Rwanda: Pragmatism leads the way in setting up specialized commercial courts

Author: Sabine Hertveldt
Publication: Celebrating Reforms 2008
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After the 1994 genocide, Rwanda recognized that it had to reform its commercial justice institutions. But the country faced a more immediate challenge from the genocide: bringing thousands of perpetrators to justice. So, according to Vincent Karega, minister of state for industry and investment promotion, “the many competing needs, especially due to the legacy of the genocide, made it impossible to embark on commercial justice reforms until 2001.” But it wasn’t until 2005 that creating separate commercial courts to better handle commercial concerns was taken seriously as an idea. And it took until March 2008 to make that idea a reality. This case study follows the steps to reform amid complicated circumstances.

Main Findings

  • The new law, entered into force in March 2008, provides for 4 new commercial courts dealing with all sorts of commercial cases—ranging from commercial contracts to bankruptcy, tax disputes, transport disputes, intellectual property adjudication, and consumer protection cases.
  • Of the 4 new courts, 3 are lower commercial courts covering all commercial disputes with a value below 20 million Rwandese francs, or about $37,000. The other court, the Commercial High Court in Kigali, will decide all cases with a value above $37,000 and handle appeals of decisions from the 3 lower courts.