On August 5, 2020, Radio France Internationale (RFI) published an article on the decision taken by the Rwandan government to hold at stadiums those caught violating guidelines that were put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
In the article, journalist Laure Brulard, dismisses the measure as consisting “lectures” and describes them as “drastic.”
Brulard also cites Human Rights Watch's "concerns" about what the organisation describes as "detentions without due process or legal authority."
One, it is surprising that RFI and HRW believe they, not the government of Rwanda, have the primary duty to protect Rwandans.
In fact, because the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, it has been transparent in reporting about Covid-19.
It is therefore surprising that neither the journalist nor the “human rights” organisation noted the transparency exhibited so far by the Rwandan government, which published figures related to people that were held at stadiums.
The World Health Organisation has praised Rwanda’s management of Covid-19, citing transparency as being a major reason the country is among the few worldwide that have prevented large-scale coronavirus outbreaks.
“Rwanda’s progress is due to a similar combination (as New Zealand) of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well-supported health workers and clear public health communications,” said the World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom.
Human Rights Watch and RFI should be exposing to the world the countries that have failed the transparency test of the World Health Organisation.
Interestingly, none of the witnesses cited by the article claimed to have been targeted by the measure unfairly.
They all admitted to having contravened the anti-Covid19 regulations that have allowed the country to, more or less, return to normal life.
In fact, some of the people who were interviewed for the article even pointed out that they would rather go to the stadium for “lectures” than pay astronomical fines as is done in Europe.
In other words, the anti-Covid19 measures in Europe are “drastic.”
But then, if the government does not hide its actions and Rwandan citizens do not complain of being unfairly accused but find the measure adequate, what is it that drives RFI and HRW to raise an unjustified controversy?
More so, when they have not raised concern regarding anti-Covid-19 measures in Europe where the WHO hasn’t expressed similar confidence as it has for Rwanda’s handling of the pandemic.
RFI’s journalist Laure Brulard thinks the measure is drastic because offenders sometimes spend up to 6 hours in stadiums without food or water.
According to her reasoning, the government should direct part of the state's resources to give 'cookies’ and an ‘escort car home’ to adults who knowingly violate preventive measures and endanger the lives of their fellow citizens, someone commented on social media.
Laure Brulard should lead this human rights campaign, but she should start in Europe which has more resources and has faced a worse covid-19 situation than Rwanda.
Human Rights Watch is even more astonishing.
Instead of applauding the ingenuity of a homegrown solution that allows the government to protect its population while respecting social distancing measures for violators, the organization wants to see an administrative measure to be included in the penal code because, otherwise, it is “detention without due process.”
Such a move would criminalize incivility and reclassify the contravention as an offense that would be registered in the criminal records for people caught drinking in bars, praying in groups in their houses or playing football.
It seems HRW doesn’t think the current measures are strong enough because HRW is advocating for more stringent punishment that would remain part of the permanent record of the offender.
What kind of human rights organisation ignores the end goal of protecting the public, violators included, but wants a more drastic approach in policing?
More than once, communiques issued by the Rwandan national police indicated that offenders were referred to local and health authorities for further explanations on COVID-19 prevention guidelines, the so-called “lectures.”
Would HRW and RFI prefer them charged and prosecuted in compliance with due process standard rather than spend a few hours at the stadium?
Evidently, the Rwandan government’s approach is innovative and aims to educate and sensitize Rwandans rather than criminalize irresponsible behavior.
After months of lockdowns, Rwandans, with few exceptions, understand that the sacrifices made have not been in vain.
It seems the end goal of HRW (and RFI) is to humiliate the government of Rwanda. But they haven’t thought this one through clearly.