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The role of traditional justice in Uganda, given Rwanda’s experience of gacaca.

Fiechter, Jean-Rodolphe W.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2010) ExpressO.

On 24 July 2009, the Rwandan government announced “that it will stop taking new gacaca cases as of 31 July 2009 and that it intends to wind down gacaca operations within five months” . While the Rwandan experiment with modernized traditional justice, adapted to achieve mass justice over mass atrocity, is about to end, Uganda is setting up a transitional justice framework including traditional justice mechanisms such as mato oput, to address the atrocities committed during the last 20 years in the north of the country.
I take the opportunity, after examining shortly the role of criminal prosecution in the ambit of transitional justice, and exposing the main characteristics of traditional justice, to have a close look at the mechanisms set up by Rwanda. What goals did the government pursue, how did it implement gacaca and how did this mechanism work in practice? The lessons from gacaca will help us to understand what priorities Uganda should set on its way to peace, if and how it should implement mato oput, and what pitfalls ought to be avoided.


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