Genocide, Mass Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice in Peace Support Operations Course Opens at the Rwanda Peace Academy

Category: News

(L-R)- Director of the RPA, Col Jill Rutaremara; Hon. Minister of Defence, Gen. James Kabarebe (guest of honour) and Maj. Jamie Hayward,representative of BPST-EA.

The Rwanda Peace Academy (RPA) in partnership with the British Peace Support Team, Eastern Africa (BPST-EA) is conducting a two-week regional course entitled “ Genocide, Mass Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice in Peace Support Operations (PSO)”.

The Honourable Minister of Defence, General James Kabarebe officially opened the course. General Kabarebe noted that violence in some conflicts has been committed with impunity and that the international justice has not halted the ferocity of genocide and mass atrocity crimes.

The Minister further said that Rwandans chose to use the gacaca justice system because trials in classical courts take a very long time and yet the number of genocide suspects was overwhelming. In addition, he pointed out that it would have been very costly and that justice resulting from conventional courts would have been punitive rather than restorative.What the Rwandan society needed was a justice system that could address the longstanding problem of impunity while at the same time promoting unity and reconciliation as well as social harmony. Justice, as administered through conventional courts, could not achieve these outcomes”, he said.

He urged the course participants not to be diverted by the past failures but to draw lessons from such case studies, noting that the experience of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda offers some useful lessons, its tragic consequences note withstanding. “While the genocide in Rwanda was tragic, the experiences and lessons drawn from it inform and inspire our outlooks and search for homegrown solutions that are informed by our history, culture and unique context. The genocide also informs Rwanda’s threat assessment with genocide ideology as the most serious security threat facing the country. The experiences and lessons learnt have also contributed to the building of a resilient Rwandan society, ” Minister Kabarebe said.

The course is important and relevant. “As future peacekeepers you are likely to meet challenges related to transitional justice initiatives in PSO, where you may deploy. You will be expected to assist, advise and contribute to the development of transitional justice mechanisms,” Minister Kabarebe told the participants.

 The Director of the Rwanda Peace Academy, Col Jill Rutaremara said that the objective of the course was to equip the military, police and civilians with skills and knowledge to address genocide and mass atrocity crimes by developing effective, contextual and appropriate transitional justice strategies and mechanisms. 

The Minister’s opening speech was followed by the keynote address delivered by Lt Gen (Rtd) Romeo Dallaire, former Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR). Gen Dallaire highlighted the failure of the International Community and UN to stop the1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and other mass atrocities crimes committed in different parts of the World.

“When the Genocide against Tutsis happened, nobody was interested in stopping it at the UN Headquarters,” Gen Dallaire said.

He called upon the region to prevent the recruitment and the use of child soldiers.“Child soldiers need to be understood as a security concern. It is in your responsibility, in your concept of operations to prevent and protect children from being abused in conflicts,” he said.

The PSO course is being conducted for the first time. A total of 24 military, police and civilian officers from 7 African countries (Comoros, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Malawi, and Rwanda) as well as one officer from the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) are attending the training. The course is a brainchild of the Rwanda Peace Academy. The idea of coming up with the course was conceived by the RPA. Consequently, the BPST that backed the idea sponsored two workshops that designed and developed the course curriculum. They also funded the actual delivery of the course. The training that started on 8 May will end on 19th May 2017.

 

[Read the full speech of the Minister of Defence, General James Kabarebe] 


It is my pleasure to be here and to officially open the Genocide, Mass Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice in Peace Support Operations course.

 Dear Participants, violence against civilians in conflict is the bane of our time. Mass atrocities committed in conflict have been a feature of war since time immemorial. War crimes, crimes against humanity, violence against women and children, and the most heinous of these crimes, that of genocide, have in some conflicts been committed with impunity.

 The Nuremberg trials after the Second World War was one of the first manifestations of international justice seeking to punish the perpetrators of genocide but also to bring a form of closure and retribution for the victims as well as ensuring ‘never again’. International justice in this instance brought to light the importance of justice in the face of genocide but did not halt the ferocity of future genocide and mass atrocity crimes.

 In Rwanda, we have had first hand experience of these issues. In the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, over 1 million men, women and children were brutally murdered in a period of less than 100 days. They were targeted and killed, simply for belonging to a national group (Tutsi) and for no other reason. Millions of Rwandans participated in the genocide. Colleagues turned on their colleagues, neighbours turned on neighbours, and husbands turned on their wives and vice versa. As a result, about 150, 000 perpetrators had to be dealt with.

 The use of conventional courts was out of question. First, as I have already indicated, the number of genocide suspects was overwhelming. Legal experts have estimated that it would have taken well over a century to try all the genocide suspects using classical courts. Second, it would have been very costly. Third, and most important, post-genocide Rwanda was faced with a socially fractured society characterised by divisionism, suspicion and mistrust. What the Rwandan society needed was a justice system that could address the longstanding problem of impunity while at the same time promoting unity and reconciliation as well as social harmony. Justice, as administered through conventional courts, could not achieve these outcomes.

 Informed by the unique genocide and Rwandan context, the leadership in Rwanda with President Paul Kagame at the helm turned to the centuries-old Rwandan traditional institution of Gacaca to complement the conventional courts. Gacaca courts are therefore credited for not only having dispensed restorative justice in a very short time and in a cost effective manner, but also for having promoted unity, reconciliation and social harmony.

 That said, it is not Rwandans alone that have been a victim of genocide and mass atrocities or who have lessons and experiences to share on how to deal with genocide and mass atrocities.

 Conflicts in various regions of Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East have all been theatres of mass atrocities and to some extent genocide. Mass atrocities continue to occur on a daily basis for example in Syria, Iraq and in some African countries. Some countries have also divised transitional justice mechanisms to address the problem of perpetrators of violence and therefore have something they can share with other nations.

 As future peacekeepers, you are likely to meet challenges related to transitional justice initiatives in peace support operations where you may deploy. You will therefore be expected to assist, advise and contribute to the development of transitional justice mechanisms. This course is therefore very important and relevant. 

 Some peacekeeping missions such as UNAMIR that we had here in Rwanda was a complete failure and a disgrace. However, the fact that some case studies demonstrate complete failure in peacekeeping and subsequent transitional justice mechanisms especially those associated with the United Nations, should not divert you. Instead you should draw some important lessons from them. While the genocide in Rwanda was tragic, the experiences and lessons drawn from it inform and inspire our outlooks and search for homegrown solutions that are informed by our history, culture and unique context. The genocide also informs Rwanda’s threat assessment with genocide ideology as the most serious security threat facing the country. The experiences and lessons learnt have also contributed to the building of a resilient Rwandan society.

 

The Rwanda Peace Academy therefore provides a unique and contextual environment to learn about Genocide, Mass Atrocity crimes and Transitional Justice in Peace Support Operations, and is perfectly placed to host this important course, the only one of its kind.

Before ending my remarks, allow me to thank British Peace Support Team (BPST) for funding the curriculum development workshops that preceded this course as well as funding the conduct of the actual course. My thanks also go to the Rwanda Peace Academy. I am also grateful to the countries that honoured our invitation. I wish all of you a happy and confortable stay in Rwanda. I also wish you a productive course.

 It is my singular honour to declare the Genocide, Mass Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice course officially open. I thank you.