The Bar Association in Rwanda is a legal professional organisation established in 1997, numbering approximately 1,200 members. A decade ago, Julien-Gustave Kavaruganda, its President, who previously worked as a corporate lawyer in Belgium at the Brussels Bar Association, came back to Rwanda to work for a renowned lawyer’s office and became fully active in the Bar Association.
European Times: Which are the goals of your organisation and how would you define its mission?
Julien-Gustave Kavaruganda: We strive to strengthen the rule of law, and we work for individuals and corporations to have access to justice and fair trial. Rwanda has 12 million citizens and 1200 lawyers. Apart from lawyers, our association welcomes judges, prosecutors, and university professors as well. The recent appointment of our members to the East African Legislative Assembly is recognition of the quality of our work.
My primary goal as President is to make sure that the Rwanda Bar Association is financially sustainable. We welcome funding aid from international associations and through bilateral cooperation but moreover we are in need of knowledge transfer through workshops conducted by established European law firms in order to upgrade the capacity, quality and skills of Rwandan law and judiciary community. That will enable us in assisting international investors better but also in providing pro bono services to indigents and vulnerable people.
European Times: The Kigali International Arbitration Center (KIAC) can assist investors should they need their services. What is your experience with that so far? Does it work well for investors?
Julien-Gustave Kavaruganda: That is an excellent alternative for investors since the rules of KIAC are similar to the norms of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the International Court of Arbitration (ICA). They give a preliminary answer in less than 24 hours. Moreover, the judiciary in Rwanda is pro-arbitration, and judges see arbitration as added value.
European Times: What advice would you give to investors looking to come to Rwanda regarding the assistance which can be provided by your association?
Julien-Gustave Kavaruganda: Lawyers are the essential partners to successful businesses. We have a comprehensive database of lawyers which includes their particular area of expertise and can provide access to it to potential investors.
Investors coming to a new country need to understand the way system operates. They need an advisor by their side who would be telling them how to do business in the most efficient way, from registering a company, to paying taxes online. We can help them understand the business and legal culture of our land.