Your article: Ex-judge returns from productive Rwanda trip

Robert Hill, right, carrying a mud brick in Rwanda.
Robert Hill, right, carrying a mud brick in Rwanda.

Former full-time judge Robert Hill may have retired but he is still putting his extensive knowledge of the legal system to great use.

Robert, of Barmby Moor, has recently returned from his second working visit to Rwanda. His first was as part of a small team to help explain English civil procedure to the Rwandan High Court and Supreme Court Judges. On his second visit he went alone at the invitation of the Chief Justice of Rwanda to help with a specific law reform project.

Rwanda is in the centre of Africa virtually on the equator. Although it was never a British colony it has joined the British Commonwealth, made English an official language and is in the process of changing its legal system to one based on English rather than French law. Hence the involvement of English Judges in training.

During his visits Robert, 67, worked at the Institute of Legal Practice and Development which is like a university, professional law school and judicial college all in one.

In Rwanda everyone has to work for the state without pay for one day each month known as ‘umuganda’. Even the President sweeps the streets in Kigali, the capital city. Umuganda fell during Robert’s visit and, although exempt as a visitor, he volunteered to join in.

He said: “The professors, lecturers and staff of ILPD left in mini buses and were driven along a dirt road for about an hour. When the buses could get no nearer we got off and walked for about a mile to a small village. The small houses were all made of mud bricks. The mud bricks are made in a wooded frame and then left to dry in the sun. More mud is made to use as mortar. Our task was to help build a house under skilled supervision. First we had to fetch water from the stream to mix the mortar.

“This in itself was hard work carrying jerry cans up a steep track. Then we had to carry the bricks from where they had been left to dry to where they were needed.

“The bricks were surprisingly heavy. We were helped by all the men in the village while the women watched and the children played.

“We were a huge attraction to the children who had never before seen white men do physical labour.

“Although the house was not finished in one day considerable progress was made so that it could be finished by villagers when we left. It was very hard work but very satisfying.”