Kigali (Fides Service)- Ten years after the genocide in Rwanda the scars remain but the country is on the path to reconciliation. One of the major challenges is to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes. Throughout the country the authorities set up traditional Jacaca Courts to try suspected criminals.
“Thousands are detained awaiting trial but many thousands have already received their sentence” says Rev. Dominique Karekezi, editor of Kinyamateka a local Catholic newspaper. “Many have been released either because they were found not guilty or for lack of evidence, or because they confessed their guilt and asked forgiveness from the community. But many were found guilty and are now serving a prison term”.
Some 11,000 traditional Jacaca Courts were set up to deal with the vast number of people, estimated to be as many as 115,000, suspected of taking part in the massacres in 1994 and awaiting trial. In October 2001 popular juries of 19 members were elected for each of the 11,000 Courts. Jury members were required to be known for their uprightness and to be able to speak and read Kinyarwanda the official language. Knowledge of law was not required but jury members were given a basic course in law before the start of the trial. Trials were public to guarantee the presence of the local people and to lessen the danger of false witness.
The Catholic Church in Rwanda has always been actively involved in promoting reconciliation. “A three day meeting to reflect on the situation ten years after the genocide 29-31 March was attended by all the Bishops of Rwanda, many priests and religious and lay people as well as Church delegations from Burundi and Tanzania” Rev. Dominique told Fides.
“The meeting was the latest in a long series of initiatives undertaken by the local Catholic Church to promote reconciliation and peace. In the years following the genocide church meetings or synods were held in every diocese and also in some parishes. The theme of the meetings was how to promote the Gospel message of peace and forgiveness. In Rwanda the celebration of Great Jubilee 2000 brought fruits reconciliation and peace” Rev. Dominique told Fides.
Other initiatives to promote reconciliation were meetings for widows whose husbands perished in the massacre, or were in prison on charges of genocide.
The genocide started when an aeroplane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, in power since 1973, and President of Burundi Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down on April 6 1994. The incident unleashed violent massacres of Tutsi and moderate Hutu fighting for a change in regime. It is estimated that more than one million Rwandans perished in the genocide. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 6/4/2004; righe 31 parole 509)