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Cablegate: "Better Than Prison" - Rwanda's Post-Genocide

VZCZCXYZ0010
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLGB #1113/01 3441458
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101458Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KIGALI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4962
INFO RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0174
RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 0204
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 1020
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1780
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0339
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0146
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 1090
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0383

UNCLAS KIGALI 001113

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV RW
SUBJECT: "BETTER THAN PRISON" - RWANDA'S POST-GENOCIDE
COMMUNITY SERVICE PROGRAM


1. (SBU) Summary: Evariste Bizimana, Executive Secretary for
the Rwandan Travaux d'Interet General (TIG) National
Committee, discussed the state of the community service
program with emboffs on December 4. Approximately 45,000
people - referred to as "TIGists" - have been registered by
the TIG National Committee and are either working as day
laborers, as residents of one of 26 TIG camps, or awaiting
TIG assignment. 100,000 persons may be participating in TIG
by early next year. TIG projects are determined by districts
and focus on environmental and agricultural development. A
tour of Masoro TIG camp outside central Kigali revealed a
minimum security work camp alternative to Rwanda's
dilapidated prisons (whose populations are dropping
steadily). Criticism has grown over the slow start of the
program and the alleged poor work habits of the TIGists, but
the real work of the TIG program is to transform those
convicted of genocide crimes from inactive prison populations
to community service participants. End summary.

2.(U) Bizimana explained to emboffs during their meeting on
December 4 that so-called "TIGists" have two options. The
first option is as a camp resident. Those who perform TIG as
camp residents, housed in one of Rwanda's 26 camps, have
their TIG sentences reduced by half. They are able to leave
on weekends and can obtain permission to leave for short
periods of time for other reasons. The other option is
referred to as "in proximity." Individuals doing TIG "in
proximity" live at home, serve their full TIG sentences, and
report to the camp for work on weekdays, earning credit
against their sentences for each day of work actually
performed. Bizimana reported that, of the approximately
45,000 people currently registered with the TIG National
Committee, 9,000 are in 26 camps (whose populations range
between 300 and 1000 people), 23,000 are doing TIG "in
proximity," and the rest await assignment. He estimated the
program may have 60,000 TIGists by the end of the year, and
perhaps 100,000 by early next year. (Note: Those who confess
to gacaca offenses - the vast majority of cases - spend half
of their sentence in TIG, the rest split between prison time
and suspended sentences. End note).

3. (U) Bizimana said TIGists work eight hours a day, and
receive reconciliation training in cooperation with the
National Unity and Reconciliation Commission. Those in the
camps spend their evenings at rest or engaged in "leisure
activities." The focus of TIG work, according to Bizimana,
are district-level projects that provide environmental
protection or increase agricultural production, such as
terracing of fields. He said coffee and macadamia nuts are
among the crops planted by TIGists, with sale proceeds
returned to the program. Each district in which a TIG camp
is located determines projects for TIGists to undertake for
the benefit of the district, with the TIG office contracting
out the TIGists' labor. TIGists living "in proximity" to the
camps join in the district projects. Eventually, Bizimana
stated, there will be 60 TIG camps, two in each of Rwanda's
30 districts. Bizimana reported that private enterprises may
also enter into memoranda of understanding with the TIG
National Committee for contract labor. Private projects ran
a greater risk of corruption, Bizimana acknowledged, as less
monitoring would occur than in public projects, and TIGists
could attempt to thwart daily performance monitoring through
bribery or substitution of personnel.

4. (U) During the meeting, Bizimana spontaneously invited
emboffs to the Masoro TIG camp, which was established in
October in Gasabo District and is located a few kilometers
outside central Kigali. About 1,000 individuals are serving
TIG sentence at Masoro, said Bizimana. After showing emboffs
several hundred TIGists working at terracing on a hillside
below the camp, he led a tour of the facility, which included
permanent structures -- staff offices, a large meeting room,
an infirmary, a kitchen, showers and latrines -- and several
dozen tarp-covered shelters for residents, as well as gardens
and a soccer pitch. Facilities were clean and living spaces
were relatively spacious and tidy. About two dozen women had
their own facilities located across the camp from the men's
tents. Nearly all camp inhabitants were absent on work
assignments, but emboffs spoke with camp officials and with
several TIGists, including one who had spent eight years in
prison on genocide charges before coming to the Masoro camp.
In the presence of Bizimana, the TIGist asserted that living
conditions and food were "much better at the camp" than in

prison, and that residents had "greater freedom."

5. (SBU) Bizimana was recently called to the Senate to answer
questions on the productivity of the TIGists -- there has
been growing criticism of the slow pace of camp construction
and the alleged poor work habits of TIG participants. A
recent editorial cartoon in the government-affiliated New
Times showed several TIGists leaning on shovels, chatting up
young women, and sitting in the shade smoking cigarettes.
However, Bizimana asserted that TIGists were being actively
sought by many government agencies with public work projects
to construct.

6. (SBU) Comment: Although still overcrowded, Rwanda's prison
population is dropping steadily as tens of thousands of
Rwandans are sent home to serve their suspended sentences and
community service first (with prison time an increasingly
remote possibility, according to some observers). TIG now
takes center stage as the focus of Rwanda's search for
compensation and accountability for the 1994 genocide.
Whatever the productivity of the TIGist labor force, the real
goal of the TIG program will be to transform those convicted
of genocide crimes from inactive prison populations to work
camp and home-based participants in community service
activities. End comment.


ARIETTI

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