Paradox in finalization of property-related Gacaca court cases lingers on

On 7 December 2021 at 04:26

It is almost ten years since Gacaca courts were officially closed after a successful decade of existence during which close to two million cases were tried.

Following the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Rwanda turned to the semi-traditional justice system to help clear a backlog of Genocide related cases.

The Government launched Gacaca in 2002 expedite reconciliatory and restorative justice as well as establish the whole truth about the Genocide.

The courts were closed in 2012 after settling nearly 2 million cases including 1,266,632 related to properties looted during the Genocide.

The Ministry of Justice had planned to get these cases finalized in 2010 but over 52,000 were still pending in 2019.

Challenges that hindered timely finalization of the cases include financial constraints where some culprits failed to pay or reconcile with offended Genocide survivors.

Finalizing property-related court cases is normally exercised by professional court bailiffs from the Association of Independent Professional Court Bailiffs in Rwanda operating under the auspice of the Ministry of Justice or non-professional court bailiffs including cell, sector and district executive secretaries.

The President of the Association of Professional Court Bailiffs, Lawyer Valerien Munyaneza has said that the need to leave the execution of these judgments under the power of local leaders was discussed during recent discussions with the Ministry of Justice.

“We had suggested that local leaders be granted the power to exercise the duties because they do not demand the fees charged by court bailiffs,” Munyaneza revealed during an interactive session between members of the judiciary and press on Monday 6th December 2021.

A professional court bailiff receives fees not less than Rwf300,000 as per legal provisions yet some culprits defeated in Gacaca court cases cannot afford Rwf100,000.


Recently, the Government enacted a Ministerial Order stipulating that the enforcement orders and documents relating to their execution must be published in electronic system of execution of enforcement orders.

However, there is a cost behind the electronic system where the order stipulates that the document related to the execution of enforcement order must be announced through radio advertisement or have it published by online media house.

“Sometimes, the winner of a court case is required to cater for that cost to be refunded later. It has been observed that court cases with possibility of being finalized swiftly are the ones involving huge amount of money to be recovered where they can be handled by professional court bailiffs using the technology,” Munyaneza observed.

“Because it is not the primary job of local leaders, such issues are not handled with urgency while some of them might not be familiar with the electronic system. These are major challenges behind delayed completion of such court cases,” he added.

Munyaneza explained that the unique approach used to try suspects in Gacaca courts was also applied in related execution.

“We would bring citizens together under a unique approach where a culprit owing Rwf100,000 to the offended person, can till his/her land at least 20 times, provide a cow or goat for us to resolve that the case is closed,” he noted.

“However, there are no slots where these arrangements can be recorded in the electronic system to decide on finalization of a court case. We had suggested that such cases be executed in a unique way that does not require the technology,” Munyaneza added.

The President of the Association of Professional Court Bailiffs, Valerien Munyaneza.
Gacaca courts were closed in 2012 after settling nearly 2 million cases.