Rwanda compared to South Africa and is there any application to Australia?
A research project by Alan Nichols
Funded by the Australia Research Theology Foundation
So in 1999 the Government developed the concept of a National Unity and Reconciliation Commission. Law 3/1999 of March 12, 1999, stated the purpose of the Commission was “to prepare and facilitate national debate at the national level aimed at promoting the national Unity and Reconciliation of Rwandans.”
It was not based on the model of the South African Trust and Reconciliation Commission, which offered amnesty to perpetrators of apartheid provided they told the truth and confessed. It would be based on pursuing justice at the same time as reconciliation. So determined were the Rwandan Government not to follow the South African model they rejected the offer of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the South African Commission, to visit Rwanda and help.
During the period when the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission was being considered, the Government set up in 1996 special chambers in “the Court of First Instance” to prosecute perpetrators of genocide at the local village level. These were called ‘gacaca trials’ from an ancient Rwandan custom of villages electing local people to judge matters of local disturbance, local theft, petty stealing, etc.
Mary, a local gacaca judge in Gahini
By 2000, only six thousand cases had been prosecuted, out of about 100,000 men in gaol. Gacaca was intended to show the truth of what happened, to eradicate the culture of impunity, to speed up the prosecutions for the crime of genocide, and to reconcile the people. So more judges were appointed and trained; witnesses were encouraged to come forward; by 2002, 12,000 files had been prepared, 4880 had been listed for hearing, 376 were on remand and 84 had been found guilty. In 2007 gacaca trials were suspended because of threats against some witnesses and some judges, and the process was overhauled. In 2011 the trials have still not been completed.
There was much less talk about forgiveness offered by victims than in the South African experience, and much more about telling the truth, acknowledging guilt, showing remorse, offering reparations, and then living together.
In 2011, what is the situation? Back in 1995 Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo, Anglican bishop of Gahini near Kigali, visited Australia for the first time. Many times during that tour he spelled out in churches, community meetings and media interviews what were for him the basic steps in reconciliation of any country after the trauma of civil war or genocide:
1 You have to take off your mask.
2 Identify the real problems: mind and heart have to be in accord.
3 Give up a ‘must win’ attitude.
4 Lay down the possible alternatives.
5 Choose the best alternative and agree on it.
6 Make sure you communicate in a way which doesn’t offend anyone.
7 Make sure you carry in your minds personal relationships.
Courtesy -Communication from Dev Ratnam