Gabiro, 4 September 2015

I am honoured to join you as you close your retreat and launch the new judicial year.

The role of the judiciary is to deliver justice – justice of quality, and that should be timely. That’s what Rwandans expect. I am pleased that every year we continue to make good progress.

As you know, we started from a very low base, in fact, from zero, not too long ago. But we have now built a justice system that reflects Rwanda’s aspiration to be governed by the rule of law.

From the reports we have just heard there have been a number of important achievements. As we congratulate the judiciary for these advancements, I encourage you to continue to work to reach even higher goals.

The best indication of your performance is going to be the level of satisfaction of Rwandans, and the growing trust between them and the judiciary.

Among the many improvements registered, I would like to commend you for cutting back the time it takes to resolve cases and for reducing the longstanding backlog of cases.

It is good to see these recurring problems finally worked out. This shows that you have the capacity to figure out even the most complicated challenges, and should be motivation to overcome remaining obstacles.

Today, the Rwandans we serve have higher expectations than ever of the state and I am glad to see that the judiciary is beginning to respond accordingly. Examples include using modern technology and innovating new ways to deliver better service and promote accountability.

Like in every other sector in our country, these methods have earned us good results and are improving the lives of Rwandans. But there is always room for improvement for everyone. We therefore encourage the judiciary to continue to entrench these practices, aiming for ever better efficiency and transparency.

You must also strive to maintain the utmost vigilance on integrity in your sector. Rwanda has already established zero-tolerance to corruption as a national value. We are counting on you to eliminate both the reality and perception of corruption in the judiciary.

As pointed out by the Chief Justice and other leaders earlier, there are many good things that have happened. And there are a few cases that tend to roll back the good progress we have made. So there is no question about dealing with the reality, but also the perception that distorts that reality.

One case of corruption means more than just the failure of one individual. It undermines everything else you have all worked so hard for. There is no point in doing the best you can in most cases, and have one case undermine all that.

We are obviously not where we want to be and must work harder, within our means, to increase the number of professionals in the judiciary as well as continue to upgrade knowledge and skills.

About ten years ago, we held a meeting to discuss how to improve the judiciary. Many of you participated, some fresh out of university. You committed to building a strong justice institution, worthy of the new Rwanda.

It is therefore important that at this stage to take stock of the progress we have made, the challenges, and the resources within our means that we can apply to remove those challenges.

I want to thank you for answering that call that we made ten years ago, and for your hard work and dedication since then. We cannot afford to lose sight of where we have come, what we have achieved and the work that remains.

Today, we are counting on you to inspire, mobilise and mentor the next generation of judges and other professionals, to continue to strengthen and safeguard our judiciary. This is essential because Rwandans deserve an institution they can rely on to dispense justice to the highest standards whenever required.

As you very well know, when everything else has gone wrong, people want justice. It becomes the last resort people look to, to have their problems addressed.

It is also important because the world we live in compels us to fight – to fight prejudices and political or other manipulations that disrespect the justice system like ours here in Rwanda and in the rest of Africa in general.

You know, people have gotten used to the saying “some people are more equal than others”. I don’t think Rwanda should belong to those who think they are less equal.

The countries that continue to shelter genocide fugitives, and even other fugitives, even though they claim to have the most advanced justice institutions in the world, need to be challenged.

It is up to us to challenge that. We cannot continue to have them commit crimes here against our people and then seek refuge and shelter under these advanced countries or institutions, hiding behind politics or other manipulations.

We know there are many case out there. We are reminded of them every day. Cases of crimes that were committed here and have been turned into politics as a way for people to protect themselves and be protected, by those least expected to do so. But the long arm of justice, and fairness, as we would expect of our own, will come to apply at some point.

We must also continue to reject the abuse of things like universal jurisdiction that serve political ends. You know better than me, that when you say it’s universal jurisdiction, then it means it applies to me as it applies to you. It cannot be universal jurisdiction if it applies only to me and not to you. This is for us to not only define, but also engage in, to correct the wrongs that exist in justice.

We will do this on principle, but also because we have worked too hard to overcome serious bias of our justice system. Today we stand able, ready, and very willing to take action on all important judicial matters.

We should live in a world of equals, performing the functions that our sovereignty grants us and not accept that people will speak for us. We can speak for ourselves.

Let me conclude by once again congratulating the judiciary for all you have accomplished and urge you to look ahead and know that there is more work to do and not less. I hope we will continue the very important collaboration both within the judiciary and with other branches of government, so that together, we can take Rwanda, our country, where it needs to be.

I thank you and have the pleasure of officially launching the new judicial year.