Rwanda has set priorities, pledges and actions that will guide the country to achieve the implementation of the universal declaration of human rights (UDHR) in the next five years.
The pledges, in the areas of civil and political rights; socio-economic and cultural rights; cross cutting issues, and protection of special groups, were made during the national human rights dialogue which discussed the country’s journey and challenges towards implementing the Human rights 75 initiative.
The dialogue held November 13, 2023 is part of preparations to mark the 75 years of the United Nations Human Rights declaration in 1948, of which Rwanda, as a member state, will present its pledges to the UN community on December 10, 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The pledges and actions include promoting social protection and poverty eradication through increase technology driven agriculture and bumper harvests, review media freedom; Improve rights of children to health, breastfeeding mothers at work places and girls menstrual rights; addressing current teen pregnancies, lack of assistive devices for persons with disability; review of expropriation law and delays in compensation.
Other pledges also touched a need to have reparation for genocide survivors, economic inclusion for refugees in Rwanda, reduction of overcrowding in prisons and detention centers but also promote kinyarwanda as a threatened language to distinction, and establishing and adopting a new law on business human rights since the country is an investment destination.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja said that the pledges are important in guiding the country to further implement the country’s commitments to upholding human rights.
“Today, we reaffirm our dedication to this cause- the path to a society where every individual’s rights are upheld demands collective effort, unwavering dedication, and a shared commitment to justice,” Ugirashebuja.
Ugirashebuja said that despite achievements made in reviewing the justice sector policy, improved rights of women and children, and access to justice and forensic evidence, the journey towards achieving universal human rights is still a long journey as new forms of judicial challenges arise.
The new challenges to address, Ugirashebuja said are the increasing abuse of free speech particularly on social media, cyber crimes, case backlogs due to new and more cases being reported, overcrowding in correctional facilities and persisting overreliance on litigation instead of other alternatives to conflict resolution.
“As a way forward on the new pledges, Ugirashebuja said that the biggest solution will be in creating economic empowerment of citizens and especially employment which will lead to fewer crimes and less numbers of persons incarcerated especially that almost 75% of criminals are persons who didn’t go to school.
Mama Keita, the Director of the sub-regional office for East Africa of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said that the UN is very grateful for the collaboration with Rwanda especially the 75 initiative aimed at leaving no one behind and committed to support the government and partners to make these pledges achievable.
As an economist, Keita said that the way forward is to create economic empowerment for citizens as one of the solutions, but we also appreciate that the issues of media freedom are coming up in areas of discussion.
Keita said the United Nations in Rwanda will continue to collaboratively work with the government towards the realization of its developmental vision and in ensuring a just and equitable society.
This she said will be through various programmes and initiatives such as the promotion of the rights of women and children, the rights of young people, and the rights of vulnerable groups; strengthening the capacity of the national human rights commission, civil society organisations on human rights.
“Let’s work together to make this work and for our part we (UN) are committed to making this possible,” Keita said.
Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza, the Chairman of Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP) said that the biggest challenge is citizens are not informed of their rights and leave the decision makers to decide.
“We need to have law enforcement officials trained on human rights declarations. As the civil society, we see that when people are aware of the country’s commitments, this will improve the implementation,” Nkurunziza said
Nkurunziza stated that Rwanda should not be focused on documenting their success stories but focus on dialogue on the weakness to improve areas where criticism has been raised.
“If we document the failures, then we can sit in Rwanda and discuss the failures but because we have been loaded with sensitivity to these matters, we avoid it. It is time to document our failures,” Nkurunziza stated.
Providence Umurungi, the Chairperson of Rwanda National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) guaranteed collaboration with other organs in the implementation of the pledges but said that the commission will keep reminding the government of its commitments periodically.