Let us learn from Rwanda

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Theoneste Bagosora. Does that name ring a bell? This man is in jail for the rest of his life (after which, hopefully, he will go to hell) for his very pivotal role in the 1994 slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda.

Bagosora – let us call him “The Butcher” from this point on – was a senior officer in Rwanda’s Defense Ministry and he had started planning the genocide as far back as 1992. In the initial days of the genocide The Butcher organised militia training and made sure the recruits were armed. In fact when Belgian peacekeepers were killed by the militia, The Butcher was a few meters away, fully aware of what was happening.

This evil creature was sentenced to life in prison last year by the International Criminal Court for Rwanda (ICTR) which sits in Arusha. This court has sentenced 36 people, acquitted six and it’s still hunting down a couple of others including Felicien Kabuga, who is not new to Kenyans.

The ICTR began its hearings in 1997, and has so far consumed over Sh70 billion. And it has delivered justice, if the Bagosora conviction is anything to go by.

It has faced many challenges, including the headache of transporting prosecution witnesses from Rwanda to Tanzania and their protection when back home.

Now, to my point: As the ICTR consumed cash and man-hours in Arusha, back in Rwanda neighbours faced each other in the Gacaca courts where communities used traditional means to deliver justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. This model has been hailed the world over for its successes in reintegrating the antagonists as one community of Rwandese nationals.

Kenya needs these two systems right now. We need a grassroots means of healing the nation where neighbours come out and air their grievances with each other, and hopefully get to understand each other for them to come up with a way forward. This, I believe, is what Bethuel Kiplagat’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will set out to do.

In this process, as has been pointed out by one of the TJRC commissioners Tom Ojienda on the “Justice for Kenya” page on this website, the main objective will be resolution, not retribution. Whereas some form of compensation and punishment may be recommended, it will be for the purpose of delivering a sense of justice and thereafter healing to those aggrieved.

Just like in Rwanda, Kenya also needs to punish those who knowingly organised last year’s mayhem. Please, don’t take that claptrap from politicians that the violence was a spontaneous reaction to the botched election, for that is not true. For a fact, there were leaflets distributed warning people of impending attacks. For hundreds of families in Kuresoi, violence had begun way before the December 27, 2007 poll. So, somebody played a part in spreading hatred and organising youths to violence.

Such people are Kenya’s Bagosoras, and justice must be meted out on them.

Therefore, let us not confuse these two very critical institutions – the TJRC for the village executioners and looters, and a judicial system for the planners and financiers. The Kiplagat Commission is NOT, and should NEVER be used to deal with those in Waki’s envelope. Even Waki, in his wisdom, decided to keep these in a separate list for a reason.

We still need to decide how to deal with the perpetrators. For them, it’s either a Local Tribunal or The Hague. Period.

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