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Posts from — September 2011

Future Policy Award 2011: Rwanda’s Forest Policy Crowned Best in World

New York, 21 September 2011 – Rwanda’s National Forest Policy, initiated in 2004 and updated in 2010, has won the 2011 Future Policy Award as the world’s most inspiring and innovative forest policy. The three winning policies which most effectively contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of forests for the benefit of current and future generations were announced by the World Future Council on 21 September 2011 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Rwanda’s National Forest Policy was proclaimed the winner while the US Lacey Act with its amendment of 2008 and The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy took home the Silver Award.

The announcement is followed by an awards ceremony at the Central Park Zoo convened by the World Future Council, the Secretariats of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Forest Stewardship Council, and hosted at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Exemplary policy solutions do exist. The Future Policy Award celebrates the best of them. The aim of the award is to raise global awareness for these policies and speed up policy action. We need visionary policies which support a sustainable and just world and protect future generations,” says Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council, an international policy research organisation that provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

The 2011 Future Policy Award shines a spotlight on the success stories and challenges faced by the world’s forests and the people who depend on them.

“Rwanda has sought not only to make its forests a national priority, but has also used them as a platform to revolutionise its stances on women’s rights and creating a healthy environment,” says Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Honorary World Future Councillor and Founder of the Green Belt Movement.
Despite continuing population and land pressures, Rwanda is on course to reach its goal of increasing forest cover to 30% of total land area achieving a major reversal in the trend of declining forest cover.
Forest cover has already increased by 37% since 1990. Massive reforestation and planting activities that promoted indigenous species and involved the local population were undertaken, and new measures such as agro-forestry and education about forest management were implemented.

Rwanda has also been a pioneer in banning plastic bags: in 2008 a bill was introduced to prohibit the manufacture, import, use and sale of polythene bags in the country. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Honorary World Future Councillor visited Rwanda in February this year together with Goodwill Ambassador Edward Norton and states: “Rwanda is an inspiration for the world. The national policy to heal and restore nature, through a border-to-border restoration programme, will create the basis for a healthy and resilient society of the future. This policy is placing Rwanda firmly on the map as a global environmental leader, and I hope many other countries will follow.”

The first Silver Award went to The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy, which has achieved sustainable forest management and poverty alleviation by handing control of forests to the communities that use them.

Eduardo Rojas Briales, Assistant Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, states: “The success of the Gambia’s Community Forest Policy proves that even in the with the support of world’s poorest countries, with the right policies and adequate legislation in place rural populations can benefit economically and significantly improve their food security. In Gambia the innovative policy included forest tenure transition from state ownership to management by local communities, which enabled them to reduce illegal logging and benefit from using the forest products. It is vital to acknowledge such achievements and draw the attention of policy-makers around the globe to possible solutions which could be applied in other countries in the future.”

Ecological gains from forest protection include an increase in climate change mitigation through a decrease in desertification, forest fires and illegal logging. The Gambia has managed to buck a strong deforestation trend in Africa with over 350 villages managing 12% of the country’s forests, with a net increase in forest cover of 8.5 percent over the last two decades.

The second Silver Award went to the US Lacey Act amendment of 2008 which prohibits all trade in wood and plant products that are knowingly illegally sourced from a US state or any foreign country. “The Lacy Act enforces the environmental law of even the weakest of countries in the most powerful way. If all countries followed its example, environmental law would be globally enforced and our biosphere would be protected,” says jury member Tewolde Berhan Egziabher, Director General, Environmental Protection Authority, Ethiopia and World Future Councillor. The strength of the Act lies in its ability to target and place responsibility on every stage of the timber supply chain. It has forced importers to take responsibility for their wood products and has already produced positive results in increasing due diligence assessments and demand for certified wood products.

Jan McAlpine, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, states: “Celebrating innovation to benefit the world’s forests is one of the primary objectives of the International Year of Forests, 2011. This year’s Future Policy Award recognises policies that have succeeded in translating a vision for a sustainable future into tangible action. The UNFF applauds the three winning governments in Rwanda, The Gambia and the US for their extraordinary sustainable forest management policies: incorporating social, environmental and economic actions into a sustainable future for their countries.”

An international jury composed of experts from academia, government, international bodies, civil society and indigenous groups from all five continents (see composition in Future Policy Award 2011: Factsheet of Winning Policies) had assessed the nominations against the World Future Council’s Seven Principles for Future Just Lawmaking. Honourable mentions were also bestowed upon forest policies from Bhutan, Nepal and Switzerland. In total twenty policies from sixteen countries were nominated for the award.

September 22, 2011   1 Comment

Ex-FDLR militia commander hired to incriminate Ingabire admits acts of terrorism in Rwanda court

Reporting on the court proceedings in the Ingabire trial, the pro-governement daily ‘New Times’ explains how ex-FDLR commander Noel Habiyaremye admitted all charges and pleaded for clemency. In return, he incriminated co-accused opposition politician Victoire Ingabire and the Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina.

Victoire Ingabire - Rwandan political prisoner

Victoire Ingabire – Rwandan political prisoner

Kigali 22 September 2011 — One of Victoire Ingabire’s co-accused, Lt. Colonel Noel Habiyaremye, took the defence floor and admitted all charges he is indicted for.

Habiyaremye is one of two former FDLR militia commanders arrested in Burundi in 2009 while canvassing for support to form a terrorist group.

The two commanders and two other officers are accused of forming an armed group, complicity to acts of terrorism and conspiracy against the government using war and terrorism.

Habiyaremye began his defense by acknowledging his involvement in planning and executing subversive activities against the government of Rwanda while he was still in the FDLR and after he quit the rebel outfit in 2007.

He went on to plead for clemency.

Unlike his counter parts who were allegedly dealing with Ingabire, Habiyaremye was planning to form another armed group on behalf of Paul Rusesabagina’s PDR-Ihumure party.

Court heard that Habiyaremye got into contact with Rusesabagina before leaving the DR Congo jungles to head for Zambia in 2007. Rusesabagina allegedly told him of his intentions to form an armed group to fight the Rwandan Government.

Habiyaremye told court that when they planned to travel to Burundi with Lt. Colonel Tharcisse Nditurende, Rusesabagina instructed him to seek advice from a Burundian General on how to form the armed group.

However, Habiyaremye said that he did not know that his counterpart had similar arrangements with another politician.

“I told him of my plans, but he never told me his,” said the defendant, who had travelled from Zambia to join his counter part at that time for the Burundi mission.

He testified that Rusesabagina sent him money through the Western Union money transfer to facilitate the mission and buy communication equipment like satellite phones to help in the recruitment of the members of his armed group.

Habiyaremye told court that Rusesabagina wanted to use the armed group to oust the Rwandan government in case they completely rejected talks with the opposition politicians.

“He told me that he was disappointed that the FDLR was just sitting idly in the Congo jungles instead of fighting,” he said.

The hearing continues today.

[The New Times]

September 22, 2011   No Comments

Rwanda: Rugambage murder trial – Didace Nduguyangu gets 10 years, other defendant acquitted

Reporters Without Borders is very sceptical about the verdicts that a high court issued on 15 September in the trial of two men accused of the murder of Jean-Léonard Rugambage, the deputy editor of the bimonthly magazine Umuvugizi, who was shot four times at close range outside his Kigali home on 24 June 2010.

One of the defendants, Didace Nduguyangu, was convicted and given a 10-year jail sentence. The other, police officer Antoine Karemera, was acquitted. The trial has not done much to resolve doubts about their guilt or innocence or the ability of the Rwandan justice system to function independently.

“The court’s verdicts raise more questions without providing any answers,” Reporters Without Borders said. Why was one of the suspects convicted and the other acquitted? Why were both kept in pre-trial detention if only one of them confessed to the murder? Is Nduguyangu really guilty and if he was, was his sentence adequate?

“After Rugambage was killed, we asked the French government, which was restoring diplomatic relations with Rwanda at the time, and the European Union delegation in Kigali to ensure that an independent investigation was carried out into this murder. Nothing was done in response to this request. The investigators considered only the hypothesis of personal revenge and ignored the possibility that Rwandan officials were involved.”

Just before his death, Rugambage published an article blaming the Rwandan authorities for the attempted murder of exiled army general Kayumba Nyamwasa on 19 June 2010 in Johannesburg. Umuvugizi editor Jean-Bosco Gasasira accused the government of masterminding Rugambage’s murder, a claim that was dismissed as “without foundation” by foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo.

After the arrest of the two suspects on 28 June 2010, the authorities reported that Nduguyangu had confessed to the murder, and that he had told the police that he did it to avenge Rugambage’s supposed murder of his brother during the 1994 genocide, which targeted Rwanda’s Tutsi population.

Arrested in 2005 on a charge of murder during the genocide, Rugambage was sentenced to a year in prison for contempt of court and spent a total of 11 months in detention before finally being acquitted on the murder charge in 2006.

Reporters Without Borders raised the lack of media freedom in Rwanda during PresidentPaul Kagame’s visit to France on 12 and 13 September. The organization challenged Kagame on the issue at a news conference and staged a protest outside the Ritz Hotel in Paris, where he was receiving a delegation of French businessmen.

More information on media freedom in Rwanda

[Reporters Without Borders]

September 22, 2011   No Comments

Member of Rwandan opposition party PS Imberakuri shot in Kigali

by Boniface Twagirimana.

On 15 September 2011, Eric Nshimyumuremyi, a member of the opposition party (Parti Social Imberakuri) was gunned down and seriously injured by plain clothes military intelligence officers manning the unfamous “Kwa Gacinya” illegal detention facility. The incident occurred around 17:00 in Gikondo location, while he was heading home after a whole day at the High Court attending Victoire Ingabire trial. The police arrived to the scene, and despite the serious chest gunshot, they just tied his hands behind his back and left him bleeding for about two hours before taking him to the hospital. A police spokesperson told the media that he is a dangerous criminal and that an investigation for “unlawful possession of weapon” was open.

Those reasons are baseless. There was no warning before the shooting. We strongly believe that the rules of engagement have not been observed by the officer. No firearms was found neither on him nor in his house.

Death threats against opposition leaders have increased during Ingabire trial. For example on 05 September 2011, Nyarugenge District Police chief Bertin Mutezintare threatened to kill Mr. Sylvain Sibomana, FDU-Inkingi Secretary General. On 15 September 2011, the same police chief renewed his threats and told him face-to-face that he will handcuff him soon .

We call upon the government to make sure that security personnel does not use their positions to intimidate people; to prosecute the life attempt against opposition members and to ensure that rules of engagement are clear and respected.

FDU-Inkingi
Boniface Twagirimana
Interim Vice President.

September 19, 2011   1 Comment

Rwanda among countries pushing for harmonization of legal systems across the East African region

The East African Law Society is pushing for the harmonization of the legal systems across the region, to enhance the quality of legal practice, but also encourage the formulation of a regulatory framework for cross border legal practice. Formed in 1995, the East Africa Law Society, brings together individual lawyer-members from the region as well as National Bar associations from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar, Rwanda, and Burundi. Michael Baleke reports of the society’s meeting that opened here in Kampala today.

September 17, 2011   No Comments

Nicolas Sarkozy’s Rwanda accord rebuffed

AN attempt by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to end the row over France’s murky role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide has run into controversy as senior politicians in Paris snubbed the leader of the African nation.

Paul Kagame

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he had “no wish to shake” Kagame’s hand.

Mr Sarkozy had invited President Paul Kagame to the French capital for what was billed as a reconciliation designed to bolster France’s waning position in Africa and to give Rwanda a gateway to Europe.

Instead, the visit yesterday served to highlight diplomatic strains arising from accusations of French involvement in the massacre of 800,000 Rwandans 17 years ago.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who occupied the same post at the time of the genocide, travelled to the Pacific Rim, having said that he had “no wish to shake” Kagame’s hand.

The chairman of the French Senate, Gerard Larcher, also refused to meet Mr Kagame, who is accused of staining French honour by claiming that France gave at least indirect support to the perpetrators of the genocide.

Jean-Claude Lafourcade, a retired general who commanded the French army operation in Rwanda, said the government in Kigali had, in effect, described his soldiers as “behaving like Nazis”.

The row centres on Rwandan claims that France armed the Hutu regime that carried out the mass murder of members of the Tutsi ethnic group.

Rwanda says French troops could have intervened to stop the killings, but did so only when Tutsis began to get the upper hand, and that the upshot of the French operation was to let the murderers get away.

The accusations were refuted in an official French report, although Mr Sarkozy conceded last year that France had shown a “kind of blindness” during the conflict.

Despite the row, the French presidency hailed Mr Kagame’s visit as a “new stage in the process of normalising relations between the two countries”.

After lunch at his Elysee Palace, Mr Sarkozy announced an increase in French aid to Rwanda from E23.7 million $31.2m) to E42.2m a year, along with private and public sector investment in banking and energy exploration.

Mr Sarkozy is seeking to rebuild bridges with a region where French influence has declined sharply over the past two decades.

He hoped that Mr Kagame would turn to Paris as he came under fire over human rights abuses in London and Washington. The Rwandan leader seemed keen to grab the outstretched hand, saying: “Really, the whole purpose is to find ways of overcoming our differences.”

[The Australian]

September 16, 2011   No Comments

Visit of President Kagame of Rwanda (‘Assassin’) to France “was a great success”

Visit of President Kagame of Rwanda to France “was a great success”.
The President of Rwanda claims that his recent visit to France early this week has been a success. It obviously depends on which point of view he looks from! Have a look!

September 16, 2011   No Comments

Ingabire trial: Rwanda has adopted ‘Snail Strategy’

par Boniface Twagirimana,
Interim Vice President of FDU-Inkingi

INGABIRE TRIAL: THE GOVERNMENT HAS ADOPTED A SNAIL STRATEGY HOPING TO DIVERT NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION.

Kigali 13 September 2011 – Since the opening of this politically motivated trial, Paul Kagame’s government has adopted a snail strategy in order to divert national and international attention and hoping that the defense will end up in exhaustion. After the prosecutor failed the adjournment, he did not allow the key defendant Madame Victoire Ingabire, FDU-Inkingi chair, to pronounce any single word and instead he has been endlessly repeating the indictments.

The strategic low speed has nothing to do with the volume of the file . For example today on the 6th day of the trial, the Prosecutor has been reading again a dozen of documents supposedly from the inbox of the collaborating key witnesses Vital Uwumuremyi and Tharcisse Nditurende who pretend that those emails copies from an unknown sender are overwhelming proof of the funding of terrorist acts. In total, the allegations concern a total amount of 11,000 US dollars sent between 2008 and 2010 by different people to different recipients. Though the accuracy of those emails and locally completed western union forms is not established, the link between the names of different people involved and Madame Victoire Ingabire is not established beyond any doubt. The real substance of the much touted lengthy and meticulous investigation is not visible. It’s only mere statements volunteered by some defeated prisoners who happenened to belong to the FDLR and who are now serving the victor’s justice.

It’s clear that the government is buying time, expecting that the British barrister Iain Edwards who started the case will not stay indefinitely in Kigali and that he will need to return and take care of other national and international Court cases that need his attention. From the start, many european countries and international human rights organisations have been following the debates on a day-to-day basis. This has been a serious challenge to the prosecutor’s evidential content.

The same time, President Paul Kagame and the Foreign affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo continue to insert themselves in the case claiming that there is overwhelming evidence . For example on 11 september in Paris, echoing her president, the foreign minister told Radio France International: “Ingabire has committed extremly serious crimes. She is in court now, to defend her rights. If she is innocent, the court will tell. Let the future shows the truth”. Why they did not let her free of her movements and leave the judicial continue its course? This is just intimidation because they know that a judge who will engage the president of Rwanda or contradict him inside the country will put his career at risk. Should they respect or believe in their own judicial system, they would let it do its business with no interferences.

The trial is scheduled to continue every day from 08 to 13:00.

September 16, 2011   1 Comment

Kagame’s visit to Paris: “I’m here to build for the future”

In what is being described as a turning of the page in mutual relations, the President of Rwanda has made his first official visit to Paris since his country’s 1994 genocide.
Counter-claims over the cause of the massacre have strained relations between the two countries for years. President Paul Kagame said: “In my coming here we have been forward looking, rather than looking to the past. So I’m here to build for the future, not for the past.”
Not everyone is happy to see Kagame in Paris however…
Watch…

[Euronews]

September 13, 2011   No Comments

President Sarkozy receives President Kagame at the Élysée Palace

September 13, 2011   No Comments