UN Special Rapporteur Urges Rwanda to Lift Restrictions on Peaceful Assembly and Association


As he concluded his official visit to Rwanda, the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai urged the government of Rwanda to lift restrictions on peaceful assembly and association.

The purpose of the UNSR’s visit was to provide observations and recommendations for how Rwanda can better respect, promote, and implement international human rights law and standards regarding the freedoms of assembly and association. He met with government officials as well as leaders from national and international non-governmental organizations. Rwanda is the first African country to have invited the UNSR since the establishment of the mandate in 2010.

The UNSR commended the country’s remarkable economic progress since the 1994 genocide. However, he expressed concerns that the government generally does not allow peaceful protest, and asserted that “peaceful assemblies should not be feared. Rather, they should be encouraged. There is value in expressing disagreement and differences peacefully and publically.”

Mr. Kiai also noted restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs) and political parties, including barriers to registration, limits on CSO activities, excessive government interference, and a lack of space for dissenting views. He urged Rwanda to uphold its international legal obligations regarding freedom of association, reiterating that “it is crucial that individuals exercising the right to associate…are able to operate freely and without fear.”

The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) supports the UNSR mandate by providing technical expertise and human resource support. The CSI also works to ensure meaningful participation of civil society actors in the work of the UNSR. Members of the CSI are ARTICLE 19CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participationthe International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and the World Movement for Democracy.

Full End-of-Mission Statement by the Special Rapporteur

This Global Update is prepared by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law through the Civic Space Initiative, implemented in partnership with ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the World Movement for Democracy.