According to the fourth Rwanda Population and Housing Census, Rwanda has a total of 10 515 973 inhabitants.1
The fourth Rwanda Population and Housing Census was used to obtain data on the prevalence of disability in Rwanda. The census questionnaire was used to collect data. This questionnaire contained a set of questions meant to obtain information about households with certain types of disability. Disabilities included impairments of sight, hearing, speaking, walking/climbing, learning/concentrating, as well as other disabilities.2
According to the fourth Rwanda Population and Housing Census (2012), 446 453 persons aged five years and over were reported to have disabilities.3
The most common type of disability in Rwanda is that of walking or climbing, with a prevalence rate of 3 per cent among the population aged five years and over. The other forms of disability with the number of residents are as follows:4
Rwanda ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 15 December 2008.5
Rwanda’s first report was due on 15 January 2011. The Ministry of Justice was responsible for the submission of the report. The Ministry has a department of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation which was tasked to lead the report-drafting process. Rwanda did submit its report, but the report has not yet been considered. This depends on the agenda of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Rwanda has acceded to, ratified or approved several key international and regional instruments on human rights and their additional protocols, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Universal Declaration); the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); the Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC); and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).6
Rwanda submitted its third and fourth periodic reports to the CRC Committee in June 2013. Regarding the rights of children, the Committee commended Rwanda for adopting Law 54/2011 of 14 December 2011 relating to the Rights and Protection of the Child; Law 22/2011 of 28 June 2011 establishing the National Commission for Children; and Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007 relating to the protection of the rights of disabled persons in general; The Hague 1993 Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption in March 2012; Law 13/2009 of 27 May 2009 regulating labour in Rwanda and its subsequent regulations, namely, Ministerial Order 06 of 13 July 2010 containing a list of the worst forms of child labour.
Based on the recommendation by the Committee, some guiding documents were drawn up, such as the development of bio-psychosocial guidelines for residential centres of persons with disabilities (December 2017); development of mental health guidelines for persons living in centres (February 2017) and the establishment of the competence-based curriculum for mental disability in 2017.
Rwanda submitted its second and fourth periodic reports on the implementation of the ICESCR to the ESCR Committee in May 2013. As far as the rights of persons with disabilities are concerned, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007 regarding the protection of persons with disabilities by the Republic of Rwanda; and also welcomed the ratification of the CRPD on 15 December 2008; and the Optional Protocol to Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 15 December 2008.7 The Committee recommended that Rwanda should implement effective measures to increase employment in favour of persons with disabilities.8 This is effected through the National Employment Programme (NEP) where 1 288 persons with disabilities underwent vocational training whereafter they are supported to obtain start-up kits and start-up loans. A Ministerial Order was enacted in 2009 which determines modalities for easy access to employment for persons with disabilities.9
The review of Rwanda was conducted at the second meeting on 24 January 2011. The report mentioned some key issues which included access to education and health, and respect for women, children and persons with disabilities. Rwanda was commended for the progress made towards access to education and health, respect for women and children and persons with disabilities. The country was encouraged to take further initiatives towards protecting the rights of marginalised and vulnerable groups and ending gender-based violence.10
Rwanda signed the African Charter on 11 November and ratified it on 17 May 1983. The eighth periodic report was submitted to the Secretariat of the African Commission on 14 August. 11
Regarding the impact of the recommendations, Rwanda welcomed the recommendations by the relevant committees and committed itself to implementing these. Rwanda is currently in the process of finalising its periodic reports on the CEC and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Charter). Both reports highlight steps made in improving the rights of children with disabilities.
Rwanda has ratified and domesticated most international and regional instruments, including the CRPD and its Optional Protocol. Rwanda is a monist state; article 190 of the Constitution of Rwanda (revised in 2015) adopted the monist approach which entails that an international treaty provision becomes part of domestic law upon ratification.12
The Rwandan context is influenced by the adverse effects of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, which resulted in many additional persons with disabilities as well as persons with mental health challenges.
Rwanda is a monist state with the result that once international human rights instruments are duly ratified they become part and parcel of municipal law. Furthermore, Rwanda has enacted several domestic laws to implement ratified human rights instruments, such as Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007, relating to the protection of disabled persons in general, and Law 02/2007 on the protection of former war combatants with disabilities. These laws were passed after ratification of the CRPD.
The Constitution of Rwanda contains provisions that indirectly address disability with reference to ‘persons affected by genocide, without discrimination or any other form of discrimination, right to life’ in the following articles:
All Rwandans are born and remain equal in rights and freedoms. Discrimination of any kind or its propaganda based on, inter alia, ethnic origin, family or ancestry, clan, skin colour or race, sex, region, economic categories, religion or faith, opinion, fortune, cultural differences, language, economic status, physical or mental disability or any other form of discrimination are prohibited and punishable by law.
Every Rwandan has the right to education. Freedom of learning and teaching is guaranteed in accordance with conditions determined by law. Primary education is compulsory and free in public schools. Conditions for free primary education in schools subsidised by the government are determined by law. A law also determines the organisation of education.’ Nonetheless, there is no mention of the disabled people in the revised Constitution.
The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by the Constitution along with those of all other Rwandan citizens. The rights of persons with disabilities are further protected by the National Law 01/2007 on the protection of persons with disabilities in general; Law 02/2007 on the protection of former war combatants with disabilities; Law 27 of 2001 relating to the rights and protection of the child against violence; and Law 3/2011 of 10 February 2011 determining the responsibilities, organisation and functioning of the National Council of Persons with Disabilities.
This legislation deals with the rights of persons with disabilities in matters related to education, health, employment, culture, entertainment and sports, transport and communication and access to infrastructure. This law is aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.13
The National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) is an independent public institution established by the state. The Council functions for all Rwandans with disabilities and consists of three organs, namely, the General Assembly; the Executive Secretariat; and the Executive Committee, which is represented from cell level to national level by elected persons with disabilities. The NCPD is a public and independent institution with legal personality, and both financial and administrative autonomy. It is a forum for advocacy and social mobilisation on issues affecting persons with disabilities in order to build their capacity and ensure their participation in national development. The Council assists the government in implementing programmes and policies that benefit persons with disabilities. It therefore has an advocacy, implementing and monitoring role. The NCPD has elected representatives of persons with disabilities on all level14s.
This Act promotes the protection and promotion of children’s rights, including children with disabilities. The Law covers a wide range of children’s rights: a child’s responsibilities; crimes against children and their penalties; the crimes of rape and the use of a child for dehumanising acts; and the criminalisation of forced marriage of a child below the age of 21 years.15
The exemption from criminal liability under items 1, 2 and 3 of Paragraph One of this article shall be permitted only if the woman who seeks abortion submits to the doctor an order issued by the competent court recognising one of the cases under these items, or when this is proven to the court by a person charged of abortion. The court where the complaint is filed shall hear and make a decision as a matter of urgency.
The Act provides that any Rwandan who is at least 18 years old has the right to join a political organisation. However, judges, prosecutors, members of the Rwanda Defense Force, members of the Rwanda National Police and members of the National Intelligence and Security Service may not be members of political organisations. Nobody is allowed to be a member of more than one political organisation at the same time.
In 2013 this policy was reviewed and renamed the Special Needs and Inclusive Education Policy. The policy focuses on children with special educational needs and those with disabilities.16 The policy promotes the inclusive education model, since most children with special educational needs and disabilities fail to enrol in specialised schools due to distance, health issues and financial challenges.
The purpose of the revised social protection policy is to reduce vulnerability in general, and vulnerability of poor and marginalised people, in particular; to promote sustainable economic and social development by the reduction of social risk and coordination of saving activities; and the protection of vulnerable groups in the short, medium and long terms. The main beneficiary groups of social protection are survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi; orphans; children in difficult situations; widows; people living with HIV/AIDS; youths from broken families; demobilised ex-combatants; persons with disabilities; repatriated people; refugees; older people; disaster victims; and historically-marginalised groups.17
This policy implements the programmes that cater for vulnerable persons, including persons with disabilities. The programmes are the following: Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP); Genocide Survivors Support and Assistance Fund (FARG); Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC); the VUP Direct Support and Public Works programmes; and the FARG emergency assistance and subsistence allowances for disabled ex-combatants.
Persons with disabilities form part of the group of vulnerable people targeted by EDPRS2. The mission of EDPRS2 is to ensure that all poor and vulnerable people are guaranteed a minimum income and access to core public services and that those who can work are provided with the means to escape poverty. This provides a safety net that is delivered through cash transfers in the Vision 2020 Umerenge Programme (VUP), direct support programmes and public works programmes.
The Family Policy was developed in 2005 and revised in 2013. This policy deals with the support and promotion of the family, with the emphasis on child rearing and the education and socialisation of children. The policy also addresses problems arising within families, such as domestic violence against spouses or child abuse. The policy on the protection of orphans and other vulnerable children defines orientations for the promotion of the rights of children with disabilities, namely:
In 2009 the government of Rwanda adopted several Ministerial Orders relating to the measures to facilitate communication, travel, education, spo18rt and leisure, medical care and employment for persons with disabilities19. Some Ministerial Orders that protect the rights of the persons with disabilities are the following:
The Gender-Based Violence Policy does not directly protect children including those with disabilities, but indirectly affects children whose parents or guardians suffer gender-related abuse at home or the work place. This type of abuse can also affect the children emotionally or psychologically.20
The main responsibilities of the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) include the mobilisation and representation of persons with disabilities; lobbying for rights of persons with disabilities; and encouraging them to participate in national development programmes. The NCPD also promotes the rights of persons with disabilities and monitor the respect for laws protecting persons with disabilities. The NCPD has an urgent need to build capacity and work for participation of persons with disabilities in national development.21
Rwanda has the Office of the Ombudsman and National Commission for Human Rights with the overall mandate of investigating and addressing violations of rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities. For more details, see question 8 below.
There is a National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) in Rwanda, which is an independent public institution provided for by the Constitution. The NCHR functions in compliance with the Paris principles, and is composed of seven commissioners nominated from different categories of Rwandan society, including civil society. The NCHR’s main mission is to promote and protect human rights; to educate and sensitise the public on human rights; to provide advice and draft laws related to human rights on request; and to integrate these in national legislation related to the rights of the child, women, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, refugees, migrant workers and members of their families, and the elderly.22
The office of the Ombudsman is also an independent institution established by the Constitution. The functions of the office of the Ombudsman is to prevent and fight injustice, corruption, and offences related to public and private administration. Furthermore, this office conduct sensitisation and public awareness activities in various institutions to urge them to find solutions to complaints from the population, including petitions lodged by persons with disabilities.23
AGHR, established in December 1979, is one of Rwanda’s oldest organisations for people with disabilities. AGHR is a cross-disability organisation of disabled people which defends, protects and promotes the human rights and social and economic well-being of persons with disabilities.24
This is an organisation involved in children with intellectual impairments, focusing on improving the standards of special education and health care for children with intellectual impairments.25
NOUSPR’s mandate is to provide a voice to all people with psychosocial disabilities in Rwanda. This organisation was established in 2007. It is part of a worldwide movement, called the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, which advocates the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities as provided for in the CRPD.
The NPC was established in 2001, and its mandate is to promote and co-ordinate sports for persons with disabilities. The NPC is made up of associations and sport clubs with people with disabilities as members.26
The RUB was formed in 1994. RUB on behalf of its members advocates equal rights for people with visual impairments. In 2014 RUB received an international reward for its work.27
RNADW was created in 2005 by a group of deaf women to advocate their rights.28
RNUD is organisation which brings together all categories of deaf people to address their social, economic, cultural and political needs. RNUD was established in 1989 by deaf people with the aim of uniting themselves, raising awareness of the issues or concerns and ways of addressing these concerns.29
In September 2007 THT was formed by a group of persons with disabilities in order to advocate and communicate changed behaviour towards disability through sport and socio-cultural activities.30
Umuryango Nyarwanda w’Abagore Bafite Ubumuga, known as UNABU, was created in 2004 by and for girls and women with disabilities. Its focus is on ensuring that ‘women with disabilities enjoy equal and equitable opportunities and actively participate in the country’s development’. UNABU’s mission is to empower women with disabilities to become agents of change, to demand their rights and to affirm their dignity as human beings.
The National Union of Disabilities Organisations of Rwanda (NUDOR) was formed in 2010, and serves as a platform for its 13-member organisation. NUDOR’s key activity is advocacy to ensure the realisation of equal rights, opportunities and participation for persons with disabilities, ensuring access to quality and appropriate education for all children with disabilities so that they may lead successful and fulfilled lives.31
Rwanda has ensured involvement of DPOs in the process of implementation of the CRPD. Disability issues on a national level are handled by the Ministry of Local Government, through the NCPD as its affiliated institution. The Ministry of Local Government serves as a focal point for the National Council of Persons with Disabilities.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for providing healthcare services to persons with disabilities. However, accessibility remains limited due to long distances to the nearest health facility, an insufficient number of health workers, negative attitudes and the costs involved.32
The National Council of Persons with Disabilities, was created by the Constitution on 3 June 2003 and it was established by Law 03/2011 of 10 February 2011, determining its responsibilities, organisation and functioning. It is a forum for advocacy and social mobilisation on issues affecting persons with disabilities in order to build their capacity and ensure their participation in national development. In response, civil society organised itself into an umbrella organisation, the National Union of Disability Organisations of Rwanda (NUDOR), to serve as a coordinating and representative body for the movement and to build the capacity of member organisations.33
The establishment of the National Council of Persons with Disabilities provided DPOs with a platform for advocacy, the promotion of the rights of the persons with disabilities and involvement in the formulation and implementation of laws. The presence of the NCPD members at grassroots and national levels also enables civil society organisations such as NUDOR to collaborate and relate with them at different levels to advocate the rights of persons with disabilities.
Under the Ministry of Local Government, the National Council of Persons with Disabilities is the public institution in charge of promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Its main activities are advocacy and inclusion.
Some people in Rwanda have a negative mind-set and social attitudes towards persons with disabilities. Their potential and abilities sometimes are not recognised. Children with disabilities are seen as a source of shame and a curse, and are often hidden by their parents. Women with disabilities find it difficult to get married and they are more vulnerable to sexual abuse. They also suffer discrimination in the area of employment, particularly as far as economic empowerment, owning property and obtaining loans from banks are concerned.
There are laws and policies aimed at addressing the challenge of access to accommodation by persons with disabilities. This includes Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007, relating to Protection of Disabled Persons in General. Article 5 provides that ‘[a] disabled person has the right to live in the family in the same conditions as others’.35 Article 16 of the law protecting disabled and former war combatants states that government has the responsibility of providing a residential home to the disabled war combatant who is in the first and second category if he or she cannot secure one.
Article 50 of the Constitution states that ‘[t]he state, within the limits of its means and in accordance with the law, has the duty to undertake special actions aimed at the welfare of the needy survivors of the genocide against Tutsi’. Article 51 further states that ‘[t]he state has the duty to establish special measures facilitating the education of persons with disabilities. The state also has the duty, within its means, to undertake special actions aimed at the welfare of persons with disabilities.’
The government also has a large-scale development programme (Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP)) for targeted vulnerable groups. The direct financial support is provided to households with no adults able to participate in public works, including those of the elderly, child-headed households, households with chronically sick persons, lactating mothers and persons with disabilities.36
Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007 relating to protection of disabled persons in general provides that all buildings must be equipped with the necessary facilities to enable persons with disabilities have access to services therein. In particular, a public or private building meant to provide services to the public must provide passage ways for persons with disabilities so as to have easy access to services offered.37 On the ground, much more needs to be done to operationalise this law.
Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007 relating to the protection of disabled persons in general provides that the state must adopt an appropriate programme to facilitate persons with disabilities in general to board public transport vehicles by requiring public transport vehicle owners to reserve seats and entrance doors for persons with disabilities.38 Again, the practical implementation of this law remains a challenge.
Article 11 of Law 01/2007 OF 20 January 2007 relating to the protection of disabled persons in general provides that ‘[a] disabled person has the right to appropriate education in respect of the nature of his or her disability’.39 Article 10 of Law 27 of 2001 relating to the rights and protection of the child against violence also provides that the child has a right to education.40 Although much has been achieved, more effort is needed to secure inclusive education.
There is a pilot programme under the National Employment Programme, NCPD, which supports persons with disabilities to enrol in Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) for short courses at two centres. This is aimed at persons with hearing and visual impairments.41
Article 30 of the Constitution provides that ‘[e]veryone has the right to free choice of employment. All individuals, without any form of discrimination, have the right to equal pay for equal work.’ This is the principle, but many persons with disabilities remain on the margin.
Article 21 of Law 01/2007 OF 20 January 2007 relating to the protection of disabled persons in general provides that ‘[c]entres that cater for the disabled persons and educational institutions in general, are required to have special grounds meant for culture, entertainment and sports and trained tutors’. Disabled persons are entitled to join specialised associations related to sports, culture and entertainment42. An order of the Minister in charge of sports must determine the modalities of facilitating the disabled persons in matters related to participation in activities of culture, entertainment and sports.43
Article 29 of the Constitution guarantees that ‘[a]ll persons are equal before the law. They are entitled to equal protection of the law.’ Article 8 of Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007 relating to the protection of disabled persons in general guarantees that a person with a disability shall have the right to legal representation like any other person in the courts of law. The state must determine the modalities of providing legal aid to needy disabled persons who are not able to secure legal representation. Various organs are to facilitate disabled persons in the acquisition of the required services at any time it is considered necessary.44
Persons with disabilities have the right to vote like any other Rwandan, and the right to be elected in an administrative organ at village, district, provincial as well as national levels. 45
Articles 14 and 15 of Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007 relating to the protection of disabled persons in general provides that the government shall facilitate a disabled person to receive medical care and prosthesis and orthesis appliances where required. The government also has an obligation to provide medical care to a needy disabled person and also provide prosthesis and orthesis appliances if required.46
Girls and women with disabilities are marginalised on the basis of sex and their health status, and as a result are denied assets such as land. In most cases they find it difficult to get married and are vulnerable to sexual abuse. They are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence, especially at a younger age. They normally face social barriers such as stigma, discrimination and isolation.
Rwanda has several legislations about the rights of children and children with disabilities. This notwithstanding, children with disabilities still face challenges with regard to access to education, transport and health facilities. Most children with disabilities have to walk long distances to get to school, especially if there is no money for transport. It is very expensive for their parents and it takes a lot of time for them to accompany their children to and from school.
The prevalence of HIV among persons with physical disabilities is reported to be higher than that of the rest of the Rwandese population. However, further research needs to be conducted with regard to other categories of disability.47
Persons with disabilities are encouraged to cast their votes in September to exercise their right to vote. With regard to access to free primary education, the parents who deny them their right to access education and hide them might be charged by the state.
Law 01/2007 of 20 January 2007 relating to the protection of disabled persons in general should more detailed about gender. The legislation should consider different needs of male and female persons with disabilities.
5. The Republic of Rwanda. ‘Initial Report of Rwanda on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’. (2015) http://www.minijust.gov.rw/fileadmin/Docu ments/International_Reports/Inintial_report_UNCRPD_-_Final_Version_08th_April_2015.pdf (accessed 16 February 2018).
7. ESCR Committee Concluding Observations on the 2nd to 4th periodic reports of Rwanda, adopted by the Committee at its 50th session, 29 April-17 May 2013: Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 10 June 2013, E/C.12/RWA/CO/2-4, http://www.refworld.org/docid/52d54c834.html (accessed 21 February 2018).
10. United Nations General Assembly Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. 14 March 2011, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/G1111793.pdf (accessed 18 February 2018).
11. African Union African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Consideration of Reports submitted by State Parties under Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights http://www.chr.up.ac.za/images/files/documents/ahrdd/rwanda/rwanda_concluding_observations_recommendations_2002_2004.pdf.(accessed 18 February 2018).
12. J Sikulibo ‘Access to justice and the international law standard’ LLM dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2009 https://www.memoireonline.com/06/10/3554/m_Access-to-justice-and-the-international-law-standards6.html (accessed 18 February 2018).
13. J Mattingly J & P Suubi ‘A study on children with disabilities and their right to education: Republic of Rwanda’ (2015) Education Trust https://www.unicef.org/esaro/Rwanda-children-with-disabilities-UNICEF-EDT-2016.pdf (accessed 19 February 2018).
16. The Republic of Rwanda ‘Special Education and Inclusive Education Strategic Plan 2011-2015’ (2011) Ministry of Education http://www.hiproweb.org/fileadmin/cdroms/Inclusive_ Education 2014/StrategicPlanIERwanda20112015.pdf (accessed 19 February 2018).
17. The Republic of Rwanda. ‘Initial Report of Rwanda on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’. (2015). http://www.minijust.gov.rw/fileadmin/Docu ments/International_Reports/Inintial_report_UNCRPD_-_Final_Version_08th_April_2015.pdf (accessed 3 May 2018).
20. The Republic of Rwanda National Policy against Gender-Based Violence http://www.migeprof.gov.rw/fileadmin/_migrated/content_uploads/GBV_Policy-2_1_.pdf (accessed 11 December 2018).
24. Sida ‘Disability rights in Rwanda’ December 2014 https://www.sida.se/globalassets/sida/eng/partners/human-rights-based-approach/disability/rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-rwanda.pdf (accessed 19 February 2018).
31. NUDOR ‘National Union of Disabilities of Organisations of Rwanda’ http://www.rencp.org/about/member-organizations-1/nudor-national-union-of-disabilities-organizations-of-rwanda/ (accessed 17 February 2018).
41. Republic of Rwanda ‘A study on children with disabilities and their right to education: Republic of Rwanda’ Education Development Trust 2016, https://www.unicef.org/esaro/Rwanda-children-with-disabilities-UNICEF-EDT-2016.pdf (accessed 17 February 2018).