Will our courts ever be seen to be free and fair (and impartial) in the eyes of bleeding heart ‘human rights campaigners and do-gooders’? I doubt that. It doesn’t matter whether the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda deems them so. It doesn’t matter whether the European Court of Justice deems them so. It doesn’t matter whether the Canadian Supreme Court deems them so. It doesn’t matter whether Rwandans, themselves, deem them so. No matter what happens, or what the evidence is, the narrative remains the same. ‘The courts are subjugated by the Government’.
Well, the Victoire Ingabire trial and judgment has put paid to that. If the courts were in the pockets of Village Urugwiro (as plenty of so-called experts think) they would have thrown Mrs. Ingabire into the prison and thrown away the key. After all, the public prosecutor asked the High Court to sentence her to life in prison. Instead however, the Court sentenced her to eight years in jail on the charges of threatening state security and denying the Genocide.
If that isn’t evidence of impartiality I don’t know what is; especially when one realizes that the eight-year sentence is actually a six-year one because of time already served. She’s been in prison since the 14th, October 2010. Throw in another, lesser-known fact, that a convict can apply for parole after serving a one-fourth of the sentence, and we have a situation where Ingabire can ask, for, and get, parole as early as tomorrow. In fact, her co-accused Colonel Tharcisse Nditurende, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Habiyaremye, Lieutenant Jean Marie Vianney Karuta and Major Vital Uwumuremyi, will be free men tomorrow, despite their differing sentences ranging from two years and seven months to four years and six months.
According to the BBC, Ingabire’s supporters were “stunned by the verdict”. This is probably because they believed their own feverish rhetoric. In a press statement they released yesterday, they write, and I quote, that “sources confirm that a special cell in Mpanga central prison has been already prepared for her before this symbolical ruling by the High Court”. I’ve taken a bit of an interest in the ‘opposition’, and this is what I’ve gleamed. It seems to me that they live in a world where everything in Rwanda is bad and going to the dogs. They naturally assume the worst and they can’t begin to even fathom a situation where they are wrong in that assumption.
When they hear about a reshuffle in the military and intelligence services, they talk about a ‘coup plot’. When they learn about a programme to eradicate Nyakatsi (grass thatched huts), what they hear is a plot to condemn peasants to homelessness. When they hear about a VOLUNTARY vasectomy programme, they immediately assume that it is a Machiavellian plot to lower the birthrate. When Gacaca is instituted to try the hundreds of thousands of cases relating to the 1994 Genocide, these people assume that it was a plot to exact victor’s justice. In other words, nothing is good. Everything is bad. And if they had their way, society could collapse for all they cared. It would all be worth it just to see the back of this government. So, in my opinion, these people cannot be helped.
However, for the genuinely curious and open minded, I believe that this court case will help them distinguish the real from the fake. The facts on the ground prove that the government doesn’t always get its own way, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is proof that the courts aren’t merely institutions that rubber-stamp all and sundry.