Serena Hotel, Kigali, December 14, 2010
Basing on its right to be the voice of people on one hand, and considering the responsibility of the Government to be held accountable to the public, the Rwanda Civil Society Platform has organized a public policy dialogue on political space and human rights in Rwanda.
The public debate brought together the Rwandan Civil Society, the Government, Rwandans from the Diaspora, and representatives of diplomatic corps, political parties, media and other development partners.
The public policy dialogue was officially opened by the Senate President, Honorable Dr Vincent BIRUTA, who represented the Head of State at the function. All proceedings were broadcasted live by both Radio Rwanda and Rwanda Television.
The following were the themes of this public policy debate:
1- State of political space and its exploitation in Rwanda;
2- Respect of Human Rights and freedom of press in Rwanda.
The objectives of this public policy debate were the following:
1- To have a face to face debate between various sections of the Rwandan community about good governance and policy issues;
2- Inculcating the culture of debate, tolerance and respect of opinion of others in the Rwandan community;
3- To create a platform for dialogue on various issues relating to good governance and to give an opportunity to Rwandans to speak out on issues concerning them;
4- To find solutions/answers to burning questions from the Rwandan public;
5- To enhance government accountability and close the gap between the government and its citizens;
6- Creation of an enabling environment for the media
Having exposed the objectives of the debate, the Spokesperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, Mr RWIBASIRA Eugene, presented some key issues related to reasons of going into exile especially for government officials who quit their posts or who fall under investigations/prosecution as well as obstacles in registering political parties.
The Minister of Local Government, Honorable James MUSONI, commended the Rwanda Civil Society Platform and its initiative in organizing such a public debate on political space and human rights in Rwanda. He said that, results from the debate will help the Government in improving its governance policies and the debate is an opportunity for the Government to clarify some policy issues.
In his speech, the Senate President, Dr Vincent BIRUTA, commended the Rwanda Civil Society Platform for having organized such a debate on political space and human rights. He challenged critics who claim that there is no political space in Rwanda by quoting findings from academic researches, which reveal the existence of political space and Rwandans’ failure to exploit it adequately.
The Senate President highlighted the importance of dialogue and positive debate in promotion of peace and conflict management (prevention and resolution). He assured the participants that, the Government shall consider different resolutions from the debate in promoting good governance and human rights.
After heated discussions and debates, participants made the following resolutions and recommendations:
1- Participants commended the Rwanda Civil Society Platform for having organized such a public policy debate which promotes the values enriched in the Rwandan Constitution of June 04, 2003 as amended to date as well as other laws in force. They recognized that, such dialogues have roots in the Rwandan culture and recalled different initiatives undertaken by the Government of Rwanda leading to the Public Policy Debate on political space and human rights in Rwanda which is organized by the Civil Society.
2- Participants pledged to continue inculcating among Rwandans the culture of positive debate, speaking the truth, tolerance and respect of the diversity in opinions;
3- Participants commended the members of the Diaspora who participated in the debate, especially those from Zambia, Malawi and Canada, for their dedication, openness and different views expressed;
4- Recognizing the communication gap and misinformation dominating among refugee communities, participants urged the Government to extend mobilization campaigns in the Diaspora communities to give the true and clear picture of Rwanda. For that case, it was recommended that, the Government should involve the Civil Society for the purpose of credibility of messages, because refugees consider government’s messages as propaganda;
5- Recognizing the power of misinformation and intoxication, participants recommended the elaboration and spread of curricula presenting the current situation in Rwanda;
6- Recognizing the importance of such positive debates, participants recommended that they should be organized regularly, at least twice a year. The debate was viewed as one of many indicators of good governance; and participants recommended that resolutions should be spread over the world for information about the status of freedom of the press and human rights;
7- Recognizing that democracy is a process, participants recommended that discussions should continue between concerned institutions in order to resolve issues raised, concerning political space, freedom of the press and expression as well as respect of human rights in general;
8- Participants resolved that, democracy, liberty and freedom must be embedded with the local culture, values and national interests and sovereignty;
9- Participants commended the positive partnership between the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and the Rwandan Civil Society in national development. They recommended that, such partnership should be reinforced.
Kigali, December 14, 2010