May 20, 2006
Human Rights Watch released a report last week on children in Rwanda being held in horrible living conditions in a detention center in the Gikondo neighborhood of the capital Kigali. The paper, “Swept Away,” documents how thousands of Rwandan children live on the streets of
Kigali and other urban areas.
Many of these children are orphans as a result of the genocide or AIDS pandemic and have no homes or adult supervision. City workers have been rounding up these kids since the late 1990s and since 2005 they are being detained in a former warehouse in Gikondo.
The report also states that Gikondo is a short distance away from some of the luxury hotels popular with Western tourists or international staffers. I imagine these hotel conference rooms being used by bureaucrats for their meetings on poverty erradication or refugee resettlement. Meanwhile a few kilometers away, the youngest citizens who most need protection are housed like animals with little if any access to education or nutrition/health care. Oh, all right, I’ll get off my soapbox.
Some detainees spend weeks or months living in these detention centers where they receive inadequate food, water, and medical care. They sleep on the floor without blankets or mattresses. Supposedly the detainees are charged as “vagrants” but there is no due process or formal judicial proceedings.
“Kigali city officials who are running the detention center recognize that it must be closed,” said Alison Des Forges, senior adviser to the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “Detaining children just because they are poor, dirty, and have no one to care for them violates their rights. Under international and Rwandan law, the state must protect these children, not just sweep them out of sight.”
The Institute of War and Reporting also prepared a paper on street children in Rwanda last August. It is available on ReliefWeb. While Rwandan government officials have pledged to do more to help street children and those living in detention, what is needed is more financial support for local communities in Kigali, so that they have social services in place to help those marginalized.
April 8, 2006
Human Rights Watch released yesterday a briefing paper on the planning of the genocide in Rwanda. “The Rwandan Genocide: How It Was Prepared” coincides with the 12th anniversary of the start of the mass killings. It’s a pretty interesting read–especially as we continue to say ‘never again’ while another genocide takes place in Africa.
Sometimes I think we enjoy memorializing human suffering much more than figure out how to put an early warning system in place so that it never happens again. But I digress.
The paper examines how propagandists and government officials defined unarmed Tutsi civilians as enemy combatants and justified targeting them as part of a “self-defense” efforts to mobilize participants to carry out the genocide. The report says:
“Participants were to…obtain information on the presence of the enemy locally, denounce infiltatrators and enemy accomplices, provide information to the armed forces, and counter any enemy action until the armed forces arrived…The plan called for supplying participants with 4,995 firearms and 499,500 bullets. It also mentioned the need for “traditional weapons” (bows, arrows, spears) …and said that people should be encouraged to get these weapons for themselves.”
This should be surprising, but it’s not. Typical double-speak of despots running a country. They sign a peace accord and promise to work with international monitors to bring it to fruition, meanwhile they carry out a contigency plan. In case the agreement aren’t working to their advantage, they can pick up where they left off with the slaughter. It’s amazing how many times this has happened in Africa. We saw it in Angola, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone. We need better mechanisms in place and a more transparent system to prevent this. Fighting factions must be made to demilitarize and disarm before continuing with any talks. This would offer more protection for civilians.
One more thing about the paper– in laying out the way the extermination was planned prior to the genocide, it would’ve been good to include information on the Rwandan government’s access to population database to facilitate the genocide. This is more of a problem than people realize. Read the rest of this entry »