New civil registration system to cater for refugees, Rwandans abroad

Mahama refugee camp in Kirehe District. Even refugees, foreign residents and Rwandans living abroad are concerned with a new civil registration system launched on 10 August . / Sam Ngendahimana

Rwanda, this week, launched a civil registration system however, there have been concerns that refugees, foreign residents and nationals living abroad were not included.

A senior government official has been quick to allay those fears.


According to Josephine Mukesha, the Director-General of the National Identification Agency, the system does not leave anyone behind.


“Everyone including refugees, foreign residents as well as Rwandans living abroad are catered for,” she told The New Times.


The system for the registration of births and deaths was launched on Monday, August 10, 2020.

Rwanda put emphasis on the importance of making everyone visible through a well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics system in all hospitals covering the entire population and all vital events occurring in the country.

Mukesha said: “It’s not for Rwandans only. We are working with the Ministry of Emergency Management and UNHCR to integrate with their systems so they can also be getting the data back into their systems as soon as these two events (births and deaths) are recorded.”

Mukesha explained that they are working with the UN refugee agency mostly because the records for refugees are handled by the UN organ.

Figures by the UN refugee agency indicate that Rwanda is currently home to 149,149 refugees and asylum seekers with the majority - 76,853 - coming from the DR Congo. Rwanda also hosts 71,973 refugees from Burundi.

“We will also deploy it in our Embassies or High Commissions abroad for Rwandans in the Diaspora to be registered accordingly,” Mukesha added.

The developments come after the law on Persons and Family was amended on February 2 to extend civil registrar rights to health facilities and cells to register births and deaths occurring in health facilities and communities, respectively.

Related ministerial orders published in the national gazette of July 27, specified the health facility staff who will be given the civil registrar responsibilities based on the type of the health facility.

The first phase at the launch includes all hospitals in Rwanda. These, Mukesha explained, are 56 in all Districts.

Thereafter, the new system “will be progressively rolled out in all remaining health facilities.”

There are 550 health facilities – including private ones – and in each health facility at least two staffers were trained, one as the data manager while the other has the civil registrar responsibilities.

Depending on the type of health facility; the Director of the Unit of nurses and midwives or the head of a health centre or the director of the private health facility will be given the rights to act as civil registrars to register birth and death events there.

For any birth or death occurring in a health facility, the data manager will continue notifying this event by recording all the main information from the health registers at the facility.

Civil registration as defined by the UN is the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events, such as birth and death, of the population in accordance with the law.

It is the basis for the identification of an individual.

Rwanda recognises nine vital events: birth, death, marriage, and divorce, annulment of marriage, guardianship, adoption, recognition, and legitimation.

Registration of these events allows citizens to get benefits including services they are entitled to.

The birth registration rate in Rwanda is currently at 63 per cent, higher than the sub-Saharan Africa average of 44 per cent. But it remains lower than the global target of 90 per cent by 2025, something the government is working to change very fast.

Death registration also stands at 30 per cent. Rwanda seeks to increase birth and death registration and certification to 95 per cent and 90 per cent, respectively, against global targets of 90 and 70 per cent, respectively, by 2025.

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