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Protesters Greet Rwanda’s President During Business School Visit

Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has been accused of human rights violations, drew protesters over the weekend during his visit to University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Kagame was visiting the school to accept an award from the Oxford Business Network for Africa, a student club. Ahead of the May 18 event, Salvator Cusimano, a student in the one-year masters in refugee studies program at Oxford, and Barbara Harrell-Bond, a founding director of the university’s Refugee Studies Centre, wrote a letter to the club, Saïd Dean Peter Tufano, and others, urging them to reconsider the award. They also started an online petition that garnered nearly 6,000 signatures asking the group to refrain from awarding Kagame.

Although disappointed with the outcome—the event went on as planned, and Kagame received the honor—Cusimano says he is satisfied that his efforts and those of the protestors brought attention to bigger issues. “People became aware of a serious situation in the world,” says Cusimano, whose program focuses on the causes and consequences of forced migration. “The event went from being a pat on the back to a critical discussion.”

A United Nations report links the M23 rebel group that is responsible for atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with senior members of the Rwandan military. Critics say that Kagame also infringes on political and press freedoms and maintains a hostile environment to those who oppose his government, according to the U.K. newspaper, The Independent. Kagame strongly denies involvement in M23 and condemned the UN’s accusations.

Despite the protests, more than 350 people attended the fifth annual Oxford Africa Business Conference, where Kagame gave the keynote address. Kagame was the first winner of the Distinction of Honor for African Growth.

“We chose to honor President Kagame because of his economic development initiative, which is focused on policy and tactics in Rwanda to create a more open market, so people can experience the benefits of trade,” says Sara Leedom, the co-chair of the Oxford Business Network for Africa and an MBA student.

Rwanda’s economy is now growing by more than 11 percent, and the country is slated to meet most of its UN Millennium Development Goals to move many of its citizens out of poverty, according to a statement from the student-led Oxford Business Network for Africa. The group never considered canceling the event or reneging on the award, Leedom says.

Before the event, the school put out a statement: “President Kagame’s presence in the Saïd Business School does not imply any endorsement by the school or the university of his views or actions. We are aware that President Kagame is considered to be a controversial figure, and there will be the opportunity for those present to challenge him as appropriate.”

Source: Bloomberg.com

May 21, 2013   No Comments

President Paul Kagame: I asked America to kill Congo rebel leader with drone

A new M23 recruit demonstrates his martial arts skills in the DRC

A new M23 recruit demonstrates his martial arts skills in the DRC

In an exclusive interview with Chris McGreal in Kigali, Rwanda’s president denies backing an accused Congolese war criminal and says challenge to senior US official proves his innocence

Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, has rejected accusations from Washington that he was supporting a rebel leader and accused war criminal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by challenging a senior US official to send a drone to kill the wanted man.

In an interview with the Observer Magazine, Kagame said that on a visit to Washington in March he came under pressure from the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Johnnie Carson, to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, leader of the M23 rebels, who was wanted by the international criminal court (ICC). The US administration was increasing pressure on Kagame following a UN report claiming to have uncovered evidence showing that the Rwandan military provided weapons and other support to Ntaganda, whose forces briefly seized control of the region’s main city, Goma.

“I told him: ‘Assistant secretary of state, you support [the UN peacekeeping force] in the Congo. Such a big force, so much money. Have you failed to use that force to arrest whoever you want to arrest in Congo? Now you are turning to me, you are turning to Rwanda?'” he said. “I said that, since you are used to sending drones and gunning people down, why don’t you send a drone and get rid of him and stop this nonsense? And he just laughed. I told him: ‘I’m serious’.”

Kagame said that, after he returned to Rwanda, Carson kept up the pressure with a letter demanding that he act against Ntaganda. Days later, the M23 leader appeared at the US embassy in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, saying that he wanted to surrender to the ICC. He was transferred to The Hague. The Rwandan leadership denies any prior knowledge of Ntaganda’s decision to hand himself over. It suggests he was facing a rebellion within M23 and feared for his safety.

But Kagame’s confrontation with Carson reflects how much relationships with even close allies have deteriorated over allegations that Rwanda continues to play a part in the bloodletting in Congo. The US and Britain, Rwanda’s largest bilateral aid donors, withheld financial assistance, as did the EU, prompting accusations of betrayal by Rwandan officials. The political impact added impetus to a government campaign to condition the population to become more self-reliant.

Kagame is angered by the moves and criticisms of his human rights record in Rwanda, including allegations that he blocks opponents by misusing laws banning hate speech to accuse them of promoting genocide and suppresses press criticism. The Rwandan president is also embittered that countries, led by the US and UK, that blocked intervention to stop the 1994 genocide, and France which sided with the Hutu extremist regime that led the killings, are now judging him on human rights.

“We don’t live our lives or we don’t deal with our affairs more from the dictates from outside than from the dictates of our own situation and conditions,” Kagame said. “The outside viewpoint, sometimes you don’t know what it is. It keeps changing. They tell you they want you to respect this or fight this and you are doing it and they say you’re not doing it the right way. They keep shifting goalposts and interpreting things about us or what we are doing to suit the moment.”

He is agitated about what he sees as Rwanda being held responsible for all the ills of Congo, when Kigali’s military intervention began in 1996 to clear out Hutu extremists using UN-funded refugee camps for raids to murder Tutsis. Kagame said that Rwanda was not responsible for the situation after decades of western colonisation and backing for the Mobutu dictatorship.

The Rwandan leader denies supporting M23 and said he has been falsely accused because Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, needs someone to blame because his army cannot fight. “To defeat these fellows doesn’t take bravery because they don’t go to fight. They just hear bullets and are on the loose running anywhere, looting, raping and doing anything. That’s what happened,” he said.

“President Kabila and the government had made statements about how this issue is going to be contained. They had to look for an explanation for how they were being defeated. They said we are not fighting [Ntaganda], we’re actually fighting Rwanda.”

Source: The Guardian

 

May 21, 2013   No Comments

President Barack Obama Skips Uganda, Rwanda In Africa Tour

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

The White House briefing shows that Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama look forward to traveling to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania from June 26 – July 3.

“The President will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders,” the statement issued on May 20 reads in part.

It remains unclear why Obama chose to bypass the three East African nations, considering their role in supporting the US anti-terrorism projects in the country.

Uganda and Kenya have sacrificed lives of thousands of its own soldiers to combat Al Qaeda-sponsored terrorism in Somalia. The country is now realizing peace.

Nevertheless, it appears Obama could have decided not to visit Uganda due to the State’s poor human rights record.

Police on Monday sealed off the premises of two newspapers, Daily Monitor and Red Pepper as they searched for a letter authored by exiled Coordinator of Intelligence Organs, Gen David Tinyefuza.

Tinyefuza had called for investigations into reports of planned assassinations of military officers opposed to the idea of Brig Kainerugaba Muhoozi succeeding his father, President Yoweri Museveni.

Government vehemently denied the allegations and threatened to arrest Tinyefuza for spreading harmful propaganda.

The US President avoided Kenya probably because President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

Regarding Rwanda, the US has in the past accused Kigali of supporting the M23 rebellion in Eastern Congo.

Rwanda denies the charge, insisting they do not benefit from a chaotic neighbor.

President Paul Kagame has on several occasions said the rebellion in DRC was sparked off by the poor leadership in Kinshasha.

Meanwhile, Obama will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss US’ strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues.

“The trip will underscore the President’s commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity,” read the White House statement.

Source: Chimp Reports

May 21, 2013   No Comments

Battle to eliminate child labor intensifies in Rwanda

Emmanuel Twizerimana has to sell wood to be able to buy school material

Emmanuel Twizerimana has to sell wood to be able to buy school material

One Wednesday morning, Emmanuel Twizerima­na looks desperate as he is waiting for someone to buy his bundle of firewood at the roadside of Gatsata, a neighborhood of Ki­gali city. The 15-year-old has walked for three hours with the heavy load, from Murambi sector in Rulindo to the city’s periphery, in the hope of earning some money.

Twizerimana, a senior-one stu­dent, says he has to resort to such ex­hausting work in order to find a little money to satisfy his basic needs at school. He was expecting to sell his firewood at Frw 1,000, but the mar­ket demand forces him to accept Frw 800. “I use this money to buy some notebooks when my parents can’t af­ford it,” Twizerimana says.

Charles, a youngster of 17, is working as a house-boy in Kicukiro. He has been doing such kind of work for three years now, since he left his home in Gisagara just after complet­ing his primary school. He earns Frw 8,000 per month.

According to the law, Twizerima­na and Charles shouldn’t be doing those jobs, but instead concentrate more on their education. Yet many children are living the same life as the two boys.

Legally, a child is anyone young­er than 18 years, although the min­imum age for admission to em­ployment is 16. However, the law stipulates that in those cases the work should be proportionate to a child’s capacity and not include noc­turnal, laborious, unsanitary or dan­gerous activities that could harm the child’s health, education or morality.

Damien Nzamwita, who is in charge of social security policy and child labor control at the ministry of public service and labor (Mifotra), admits that the problem exists, but he says they are working on it. “The problem is there, but it is not really alarming,” he assures.

The EICV3 (2010/11) survey showed that 367,810 children (10.14% of those under 18) were found working either in their own households or outside. It also indi­cated that 110,742 children within the age of 6 to 17 (3%) were involved in economic activities.

The agriculture sector was the largest workplace for children with 40.8%, followed by 31.9% engaged in domestic services, 8.1% in construc­tion, 2.7% in industry; and 13.7% in other activities such as trade, hotels and transportation.

Geographically, the Northern Province was more affected by the phenomenon with 18% of all chil­dren aged 6-17, the Western came second with 10%, followed by South (9%), Kigali city (8.3%) and the East­ern Province (8%). Only in Kigali were more girls found to be affected than boys.

Nzamwita says the recently ap­proved five-year policy on child la­bor will help them to eliminate the problem. As to the reasons why ex­isting laws have not managed to root it out, he explains that they concern mainly the formal private sector, where he says the problem has been reduced significantly.

To tackle the issue in the informal sector, Nzamwita says both educa­tion and social affairs officers from all sectors are being trained on the new policy and the legal framework so that they can be fully involved.

“These are people who deal with day-today activities at the grassroots level. They will greatly participate in eliminating child labor by involving local communities,” the official says.

Poverty and illiteracy

The worst forms of child labor include practices similar to slav­ery, such as the sale and traffick­ing of children, debt bondage and serfdom, and forced or compulsory labor, including recruitment of chil­dren in armed conflict.

Construction and demolition works, use of heavy machinery, fish­ing and heavy loads are among the most dangerous works for children.

It is clear that without other pro­ductive assets, impoverished fami­lies often rely on children’s labor to complement their means of sur­vival. Apart from poverty, orphan-related consequences, illiteracy and lack of awareness on child labor are among the main causes.

Among the strategies, officials say they will provide alternative in­come-generation to children at risk while providing support to iden­tified poor families with children involved in child labor to increase family revenues.

It is also envisaged to ensure fos­ter care and adoption of orphans for­merly associated with child labor. Then these affected children will be identified and integrated in schools and technical centers.

Nzamwita makes it clear that the drive does not prevent children to be initiated in small jobs meant to teach them how to work.

The International Labor Organiza­tion (ILO) estimates that some 317 million children (between 5 and 17 ages) are economically active and about 191 million aged 5-14 are in­volved in child labor and in its worst forms.

Source: Rwanda Focus

May 21, 2013   No Comments