Friday, August 08, 2008

The ICTR - 8 August*

We woke bright and early for a good breakfast before heading down to the ICTR for the day. Again, a good breakfast, which was pretty necessary for an intense day. We arrived and sat at the wrong gate for about twenty minutes, before TC realised and we headed to the VIP gate. Oh yes, indeed, the VIP gate. Turns out we were to go on the tour / Q&A session with a group of students from the University of Nairobi, and they turned up about twenty minutes after us - just enough time for TC and I to write down the titles of several important but depressing books we wanted to read. The library at the ICTR is not catalogued along the normal lines of a law library, but based on the special needs of the workers at the ICTR. I had been shamed by the guy sitting next to me on the flight to Nairobi who was off to Kigali to look for sustainable engineering projects for his university to share in, and reading the Romeo Dallaire book that I keep meaning to read but cannot face, having read extracts from it in the week of the tenth anniversary of the start of the genocide (I think in the guardian). So I think I overcompensated when going through the collection in the library in Arusha. Still, necessary.

We had a talk from the very sweet librarian, and then had a look around a courtroom. Stupidly, we had arranged to go when the court is not in session - that starts again on the 18th, when my professor will also be there, so it was annoying timing. Therefore, we watched a fairly out of date video, and had a Q&A with someone - who had to fill in at the last minute.

That was... difficult. After a brief talk about the ICTR, the floor was open to us and the Kenyan students - doing their masters in Conflict Management / International Studies were extremely hostile to the ICTR. Extremely. It was so interesting. They cited the money (the expenditure could have built roads in all of East Africa, said one, which I think is probably true!), that it was a way to assuage the guilt of the international community who stood by and did nothing to prevent the genocide (I think that's almost certainly true). It certainly is not a deterrent - Sudan is clearly an example of that. The prisoners get to choose their own meals - many Rwandese cannot say that. Conjugal visits also stirred up some anger - and the SUVs in the car park, the number of non-Africans (although, as the ICTR guy pointed out - the guy who's probably been there the longest and so made the most money is a Tanzanian judge).

But the major problem - the lack of justice for Rwandese. I didn't realise that although there is a mandate for outreach, the UN provides no direct budget for it. That's appalling, if true. Further, during the time it has taken for the trials of around 40 men (and one woman), there have been 5,000 Rwandese trials of the perpetrators. That shocked everyone - and there was a real sense of imperialism, that the white folks of the UN were coming in to tell the Rwandese they were incapable of delivering their own justice.

There... it's hard to argue against it, but as a (would-be) lawyer, I do believe there are differences in the people they're trying at the ICTR. The ground-breaking nature of the Nahimina case - the media ones, where the radio and newspaper owners were put on trial - plus the trying of heads of state - these have profoundly changed legal concepts: of civil liberties (particularly the US-centric view that free speech, including freedom of the press is the most important thing in the world), of sovereign immunity for civil leaders. Things are fundamentally different now because of them. At least legally. But it did make me think that it would have been worth investing in infrastructure to make it happen in Rwanda. Or transfer it once the country was getting back on its feet. Particularly with their real attempts to overhaul the constitution, increase female participation in politics, and change the structure and unity of their country.

Essentially, Friday completely undermined and refined my views of what I saw rather simplistically and legally.

The rest of the afternoon was rather different. A meal in town (awesome chapatis at the Jambo Coffee Shop, with fabulous arabic coke cans - plus, Jambo is my favourite favourite swahili word), then a wander around trying to find the bus office to buy tickets for the trip to Dar. That was... hairier than I'd like. Arusha is full of guys who know someone and know better than you what you want to do, and how much you ought to pay for it. This involved some grabbing of our arms, with that guy following us for ten minutes to the bus ticket office, and shouting at us when we left for "lying" to him. That was... unpleasant. Also, our lonely planet guide is out of date, the map for Arusha is pretty poor, and the office had moved, so we had to ask repeatedly where to go and felt pretty lost. Of course, if we'd gone in a taxi, we'd have been ok, but that seems pretty wussy, and we're still in a fairly independent state of mind.

Nonetheless, we were fine, basically, and got back in one piece, despite some guy using my camera I thought to look at pictures but I realised that he was using it to zoom in on TC's arse. He seemed to like it, but it was a tad sleazy... Still, we'd learned how to say "two waters" in Swahili, which is an improvement on the zero words we had. Then it was beers, pizza, and a far too late night considering that we had to get up at 4.45 to ensure we got the bus in time the next morning... ugh. And more on that journey in the next post...

*Weird how being back where British English is predominantly spoken so quickly changes my thought processes, including how I think of dates. .

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