Visit to Rwanda – June 2002

The Office visited Rwanda in June 2002 to assess progress on four key issues which have constituted an agenda of on-going dialogue between the Special Representative and the Government of Rwanda since 1999: the “gacaca” process of traditional conflict resolution; law 22/99 enacted in 1999 enabling women and girls to inherit property; young persons in detention; and child combatants. The Office of the Special Representative welcomed the launch of the “gacaca” process in June 2002, and recommended that the Government of Rwanda prioritize within it the cases of approximately 3000 detained young persons who were between 14 and 18 in 1994.

During the visit, it was confirmed to the Office of the Special Representative by the Government and NGOs that many families have resisted law 22/99 because of the way it alters traditional inheritance rules. The Office recommended that the Government collect data on the situation of child headed households in the upcoming national census; and that it engage in more active promotion of the law in local communities.

The Office of the Special Representative welcomed reports that there had been no recruitment of youths under the age of 18 into the armed forces since the Government demobilized 2,063 Child Soldiers in 1997. However, the Office expressed concern about reports of recruitment of youth into the Local Defense Forces, which are uniformed and frequently armed. An even larger problem is children among the primarily Hutu insurgents fighting in the DRC. In this connection, the Office urged an immediate assessment of the child soldier population in the DRC so that DDRR programmes can be developed and implemented.