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LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS OF RWANDA Dr. Martha Mutisi Manager: Interventions Department, African Centre for the Constructive.

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Presentation on theme: "LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS OF RWANDA Dr. Martha Mutisi Manager: Interventions Department, African Centre for the Constructive."— Presentation transcript:

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2 LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS OF RWANDA Dr. Martha Mutisi Manager: Interventions Department, African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) IACM Conference July 2012

3 The Study Qualitative study – Research based on July 2011 fieldwork in Rwanda – Kigali as well as semi-rural areas such as Gacuriro – Interviews with abunzi mediators, ordinary members of society, government officials, civil society actors – Observations of abunzi proceedings – Desktop research – Study forms a chapter towards a Monograph series on TCR

4 RWANDA

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6 Known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is currently in transition Rwanda’s population is composed of three ethnic groups; Hutu (84%), Tutsi (15%) Twa (1 %) All groups speak the same language, Kinyarwanda.

7 RWANDA: A BACKGROUND Genocide where Tutsis including moderate Hutus were killed by Hutus; Three months later, genocide ended with coming into power of Paul Kagame and the Rwanda Patriotic Front;

8 POST-GENOCIDE RWANDA Since then, Rwanda has followed a unique path towards addressing the challenge of ethnic conflict; Efforts towards rebuilding peace and reconciliation; o The gacaca courts paved way for accountability by trying approximately 1.5 million cases of genocide; o After the conclusion of gacaca courts in 2010, Rwanda uses both modern and local methods of conflict resolution o Abunzi mediators try local criminal and civil disputes

9 LOCAL INSTITUTIONS OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN RWANDA Abunzi-an organ meant for providing a framework of obligatory mediation prior to submission of a case before the first degree courts; Literary translated, abunzi means ‘those who reconcile.’ Abunzi are mandated by law; – Article 159 of the Constitution, and the Organic Law No. 31/2006 and Organic Law No. 02/2010/OL on the Jurisdiction, Functioning and Competence of Abunzi mediation committees

10 LOCAL INSTITUTIONS OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN RWANDA Abunzi mediators are not only institution to attempt to resolve a dispute between parties; o The inama y’umuryango – i.e. family level meetings, o The umudugudu, i.e. village level meetings- o The abunzi mediators, i.e. those who reconcile o The gacaca courts– meant for genocide crimes o The primary courts

11 LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS The abunzi is an indigenous system which existed in Rwanda before colonialism; o Objective is to unite two parties who have a disagreement; Abunzi mediation c an be paralleled with similar traditional dispute resolution systems in other parts of Africa; o Kogtla in Botswana, o Bashingantahe in Burundi o Dare in Zimbabwe.

12 LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS Abunzi mediation in Rwanda qualifies to be labelled as a form of local conflict resolution and justice The responsibility for peace rests with individuals and communities themselves, not only Track I Diplomats; Local Justice exists at the local level and is community driven.

13 Any country emerging from conflict and embarking on a peace-building process, should not exclude its people, and it should always consider its own specific circumstances and context. Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, November 2011 CALLS FOR LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION

14 ANATONY OF THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS Abunzi, just like their counterparts, the inyangamugayo in the gacaca courts are “persons of integrity;” Abunzi are expected to have mediation skills; The cell council elects the abunzi whose members serve a two-year term, which is renewable.

15 CONCEPTUALISING ABUNZI MEDIATORS Abunzi mediation is in line with the decentralisation of development, peacebuilding and justice -Rwandan Government’s Decentralisation Policy, Decentralisation Implementation Strategy of 2000, Decentralised Government Reform Policy of Abunzi can be labelled as ‘grassroots justice,” Government efforts towards localising peace processes

16 JURISDICTION OF THE ABUNZI The abunzi have a broad jurisdiction which includes: Civil disputes o Paternity issues, matrimonial disputes o Breach of contact, labour cases o Disputes related to land and other assets below 3 million Rwandan francs (US$2500) Criminal cases; o Theft, larceny and extortion o Domestic violence, assault etc

17 THE STATE AND THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS Abunzi mediation mandated by the Organic Law of 2006 and 2010 on Mediation Committees; o Like gacaca courts, the abunzi function according to codified; although their decisions are inspired by custom. Formal courts will not consider a dispute unless the abunzi have first considered /ruled on the dispute; o Especially if the dispute’s property value is below 3 million Rwandese francs; The state assists abunzi by dealing with those who fail to comply with mediation processes.

18 MINISTRY OF JUSTICE (MINIJIST) APPEAL ABUNZI MEDIATION COMMITTEE AT SECTOR LEVEL ABUNZI MEDIATION COMMITTEE AT CELL LEVEL MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT (MINALOC) Administrative support STRUCTURAL REPRESENTATION OF THE ABUNZI Total= Abunzi Mediators

19 ABUNZI MEDIATION BUREAU President, Vice President and Secretary 3 PERSONS ABUNZI MEDIATION BUREAU President, Vice President and Secretary 3 PERSONS ABUNZI MEDIATION COMMITTEE 12 MEMBERS ABUNZI MEDIATION COMMITTEE 12 MEMBERS THE ABUNZI MEDIATORS ORGANOGRAM The Presidents and Vice- Presidents are elected by the abunzi committees and the Secretary of the abunzi is also the Secretary of the Cell There must be at least 30% women in abunzi committees

20 LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: ABUNZI MEDIATORS Decentralisation of justice: Abunzi are among govt’s repertoire of initiatives designed to make justice available to citizens at every level; According to the 2010 Citizen Report Cards (CRC) survey conducted by the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council (RGAC), the abunzi Mediation committees came as the first appreciated dispute resolution instrument in comparison with other mechanisms. Citizens felt that the abunzi process allow for easy access to justice.

21 LOCAL JUSTICE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: ABUNZI MEDIATORS Grassroots peacebuilding: Abunzi are local actors who play prominent roles in peacebuilding; Restorative Justice: Abunzi approach encourages conciliation and mediation which ultimately promotes restoration

22 ABUNZI MEDIATORS AND THE ABANYARWANDA CONCEPT Abunzi processes evoke the notion of Abanyarwanda, i.e. Rwandanness (unity); – The notion of Abanyarwanda epitomises the concept of ‘imagined community.’ – Abanyarwanda helps to heal the divide between ethnic groups; – Rwandan government says this approach is a necessary step towards reconciliation after the trauma of genocide; – Schools in Rwanda are instructed to teach a curriculum in line with the narrative of unity, emphasizing the notion of Abanyarwanda.

23 CHALLENGES FACING THE ABUNZI MEDIATION SYSTEM State-centered justice and legalized mediation; Elements of litigation and coercion in abunzi process; Overbearing role of the; Coerced peacebuilding?: References to unity; utterances that do not stress ‘oneness’ are met with public disapproval; The notion of unity has the danger of negating dissent; Proper Reconciliation?: Concerns that the notion of unity may be an act: Are Rwandans ‘pretending peace?

24 CHALLENGES FACING THE ABUNZI MEDIATION SYSTEM Genuineness: Is this a “reinvention of tradition for particular uses in the present?” (Hobsbawn, 1983) Limited institutional support: Deficits in transport, training, documentation and other forms of support

25 ENHANCING THE ABUNZI MEDIATION SYSTEM Training and capacity building support – E.g. in family law, domestic violence law etc – Assistance with transport and communication Documentation – Strengthening record keeping of abunzi decision Limiting the state’s involvement

26 CONCLUSION Rwanda’s strategy towards post-conflict resolution is unique and informed by its scarred history; The concept of abunzi mediation certainly evokes a sense of national belonging and promotes local justice; However, it is not clear whether continues state involvement in the abunzi will promote sustainable peace;

27 Thank you…

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