The African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (WGIP) undertook a mission to the Republic of Rwanda from 1- 5 December 2008. The delegation comprised Commissioner Musa Ngary Bitaye – Member of the African Commission and Chairperson of the WGIP;Dr. Melakou Tegegn, Member of the WGIP. The mission was supported by Mr. Francis Ngarhodjim, Legal Officer at the Secretariat of the African Commission.
The general objective of the mission was to execute the mandate of the WGIP and of the African Commission. The specific terms of reference of the mission were, inter alia:
- Gather information on the situation of the Batwa community in Rwanda;
- Engage the Government of Rwanda in dialogue on the situation of the Batwa community in Rwanda;
- Engage civil society on its role in promoting and protecting the rights of the Batwa community; and
- Visit and discuss with the Batwa the problems affecting the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter).
The Government of Rwanda is called upon to:
- Officially recognise the Batwa community as an indigenous population;
- Take steps to ratify ILO Convention 169 and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and implement the Declaration in its legislation, policies and development programmes;
- Adopt affirmative action measures to guarantee the representation of the Batwa at all levels of decision making;
- Sensitise the Batwa on their rights as well as other populations to respect the rights of the Batwas;
- Consult the Batwa before taking any measures that may affect their lives, including measures to improve their living conditions, access to accommodation, water and other basic services such as health and education;
- Take into account the Batwa’s culture and way of life in designing development and poverty alleviation programmes;
- Take concrete measures to combat the stigma and discrimination suffered by the Batwa;
- Guarantee the Batwa’s rights to land and natural resources, including adequate compensation in case of dispossession;
- Adopt measures that promote and protect the traditional and indigenous know-how of the Batwas;
- Carry out a study on the socio-economic situation of the Batwa with a view to adopting an appropriate strategy to enhance their condition;
- Guarantee the Batwa’s cultural and religious rights by allowing them to enter the forests and reserves to fulfil their cultural and religious rituals;
- Take concrete measures, including sensitisation and provision of incentives to encourage the enrolment and the continuation of Batwa children in schools;
- Construct schools closer to the Batwa communities and train teachers to teach in their mother tongue as well as develop curriculum adaptable to their way of life;
- Adopt measures to address the acute poverty of the Batwa caused by the government resettlement policy, including the provision of vocational training and micro-finance schemes;
- Adopt and implement a policy of disaggregated data on the Batwa population in Rwanda, particularly with regard to government efforts on education, health, housing, employment, representation in all decision-making organs at all levels of government.;
- The Human Rights Commission and civil society organisations in the country should collaborate to develop appropriate programmes to sensitise stakeholders on the concept and rights of indigenous populations in the country;
- The African Commission should collaborate with the government and other relevant stakeholders in the country to enhance the protection of the rights of indigenous communities.