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Cablegate: Gacaca: Some Justice, Little Reconciliation, In

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLGB #1090/01 3171420
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131420Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY KIGALI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3446
INFO RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 1576
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0778
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1482
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0142
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0663
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0162

UNCLAS KIGALI 001090

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM RW
SUBJECT: GACACA: SOME JUSTICE, LITTLE RECONCILIATION, IN
ONE SMALL CORNER OF RWANDA


1. (SBU) Summary. On November 7, former energy minister
Bonaventure Niyibizi traveled to his birthplace in western
Rwanda to attend the gacaca trial of four men accused of the
murder of his mother in the 1994 genocide. Some measure of
justice occurred -- four men offered partial confessions and
offered pro forma apologizes for the crime. But none took
real responsibility for the murder, and Niyisbizi faces
threats and hostility when he visits his family's homestead.
A full accounting of those involved in the murder appears
unlikely, and little reconciliation has occurred in the tiny
hillside hamlet. Rwanda's post-colonial history of episodic
political upheaval, as well as class, ethnicity and simple
social envy, inform the terrible events of 12 years before in
a small rural locale. End summary.
2. (SBU) On November 7, Bonaventure Niyibizi drove to his
birthplace in mile-high western Rwanda to confront four men
charged with the murder of his elderly mother at the height
of the genocide in April 1994. Approaching the village for
the hearing that morning, Niyibizi pointed to a nearby hill.
"That's where we hid when I was six years old," he said. In
the turmoil of independence in the early 1960s, he said, a
Belgian priest armed with a pistol had led Hutu villagers
armed with machetes on a hunt for Tutsis. Niyibizi, his
mother, and his brothers and sisters had barely escaped. On
another hillock, Niyibizi pointed out the family compound,
where he had begun to construct a new home in 2004. "We have
rebuilt seven times since independence," he said. "Seven
times our home has been destroyed." Not a stone was left
from the home his mother occupied in 1994, he pointed out.
3. (SBU) Local residents arrived at the morning's gacaca
session on foot, trooping in from the surrounding hillocks, a
heavy rain pouring down. Niyibizi drove in from Kigali in a
late-model Toyota 4WD. Previously a minister in the Kagame
government, he was now a successful banker. No one in the
village came close to him in terms of social prominence or
economic success. In 1994, he was a senior advisor at USAID,
with a good income and steady employment. "They wanted money
from my mother," he said. "They assumed she had lots of
money in the house."
4. (SBU) Niyibizi had let ten years go by before he returned
to his mother's compound. "I just couldn't face going back,"
he said. But in 2004 he decided to rebuild. "I wanted
somewhere to bring my children, I wanted to come home."
Things went well at first, he said, but then he began to
receive threats. "Not many were very welcoming," he said.
"The message was that I should stay away." His visit that
day for the gacaca session was his first trip back in over a
year.
5. (SBU) At the trial, each of the four men "confessed" to
either accidental or peripheral participation in the crime
(each had been previously implicated; confessions can qualify
defendants for reduced sentences). Each offered emotionless
and insincere apologies to the Niyibizi family. Although
everyone present was free to contribute to the gacaca session
(a modified form of traditional justice, with relaxed
evidentiary standards), few in the spare and chilly
government office, packed with local residents who had lived
together for decades, commented on the men's role in the
mother's death or events in the hamlet 12 years ago. Said
Niyibizi in a whispered aside to polchief: "Many know exactly
what happened, and some of them helped. They are friends and
relatives; they won't speak."
6. (SBU) The gacaca judges, visibly incredulous at the men's
unconvincing confessions, postponed their decision to review
previous written statements and seek additional testimony.
"You call that a confession?" said the gacaca president to
one of the men. "What are you apologizing for?" Niyibizi
then made extensive remarks on the three-day torture and
killing of his seventy-two year old Tutsi mother to the
silent assembly of villagers. The four men appended their
thumbprints to written records of their confessions, and the
nine gacaca judges, wearing their sashes of office over their
simple village clothing, filed out from the improvised
courtroom.
7. (SBU) After the gacaca hearing had ended, Niyibizi
stopped at the small house he had begun to construct on the
neighboring hillside. Nothing had been disturbed since his
last visit a year before -- the walls and roof were intact,
and the small yard well-tended. A few workmen had collected
at the gate, in expectation of his visit, and he began to
discuss with them what needed to be done to finish the house.
"Maybe I will start the work again," he said to polchief.
"Maybe I will start coming back."
8. (SBU) Comment. Surveys of Rwandans suggest generally
broad support for gacaca, although different elements of the
population express differing fears. Some Hutu rural

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populations fear wholesale imprisonments; some Tutsi
survivors (those present during the genocide) worry the truth
will never be known in full, and some face physical threats.
The head of Ibuka, the survivors' umbrella organization, told
polchief recently, "Perhaps 30 or 40 percent of the truth
will be known through gacaca. It,s not enough, but it,s
better than no justice at all in all these cases."
9. (SBU) Detailed surveys of dozens of gacaca trials by
Lawyers Without Borders show many gacaca courts striving as
best they can to reach the truth and make appropriate
judgments. Individual courts do err, but others reach just
determinations and impose reasonable punishments. The task
is monumental, with upwards of 700,000 potential defendants
to be judged. Individual justice and completely accurate
accounting of all crimes is a goal and hope that cannot be
fully realized -- there are limits to the capacity of any
human institution, particularly in poor and under-resourced
Rwanda. In this case, the murder of Bonaventure Niyibizi's
mother may never be fully explained. Social envy, pure
criminality, ethnic extremism, all played their part in her
death. What will be more important, ultimately, is some
measure of acceptance and reconciliation in this remote
hillside community. End comment.

ARIETTI

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