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Statement by the United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues on conclusion of her official visit to Rwanda – 31 January to 7 February 2011

Kigali, 7 February 2011

In my capacity as the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues I have conducted an official visit to Rwanda from 31 January to 07 February 2011. I have visited Rwanda at the invitation of the Government of Rwanda. Under my UN mandate I am required to promote implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities* in all parts of the world and to identify challenges as well as successful practices in the area of equality and non-discrimination. This is the eleventh such country visit that I have conducted, and I have visited nearly every region of the world in pursuit of my mandate. My visits offer me a unique opportunity to witness first hand the current situation and to consult with a wide range of stakeholders, including ordinary citizens. In every country that I have visited, the struggle to achieve equality for all is a difficult and an ongoing one, requiring constant vigilance, monitoring, evaluation and at times, revision of legislation, policies and programmes.

I would like to thank and commend the Government of Rwanda for extending an invitation to me and for its cooperation with my UN mandate. I welcome the assistance that it has provided to me in the preparation and conduct of my visit. The objective of my visit has been to hold consultations and to examine the human rights situation, while recognizing fully the history of this country and seeking to learn about and benefit from the unique experiences and challenges that Rwanda has faced. I have sought to understand the approaches that the Government of Rwanda has chosen in its efforts to achieve its vision of equality for all.

I have had the opportunity to consult with senior representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Justice, Local Government, Community Development and Social Affairs, and Education. I met with the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide and the Commission in Charge of Human Rights in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. In addition I met the Rector and faculty from the National University of Rwanda, the Ombudsman, the National Human Rights Commission, the Demobilization and Reintegration Commission and the Association of IBUKA. I thank them all for their time and information. I also wish to thank the numerous non-governmental institutions and others working in the field of social inclusion and promotion of equality and non-discrimination that have provided information to me.

In addition to my meetings in Kigali I  traveled to different regions of the country. I had the opportunity to talk with people in a number of communities, some of whom fall within the category of Historically Marginalized Groups and who identify themselves as Batwa.  I visited villages in the vicinity of Kigali, near Musanze  in the Northern Province and outside Butare in the Southern Province of Rwanda. At the invitation of the Government and the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, I also visited an integrated community in Gahini in the Eastern Province. At the invitation of the National Human Rights Commission I visited another integrated community in Muhanga in the Southern Province.

My first visit to Rwanda was in 1994, just a few short months after the genocide that left this country devastated. I am delighted and privileged to return now to find a very different Rwanda – a country that has taken great steps towards healing and transformation, development and growth; a country of peace and increasing opportunity. I undertook this visit to learn about and from Rwanda; about its efforts to confront challenges and to ensure a future of equality, acceptance and peaceful coexistence. 

The people of Rwanda experienced an almost unimaginable trauma from which they continue to emerge. I had the honor to visit the very moving Gisozi Memorial Centre. An important part of your difficult healing process has been achieved through dialogue and through the courage to come together--victims and perpetrators of violence – to confront problems, to find solutions and achieve justice together.

I look forward to a continuing and constructive dialogue with the Government of Rwanda and I stand ready to support the positive initiatives of the Government.  Rwanda has many lessons to teach the world, no longer just about the horrors of genocide, but now also about the capacity and courage of people to recover, about the power of truth and justice, and the ability of divided societies to overcome their differences.    

ENDS

Under her UN mandate, Ms. McDougall is required to promote implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities* and to identify challenges as well as successful practices with regard to minority issues.

(*)  Check the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/minorities.htm

The mandate of the Independent Expert on minority issues is one of the thematic Special Procedures human rights mandates reporting to the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Gay McDougall (United States) was appointed as the first holder of the post of UN Independent Expert on minority issues in July 2005.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Independent Expert: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/minorities/expert/index.htm

For press inquiries and additional information on the Independent Expert’s mission, please contact Mr. Graham Fox, OHCHR Human Rights Officer (Tel: +41 22 9179640 / mobile phone: 00 41 79-201-0118 / email: gfox@ohchr.org).