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Rwanda

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 14 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether she has had discussions with the Government of Rwanda on (a) the rights of Opposition politicians, (b) the proscribing of political prisoners and (c) the imprisonment of Opposition politicians; (108640)

(2) what discussions she has had with the Government of Rwanda on (a) good governance and (b) respect for the human rights of Opposition politicians.

The Government are in regular discussion with the Rwandan authorities about the promotion of good governance, human rights and democratic freedoms. These issues were most recently raised when the Rwandan President called on my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development, and noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, during his visit to London from 3 to 6 December.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the level of (a) political and (b) press freedom in Rwanda. (108641)

Press freedom is enshrined in the Rwandan constitution and overseen by a High Press Council established with support from the Department for International Development. However, the misuse of the media in Rwanda, most notoriously the active role of Radio Television Milles Collines in promoting the ethnic hatred and killing during the genocide in 1994, has made the Rwandan Government sensitive to this issue and cautious about giving the media free rein.

We believe that the Rwandan Government should continue to build on the progress made so far in Rwanda’s transition to democracy. On 6 December, after meeting Rwandan President Kagame, my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, called for civil society in Rwanda to play a broader role, and for a genuine debate on the political, economic and social future of the Rwandan people.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effects of tensions between ethnic groups in Rwanda on stability in that country. (108643)

The ethnically driven genocide of 1994, and other inter-ethnic fighting which pre-dated it, have clearly left their scars on Rwandan society. However, the current Rwandan Government has sought to promote inter-ethnic reconciliation; has taken legal action against those seeking to exacerbate ethnic tensions; and has ensured that the constitution views all Rwandans equally before the law.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the post-genocide reconciliation project in Rwanda. (108644)

We believe the progress made in reconstruction, reconciliation and poverty reduction in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide is truly remarkable. However, much remains to be done, and it will be a long time before the scars of this terrible episode are fully healed. The UK is committed to do all it can to help in this process.