Rwandan Human Rights

The questions that easily find their way into any person’s mind, when one mentions the Genocide in Rwanda, are quite many, starting from who did what. One may wonder what exactly fuelled the situation, bearing in mind that the two conflicting tribes have lived together since the time of paying tributes to one king. Additional questions that may arise include what brought about the animosity; which circumstances surrounded the eruption of the genocide; did it happen naturally or there were some forces behind it. Frankly, if it had happened naturally, then how could the two communities who lead very different lifestyles, come for one another? One should also bear in mind that the Hutus practiced agriculture, while the Tutsi were pastoralists. The topics and questions mentioned above are only a few of those that normally flood the minds, when talking about genocide in Rwanda.

One of the important factors to consider prior to talking about genocide is Rwanda’s conditions before it. The legal forces were put in place to ensure that people are aware of what could befell them, if they engage themselves in what was deemed to be wrong by the majority. Then the logical question is why then later they turned against each other. One may wonder whether the legal system was effective or not.

People of Rwanda were first colonized by the Germans and later on by the Belgians, who to a very large extend are blamed for brewing hatred between the two tribes in Rwanda. They had to create animosity between the Hutus and the Tutsis, so that they could hate one another; hence, paving the way for the colonialists to exploit them in any given form. The two could now wage war against one another. In 1959, 150,000 Tutsis were exiled to neighboring countries; those, who remained, were excluded from power, which was to a large extent the violation of human rights. This shows that basically, the violation of human rights has started by the colonialists long before the initial onset of  genocide. On July 1, 1962, Rwanda got its independence, and Kayibanda became the country’s first elected president. They people of Rwanda thought that now, when they have elected a president of their own choice, he would unify them and ensure that their own personal human rights that they were supposed to enjoy as other human beings, were going to be respected. However, that was not the case, since between 1961 and 1962, Tutsi began the guerrilla attack in order to advocate for their own rights. In his tenure, Kayibanda was aware of the existing discrimination against Tutsi; however, he continued the Belgian policy, where all the people living in Rwanda were required to carry an ethnic identification card. He also discouraged mixed marriages between the Hutu and Tutsi, which was clearly not in accordance with the UN Bill of Rights, which gives all human beings an equal chance and access to resources that availed to them, and no one is allowed to take away these rights from the people. The Bills of Rights does not support the discrimination of people in terms of their color, tribe, gender, or even religion. All people are given the equal rights of sharing the available resources in the country. In 1964, Kayibanda banned all the political parties and executed the Tutsi members; hence, they were forced to flee their home country and to seek for refuge in other countries. Each person, who resides in a country either by birth, registration or naturalization, has a right to stay in that country, and no one should force any other person to leave his/her own country. No one should be forcefully evicted from his or her own country.

On July 5, 1973, Major General Juvenal had overthrown Kayibanda, suspended the Constitution, and banned all political activities in the entire country. He also banned the quota system, which, in turn, favored the Tutsi, because they occupied most of the professional fields in the country: for example, they were over represented in the medical and education fields. This did not last long, since in 1974, there was a countrywide outcry regarding the over representation of the Tutsi. In turn, they forced others to resign; some were exiled or even killed during this process. This was another issue, which is contrary to the human rights; no one in any given profession should be forced out of work, because of any reason, unless otherwise specified. No one in any work should be discriminated against because of the color, tribe, or religion. In 1975, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development was formed. The main aim of the formation of this movement was to promote peace, unity, and national development in the whole country, and to bring unity between the communities that lived in the country.

In 1978, Juvenal made efforts to unify the country into one party, which was eventually approved. Therefore, in 1983 and 1988, he won the presidential elections unopposed, since he was the sole candidate; hence, had no one to compete with. The people were never given the candidates to choose from, as they were provided with only one person. The only thing that they could actually do was to vote either for or against him. The people did not exercise their democratic rights. In July 1990, Juvenal announced that he wanted to make the country a multiparty state. This could, in turn, provide the people with their democratic rights. In October 1993, Burundi president, who was a Hutu, was assassinated by the Tutsi military unit in Burundi. This has brought tension in Rwanda, since the Tutsi were few in number, as compared to the Hutus; in Burundi the situation was the opposite.

On April 6, 1994, an airplane carrying Juvenal, the president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Hutu, the president of Burundi, crushed at Kigali when it was about to land. Military people started killing the Tutsi and other political moderates without considering their ethnicity. This supports the fact that the Tutsi were accused being guilty of the plain crush. The thing is that there were no investigations. This raises a question, if Tutsi were innocent, how could those that suffered during the rounding up and killing would be compensated. The massacre spread throughout the whole country; between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were left dead on the hands of the militia groups. Moreover, the local people were forced to go an extra mile to kill their neighbors. The president of MRND was largely speculated to have had a hand in the cause of genocide that was witnessed all over the country. Many people fled their homes or lost them, the property was destroyed; others lost their lives, were brought under the forced slavery, or were raped. The people, who did this, were those, whom the society depended on, to provide them with the necessary security and protection. These were the people, who have been entrusted to protect the others; instead, they were harming those,  whom they should have been protecting at all costs.

The media, which is largely dependent on the government to provide measures that encourage the citizens to coexist peacefully, was instead found to be the one spreading and broadcasting hate speeches and advocating for violence against the Tutsi. For example, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines was spreading the hate speech against the Tutsi, where the killing of people, destruction of property, rape cases and other inhuman scenes that were largely witnessed, were openly promoted.

While all this was happening, the perpetrators of this were much aware that they were going against the Bill of Rights, which outlines the rights that are given to each and every human being; that is to say that the rights are universal to all people in the world. When genocide broke out, those Tutsis, who were in exile, decided not to attack the Hutus in Rwanda; instead, they directed their forces to Rwanda as a country and decided not to attack the Hutus, but to try to solve the problems that faced all of them, as the citizens of Rwanda. They were under the leadership of Paul Kagame and represented a combination of forces of all the Tutsi rebels that were in exile in the different countries, such as Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire. At this given time, the war was between the Hutu and the Tutsi, who had fled their country earlier. The war lasted for the two months. The RPF Tutsi captured the capital, and by June had advanced to the northern, eastern, and southern parts of Rwanda. Many people were killed in this war; however, the United Nations’ members refused to listen to the numerous requests to send the additional troops and monetary support to Rwanda. Another part of the country, which was not captured by the RPF, was invaded and went under control of France, where they continued the atrocity of killing the Tutsi. Between July and August of 1994, the RPF seized the other part of the country, which was under the French rule. Later on the Tutsi rebels conquered the entire country, as they defeated the Hutu and ended the genocide.

Approximately 2,000,000 Hutus left the country being scared of the retaliatory attack by the Tutsi; they fled to Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, and Burundi. This came to be known as the Great Lake Refugee Crisis. Then the government was formed, where a Hutu president was given a chance to lead, while Paul Kagame became the de facto leader. In 1997, 600,000 refugees came back; another group of 500,000 people returned to the country in 1996. In 2000, Bizimungu criticized Kagame’s government and was removed for that. However, he formed an opposition party, which Kagame banned. In 2002 he was arrested for treason, but was released in 2007 due to the presidential pardon. Despite all these challenges, the government managed to give its people clean water, as it is one of the basic rights of all people. Moreover, the sound environmental policies have been formulated. Those, who organized the crimes against humanity, were on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Lower legal system had also been put in place in order to question those, who may have not participated in organizing crimes, but may have stolen some property of other people. In addition, the ethnicity has been outlawed in order to encourage unity in Rwanda. The United States has been in the forefront in providing Rwanda with the AIDS programs, education, treatment, and food.

Several organizations have accused the previous and the current governments of Rwanda of being among those countries in the world, which that have not put in place certain measures, and failed to protect human rights. The Amnesty International has accused Rwanda of several human rights violation; particularly, of the extrajudicial killings. Between 1997 and 1998, the members of the government’s security forces and members of the opposition, who were armed, have murdered many citizens. Rwanda’s Patriotic Army and armed opposition forces have been accused of targeting the civilians, who were not armed. Moreover, they were accused of targeting children as well. The Human Rights Watch says that the Rwandan troops were responsible for the death of the Congolese civilian, when Kagame was the vice president. The United Nations also gave a report accusing the Rwanda’s army of the deaths of the Hutus in Congo; hence, of violating human rights, but Kagame denied this entire allegation. In addition, the current government has been accused by the Human Rights Watch of killing civilians, who were not armed, and also of the deaths of prisoners in custody due to tortures and cruel punishment. Economists have also argued that Kagame provides little political space and freedom of press in the country, and that anyone, who imposes a slightest political threat to Kagame’s government will be dealt with in a ruthless manner.

In 2006, the US government described the human rights situation in Rwanda as being poor. This claim is supported by the continuous trend of disappearance of political critics, arbitrary arrests, and numerous acts of violence and murdering committed by the police. In Rwanda, the freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to choose one’s own religion are limited. The citizens have to cope with these prohibitions, even though these are the universally accepted human rights that should be equally enjoyed by all human beings. In 2007, the Reporters Without Borders ranked Rwanda as being 147th out of 169 for freedom of press. The Rwandan journalists were faced with hostility, were threaten, harassed, and even arrested for criticizing the government and the things that they do. These journalists were also under the constant surveillance by the security services. These evidences support the fact that Rwanda has never embraced freedom of press like it should have, following the example fo other countries. In 2010, Rwanda was among the ten bottom countries in the world, which have not embraced the freedom of press.

In December 2008, the UN Commission drafted a report to be presented to the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, alleging that Kagame was supplying children soldiers to the Tutsi rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was also alleged that Rwanda was supplying General Laurent Nkanda with military equipment, which was against human rights and children rights.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative issued a report highlighting the lack of political freedom and harassment of journalists in Rwanda. They have also gone ahead and mentioned the way the Rwandan troops in DRC had violated the human rights. They described the human rights situation in the country as being very poor. Indeed, democracy and freedom of press and speech in particular, and the human rights in general are being neglected or abused. The government freely shuts down the media sources, which try to criticize it. In addition, the independent journalists are being harassed. The legal system of the country fails to fulfill its mission and to protect the citizens of Rwanda and to keep the country on peace. Frankly, it cannot be possible, since the country has invaded Congo, its neighbor, for times since 1994. . Reports of the UN concludes that Rwanda's constitution is used as a ”façade” to hide “the repressive nature of the regime” and backs these claims that Rwanda is essentially an “army with a state” (UNHCRm 2000).

In the 2010, during the presidential elections the United Nations demanded the investigation of politically motivated killings of the opposition figures. For example, the vice president of DGP, Andrew Kagwa, was beheaded (UNHCR, 2000). A lawyer, who had participated in the genocide trials at the UN trial, was shot dead. There was a murder attempt on Kavumba Nyamwas, a former Senior Rwanda General, who had some differences with Paul Kagame and Jean Leonard Rugambage. Another victim of political killing was a journalist, who was investigating the attempted murder on Andrew Kagwa. The 2011 Amnesty’s International report criticized the continued detention of a former general in the Rwandan Armed Forces, Augustin Bizimungu, who has already been kept imprisoned  for 7 years out of a 10-year sentence at Kigali central police prison. All this happenings were so much in contrast with the expectations for the protection of the human beings through the outlined human rights.

In any country that is faced with the civil war, the level of the sexual violence is normally very high. Those, who are usually affected, are women and young girls. The exact number of women, who faced sexual violence, cannot be determined so easily; however, there are those, who tried to talk about the ordeals they went through in the hands of the people they expected to be protecting them. Those women were subjected to the sexual violence by the Hutu militia groups, by other civilians, and even by the soldiers of Rwandan armed forces and political leaders. All these groups of people were responsible for the abuse against women; hence, they should have been made liable for their actions. Some of those victims were raped individually, gang raped, raped with objects, such as guns and sticks, or raped by others, who were sexually mutilated. Most women were tortured, threatened, and even forced into the short time marriages with the soldiers. If they tried to resists, they could have been beaten and tortured. The impact of this societal virus is so heavy that it is hard for those women to get back to the community. In addition, the investigation on the rape cases is hard to compile; hence, not all of those, who were guilty of rapes would be accused of their actions and would not face the full force of the law. Despite the difficulties that are encountered in the investigation, there should be no excuse. People have to pay for their sins. A specific set of laws has to be developed and accepted, so that all the violation cases will be dealt with. People of any country should feel protected. Moreover, a well-developed legislation system can help to prevent future cases of the human rights violation.

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