Kigali, 10 October 2016
I am honoured to join you to launch the new Judicial Year.
Let me start by thanking everyone in the sector for your service to our country. I congratulate you for the progress the judiciary continues to make, every year, in improving both the speed and quality of justice delivered.
In the last 22 years, we have witnessed the systematic growth, reform and modernisation of the judiciary, keeping pace with the wider transformation that our country Rwanda is undergoing.
The fruit of your commitment and efforts is, first and foremost, the high trust Rwandan citizens have in our justice system. This fact has also been recognised by several international institutions where Rwanda is consistently highly ranked, as the Chief Justice has mentioned.
These achievements should serve as motivation to do even better, because as capacity increases and new ways of working become entrenched, the challenges we face become more complex.
There are several factors that will help us make even more progress in the years to come.
First, the recent reforms of police and criminal justice agencies aim to strengthen our institutions. The effectiveness of the reorganisation will be evaluated against enhanced standards.
The more streamlined institutions will have the opportunity to grow and acquire the capacity to respond more effectively to the requirements of local and global law enforcement.
Second, I am pleased to learn that the new case management system is being widely used. This programme needs to be fully functional as soon as possible, as the system is critical to good service delivery.
All government institutions involved in its implementation must work closely together to ensure sufficient resources are allocated and all other associated obstacles are resolved. It is simply too important to fail.
Finally, the integrity of the judiciary must remain a top priority. I have every confidence that with continued hard work, we will mobilise all the resources and technical capacity required for an efficient and professional sector.
But judicial personnel must always try to be beyond reproach for the judiciary to serve its purpose and maintain the confidence of citizens.
The Chief Justice was talking about training and re-training. All these are very important and they mainly work to improve knowledge and expertise.
But there is also a difference: there is what works on the mind, like knowledge and expertise, but we have to figure out what works to improve what we have in our hearts. What you have in your heart will influence what you have upstairs, because you can abuse the level of knowledge and expertise you have. And that is normally what we see.
You are not going to change your heart with just more training. As you acquire more training and knowledge, you need to be working on your hearts. And I think that is with you, how you use your knowledge and expertise, so that as you exercise your duties, real justice is delivered.
It’s not a good thing that we continue to witness cases of extreme abuse – whether it is the abuse of our children in many ways – rape, sexual abuse – or children and adults being sold like potatoes in the market. And even when these cases are backed by evidence, sometimes, depending on who is involved, these people get away with responsibilities in these extreme cases.
In this case it’s not lack of expertise but lack of sensitivity, something that should be guiding us to think about those on the receiving end, the victims, the children, or the parents of these children
So I leave it with you to work on the outcome of such justice processes. We expect that you will continue to take appropriate actions to ensure the integrity of judicial decisions, even where there are challenges as I just mentioned.
It is clear that there is increasing satisfaction in the work of government in general, and in our judiciary in particular. So we want to thank you for that.
In the past year, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has wound down, and most remaining cases transferred to our courts. Other suspects have been extradited or deported from other countries to stand trial here in Rwanda. That’s a good thing. We want to see more of this happen, and it will, as we continue to show increased capability to deal with these cases.
However, there continues to be all kinds of problems, as you know and as the Chief Justice has already mentioned, because of many reasons. Among them, reasons of political expediency or personal convictions.
But this is duplicity we should be used to, and maybe we are already used to. And the kind of duplicity I am talking about is not about to end any time soon.
There are so many judgements made out there whose basis is simply a question of dishonesty and deliberate distortion. Some of these things, in fact, do not even meet the standards those people claim to uphold in their own systems.
So we have a much bigger challenge than the ordinary ones we discuss every day. There is what we must do – the right things. But at the end of the day, if you are dealing with other people who think they own you, or they can exploit you or treat you in any manner that they want, that doesn’t meet the standards to which they hold for themselves or their own people – then that’s another issue we have to deal with.
It increases the magnitude of the problems we have to deal with. So as you sit here, don’t think you have to deal with just ordinary circumstances or cases, you have to be performing beyond the kind of standards that deal with ordinary things, because of these circumstances we are talking about.
People don’t choose to deal with real facts. Even in the courts of law, some people don’t need evidence for anything. They will just make decisions about anything: about you, about your own country and some other countries on our continent – no requirement for facts or evidence, it’s just what they have decided to do for other completely different reasons. Even with these cases you are talking about, they will handle them with completely different facts. So it is not the kind of evidence situation you are used to.
But as you know, I think you and me – we, in our country, we have decided. It’s what I believe; I think that’s what you believe. There are those who have been telling us lies but that’s a different matter. We have decided that we are not going to be deterred from our primary interest, which is to deliver to Rwandans, to ourselves, the justice, wellbeing, and dignity all Rwandans need and deserve.
And of course this situation has been there from the beginning in any case. I think we started with a far worse situation, against so many odds. I think we have made good progress. There has been good progress that we can be proud of today.
Let me, before I close my remarks, provide some evidence which you need – others may not – about what I am saying, about the odds and challenges we have to deal with every day, as we strive to make improvements in our situation. Because this day, the day that has brought us here, I think talking about this fits very well.
You have been aware for a long time of many cases, and one particular one that is most recent, at least in terms of new developments. If we go by what we have been hearing and reading in the media –the media which is meant to be independent but serves good political purposes for some people.
There is a case between us and France. It has been going on since the beginning of this new Rwanda; a case that was investigated. As Rwanda we wanted to have a good relationship; we wanted to clear this case that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
So we submitted ourselves to saying ‘come here and have access to anything you want’. We provided access to anything these people asked for. They were all over the place, all over the continent, wherever they wanted. And the case took slightly over two years being investigated and worked on.
When it was coming to the end, after finding that what they were looking for wasn’t there, and wasn’t going to be supported by anything, what I am reading in the media is that we should start all over again. Right? You know the case I am talking about?
So we are going to start all over again. And I have no problem with that. I have no problem with starting again. But starting over again means a lot of things in my view.
First, it means that I have to remind some people that this Rwanda, the judicial system of Rwanda, is not subordinate to France or to France’s interests.
We were, from the beginning, under no obligation or any feeling that Rwanda was – the Chief Justice talked about colonial times, colonial laws and so on – we are under no such things as far as we relate to countries. Especially of this nature.
Second, I think where we are being put by this country and its legal system is actually where this country should be, as relates to the genocide here in Rwanda and its history.
What I am saying is that it is France that should be in the dock being tried. Not anybody in Rwanda and not Rwandans.
I know that some of you might be panicking saying France is… But you can just keep your cool and calm down, and there is no worry about that. This is a case that’s going to be sorted out one way or the other, and Rwanda is not going to suffer anything of this kind.
I think we have been abused in many ways, this time twice. First, we have a case that should not have been there in the first place. Second, we submitted ourselves to saying: let’s cooperate as they insisted and get this case cleared.
And we just gave people benefit of the doubt and we thought with this we could just continue a normal relationship and move on. Even with some few Africans associated with them in that case, they can really do nothing about it other than just being poor and bad Africans themselves, which hurts them, not us.
So we’ll start all over again, which means that I may even ask, among the diplomats here – remember in the old days, when instead of going for visa in the French embassy, you would go to another embassy because the country of that embassy represented France’s interests here? Starting all over again may mean that again. So I am asking the one who did that good service for us to prepare to do that service for us once again.
We’re giving it time, we are calibrating it properly, and we are leading to that kind of situation. If starting all over again is a showdown, we will have a showdown. We don’t have a problem with that.
Again, don’t worry. Leave it to me; we will handle it. It’s not going to cost us much. When you are right, when it is your right, it’s never going to be costly to do the right thing. So it will not cost us much. We will deal with it.
I see some people excited in the media, some people who I have not seen in the media for a long time who are used to mudslinging Rwanda; they’ve come back. Well, if it’s another way of going back to their old job, they can do it. But I can assure you that this is going to be sorted out without much in terms of cost on our side.
Once again, let me thank you for your commitment and assure you of continued support. The Government will provide sufficient support from our own means and I hope we shall continue to work together to build our country the way we want, not the way someone else wants for us.