Kigali — This week President Kagame officially closed the Gacaca tribunals. While Rwandan authorities celebrate the virtue of these community courts intended to bring genocide criminals to justice, unresolved feelings plague the survivors – both those whose loved ones were killed and those whose loved ones were convicted.
Regret weighs heavy on Madeleine Umuhoza. “I still don’t know where my husband’s body was dumped,” says the 45-year old woman from Gatsata. “Our house was attacked at the start of the genocide by a group of young people armed with bows and arrows. We all ran in different directions. I survived by hiding in a swamp, together with other Tutsi escapees. I haven’t seen my husband ever since.”
Among genocide survivors, her story is unfortunately not unique. “I blame myself for not saying goodbye,” she says, on the verge of tears.
When they were introduced in 2001, Gacaca courts nourished a hope that survivors would finally be able to bury their lost relatives with dignity. The community justice system relied on the confessions of genocide culprits in exchange for a substantial reduction of their sentences. The perpetrators were expected to admit to their crimes, name their accomplices and point to where they left their victims. But many chose to remain silent.
That silence has been denounced by Donatilla Mukantaganzwa, former secretary-general of the National Service of Gacaca Jurisdictions, from the very start of the process. In fact, she believes it was one of the main obstacles tribunals from which the country expected “the truth to come out”. Read more…