Former Chief Justice of Rwanda.
First Woman Chief Justice of Rwanda.

Aloysie Cyanzayire

The secondary school I attended was the only science school for girls in the country, with 21 students in a classroom. At that time, people could hardly imagine a girl studying science, even though girls sometimes do better than boys. At the end of high school, my wishes were still to study economics at the university, but I was directed to the faculty of law. Surprisingly, I liked the law, although it was not my first choice. I realized that law is also a science which calls for Cartesian reasoning as the pure sciences. In the first year of study, I did my internship at the Court of Cassation (which no longer exists in our judicial system). I was impressed by these judges in gowns, who discussed laws with confidence. At that time, I never thought I could one day follow their steps because women were few in this profession. Still, this experience made me dream.

When I started my career as a judge, the first challenge I faced was to ensure that justice was done. Law and justice are sometimes two different things; you can be sure that you have applied the law, but you cannot be sure that you have done justice. You are often in front of people who hide the truth from you, and you must try to discover it yourself. Sometimes, I take a long time to think about the decision I am going to make in a case, and to wonder if it is the right one. The principle that guides me in facing this kind of challenge is to do the right thing so that my conscience does not blame me. I always aim to apply the law and rely on the wisdom of God, who always guides me as He is the only one who can know if litigants are not telling the whole truth.

Before I was appointed Chief Justice, I never imagined that a woman could hold the office that had always been the preserve of men. But why not, since our brains work the same way? My biggest challenge as a Chief Justice was to rebuild a totally destroyed post-genocide judicial system, with minimal human and material resources. I did the best I could. It is up to women to believe in, and demonstrate their abilities, and others will no longer have reason to doubt you. For young women lawyers, I urge you to be guided by a spirit of excellence, seek satisfaction in the outcome of your work, and not in the material interests of your job. Your spirit of excellence will see you through every challenge.

Institute for African Women in Law (c) All rights reserved.