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Posts from — May 2013

The European Parliament Resolution on Human Rights Reforms in Rwanda Commended

The European Parliament

The European Parliament

The European Parliament passed three separate resolutions on Thursday 23 May 2013, calling for measures leading to the abolition of the death penalty in India and to human rights reforms in Rwanda, and expressing concerns about the situation of hunger striking prisoners in Guantanamo. We welcome and support this resolution by the Parliament to exert continued pressure to encourage human rights reforms in Rwanda. The full text of the resolution on Rwanda is as follows:

«MEPs stress that the criminal trial of Victoire Ingabire is an important test of the Rwandan judiciary’s capacity to deal with high-profile political cases in a fair and independent manner and express concerns that the trial did not meet international standards.

The Rwandan judicial authorities must investigate allegations of torture and other abuses of human rights effectively and bring those guilty to justice, MEPs insist. The Rwandan authorities must ensure the separation of powers, and in particular the independence of the judiciary, guarantee freedom of expression and review the law on “genocide ideology” in order to meet Rwanda´s obligations under international law, say MEPs.

The resolution recalls that the EU has formally raised its concerns about respect for human rights and the right to a free trial in Rwanda, under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement. MEPs call on the EU, in collaboration with other international donors, to exert continued pressure to encourage human rights reform in Rwanda ».

This is an important step towards a more demanding stand vis-à-vis the current Rwandan dictatorship violating human rights inside and outside the country with total impunity.

Rwandan army is still involved in fresh clashes in the Eastern DRC backing the M23 militia that was
condemned by the United Nations Security Counsel and by many members of the international community. The Rwandan government has done all in its powers to block the deployment of the International Brigade appointed by the UN Security council.

ON 28 March 2013, the Security Council passed its Resolution 2098 (2013) on the creation of its firstever “offensive” combat force, intended to carry out targeted operations to “neutralize and disarm” the notorious 23 March Movement (M23), as well as other Congolese rebels and foreign armed groups in strife-riven eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

We call upon members of the international community to exert more pressure on the government
of Rwanda to stop all forms of support to the notorious militia in the DRC and to open the political space and to unconditionally release all political prisoners in Rwanda.

Dr. Nkiko Nsengimana
Co-ordinator
FDU-inkingi
Lausanne
Switzerland

Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
Co-ordinator
Rwanda National Congress (RNC)
Washington, D.C.
USA
Contact : sixbert.musangamfura@gmail.com

Source: FDU-Inkingi

May 26, 2013   No Comments

D.R. Congo: Rwandan troops fighting alongside rebels to capture the city of Goma

Causing a stir in Goma: M23 rebels

Causing havoc in Goma: M23 rebels

Despite the international pressure, President Kagame remains defiant. For a month now, North Kivu civil society and others have reported increased crossings of Rwandan soldiers into DRC to help M23 and have called on the international community to take appropriate measures. They have identified among many Colonel Bingira, a Rwanda military officer who is currently commanding Rwandan and M23 troops.

The same source reported that Rwanda has put Mr. Laurent Nkunda back in the game, whose presence was reported at a high level meeting between M23 leadership and newly arrived Rwandan troops in Rumangabo military base on May 11, 2013. Laurent Nkunda is the former leader of this same rebel movement when it was called the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). He currently lives with impunity across the border in Rwanda where he continues to play a key role in the M23 rebellion. Advocacy groups have asked the Rwandan government to hand him over to DRC’s authorities or send exile him far from the region. The current M23 leader is Nkunda’s brother in-law.

Physical and economic terror reigns in M23 controlled areas. The rebels rape, kill, loot, and forcefully recruit soldiers, even children. Communities may be forced into monthly or weekly extortion taxes, be forced to endure checkpoints on roads and in markets, or have family members kidnapped for ransom.

After months of calm while the governments negotiated with M23 leadership, the rebels have resumed hostilities in an effort to take the city of Goma before the UN combat battalion begins its mission. Under UN Resolution 2098, this battalion has an offensive mandate to once and for all dismantle the multiple rebel groups in DRC. Soldiers from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania compose the battalion; some soldiers are already in DRC.

On Tuesday, May 21, in Gisenyi, the Rwandan border city to Goma, General Ruvusha, a Rwandan officer, chaired a meeting with M23 leadership and committed to send 2 additional battalions to help capture the city of Goma as quickly as possible. The evening of Wednesday May 22, M23 started shelling the city of Goma.

Source: Africa Faith and Justice Network

May 23, 2013   No Comments

Rwandan M23 rebels in DRC fire shells, killing civilians in Goma

Medical personnel treat a wounded person after a mortar exploded in a neighborhood of Goma, eastern Congo, May 22, 2013

Medical personnel treat a wounded person after a mortar exploded in Goma, May 22, 2013

GOMA, DRC — A third day of fighting between the government army and rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has caused several civilian deaths in the city of Goma. Rockets and artillery shells have been landing in Goma just a day before the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to visit the city.

Since early on Wednesday there have been sporadic explosions in the Ndosho section of Goma. Since the M23 rebels are a few kilometers north of Ndosho and have been firing artillery in a southerly direction, it seems likely the exploding shells were fired by them.

The fighting on Wednesday appears to have been largely an artillery duel, with both sides firing mortars and rockets, but neither side engaging in close combat.

A spokesman for the rebels, Vianney Kazarama, said the army had been firing at their positions since 6 a.m.

A government soldier told VOA the rebels had failed to take their objectives on Tuesday and now were just trying to scare civilians by firing off occasional rockets and mortar rounds.

Some civilians have been leaving the area. One of them, Antoine Matabishi, who was carrying away a mattress,said artillery rounds had been falling on the neighborhood every hour or so. He said he is leaving because an artillery round landed on a house nearby and killed two children.

The house where the shell had landed was about a hundred meters away and already was being repaired, though neighbors said there was a still a corpse inside. The body of a 13-year-old boy was lying under a sheet in the front room. The boy had suffered a massive head wound.

A neighbor, Alain Pitchen, described what had happened. He said the boy was sitting at a table outside the house having a meal when the shell landed and exploded, and you could still see his meal there. The parents took another of their children, a 3-year-old who was wounded, to the hospital, but Pitchen said that boy also died.

Another neighbor, Hubert Masombo, said he had no doubt about where the artillery round came from. He said the bomb was fired by the M23 rebels. He went on to say the Congo has suffered from wars for too long, and he had a message for the UN’s Ban.

He said he hoped that all of the countries in the world would help to end the DRC’s wars.

There were several other civilian casualties Wednesday in Goma, also from artillery round explosions in the Ndosho neighborhood.

The United Nations security chief in Goma said there is a risk of the secretary general’s visit being canceled, but said that Ban wants it to proceed.

Source: Voice of America

May 23, 2013   No Comments

The Untold Stories: Are Kagame and RPF becoming the Major Boar and Napoleon Characters in the Animal?

By Jacqueline Umurungi

Paul Kagame

Paul Kagame

Yesterday morning on the BBC Newsday programme, the Rwandan ruler was interviewed by Komla Dumor where Kagame defended his autocratic rule for almost two (2) decades where persecution of his political opponents in the country and beyond has become intolerable to even some of his admirers.  Kagame told BBC that he plays with the rules in the political game.  He is in fact lying, dishonest, corrupt and a killer of the highest order.

President Kagame has exploited the tragedy that be fellow our country where almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in Genocide in just 3 months. Indeed, the international community’s failure to intervene has been the political card used by the Rwandan dictator whenever is asked about Human Rights, freedom of speech, independence of the judiciary, media and civil societies. This has been the view of Kagame that Rwanda cannot afford political freedoms and basic civil and political rights given its tragic history. What does he mean by playing with rules when he has used his courts to lock up his political opponents? And there are credible accounts of political assassinations of those who have expressed the mildest criticisms of his autocratic rule.

Kagame hides behind what he calls the economic development which in fact cannot be achieved at the expense of basic human rights and freedoms. Kagame’s argument is selfish centred since some economic power counties which in fact had almost the same tragic history are now the best democracies in the World. Countries like Germany and indeed, Japan, who have both had a tragic history, but emerged to become global economic giants without sacrificing such rights. Kagame is instead another African old-style tyrant using economic development as an excuse to further his selfish aims.

As I have mentioned above Kagame has technically been in power since 1994, and today, Rwandans are kind of gagged, they can’t freely express themselves, for those who dare to speak up they are dealt with accordingly, many politicians including his former colleagues, and officers in the army have since fled the country and unfortunately he has followed them in exile to assassinate them just because they tried to question his policies. His government fully controls not only the government media that broadcast and prints or publishes government propaganda, but also all censors and harasses other independent media and journalists, dozens and dozens of journalists have either fled, killed or incarcerated for just questioning his repressive tendencies, and there’s nothing like separation of powers in Rwanda (on paper yes, but in reality the executive controls everything.

Kagame should have learnt from the history of our country or what has been happening in what is commonly known as the Arab spring or in the Arab world in general (Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Libya), and Ivory Coast. Does he think Rwandans are happy and contented with all the democratic freedoms and what RPF government is doing for them or like in these countries, Rwandans can’t risk their own lives to speak out against the government, do Rwandans have a right to peacefully protest? Why that is the only protests the governments allow are only pro-Kagame government?

Kagame vaguely answered the BBC question on succession come 2017, he never gave the precise answer, and he said that he is not bothered by succession but rather development, what a naked lie? Initially president Kagame was advocating for a woman as his successor but when media out lets started finger pointing to his own wife Jeannette whom they have ruled the country like a family project, he has started changing the goal posts, it is therefore not clear whether the dictator will unequivocally reaffirm his commitment or intentions to stand down when his current term lapses in 2017.

Kagame again told the BBC that he is a straight forward man and incorruptible, this is another naked lie, Kagame through his companies in the name of RPF ventures and investments he owns more wealth than the country he leads, it is estimated that RPF under the roof of the crystal ventures is worth US $500m, is he accountable on that money? How big tenders in which RPF companies are involved are awarded? It is inconceivable that the International community knows all these games by the Rwandan dictator but they have kept a deaf ear. Rwanda has never had free and fair elections, it’s the RPF and some of its affiliated parties that go for elections then Kagame is declared the winner with 95%, does the international community recognise that?

Kagame and RPF almost own every business in the town and beyond, the big buildings and mansions are owned by RPF officials or those who are their sympathisers does this mean development? The Road construction companies and other companies in the real estate are RPF owned, the country is governed like Peru in the days of President Alberto Fujimori, who is now serving a prison sentence for crimes against humanity during his rule.

The crimes against humanity that Kagame committed against the people who were in Kibeho Camp are still fresh in many Rwandan memories, the Bishops who were murdered on his direct orders have never been given a decent burial or a thorough investigation by independent organs to establish the real perpetrators of this heinous crime and it’s a shame that the Catholic church has never demanded that these Bishops be given a decent burial like other human beings let alone their status as Catholic Bishops.

If President Kagame thinks he has done many great things for Rwanda as he wants people to believe, why is he so frightened of political opposition? Rwanda will never grow as a country and reach its full potential as long as you prevent the Democratic dispensation in the country from registering when you keep people like Bernard Ntaganda, Deo Mushyayid and Victoire Ingabire just to mention a few imprisoned for no genuine reason or the reason that they have different views from yours and RPF. In then Senator Barack Obama’s 2006 Obama Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, he wrote:

“(6) Despite the conclusion of a peace agreement and subsequent withdrawal of foreign forces in 2003, both the real and perceived presence of armed groups hostile to the Governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi continue to serve as a major source of regional instability and an apparent pretext for continued interference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by its neighbors [Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi].” Mr. President (Kagame), Rwandan Day and other days you think you will organise without addressing the fundamental human rights and democratic future of Rwanda is not only wastage of the Rwandan Taxpayers money but also sign of fear and panic.

Source: Inyenyeri

May 22, 2013   No Comments

Congolese army and Rwandan M23 rebels clash for a second day, 19 dead

M23 rebels

The M23 rebels

Two days of clashes between Congo’s army and rebel fighters near the eastern city of Goma have killed at least 19 people, threatening an uneasy six-month peace just days before a scheduled visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Government forces and the M23 insurgents began exchanging heavy weapons fire for a second day early on Tuesday, with explosions still being heard late into the afternoon.

A Reuters witness saw rebel fighters blocking the road heading north away from the city, as civilians streamed out of combat zones clutching their belongings and driving their livestock in front of them.

“The M23 tried to overrun our positions and we’re in the process of pushing them back,” army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli told Reuters. “We’re very confident (of defending Goma)”.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said 15 rebels and four government soldiers had been killed in Monday’s clashes north of Goma, the biggest city in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Details of casualties from Tuesday’s fighting were not immediately available, but both military and rebel sources said the shelling had caused further deaths.

The fighting was the first since November, when M23 troops routed Democratic Republic of Congo’s army – the FARDC – and briefly seized Goma, despite the presence of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers.

M23 spokesman Amani Kabasha denied starting the clashes, saying the rebels had come under heavy army shelling for a second day and the group’s military commander, Sultani Makenga, had given the order to respond.

“It seems the government wants to fight,” he said. “There is no political will for bringing peace through a negotiated settlement”.

During its year-long insurgency, the M23 has repeatedly used alleged army aggression as a pretext to launch offensives, but has been weakened in recent months by infighting and defections. The Congolese army is also struggling to reorganise after its humiliating defeat in Goma last year.

U.N. experts accused Rwanda of sending troops and weapons across the border to support the M23 last year. Rwanda denies the accusation.

Peace talks between the M23 and the Congolese government in Kampala, the capital of neighbouring Uganda, have stalled.

M23 is mainly made up of the members of a previous Tutsi-dominated rebel group which integrated into the ranks of the army following a 2009 peace deal.

But they deserted en masse last year and have stepped up training in their strongholds in preparation for the deployment of a U.N. Intervention Brigade with a mandate to neutralise armed groups across the region.

The U.N. brigade will count some 3,000 troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi operating alongside the existing 17,000 strong peacekeeping mission.

Ban is due to arrive in Goma this week with the president of the World Bank as part of a high-profile visit to push for an end to nearly two decades of violence in the mineral-rich region which has left millions dead.

On a stopover in Mozambique on Tuesday, Ban described the situation in eastern Congo as “very dangerous” and said he hoped to deploy the Intervention Brigade “as soon as possible”.

He said he had already appointed a force commander but gave no more details on the deployment timing.

Source: Reuters

May 22, 2013   No Comments

FARDC losing control over Goma, border with Rwanda closed

A column of M23 rebels on the Goma to Rushuru road

A column of M23 rebels on the Goma to Rushuru road

Goma-DRC. The on-going fighting between Congolese regular army FARDC and rebel group M23 is escalating. In reaction, FARDC and Northern Kivu province has closed the minor border with Rwanda at Gisenyi.

Our reporter at the ground, Josephine Lukoya says M23 is moving to block the supply road from Goma capital of North Kivu to Mugunga, which is the main FARDC supply from the Minova Headquarters.

The route from Goma to Rutchuru is blocked by M23.

“Our aim is not taking Goma, capturing the city will be reactive and our last option. We need to stop this heavy artillery causing panic to residents. The supply of the tanks and other artillery guns and equipments must stop,” Amani Kabasha told Great Lakes Voice

UN boss, Ban Ki Moon was to visit Goma today. It’s not clear if he will manage to be in the controversial city.

Refuges surrounding Goma has fled the area. M23 officials say they are running to the territories controlled by their fighters. However, our reporter met a huge number of them running to Monesco camps.

Source: Great Lakes Voice

May 22, 2013   No Comments

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