Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. President Paul Kagame was elected to a seven-year term in 2003; the next presidential election is scheduled for 2010. Chamber of Deputies elections that took place in September 2008 were peaceful and orderly, despite irregularities. Significant human rights abuses occurred, although there were improvements in some areas. Citizens' right to change their government was restricted, and extrajudicial killings by security forces occurred. There were significantly fewer reports of torture and abuse of suspects than in previous years. Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Prolonged pretrial detention was a problem, and government officials attempted to influence judicial outcomes, mostly regarding the community-based justice system known as gacaca. There continued to be limits on the freedoms of religion, speech, and association. Restrictions on the press increased. Official corruption was a problem. Restrictions on civil society, recruitment of child soldiers by a Democratic Republic of Congo-based armed group, and trafficking in persons, also occurred.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

Improving governance, strengthening democratic institutions, ensuring full respect for the rule of law and human rights, promoting reconciliation and conflict resolution, and increasing long-term domestic and regional stability are U.S. priorities. These priorities include building a free, credible, and transparent electoral process; advocating the expression of peaceful criticism and dissent; and enhancing freedom of the press. The United States also works to promote increased social cohesion so that all citizens feel they have a vested interest in the development and governance of their country.

The United States supports efforts to end the culture of impunity for human rights abuses, to professionalize the military and security forces, and to decentralize local government functions so that government institutions are more responsive to citizens. The United States also advocates enhancing the role of civil society and broadening political participation. Additionally, the United States is working to improve both the formal judicial process and increase access to justice through provision of legal aid services to the poor. All of these efforts complement other donor programs and are linked to other areas of bilateral cooperation including health, education, and economic growth.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

In 2009 the United States will begin a three-year program to address civil liberties and political rights. The program focuses on strengthening local and national civil society organizations; building the capacity of local officials to enable civic participation; increasing the professionalism of the media; strengthening the judicial sector through professional development and enhancing judicial independence; facilitating legislative reforms; and supporting the police to effectively monitor and improve performance. In 2008 the U.S. supported a one-year political party strengthening program to improve the capacity of political parties to establish and articulate platforms and to develop and respond to party constituencies. The United States provided training and development to seven journalists and local officials through the International Visitor Leadership program on topics such as investigative journalism, conflict resolution, and transparency and good governance.

The United States also sponsored public outreach events including lectures and workshops for political parties, journalists, and university students that focused on democratic institutions and effective political communication. The U.S. supported a library and an "American Corner" in a national university that provided students with access to current and reliable information on democracy and human rights, conflict management, economic growth and development, and health and HIV/AIDS. These materials were available via the Internet, print and electronic media. U.S.-funded programs supported decentralization efforts by working with local governments to build capacity and to support anticorruption, accountability, budgeting, and financial management efforts.

The United States supported judicial sector reform and provided technical assistance to improve draft legislation, particularly draft laws on religious communities, local and international NGOs, and the media. A U.S.-funded project targeted children involved in the worst forms of child labor, providing them with vocational training, legal support, income-generating activities, and increased access to education.

The United States was a forceful advocate in support of human rights and democracy and raised concerns about human rights abuses with high-level government officials, NGOs, and international agencies. The United States utilized a wide range of diplomatic tools, including close monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses; technical assistance and training to promote government accountability and respect for human rights; programs to strengthen institutions, NGOs, and civil society; and engagement by U.S. officials in individual cases of concern, including assistance to journalists under a human rights support fund, and advocacy on behalf of human rights NGO staff.

To promote stability and reconciliation, the United States provided funding to peace and security projects emphasizing conflict resolution, including an effort to determine public opinion on the progress of reconciliation after the 1994 genocide, a program to promote unity and peace training for community mediators to resolve land disputes, and a live, call-in radio program on stereotypes, authority, communication, and youth contributions to community peace and reconciliation efforts. U.S. security assistance programs continued in the country, including military education and training programs in the United States and elsewhere focused on human rights, rules of engagement, and rule of law. Those who received training included troops who served as peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.