The following information reports U.S. government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Rwanda to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Rwanda's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.
Part I: 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 around the Great Lakes 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 works also 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 Rwanda's efforts to protect the human rights of its citizens, to professionalize its military and security forces, and to decentralize government functions so that local government institutions are more responsive to citizens. The United States advocates enhancing the role of civil society and broadening political participation. Additionally, the United States is working to improve both the formal and informal judicial process, as well as access to justice through provision of legal aid services to the poor. The United States seeks to achieve these objectives in partnership with the Rwandan government. These efforts complement other donor programs and are linked to related areas of bilateral cooperation including health, education, and economic growth.
Part II: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States is an advocate in support of human rights and democracy and raised concerns about human rights issues with high-level government officials, NGOs, and international agencies using various diplomatic tools including close monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses and programs to strengthen institutions, NGOs, and civil society. In 2009, the United States began a three-year program to address civil liberties, voice and accountability, 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 conduct internal investigations and be more accountable to citizens. In 2008, the United States supported a one-year political party strengthening program to improve the capacity of political parties to establish and articulate platforms, resolve internal conflicts, and develop and respond to party constituencies; the United States extended the program for an additional year in 2009. Between June and December 2009 the United States provided training and development to five journalists and local officials through the International Visitor Leadership program (IVLP) on topics such as television broadcast journalism, the U.S. judiciary system, conflict resolution, the U.S. political process, and transparency and good governance. In 2010, the United States supported seven Rwandans through the IVLP, including a program on women and justice. In 2010, the United States plans to observe the country's national elections to help increase transparency. Recognizing the difficulties faced by human rights defenders, the United States continues to explore ways to provide rapid assistance to defenders, if and when their rights are threatened.
The United States also sponsored public outreach programs including lectures and workshops for political parties, journalists, civil society, and university students that focused on democratic institutions and effective political communication. The United States 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, which ended in December 2009, supported decentralization efforts by working with local governments to build capacity and to support anti-corruption, 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 or at risk of becoming involved in exploitative child labor, providing them with vocational training, legal support, income-generating activities, and increased access to education.
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 train community mediators to more effectively mediate 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, 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.
In 2010 the United States plans to increase efforts to foster transparency in the mineral trade involving the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring countries, including Rwanda.