Sixteen countries from East and Central Africa yesterday agreed to work together in implementing the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) as a team.
The regional states reached the consensus at the end of a two-day meeting in Kigali to share views on the UPR recommendations made by UN after reviewing human rights situations in individual countries.
The UPR mechanism is a state-driven process which periodically reviews the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States, providing an opportunity for States to open up their human rights records for scrutiny and to demonstrate what actions, if any, they have taken to improve the situation.
Speaking to The New Times the Coordinator of the Treaty Reporting project at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Etienne Nkerabigwi, said that the countries agreed to establish a roadmap to implement the recommendations.
“The recommendations these countries need to implement are almost the same; so we have agreed to draw a roadmap together. We want the next review to find us in a good position,” said Nkerabigwi.
The review takes place every four years.
Nkerabigwi explained that they agreed to prioritise the recommendations and begin with the most important ones by forming clusters.
“We are going to put in place a taskforce which will oversee the implementation in these countries. The team will be made of representatives from governments, civil society and human rights commissions,” he explained.
When Rwanda was first reviewed, member states listed 73 recommendations of which six were rejected on the basis that they were not relevant to the situation in the country.
An example cited is the recommendation that Rwanda stops recruitment of child soldiers in armed groups. This was rejected as there are no armed groups in the country and the government does not recruit child soldiers.
According to the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, Rwanda accepted the implementation of the remaining 67 recommendations although they were already in place.
These included right to education, which, according to the minister, arose when Rwanda was already registering achievements in education sector citing the universal primary education.
“We have broken barriers that usually prevent children from attending school by the abolishing school fees. This programme has been adopted to enable the country to achieve the goal of Education for All,” said Karugarama.
In an interview, UN Human Rights Advisor, Chris Mburu, commended Rwanda for her commitment in improving human rights in all spheres, observing that it was the reason why the country hosted the meeting.