Rwanda

Last updated: 16 April 2021

Introduction

In 1994, Rwanda experienced a devastating genocide, leaving more than 800,000 people dead. In the aftermath of the genocide, civil society organizations (CSOs) emerged to help in addressing social needs, including assistance to widows and orphans, child-headed households, and traumatized survivors. Not surprisingly, the people of Rwanda continue to suffer from high levels of collective trauma and struggle with the social consequences of the genocide.

Rwanda’s economy grew by 9.4% in 2019, making it one of the fastest growing in Africa today. Expansion has been driven by growth in the agriculture, industry, and services sectors. With the onset of COVID-19, however, international flows of goods and services have been seriously disrupted, which has had significant effects on Rwanda’s economy.

In terms of democracy and governance, however, Rwanda scores considerably lower than its economics ratings. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) continues to exert nearly total control over political space in Rwanda. Civil society in Rwanda remains in an embryonic state due to a variety of constraints. The operating context for CSOs is one of enforced collaboration with the government’s political and development plans. Those CSOs working within these boundaries can act relatively freely; those that do not face difficulties. While new legislation and decentralization have opened up space for increased civil society involvement in policy-making, human rights organizations are subject to heightened government scrutiny.

The legal framework for civil society in Rwanda underwent reform in 2008, following the enactment of the Organic Law no. 55/2008 of 10/09/2008 governing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). This 2008 law and subsequent laws were a result of extensive consultation, but the impact of these laws on civil society in Rwanda has been muted due to inadequate implementation.

Organizational Forms National and International NGOs
Registration Body Domestic NPOs have two-tiered registration process with a) collaboration letter of the District issued by the mayor of the District and b) Action Plan of the fiscal year and authenticated statute needed for an application to the CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB). The RGB allows only 6 months for the receipt of provisional permit from local authority (collaboration letter from the District). There are also excessive documentation requirements.

The RGB was formed from merging the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council (RGAC) and the National Decentralization Implementation Secretariat (NDIS). It is a public agency with legal personality and administrative and financial autonomy, and is established by Law no. 56/2016 of 16/12/2016 establishing the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) and determining its mission, organization and functioning.

Approximate Number Lack of clarity about estimated number of informal groups and registered NPOs (previous estimates, which cannot beconfirmed, were 37,000 informal groups and 319 registered NPOs.) The list of INGOs registered in 2015-2016 can be found at this link, while the list of NGOs and FBOs with legal personality and certificates can be found at this link.
Barriers to Entry Domestic NPOs: (1) two-tiered registration process with action plan presented to local authority and application to the CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB); (2) lengthy registration process, with application to Ministry allowed only 6 months after receipt of provisional permit from local authority; and (3) additional documents may be requested when applying for registration.

Foreign NPOs: Detailed documentation requirements at the time of registration.

Barriers to Activities  

Ministry approval required for decisions relating to NPO’s statutes and for NPO’s legal representatives and their assistants.

Administrative expenses are limited to 30% of the NPO’s overall budget.

NPOs must incorporate governmental priorities into their mission.

A Memorandum of Understanding and performance contract is needed with the District where activities are carried out.

Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy No legal barriers, assuming compliance with constitutional boundaries. In practice, however, restrictions on freedom of speech persist. While a growing number of radio stations broadcast programs expressing critical views of the government, pro-government views still dominate domestic media.
Barriers to International Contact No legal barriers.
Barriers to Resources No legal barriers.
Barriers to Assembly 30 days advance notification requirement; excessive criminal and financial penalties for violations, especially for assemblies held on public roadways.
Population 12,943,132 (July 2021 est.)
Capital Kigali
Type of Government Republic; presidential, multiparty system
Life Expectancy at Birth male: 63.55; female: 67.47 (65.48 years average) (July 2021 est.)
Literacy Rate male: 77.6%; 69.4% (73.2% average) (2018 est.)
Religious Groups Protestant 49.5% (includes Adventist 11.8% and other Protestant 37.7%), Roman Catholic 43.7%, Muslim 2%, other 0.9% (includes Jehovah’s Witness), none 2.5%, unspecified 1.3% (2012 est.)
Ethnic Groups Hutu (Bantu) 84%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 15%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%
GDP per capita $2,227 (2019 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency; and Rwanda Demographic Profile.

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 160 (2020) 1 – 182
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 37 (2020) 1 – 123
Transparency International 54 (2020) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 8
Civil Liberties: 14 (2020)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 40
1 – 60
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 35 (2020) 178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1975
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) No
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1975
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention Yes 1988
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1975
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1989
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2008
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) Yes 2015
Convention against Torture (CAT) Yes 2008
Regional Treaties
African Charter on Human Rights and People’s Rights Yes 2003
Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region Yes 2006
Paris Agreement on Climate Change Yes 2016
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance Yes 2010
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Yes 2018

 

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda was adopted by referendum in May 2003 and revised through referendum several times, most recently in 2015.

Relevant constitutional provisions include:

Article 37: Freedom of conscience and religion • Freedom of opinion/thought/conscience Freedom of thought, conscience, religion, worship and public manifestation thereof is guaranteed by the State in accordance with the law. Propagation of ethnic, regional, racial discrimination or any other form of division is punished by law.

Article 38: Freedom of press, of expression and of access to information, Freedom of press Freedom of press, of expression and of access to information are recognized and guaranteed by the State.

Freedom of expression and freedom of access to information shall not prejudice public order, good morals, the protection of the youth and children, the right of every citizen to honor and dignity and protection of personal and family privacy.

Article 39: Right to freedom of association.

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed and does not require prior authorization. This right is exercised under conditions determined by law.

Article 40: Right to freedom of assembly

The right to freedom of peaceful and unarmed assembly is guaranteed. This right is exercised in accordance with the law. This right does not require prior authorization, except when provided for by the law.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

  • Organic Law 55/2008 of 10/09/2008 Governing Non-Governmental Organizations;
  • Law Number 04/2012 of 17/02/2012 Governing the Organization and Functioning of National Non-Governmental Organizations;
  • Law Number 05/2012 of 17/02/2012 Governing the Organization and Functioning of International Non-Governmental Organizations;
  • Law Number 06/2012 of 17/02/2012 Governing the Organization and Functioning of Religious-Based Organizations;
  • Ministerial order Nº 001/07.01 OF 14/01/2013 Determining Additional Requirements for the Registration of Religious-based Organizations;
  • Organic Law N° 10/2013/0L of 11/07/2013 Governing Political Organizations and Politicians;
  • Law N° 47/2012 of 14/01/2013 relating to the Regulation and Inspection of Food and Pharmaceutical Products;
  • Law N° 37/2012 of 09/11/2012 establishing the Value Added Tax (especially in Article 6 Paragraph 2 and other regulations);
  • Law N° 72/2018 of 31/08/2018 determining the organization and functioning of faith-based organizations;
  • Organic Law N° 005/2018 of 30/08/2018 modifying organic law N° 10/2013/ol. of 11/07/2013 governing political organizations and politicians; and
  • Regulations of Rwanda Governance Board N° 001 of 08/03/2019 governing faith-based organizations.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

1. The Organic Law Governing Non-Governmental Organizations, 2012 is currently under review. The government has not made public any proposed amendments, but CSOs are concerned that the amendments will be restrictive.

2. The law and guidelines that govern the organization and functioning of Religious Based Organizations (RBOs) are under review. Professor Anastase Shyaka, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), said at a press conference on February 19, 2018 that the decision to review the law and develop new guidelines was prompted by “continued irregularities observed in operations and services of some religious based organizations.”

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

The Organic Law Governing Non-Governmental Organizations (Law 55/2008 of 10/09/2008) defines non-governmental organizations as organizations that are comprised of natural persons or of autonomous collective voluntary organizations whose aim is to improve economic, social and cultural development and to advocate for public interests of a certain group, natural persons, organizations or with the view of promoting common interest of their members. In order to make the Organic Law operational, three laws were enacted in 2012, relating to three separate organizational forms:

1) National NGOs;
2) International NGOs operating in Rwanda; and
3) Religious-based organizations.

Law No. 4/2012 regarding National NGOs creates three categories of National NGOs: Public Interest Organizations, Common Interest Organizations, and Foundations. (Article 3)

Both National and International NGOs must register and then obtain legal personality in order to operate legally.

Public Benefit Status

There is no separate and additional “public benefit” status under Rwandan law. Once an organization has legal personality (regardless of which category of National NGO), it enjoys tax exemptions and other privileges in accordance with relevant laws. (Article 28, paragraph 5)

NGOs holding a Memoranda of Understanding with the Ministry of Health and the Government of Rwanda receive a health commodities tax exemption.

Public Participation

Article 48 of the Constitution of Rwanda affirms that all Rwandans have the duty to participate in the development and defense of the country by safeguarding peace, democracy, equality, and social justice. Article 11 of the Constitution provides that in order to build the nation and restore dignity, Rwandans may pursue “homegrown initiatives” based on their own values.

Law No. 4/2012 regarding National NGOs provides NGOs with the right “to put forward views in designing national policies and legislation in relation with the functioning of national non-governmental organizations; to advocate, protect and promote human rights and other national values; and to express opinions and views on national policies and legislation” (Article 28 paragraphs 1-3).

There are also state-sanctioned mechanisms for citizen participation. For example, the National Umushyikirano Council (or National Dialogue council) (Article 140 of the Constitution) brings together the President and citizens’ representatives to discuss issues of public importance. Some NGOs do not view the Council as a preferred mechanism to conduct advocacy due to the large number of participants and short time span (two days). Ubudehe refers to the long-standing Rwandan practice and culture of collective action and mutual support to solve problems within a community. Ubudehe is one of Rwanda’s best known “homegrown initiatives” because of its participatory development approach to poverty reduction. The Joint Action Development Forum (JADF) was established as a stakeholder forum at the district level and as a community assembly (intekoz’abaturage) at the local level through the ministerial order called Prime Minister’s Instructions No. 003/03 of 03/07/2015 establishing the Joint Action Development Forum and determining its responsibilities, organization, and functioning.

Rwanda has taken steps to allow for the participation of women and vulnerable groups. Notably, the majority of parliamentarians are women, who are guaranteed 30% of the seats in the parliament. In addition, people with disabilities have a voice in parliament and receive support from the government and NGOs. Youth (between 16 and 30 years of age), who comprise the majority of the Rwandan population, receive support from various bodies, including the National Youth Council and National Women’s Council.

Law No. 44 of September 6, 2017 provides protection for whistleblowers. Article 3 empowers citizens to denounce abuses by government officials and private institutions. Article 9 requires the State to ensure the security and protection of a whistleblower. Article 12 provides that if a whistleblower is summoned to court, his or her identity must not be disclosed, and if subject to interrogation, the procedure must be held in camera and without cross-examination.

Barriers to Entry

Under the current law, NGO registration suffers from excessive bureaucratic requirements, and obtaining legal personality is not automatic. The authorities may also request additional documentation from NGOs when they apply for registration.

Article 17 of Law 04/2012 stipulates that national NGOs will be issued a temporary certificate of registration valid for twelve months. A national NGO shall then apply for legal personality nine months after the issue of the first temporary certificate. According to implementing rules promulgated by the Rwanda Governance Board, the requirements for National NGOs to obtain legal personality are the following:

1.Application Letter Addressed to the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board;
2.Authenticated statutes in conformity with the Law 04/2012;
3.Document showing the organization’s head office and its full address;
4.The name of the Legal Representative of the organization, the name of his/her deputy, their duties, full address, CV and their judicial records;
5.The minutes of the general assembly which appointed the Legal Representative of the organization and the signatures of all the members that attended such general assembly meeting;
6. Action plan for the fiscal year;
7. Original District Collaboration letter.

International NGOs are also required to submit a long list of documentation and information, including the implementation schedule and its various stages of planning, detailed cost estimates with data, an indication of who will continue activities launched by international NGOs after they have completed their work, and “all information relating to its geographical establishment throughout the world.”

Barriers to Operational Activity

National NGOs may be denied registration or subject to termination for the failure to comply with legislation or “convincing evidence that the [applicant] may jeopardize security, public, order, health, morals, and human rights.” (Articles 20 and 24). Once an NGO is registered, it must become a member of the Joint Action Development Forum (JDAF).

Administrative expenses for an international NGO shall not exceed 20% of its budget for programs that are not in the interest of its beneficiaries. (Article 18.4)

A Memorandum of Understanding and performance contract must be concluded between NGOs and the district authorities where the NGO’s activities are carried out to ensure its activities are in line with the district’s priorities. NGOs with projects not in line with those priorities may not be registered. As noted in the Barriers to Entry section, NGOs must sign an “Original District Collaboration letter” when they register (this is also known as a “Memorandum of Understanding” or a “Letter of Partnership”).

The Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) monitors the service delivery and governance of domestic and international NGOs. Each year the authorities require NGOs to submit specific reports, including updated planning and cost estimates. Such reports also require information about international NGO staff members to be provided after they complete their work assignments.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There are no legal provisions expressly prohibiting speech or advocacy by NGOs. According to Article 37 of the Constitution, the “Freedom of thought, conscience, religion, worship and public manifestation thereof is guaranteed by the State in accordance with the law. Propagation of ethnic, regional, racial discrimination or any other form of division is punished by law.” Article 38 of the Constitution also states that “Freedom of press, of expression and of access to information are recognised and guaranteed by the State. Freedom of expression and freedom of access to information shall not prejudice public order, good morals, the protection of the youth and children, the right of every citizen to honour and dignity and protection of personal and family privacy.”

In practice significant restrictions on freedom of speech and political space persist. For example, the government suspended the BBC’s Kinyarwanda broadcasts over a series of programs in which genocide survivors and activists allegedly minimized the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. There was one BBC documentary titled “Rwanda’s Untold Story“, which many Rwandans said was an affront to the memory of over a million victims of the Genocide. A number of activists considered the act of suspending the BBC in Rwanda as a major violation of freedom of speech and information. There are still some radio stations broadcasting programs expressing critical views of the government, but they are limited in the country and face difficulties to operate freely. Pro-government views still dominate domestic media

Barriers to International Contact

There are no legal barriers to international communication or contact.

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

There are no legal barriers against foreign funding for NGOs.

Domestic Funding

Currently, NGOs are permitted to engage in income generating activities, provided that any profits earned are used in activities related to their primary objectives. The government is required to include funding for NGOs in the national budget , in addition to normal Ministry-level support and contracts. In practice, however, NGOs receive funds in accordance with government priorities, and NGOs do not have total independence from the government when they receive government funds.

NGOs are permitted to compete for government funds and in some cases encouraged to do so. NGOs are also exempt from tax on most categories of income but the tax law does not provide incentives to donors for donations to NGOs.

Barriers to Assembly

Article 36 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly as follows:

Freedom of peaceful assembly without arms is guaranteed if it is not inconsistent with the law. Prior authorization shall only be necessary if the law so requires and solely in the case of assembly in the open air, in a public place or on a public road, to the extent that such is necessary in the interests of public safety, public health or public order.

Article 684 of the Organic Law Instituting the Penal Code defines an assembly as “a group of people gathered in a public place with intent to demonstrate their opinion or point of view by means of a number of actions or shouting. A public gathering means a meeting open for the public or in which the public is invited.”

The Law on Public Demonstrations of and Public Gatherings (hereafter “the Law”) of August 5, 1991, provides the framework for assembly.

Advance Notification
Article 5 of the Law requires a notification of 30 days in advance of an assembly. The authorities must respond at least six days before the assembly. There is no exception made for spontaneous demonstrations, and there is no specific provision to address counter-demonstrations.

Article 17 of the Organic Law Modifying and Complementing Organic Law Governing Political Organizations and Politicians (2007) requires “any political organization intending to organize a public rally of its members” to provide “prior written notification through regular mail to administrative authorities with acknowledgement of receipt.” Political organizations seeking to organize a demonstration must “apply for authorization thereof to administrative authorities through regular mail with acknowledgement of receipt.”

Article 17 also states that “Any leader in a competent public entity who grants authorization to hold rallies, demonstrations, peaceful protest or support marches, or use of mobile or static loudspeakers that may disrupt public order and security of the population, especially that of nearby residents, shall send a copy of the authorization to the police authorities within the territorial jurisdiction of the place of issuance of the authorization at least within a period of twenty-four (24) hours before the implementation of the authorization.”

A “Political Organization” is not defined in the Organic Law Modifying and Complementing Organic Law Governing Political Organizations and Politicians.

Responsibilities of Organizers
Organizers are required to “keep the peace.”

In addition, for political organizations, the organizers “shall help public authorities to maintain law and order” and “shall amicably compensate for any action and behavior of their political organizations members that threaten the security of the people and their property or otherwise, the courts of law shall intervene (Article 5).”

Criminal Penalties
Article 225 of Law No. 68/2018 determining offences and penalties in general stipulates that “any person who illegally holds a demonstration or a meeting or who demonstrates on a public place without prior authorization, commits an offence. Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than eight (8) days and less than six (6) months and a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) and not more than one million Rwandan francs (FRW 1,000,000) or only one of these penalties. If the acts referred to under Paragraph One of this Article have threatened security, public order or health, the penalty that applies is a term of imprisonment of not less than six (6) months and not more than one (1) year and a fine of not less than three million (FRW 3,000,000) Rwandan francs and not more than five million (FRW 5,000,000) Rwandan francs. The demonstration referred to under Paragraph One of this Article is any act of a group of people gathered in a public place with intent to demonstrate their feelings or opinion by speeches, actions or shouting. A public meeting means a gathering open for the public or in which the public is invited.”

For more information on restrictions on the freedom of assembly in Rwanda, please see “Mission to Rwanda: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association” from 16 September 2014 in the “Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs” section below.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Submission to the Human Rights Committee in advance of the fourth periodic review of Rwanda (Human Rights Watch)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Mission to Rwanda: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai (16 September 2014)

Information on 2015 Submission

USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Not available
U.S. State Department Rwanda Human Rights Report: 2020
Fragile States Index Report Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
Human Rights Watch World Report: Rwanda 2021
IMF Country Reports Rwanda and the IMF 2014
CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) Country Reports Not available
International Commission of Jurists No relevant information available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library No information available

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Key Events

There are no key events to report at this time.

General News

Rwanda cracking down on YouTubers, bloggers (April 2021)
After clamping down on free speech in traditional media, Rwanda is now arresting and threatening those who have turned to YouTube or blogs to debate current affairs, Human Rights Watch has said. The rights watchdog called on leaders attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June to pressure Rwanda to introduce reforms and protect free speech.

Civil society petitions government over some COVID-19 guidelines (September 2020)
The government has been implementing a series of guidelines to prevent the outbreak since it hit the country in March this year. The last cabinet meeting held on August 26 adopted several stern measures, including strict restrictions on movement, and tasked relevant institutions to implement them. However, civil society organisations have come together to challenge some of the guidelines. The organisations say some instructions lack clarity, are contradictory, and overlap each other, leading to inconsistent interpretation and implementation across the country.

Diane Shima Rwigara is Free (October 2018)
There was pandemonium today in the court room as Prison warders tried to separate excited friends and relatives of freed Diane Shima Rwigara and her mother Adeline Rwigara after the High Court ruling granting the duo bail. Diane and her mother have been unlawfully detained by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda as a result of her criticism of his government. They were arrested along with over a dozen persons after Diane declared intention to run for the post of presidency against Paul Kagame. Diane and her mother have spent over a year in detention and were charged for treason, facing over 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Rwandan Opposition Leader, 2,100 Others Walk Free from Prison (September 2018)
One of Rwanda’s most prominent opposition leaders walked free Saturday after the government approved the early release of more than 2,100 prisoners with little explanation. Supporters of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and the state-run The New Times newspaper posted photos of the opposition leader walking out of Nyarugenge prison hours after the justice ministry’s announcement. Also approved for early release was musician Kizito Mihigo, who along with Ingabire received a presidential commutation. The ministry statement said both had made their most recent requests for clemency in June Ingabire, head of the FDU-Inkingi opposition party, was arrested in 2010 and found guilty of conspiracy to undermine the government and denying Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, charges that she denied. She was sentenced to 15 years.

Rwandan parliament passes law to regulate churches (July 2018)
The Rwandan parliament passed new legislation aimed to regulate faith-based organizations. The new law requires pastors to have a theology degree before they can start their own churches. It also requires faith-based organizations to declare grants to the regulator, Rwanda Governance Board. Under the new law, any financial support to a faith-based organization must be channeled through the organization’s account in a bank or a financial institution in Rwanda.

New RBOs law, guidelines in the offing (February 2018)
The law and guidelines determining the organization and functioning of Religious Based Organizations (RBOs) are under review, Prof Anastase Shyaka, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), has said. Speaking during a press conference held at RGB on February 19, 2018, Prof Shyaka told journalists that the decision to review the law and develop new guidelines was prompted by continued irregularities observed in operations and services of some religious based organizations.

Human Rights Commission given more responsibilities (January 2018)
The National Human Rights Commission has been given more responsibilities and power to access any place where torture against a person is assumed, under the draft law approved by cabinet. The Chairperson and Spokesperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP) told Sunday Times that having some torture cases or death cases reported by international entities represent weakness of local entities, or false reports based on individuals’ interest. He said the Human Rights Commission should not work alone, rather with the civil society which alongside the community to understand their concerns, so as to give information on probable torture incidences for prevention purposes.

International organisations urged to align activities with districts (September 2017)
International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) working in Rwanda have been challenged to ensure their partnerships generate greater achievement in services aiming at socio-economic transformation of citizens. The Chief Executive of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), Prof. Anastase Shyaka, made the call during the RGB’s first meeting with INGOs under its new mandate of registering and monitoring their operations. The meeting aimed at enhancing partnership and welcoming INGOs into the new operational framework.

Rwandan police arrest Paul Kagame critic Diane Rwigara (August 2017)
Rwandan police have arrested Diane Rwigara, a leading critic of President Paul Kagame, for alleged offences against state security. Rwigara’s mother and sister were also detained on tax evasion charges, while she is also being charged with forgery, police said in a Twitter post. The three women can be held for up to five days while authorities decide whether to press charges.

Paul Kagame re-elected president with 99% of vote in Rwanda election (August 2017)
Paul Kagame, the controversial president of Rwanda, has won a landslide victory in the small African state’s election, securing a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power. The result will surprise no one, inside or outside Rwanda. In the final tally for Friday’s election, he won almost 99% of votes cast, said Kalisa Mbanda, chairman of the National Electoral Commission.

Rwanda’s exiled activist’s wife charged with treason (March 2017)
The Rwandan-British wife of a member of the Rwandese opposition in exile appeared Thursday in a court in Kigali, accused of “forming an illegal armed group”. Violette Uwamahoro rejected all charges against her at the hearing which will decide whether she should remain in custody until the start of her trial at an undetermined date. According to her lawyer, Mrs. Uwamahoro was accused of having asked Mr. Shumbusho, a policeman in Kigali, via the WhatsApp messenger, to reveal “information about state security” and to ask him “to go to Uganda to form an armed group to attack Rwanda”. “It’s a lie,” insisted Mrs. Uwamahoro after the charges were read. “Yes, we used to chat but I never talked to her about anything related to national security. We were only discussing family stories,” she maintained.

Launch of Rwanda Media Barometer 2016 (November 2016)
The second edition of the Rwanda Media Barometer shows an upward trend in Rwanda’s media development from 60.7% in 2013 to 69.6 in 2016. Dr Christophe Kayumba, the head of the team that was commissioned to conduct the study, attributes the improved score to media reforms undertaken by the Government of Rwanda since 2012.

Rwanda Parliament denounces claims by the EU (October 2016)
Rwanda’s Parliament has denounced claims by the European Union (EU) that the government denies Victoire Ingabire her rights and freedoms. Ingabire is serving a 15-year prison sentence for negationism and revisionism of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi on top of conspiracy and terrorism. Between September 19-22, a delegation of EU MPs visited their Rwandan counterparts to share best practices on the rights of women and gender equality. However, when some of the EU MPs attempted to visit Ingabire in prison, they were denied access. After returning home, the EU MPs wrote in a report on their visit complaining about Rwanda’s recent constitutional amendment, lack of political space, media freedom and being blocked from accessing Ingabire in prison.

Rwanda Required to Appear At Ingabire Court Case in Arusha (June 2016)
The Rwandan government is expected to appear at the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights, despite requesting to withdraw from the court’s special declaration that allows individuals and NGOs to sue governments. Pending cases that involve the government of Rwanda include that of Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former chief of staff of the Rwandan army – now in exile – who, alongside “others,” took the government to court for allegedly declaring their passports “invalid” without notice. Rwandan national Laurent Munyandilikirwa has also taken the government to the court for allegedly ousting him illegally from a local human rights body.

Civil society calls for tough measures (May 2016)
The Civil Society Platform has called for tough measures against persons found to have mismanaged public funds as per the latest released Auditor-General’s report.The umbrella body for civil society organisations operating in the country said the move to hold accountable individuals who engage in fraud will improve public funds management.

Civil society commits to fight Genocide ideology (May 2016)
Over 3,000 people from 400 organisations under Rwanda Civil Society Platform gathered at Amahoro Stadium to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which claimed over a million lives, including more than 100 employees of the Platform. Eduard Munyamariza, chairperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said it was time the civil society fulfilled their responsibilities and partnered with the government to build a peaceful country.

Govt, civil society in joint regional integration drive (March 2016)
Government and civil society officials have agreed to organise regular platforms where the Ministry of East African Community Affairs and civil society groups can meet to enhance a people-centered regional integration approach. This was recommended, yesterday, during the first such gathering in Kigali. The consultative forum, themed: ‘‘Engagement of the Rwandan civil society in the East African Community integration”, intended to, among others, introduce the local civil society fraternity to the EAC integration agenda and identify areas that require further awareness.

Jailed Rwandan opposition leader in plea to Arusha court (February 2016)
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights will 3 hear a plea filed by Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who has accused the government of violating her freedoms and denying her a fair trial. Ingabire, 47, is currently serving a 15-year in jail sentence handed to her by the Supreme Court in 2013, which found her guilty of inciting revolt, forming armed groups to destabilise the country, as well and denying the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It is not yet known whether the government will allow Ms Ingabire to travel to Arusha for the hearing, or whether she will be represented by her lawyers.

U.S. Reiterates Criticism of Kagame Bid to Extend Presidency (January 2016)
The U.S. reiterated its criticism of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s plan to extend his 15-year rule in elections, while saying it will continue to deepen commercial ties with the East African nation. “We believe that respecting established term limits can strengthen democratic institutions and help build a vibrant and free society,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a statement issued during a visit to Rwanda. Pritzker met Kagame to discuss opportunities presented by the integration of the five-nation East African Community.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson on Rwandan Constitutional Referendum (December 2015)
The United States is disappointed that a referendum was called on short notice to amend the Rwandan constitution and introduce exceptions to term limits. While we commend the people of Rwanda for peacefully exercising their civic rights, we regret that the arrangements for the referendum failed to provide sufficient time and opportunity for political debate on the merits of the proposed provisions.

Cabinet asks President Kagame to call a referendum on Constitution (November 2015)
Members of the Cabinet yesterday asked President Paul Kagame to call a referendum for Rwandans to approve the recently revised Constitution of the country. The decision was reached during an Extraordinary Cabinet Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi, which was held at Village Urugwiro.

Rwandan Senate votes to allow third term for Kagame (November 2015)
Rwanda’s upper house of parliament has unanimously approved a constitutional amendment to allow President Paul Kagame to seek a third term. The vote by the Senate clears the path for a referendum that is not expected to face much opposition. Earlier this year, more than 60 percent of voters signed a petition calling for constitutional changes to be drafted that would allow Kagame to stand again.

Parliament passes new constitutional amendments (October 2015)
The Lower House of Parliament unanimously voted to reduce presidential term limits from seven to five years renewable once. The change will be preceded by one transitional presidential term of seven years for which any presidential candidates including President Paul Kagame, should he choose to run, will be eligible.

New Project to Strengthen Role of Civil Society (September 2015)
A project aimed at strengthening the role of civil society organisations in monitoring and accountability in service delivery in different communities has been launched. The project, named “Efficiency, Accountability and Service Delivery (EASD-R)”, was announced during a meeting that brought together the Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP) and development partners. The four-year project is expected to empower communities to voice their concerns.

Rwandan Opposition Party Seeks to Block Third Term (June 2015)
Rwanda’s Green Party, the country’s tiny but main opposition, said it was challenging moves to change the constitution to allow President Paul Kagame to stand for a third consecutive term in elections in 2017.

Civil Society Organizations are Agents of Change (December 2014)
The Rwanda governance Board (RGB), in collaboration with One UN, awarded grants to eight local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on Thursday December 11, 2014, under the joint program of ῞Strengthening Civil Society Organizations for responsive and accountable governance in Rwanda.” Each organization received an amount of US$30,000, and the funds will enable them to implement their different projects contributing to efforts of strengthening responsive and accountable governance in Rwanda. Speaking at the ceremony, the One UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Lamin Manneh reiterated his institution’s commitment to support CSOs aimed at building sustainable development. “We know that any society can’t develop without the role of civil society. We are strongly committed to make this programme as successful as possible by supporting grantees to use the received funds to improve the living conditions of the people of Rwanda,” said Mr Manneh.

Ntaganda Released from Mpanga prison (June 2014)
Bernard Ntaganda was released from Mpanga prison in Nyanza after serving a four-year sentence after he had been found guilty of endangering national security, divisionism, inciting ethnic divisions and attempting to organize demonstrations without official authorization. The director of Mpanga prison, Alexis Sano, refuted claims that Ntaganda was mistreated while in prison and added that he wasn’t denied any of his rights. Ntaganda has vowed to continue with politics.

News Archive

USAID on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance in Rwanda (June 2014)

Twenty years after genocide, Rwanda should pave the way towards peaceful dissent – UN expert (January 2014)

Rwandan opposition figure Ingabire sentenced to 15 years in jail (November 2013)

Rwandan ‘Catholics’ detained over anti-Kagame protest (July 2013)

Civil Society Commended for Fight Against HIV/Aids (May 2013)

Rwanda genocide survivors protest acquittal of suspects (February 2013)

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire jailed (October 2012)

EU partially freezes aid to Rwanda (September 2012)

International NGO license increased to five years (September 2012)

Rwanda one of 26 AU member states to have ratified African Court protocol (September 2012)

Civil society should influence policy – RGB (May 2012)

Opposition leader’s sentence upheld (April 2012)

Rwanda’s political space shrinks as its economy expands (April 2012)

Prime Minister presents 2011-2017 Government Programs (November 2011)

Civil society happy with public servants’ draft Code of Ethics (July 2011)

Civil society blamed for not helping stop the genocide (May 2011)

Prison term for opposition leader (February 2011)

Rwanda to review laws said to restrict freedoms (January 2011)

Human Rights Watch page on Rwanda

Available here

Excerpt: “Rwanda has made important economic and development gains, but the government has continued to impose tight restrictions on freedom of expression and association. Opposition parties are unable to operate. Victoire Ingabire, president of the FDU-Inkingi, and Bernard Ntaganda, president of the PS-Imberakuri, are both serving prison sentences; several other opposition party members are also in prison in connection with their political activities or criticism of government policies. Rwanda also adopted a new media law that contains some positive elements, but has not had much impact in practice. Persistent threats against as well as prosecutions of journalists have all but destroyed independent journalism.”

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner organization in Rwanda.