Visit to Rwanda – February 1999

The Special Representative visited Rwanda from 21 to 24 February 1999 to bear witness to the situation of children affected by the genocide of 1994. During his visit, he met with government officials, the United Nations country team, representatives of the diplomatic corps, representative of ICRC and leaders of national and international non-governmental organizations.

The situation of children in Rwanda presents an extraordinary challenge. Among the estimated 800,000 people massacred, 300,000 were children. It is estimated that as many as 375,000 children are at present deprived of access to Education. Over 84 per cent of children have experienced death in their family; over 52 per cent have lost their mother, while over 62 per cent have lost their father, with over 76 per cent losing their siblings. More than 95 per cent of children have directly witnessed violence, while almost 70 per cent have witnessed someone being killed and 31 per cent have witnessed rape and other forms of Sexual Violence. It is estimated that 20 per cent of the overall child population of Rwanda are severely traumatized.

During his mission, the Special Representative discussed several issues affecting the children of Rwanda:

Child-headed households and property rights. As a result of the genocide, there are an estimated 45,000 households headed by children, 90 per cent of them by girls. Under Rwandese law, however, girls cannot inherit agricultural land, which is essential for the livelihood of their families. The Special Representative urged the Government to introduce legislation that would allow girls to inherit farms and other properties. Legislation has now been passed and is due to come into force soon;
Demobilization and age of recruitment. The Special Representative welcomed the policy announcement by the Government to demobilize all Child Soldiers and urged the Government to raise the age limit for recruitment from 17 to 18;
Juvenile justice. The Special Representative was encouraged by efforts to address the problem of the treatment of juveniles accused of participating in acts of genocide, including the establishment of a special bench for minors, separate wings for minors in prisons and the training of juvenile justice officials. He was concerned, however, that the juvenile judicial process was moving very slowly: only 28 out of a caseload of 5,000 detained minors had gone to trial in the past five years. The Special Representative noted the Government’s intention to reinstate gacaca, a traditional method of justice, rooted in the local community, in an attempt to speed up the judicial process;
Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Special Representative encouraged the Government to use the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to submit its report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child;
Ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The Special Representative urged Rwanda to ratify the African Charter.
Click Here to read the Commitments from the parties to the conflict which were obtained by the Special Representative