20 November 2012

Rwanda: Storage of Gacaca Archives Irks MPs

Lawmakers on the Unity and Human Rights Committee have expressed deep concerns over the storage of Gacaca archives.

They were speaking after touring where the archives are stored at the police headquarters in Kacyiru, on Monday.

In an interview with reporters, committee chairman Francois Byabarumwanzi, said the manner in which the archives were kept left a lot to be desired, emphasising that funds have to be availed to sort out the mess.

"What we have seen is not good for these archives...parliament shall do advocacy and remember we [MPs] approve the budget...funds have to be made available," Byabarumwanzi told reporters.

The government took a decision to have the archives temporarily housed in a 1,000 square metre building at national police headquarters in Kacyiru.

"We are talking about 18,000 boxes containing files collected from all over the country...there are documentary films as well..," Jean Damascene Gasanabo, the Gacaca archives centre manager told The New Times during an interview on Monday.

"Files of 1.9 million cases that went through Gacaca system are here.... high profile cases had to be filmed. We have the videos here...but unless something is urgently done, this information is at risk," Gasanabo noted.

He added that the archives were not secure and the decision to shift them to police headquarters was occasioned by the fear that someone bent on erasing evidence could have them destroyed.

Presenting the 2011/2012 financial report to parliament last week, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean de Dieu Mucyo, expressed the conviction that Genocide memorial sites and Gacaca archives are vital in telling the ugly history of Rwanda.

This year's financial report from the commission indicates that a total of 30 Genocide memorial sites were rehabilitated during the year under review compared to 10 that were refurbished in 2010/2011.

But CNLG officials say apart from the sites, there were some other vital documents in the preservation of the legacy of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that are at risk: archives of Gacaca courts.

According to Mucyo, if there was no urgent intervention to better the facility housing the archives, they shall soon be destroyed.

"Even if you stored beans in here they would be destroyed in a week's time because of humidity," a senior police officer told The New Times in a separate interview.

Of particular concern is the fact that the building is leaking after a company contracted to renovate it left before completing the works. Other files are scattered on the floor with no shelves, and according to officials; in the advent of a fire outbreak, nothing can be recovered.

"Experts have told us this is not the right environment for storage of these files," Mucyo said as he hastened to add that his commission does not know what it would cost to scan the documents.

The centre has a slim staff of 10 employees and the majority were hired on a temporary basis.

"We need staff. We need shelves. In the long run, these files should be scanned and stored electronically," Mucyo told the MPs.

The archives had been collected from over 400 sectors in the country.

Gacaca courts, which have won international acclaim in the period of 10 years of operation tried 1,951,388 cases of genocide suspects at a cost of Rwf29 billion.

As many as 75,000 suspects who were convicted by Gacaca courts are still on the run.

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