By Bonny Ibhawoh,

In 2001, Rwanda established the Gacaca court systems to administer justice following the 1994genocide. The court which was inspired by age-long Rwandan traditions of community justice was a child of necessity. After the genocide, over 120,000 alleged genocidaires were crammed into Rwanda’s prisons. It was estimated that at the rate the prisoners were being tried in the regular courts, it would take 110 years to prosecute all of them. The Gacaca courts have now been in existence for close to a decade and the reviews have been mixed.

While some see them as commendable initiatives at transitional justice grounded in local experience, others have criticized them as ineffective and have questioned the quality of justice being dispensed by local chiefs who have little or no knowledge of the law. The international Human Rights NGO, Human Rights Watch has been particularly critical of the Gacaca court. I agree that the courts have some limitations and in an ideal world, a more closely regulated judicial system would have been preferable. But given the circumstances of post-genocide Rwanda, this is about the best option that the country could have opted for. Here, the Rwandan President Paul Kagame makes a spirited and compelling defense of the Gacaca court.