerance approach that is known everywhere. Whenever it is reported, punishments are very heavy. We have the Rwandan Revenue Authority working together with the Ombudsman and the Police, and really nothing escapes. It does not matter who you are, or at what level. There is zero tolerance of corruption. Anyone can testify to this.
Andrew Hegarty: Following up on the previous question, is there a national school of administration or anything of the sort, to give civil servants a specific training additional to what they may have received in the universities?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: We have what is called the Rwandan Institute of Administration and Management, which we want to make a regional institution. All the directors at the ministry have at one time or another completed their education there. They study up to Master’s degree level in management and are now able even take a Ph.D. there. Our civil servants are trained in that institute.
Russell Wilcox: Might I return again to the Gacaca courts. It seems to me that the idea is to co-opt local communities into the truth and reconciliation programme. Yet communities do not just appear. Clearly these are pre-existing communities that have been built up over a long period of time. Yet, paradoxically, there appears also to have been in Rwanda a recurring problem of social pathology. I refer to the several waves of genocide, culminating in 1994. Is there a potential problem in attempting to use for healing pre-existing communities which are themselves in a sense part of, or have at least permitted, a pathological situation to emerge? How does one prevent Gacaca courts from being abused?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: First of all, Gacaca courts are concerned only with those who committed crimes between 1 October 1990 and 31 December 1994. What happened during that period is what tells the story. Those in charge are trained and they know the rules. There are consequences if they do not obey the rules. If such tendencies are found they are punished through Gacaca itself. It is not just one group that was there and that suffered from genocide in the past. There are rules and independent cross-checks to the rules which ensure that whatever you do you must take the consequences. The rules are very strict because we want to ensure this has gone forever. Before we started we had two years in which we had pilot cases which showed us some of the problems likely to emerge. We then amended the law to make sure we took such things into consideration. Initially everybody was saying, ‘Well, suppose this happens…, Suppose that happens…’, but when we tried it for two years we saw it worked. What you are saying is true and those were our initial feelings, but we adapted the process to meet the issues.
Russell Wilcox: So it was a question in fact of recreating communities as well, because, if pre-existing communities had become in some sense pathological, the attempt to reverse that must have required not so much reliance on them as a formation, through forms familiar to everybody, but actually using those forms as a means of reconstructing communities.
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: Well, it is a combination of several things. It is not just anybody who can come and say what he or she wants. There must be information even about the witnesses giving evidence. Everything is documented, and there can be investigations made not only about what you are saying but also about whether what you are saying is true. It is an incredible system and it is very difficult to explain to anyone who has not sat there and seen and asked questions on the ground. Many of our serious donors do sit and ask questions, with a translator on hand to explain to them what is going on. We have had the First Lady of the United States sitting in on Gacaca when she came to Rwanda. Mr. Chisano, President of Mozambique, also came to sit and listen. When he had taken in the whole picture he said he recognised that his own people at home had wasted too much time after their problems with Renamo. The whole object is to understand what happened, taking care to be fair, but also, at the end of the day, to enable communities to live together once again in a cohesive manner.
Henry Kikoyo: I have paid close attention to what you have been saying, and much of it has been very impressive. I want to make a crucial point, relating to what I believe to be at the very heart of failures within Africa. We must cultivate good leaders, but also learn the art of succession. It is vital to pass on capable leadership, not just to pass it on to those capable of achieving it! I do not know how Rwanda is preparing itself for the critical moment, but that must come sooner or latter. In Uganda for the first 10 years after 1986 we had a very capable leader and many people throughout the world thought that this was the country to watch, that Africa was producing a new breed of leaders who were very different from those who had gone before. Yet to the disappointment of many around the world who are watching events we have now fallen into the same old trap. We are beginning to roll back all these achievements simply because we seem to hold within African culture that leadership, once attained, is forever. Once you are a chief only your son can take over. How is Rwanda preparing itself for the moment? You may have at the moment a great leader who is making a real difference and producing these fantastic programmes, but the critical moment will come for you, because that is how God designed the world. Often , if leaders are not cultivated, someone without the vision takes over by force. Have you created a mechanism to prepare everyone for the time when whoever is in leadership today will not be there? Who is to carry on the good work about which you have been speaking here?
H.E. Mr. Claver Gatete: That is a very good question. I do not know if I can produce an equally good answer! The Constitution is one that represents all of Rwanda. A lot of work went into it, as we looked at our past failures. We were worried that a winning party should take 100% of leadership posts. The Constitution establishes that, regardless of the margin of victory – even if a winner gathers 99% of the votes – 50% of Cabinet posts must go to persons from other parties. That is our system. The President of the National Assembly must be from a party different from that of the President of the country. Even if you are in a minority your views are going to be represented in the forum of parties which the country has in place. The Cabinet operates by consensus rather than voting. The Constitution was really very important for our Vision 2020. We looked to the past but put emphasis how we might develop Rwanda in the future. We are not dependent on one person, but we share a common vision.
I have no ready answer to the problem of preparing a successor. But our Constitution and our vision are very clear. Rwanda is for everybody. We have all had an input into Vision 2020 and all that we do must relate to that.