Rwanda: Family, Colleagues Eulogise Mutsinzi

22 November 2019

Family and former colleagues of deceased former Chief Justice Jean Mutsinzi have eulogised him as a man who loved his family and country, mostly remembered for his efforts to set the foundation for the Rwandan judiciary having headed the sector in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Mutsinzi, 81, died Thursday morning at King Faisal Hospital after a short illness.

During the years of his work, he served in different portfolios at the top of the Rwandan judiciary, as well as several other positions in the international judicial system.

In Rwanda, he headed the Commission of Inquiry into the crash of the plane carrying former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana; he was the vice president of the Law Reform Commission; and internationally, he worked for the Organisation of African Unity (current AU) basing in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, and the United Nations basing in Guinea Bissau.

He was also the head of the African Court on Human and People's Rights between 2008 and 2010.

Among the first to commiserate with the family was Chief Justice Sam Rugege.

"On behalf of the Judiciary and on my own behalf, condolences to the family of Justice Jean Mutsinzi. His contribution to the building of post-Genocide justice shall forever be remembered and appreciated. May his soul Rest In Peace," Rugege tweeted.

In an interview with the New Times, Sosthene Cyitatire, a nephew of the deceased eulogised him as a man who loved his family and country,

"He loved his country very much. He left his work with international organisations and came back to build Rwanda in 1994 in the aftermath of the Genocide,"

In 1994, Mutsinzi was representing the UN in Guinea Bissau, but he left and came back to serve in Rwanda.

Cyitatire also said that Mutsinzi loved his family, and was a man who had many friends.

"He loved his family. He loved his children. He was a happy man and knew how to live with others," Cyitatire explained.

Dr. Jean-Damascène Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, worked with Mutsinzi on the Commission of Inquiry into the crash of the plane carrying former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

Bizimana was the vice president of the Commission, while Mutsinzi was its president.

In an interview with The New Times, Bizimana eulogised Mutsinzi as an experienced, hardworking man with good management capabilities that were important for the success of the commission in providing a good report on the airplane crash.

"The task we were working on was not an easy one. It needed analysis and hard work. Jean's experience and management skills kept the team working together, even amid the pressure that came with the hard work we were doing," he said.

The report compiled by the seven-member commission came to be validated by the UK and French officials.

Bizimana also said Mutsinzi was a good reader and open to conversation with those he worked with.

"He always read carefully the work we presented him and gave us his input. He was also open to conversation. He always smiled and shared old stories and those who worked with him enjoyed it," Bizimana noted.

Jean-Baptiste Mutashya, a retired judge, worked with Mutsinzi in different positions including the Supreme Court.

Mutashya told The New Times about the role Mutsinzi played in setting a foundation for the judiciary that had been almost left in limbo by the Genocide against the Tutsi.

"He served during difficult times when the level of justice in the country was so poor. Just like many other institutions, the judiciary had been ruined by the atrocities of the genocide against the Tutsi. We had very few equipment, few workers since many had died or fled the country. There was no infrastructure," he said.

"We started from zero. It was a struggle to make the judiciary stand to its feet. He built a foundation. The years have now evolved, but he made the foundation for the better of the judiciary," he said.

Louis-Marie Mugenzi, another judge who served in the Supreme Court with Mutsinzi said he "was humble and advised others, was experienced and exemplary".

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