Rwanda

Report of the independent expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall - Addendum: Mission to Rwanda (A/HRC/19/56/Add.1)

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Human Rights Council

Nineteenth session

Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Mission to Rwanda

Summary

The Government of Rwanda must be commended for many of its initiatives and positive practices that have contributed towards social healing, development and growth.
Importantly, the Government acknowledges that many challenges remain, including to fully establish and maintain conditions for lasting stability and peace.
Efforts on the part of the Government to forge unity and social cohesion behind a Rwandan national identity and to diminish ethnicity as a destructive force in society are praiseworthy. Given the country‟s history of ethnic-based violence, the degree of progress to date is impressive. Nevertheless, popular notions of ethnicity still exist in Rwandan society. As long as that is the case, candid discussions of those issues should not be considered taboo. A process of promoting national unity is not incompatible with the rights of individuals and communities to freedom of expression and to freely identify as belonging to an ethnic group. Laws and policies that prohibit incitement to ethnic hatred or genocide must at the same time be fully compatible with freedom of expression as protected by international human rights obligations.
There are numerous communities in Rwanda that identify themselves as Batwa. The Government has categorized them as “historically marginalized people”. They currently live in conditions of great hardship and poverty on the margins of mainstream society. As a population group, they have extremely low levels of education and health care, live in dwellings that offer no protection from harsh climatic conditions and they are virtually absent from the public life of the country. They were removed from their ancestral forests without consent or compensation, face widespread discrimination, particularly in employment, and have no viable means of livelihood. While the Government has instituted assistance programmes, those programmes have failed to be effective for the Batwa as a whole.