There is no legal gap left by repealed colonial laws

After the Parliament of Rwanda passed a law repealing all the country’s colonial-era laws, some lawyers complain about the legal gap that may have been left by those repealed laws.

Prof Jean Marie Kamatali states that there is nothing to worry about since Rwanda is now among Civil Law countries incorporating Common Law System.

Upon request by Rwanda Law Reform Commission (RLRC), Professor Jean Marie Kamatali led a one-day workshop on Stare Decisis, on January 7, 2020, in MINIJUST Conference room.

According to Professor Kamatali, the gap should be filled through the combination of Civil Law and Common Law Systems. He reminded all participants that Rwanda is among Civil Law countries now incorporating elements of Common Law System, where most of unlegislated laws are found in the decisions of courts.

On the one hand, Common Law System is skeptical about the possibility and practicality of codes. In fact, law is characteristically the un-codified and unlegislated law found in the decisions of courts. On the other hand, Civil Law System believes that a single, complete, coherent, and logical system of law governs legal relationship, and the legislator is capable of thinking it out. Indeed, the legislator predicts how humans will behave or act in the future and legislate accordingly.

During the workshop, lawyers vowed to apply the complementarity of both systems in order to seek for homegrown solutions. Prof Kamatali urged them either to apply the law if it is clear or interpret it if it’s not clear.

He emphasised that Stare Decisis does not create law, but rather constitutes everyday working rule of law. “They should not complain about gap because laws of Rwanda take into consideration the Rwandan realities and facts of Rwandan life”, he said

The said legal gap is from laws enacted between 1885 and 1962 when Rwanda obtained independence from Belgium. After their repeal, Rwandans can now be fully governed by laws that they have made themselves.

Participants to the workshop were staff, members of Rwanda Bar Association, the Institute of Legal Practice and Development, Office of the Ombudsman, the National Public Prosecution Authority, MINIJUST and RLRC as well as lecturers from the School of Law of the University of Rwanda.