Officials must appear before traditional courts, Kagame says

[Rwanda] Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Photo date: 11 Sept, 2004.
Place: Urugwiro Village, the President's office.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame. (IRIN)

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Thursday, for the first time, that if summoned members of his government must testify before traditional courts hearing cases of the 1994 genocide.

"They must appear before these courts and speak the truth on what their roles were during the killings." Kagame said. They "know what transpired and must therefore speak it out."

He made the remarks while officiating at the reburial of 250 victims of the genocide, near the hilltop village of Murambi, in the east of the country. The dead were removed from mass graves, placed in individual coffins and reburied in five trenches.

Kagame told thousands of genocide survivors present that the traditional courts, known as Gacaca, were important instruments for national reconciliation and peaceful coexistence between the Hutu and Tutsi people.

Gacaca officials have said up to 700 members of the current government would be asked to testify. The courts have also summoned senior military officers.

In March, the minister for defence, Marcel Gatsinzi, appeared before a Gacaca court in Butare Province, where villagers had accused him taking part in the planning of the genocide. However, Gatsinzi dismissed the accusations.

Under the Gacaca system of justice, people who confess and plead guilty will have their sentences reduced.

The country began a week of mourning on Thursday for some 937,000 people who were hacked to death in just 100 days. Flags are to fly at half-staff throughout the week and places of entertainment like nightclubs are to remain closed.

The director of the major motion picture on the Rwandan genocide "Hotel Rwanda", George Terry, said on Monday he intended to mobilise a fund to help the survivors.

"I plan to lobby business entities and industries to help set up an international fund for Rwanda - jointly run by the United Nations Foundation, which would mainly support survivors of the country's genocide," he said.

He added that he was exploring how the emotion generated by the film could be used to help the people of Rwanda, especially the genocide survivors.

He said the fund would support humanitarian and development programmes, including funding small-scale income generating projects for the survivors and provide free drugs for women who contracted HIV/AIDS when they were raped during genocide.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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