Reading The New Times of Thursday, November 12, i was reminded of so many things. First, that this is a paper from where i begun my journalism career, a paper where caution was always paramount in the day to day lives of employees besides self censorship-which was as we all came to realise-ever rule number 1.
I was also made to recall the days that i spent trying to write pieces, articles about a nation whose folks were slowly but effectively trying to mend relations among themselves-relations torn apart by their sickening history- the genocide.
I recalled, the day, when as a junior reporter, i was sent on an assignment deep into the valleys of Nyamata where i was to meet a lady old enough to be my mother but courageous enough to explain her ordeal to a 22 year old male journalist. It was so telling but again, it is some conversation i will live to remember all my life.
For all her troubles which then included having been raped in front of her husband, kids and in-laws, she was coming to terms with the fact that one of tormentors had a couple of weeks before my interview been fleed out of prison courtesy of a presidential pardon.
She told me life was hard, as if i couldn’t see it. But like most genocide survivors in the area, she had confidence in the “Arusha Court” the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) trying those she kept referring to as “genocide masterminds”.
Just the other day, i spoke to my contact demanding to know how this lady was doing. The news was sad. She passed away in July.
But that is not the point. This lady is one of thousands of genocide survivors in Rwanda who for very obvious reasons saw the ICTR as the only possible saviour for their trauma and pain. They believed in the court as being led or stapled towards ensuring that justice is done.
Most have always argued that the idea of unity is very important but impunity must be shunned. They have all been in support of having convicted “genocidaires” serving their sentences in Rwanda as to them, this would give them a chance to see for themselves that those who then posed came through as above the law, are being made answerable.
But for all the struggles and wishes, the ICTR has had a different agenda. Truth be told, the Rwandan judicial system may not be the most well structured or well equiped of all the systems in the world but at least, there is a detention facility that meets the standards. When the ICTR finally closes shop, those convicts who will still have some years to serve off their sentences will be housed somewhere. It is still the UN that will foot their bill and since their cases will already have been decided, the element of “a not so fit” judicial system should not be an issue.
What was the point of signing an agreement between the ICTR and the GoR (Rwanda) for the transfer of convicts if it was clear that this or something like it was never going to happen?
For the ICTR to renege on a promise and an agreement that was reached not out of coercion but diligent scrutiny and condition fulfilment is a betrayal and an injustice on the side of a people so keen to forgetting the past and uniting together after a catastrophe that could very well have been avoided.
It is an insult to say the least. An insult that will do nothing to prove known suspicions that the ICTR has not been fair in handling the Rwandan genocide case.
When you have a multi million-dollar funded court managing only 21 sentences (18 convictions and 3 acquittals) by its tenth anniversary, then you know why the likes of the lady i interviewed will pass on as unhappy souls. It then becomes irrelevant for anyone to ask why many in Rwanda want results from Jallow and his men before we even start thinking of saying thank you!