Despite a near collapse of its judicial system, Rwanda hopes to try its first genocide case this month, almost a year after Hutu extremists began killing as many as a half-million members of the Tutsi minority.
Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu has reaffirmed the government’s priority commitment to speedy trials, notwithstanding such problems as overcrowded prisons and shortages of funds and staff.
Trials of those accused of planning and carrying out the massacres, the prime minister stressed, would underscore the determination to uproot the culture of impunity that was entrenched in the Hutu-led regime that Twagiramungu’s Rwandan Patriotic Front overthrew last year.
Only with trials and punishment of the guilty, Twagiramungu insisted, can Rwanda begin reconciliation between majority Hutus and the Tutsis and contemplate an eventual amnesty in this central African nation.
The new Tutsi-dominated government’s timing for trials in its own courts contrasts with the slow-moving efforts of an international tribunal on genocide here, which is unlikely to act before year’s end.
Formally, the government has made its peace with the international tribunal, headed by South African Justice Richard Goldstone. Twagiramungu said the government has dropped opposition to the tribunal’s rejection of the death penalty and its insistence on holding the proceedings outside Rwanda.
But high-ranking officials and many citizens still criticize the international community for not intervening immediately to stop the tribal massacres that began last April. They often fault the U.N. peacekeeping force for withdrawing most of its troops when the killing began, and Belgium and France for training the former government’s security forces.