Of Roma troubles and luggage searches

The decision to expel the Roma people from France and send them back to Romania and Bulgaria was at the heart of an intra-euro spat last week.
Oscar Kabbatende
Oscar Kabbatende

The decision to expel the Roma people from France and send them back to Romania and Bulgaria was at the heart of an intra-euro spat last week.

The EU Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, denounced the decision and called for legal action to be instituted against the Government of France at the European Court of Justice. The angry rebuttal from Paris was that she was free to welcome them to her native country of Luxemburg.

The European Parliament similarly called for a halt to the expulsions. The Roma, or Gypsies as they are more commonly known, have for a long time been demonised in Western Europe as criminals and previously, in the 18th and 19th century, as devil worshippers.

For an interesting reference on the attitudes of the French towards gypsies, one should read “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo.

For a touch of drama, the French government then claimed that the German government was planning on undertaking similar action against the Roma in Germany.

This assertion was denied vigorously by the Germans who were more than a little irritated at this attempt to draw them into the controversy. At the time of writing, the expulsions were still ongoing.

It is an interesting study on the human rights principles that underpin the Union as well as the principles of common market; given that Bulgaria and Romania are EU members as well, expulsion of their citizens does go against the principle of freedom of movement.

In France, it would appear, politicians will do a lot to exploit popular prejudice against their fellow EU citizens.
Back home, matters of constitutional import were being discussed at the Police Headquarters in Kacyiru.

In a meeting held with Hotel Owners and Managers regarding safety measures to be taken in view of the recent grenade attacks, The Rwanda Focus reported that the Police urged Hotel operators to ‘monitor’ their guests and even search their luggage.

This is a direct violation of article 22 of our constitution that guarantees an individual’s privacy. The Police spokesman in the same article tried to placate such fears by explaining that the ‘monitoring’ they had in mind was use of surveillance cameras in public spaces of hotels.

He was silent on the matter of luggage searches by private individuals. While one can understand the need for increased security may require some extraordinary measures, the grenade terrorists win if the citizens’ fundamental rights start to be infringed in reaction to their acts.

From the prying eyes and hands of your nosy hotelier (as instructed by the Police) to matters of climatic concern. Last week, the Rwanda Meteorological Service warned of the risk of flooding as parts of the Northern and Western provinces were expected to receive more rain than usual.

The culprit is a little boy ‘El Nino’ that shows up every 5 or so years due to oceanic temperature changes near the west coast of South America. This little boy has already caused some rain chaos in Asia (possibly even the recent Pakistan floods) and is on the way to wreck havoc on a hill close to you.

Be that as it may, the advice of the Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs was either classic in its long-range perspective or callous depending on how the charitable the reader of that article, as published in this paper, was.

The advice for the impending arrival of heavy rains is prioritising of slope protection, forestation and proper channelling of water at the household level. All well and good, assuming that all this can happen before the rains.

Have a good week.


Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer

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