International Criminology World

World : Africa : Rwanda

According to folklore, Tutsi cattlebreeders began arriving in the area from the Horn of Africa in the 15th century and gradually subjugated the Hutu inhabitants. The Tutsis established a monarchy headed by a mwami (king) and a feudal hierarchy of Tutsi nobles and gentry. Through a contract known as ubuhake, the Hutu farmers pledged their services and those of their descendants to a Tutsi lord in return for the loan of cattle and use of pastures and arable land. Thus, the Tutsi reduced the Hutu to virtual serfdom. However, boundaries of race and class became less distinct over the years as some Tutsi declined until they enjoyed few advantages over the Hutu. The first European known to have visited Rwanda was German Count Von Goetzen in 1894. He was followed by missionaries, notably the "White Fathers." In 1899, the mwami submitted to a German protectorate without resistance. Belgian troops from Zaire chased the small number of Germans out of Rwanda in 1915 and took control of the country.

After World War I, the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and its southern neighbor, Burundi, to Belgium as the territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi became a UN Trust Territory with Belgium as the administrative authority. Reforms instituted by the Belgians in the 1950s encouraged the growth of democratic political institutions but were resisted by the Tutsi traditionalists who saw in them a threat to Tutsi rule. An increasingly restive Hutu population, encouraged by the Belgian military, sparked a revolt in November 1959, resulting in the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy. Two years later, the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) won an overwhelming victory in a UN-supervised referendum.

During the 1959 revolt and its aftermath, more than 160,000 Tutsis fled to neighboring countries. The PARMEHUTU government, formed as a result of the September 1961 election, was granted internal autonomy by Belgium on January 1, 1962. A June 1962 UN General Assembly resolution terminated the Belgian trusteeship and granted full independence to Rwanda (and Burundi) effective July 1, 1962.

Gregoire Kayibanda, leader of the PARMEHUTU Party, became Rwanda's first elected president, leading a government chosen from the membership of the directly elected unicameral National Assembly. Peaceful negotiation of international problems, social and economic elevation of the masses, and integrated development of Rwanda were the ideals of the Kayibanda regime. Relations with 43 countries, including the United States, were established in the first 10 years. Despite the progress made, inefficiency and corruption began festering in government ministries in the mid-1960s. On July 5, 1973, the military took power under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Juvenal Habyarimana, who dissolved the National Assembly and the PARMEHUTU Party and abolished all political activity.

In 1975, President Habyarimana formed the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND) whose goals were to promote peace, unity, and national development. The movement was organized from the "hillside" to the national level and included elected and appointed officials.

Under MRND aegis, Rwandans went to the polls in December 1978, overwhelmingly endorsed a new constitution, and confirmed President Habyarimana as president. President Habyarimana was re-elected in 1983 and again in 1988, when he was the sole candidate. Responding to public pressure for political reform, President Habyarimana announced in July 1990 his intention to transform Rwanda's one-party state into a multi-party democracy.

On October 1, 1990, Rwandan exiles banded together as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and invaded Rwanda from their base in Uganda. The rebel force, composed primarily of ethnic Tutsis, blamed the government for failing to democratize and resolve the problems of some 500,000 Tutsi refugees living in diaspora around the world. The war dragged on for almost 2 years until a cease-fire accord was signed July 12, 1992, in Arusha, Tanzania, fixing a timetable for an end to the fighting and political talks, leading to a peace accord and powersharing, and authorizing a neutral military observer group under the auspices of the Organization for African Unity. A cease-fire took effect July 31, 1992, and political talks began August 10, 1992.

On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying President Habyarimana and the President of Burundi was shot down as it prepared to land at Kigali. Both presidents were killed. As though the shooting down was a signal, military and militia groups began rounding up and killing all Tutsis and political moderates, regardless of their ethnic background.

The prime minister and her 10 Belgian bodyguards were among the first victims. The killing swiftly spread from Kigali to all corners of the country; between April 6 and the beginning of July, a genocide of unprecedented swiftness left up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead at the hands of organized bands of militia--Interahamwe. Even ordinary citizens were called on to kill their neighbors by local officials and government-sponsored radio. The president's MRND Party was implicated in organizing many aspects of the genocide.

The RPF battalion stationed in Kigali under the Arusha accords came under attack immediately after the shooting down of the president's plane. The battalion fought its way out of Kigali and joined up with RPF units in the north. The RPF then resumed its invasion, and civil war raged concurrently with the genocide for 2 months. French forces landed in Goma, Zaire, in June 1994 on a humanitarian mission. They deployed throughout southwest Rwanda in an area they called "Zone Turquoise," quelling the genocide and stopping the fighting there. The Rwandan Army was quickly defeated by the RPF and fled across the border to Zaire followed by some 2 million refugees who fled to Zaire, Tanzania, and Burundi. The RPF took Kigali on July 4, 1994, and the war ended on July 16, 1994. The RPF took control of a country ravaged by war and genocide. Up to 800,000 had been murdered, another 2 million or so had fled, and another million or so were displaced internally.

The international community responded with one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts ever mounted. The United States was one of the largest contributors. The UN peacekeeping operation, UNAMIR, was drawn down during the fighting but brought back up to strength after the RPF victory. UNAMIR remained in Rwanda until March 8, 1996.

Following an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in eastern Zaire in October 1996, a huge movement of refugees began which brought more than 600,000 back to Rwanda in the last 2 weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed at the end of December 1996 by the return of another 500,000 from Tanzania, again in a huge, spontaneous wave. Less than 100,000 Rwandans are estimated to remain outside of Rwanda, and they are thought to be the remnants of the defeated army of the former genocidal government, its allies in the civilian militias known as Interahamwe, and soldiers recruited in the refugee camps before 1996.

With the return of the refugees, a new chapter in Rwandan history began. As of October 2003, Rwanda’s refugee population consisted of 28,000 Congolese Tutsis at two camps in Kibuye and Byumba provinces. In 2001, the government began implementation of a grassroots village-level justice system, known as gacaca, in order to address the enormous backlog of cases. As of October 2003, some 80,000 individuals remained in detention in Rwanda, awaiting gacaca trials on charges relating to the 1994 genocide.


After its military victory in July 1994, the RPF organized a coalition government similar to that established by President Habyarimana in 1992. Called "The Broad Based Government of National Unity," its fundamental law is based on a combination of the June 1991 constitution, the Arusha accords, and political declarations by the parties. The MRND Party was outlawed. In April 2003, the transitional National Assembly recommended the dissolution of the Democratic Republican Party (MDR), one of eight political parties participating in the Government of National Unity since 1994. Human rights groups noted the subsequent disappearances of political figures associated with the MDR, including at least one parliamentarian serving in the National Assembly. On May 26, 2003, Rwanda adopted a new constitution which eliminated reference to ethnicity and set the stage for presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003. The seven remaining political parties endorsed incumbent Paul Kagame for president, who was elected to a 7-year term on August 25, 2003. Rwanda held its first-ever legislative elections September 29 to October 2, 2003. The success or failure of the Rwandan social compact will be decided over the next few years, as Hutu and Tutsi try to find ways to live together again.

Challenges facing the government include promoting further democratization and judicial reform; prosecuting more than 80,000 individuals detained for crimes relating to the 1994 genocide; preventing the recurrence of any insurgency among ex-military and Interahamwe militia who remain in eastern Congo; and the shift away from crisis to medium- and long-term development planning.


The Rwandan economy is based on the largely rainfed agricultural production of small, semisubsistence, and increasingly fragmented farms. It has few natural resources to exploit and a small, uncompetitive industrial sector. While the production of coffee and tea is well-suited to the small farms, steep slopes, and cool climates of Rwanda, farm size continues to decrease, especially in view of government ownership of all land and the resettlement of displaced persons. Agribusiness accounts for 50% of Rwanda’s GDP and 70% of exports. Tea accounts for 60% of export earnings, followed by coffee and pyrethrum (whose extract is used in insect repellant). Mountain gorillas serve as a potentially important source of tourism revenue, but Rwanda’s tourism and hospitality sector requires further development. Rwanda is one of 20 member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and hoped to form a free trade area with Burundi in January 2004. Some 34% of Rwanda’s imports originate in Africa, 90% from COMESA countries. The genocide continues to impact Rwanda’s economy; as of 2003, 30% of the Rwanda Development Bank’s outstanding nonperforming loans originated from the period of 1994 genocide. In 2003, the Government of Rwanda sought to privatize several key firms, including Rwandatel (the country’s second-largest mobile phone provider); Electrogaz, the utility monopoly; several government-owned tea factories; and the Commercial Bank of Rwanda, the country’s second-largest commercial bank.

During the 5 years of civil war that culminated in the 1994 genocide, GDP declined in 3 out of 5 years, posting a dramatic decline at more than 40% in 1994, the year of the genocide. The 9% increase in real GDP for 1995, the first postwar year, signaled the resurgence of economic activity, due primarily to massive foreign aid.

In the immediate postwar period--mid-1994 through 1995--emergency humanitarian assistance of more than $307.4 million was largely directed to relief efforts in Rwanda and in the refugee camps in neighboring countries where Rwandans fled during the war. In 1996, humanitarian relief aid began to shift to reconstruction and development assistance.

Since 1996, Rwanda has experienced steady economic recovery, thanks to foreign aid (averaging $200-$300 million per year) and governmental reforms. As of 2002, the GDP had ranged from 3%-9% per annum, and inflation had ranged between 2%-3%. Rwanda depends on significant foreign imports ($250-$300 million per year). Export rates remain weak at $75 million per year. Private investment remains below expectations despite an open trade policy, a favorable investment climate, cheap and abundant labor, tax incentives to businesses, stable internal security, and crime rates that are comparatively low. Investment insurance also is available through the Africa Trade Insurance Agency or the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The weakness of exports as well as low domestic savings rates have had a negative impact on the current account for Rwanda, thus requiring a recent currency devaluation and debt restructuring measures.

The Government of Rwanda remains committed to a strong and enduring economic climate for the country. To this end the government focuses on poverty reduction, infrastructure development, privatization of government-owned assets, expansion of the export base, and liberalization of trade. The implementation of a value added tax of 18% and improved tax collections are having a positive impact on government revenues and thereby services rendered. Banking reform and low corruption also are favorable current trends. Agricultural reforms, improved farming methods, and increased use of fertilizers are improving crop yields and national food supply. Moreover, the government is pursing educational and healthcare programs that bode well for the long-term quality of Rwanda’s human resource skills base.

Many challenges remain for Rwanda. Rwanda is dependent on significant foreign aid. Exports continue to lag far behind imports and will continue to affect the current account. Inflation may become a problem should the government resort to over-printing currency for short-term gains. The persistent lack of economic diversification beyond the production of tea, coffee, and coltan keeps the country vulnerable to market fluctuations. Rwanda’s landlocked situation necessitates strong highway infrastructure maintenance, and good transport linkages to neighboring countries, especially Uganda and Tanzania, are critical. Transportation costs remain high and, therefore, burden import and export costs. Rwanda has no railway system for port access in Tanzania, although the nearest railhead from Kigali is 380 kilometers away at Isaka, Tanzania. The development of small manufacturing and service industries is needed, and the tourism industry, now at 8,000 visitors per year, has far greater potential given the current stability, travel infrastructure, and available animal parks as well as other potential tourist sites.

American business interest in Rwanda, other than in tea and telecommunications, is weak, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has yet to make a significant impact in Rwanda. Energy needs will stress natural resources in wood and gas, but hydroelectric power development is underway, albeit primarily in the planning stages. Rwanda does not have nuclear power nor coal resources. Finally, the Rwanda’s fertility rate (averaging 5.8 births per woman) will continue to stress services, and diseases such as AIDS/HIV transmission, malaria, and tuberculosis will have a major impact on human resources.

Rwanda's government-run radio broadcasts 15 hours a day in English, French, and Kinyarwanda, the national languages. News programs include regular re-broadcasts from international radio such as Voice of America and Radio France International. There is a fledgling television station. There are few independent newspapers; most newspapers publish in Kinyarwanda on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis. Several Western nations, including the United States, are working to encourage freedom of the press, the free exchange of ideas, and responsible journalism.


The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, while the Government generally respects this right in practice, it imposes some restrictions.

There was an improvement in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. In July 2000, there were reports of detentions of members of Jehovah's Witnesses by local officials and of radio broadcasts by local officials announcing restrictions on the Jehovah's Witnesses' right of assembly and worship. However, discussions between church leaders, government officials, and U.S. Embassy officials resulted in a reversal of the Government's policy, and in May 2001, leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses in the country reported that they enjoyed religious freedom and that no members of their church were detained or in prison. Tensions lessened between the Catholic Church and the Government, largely due to the clearing of Archbishop Misago of genocide charges, and the reconsecration of some churches and their return to service, as well as increased dialog. However, the Government tore down some storefront churches and continued to watch closely for the development of cult churches after the doomsday cult deaths in Uganda in 2000.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedomThe U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

The country has a total area of 10,169 square miles and its population is approximately 8.1 million. A 2001 study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University reported that 49.6 percent of the population were Catholic, 43.9 percent Protestant, 4.6 percent Muslim, 1.7 claimed no religious beliefs, and 0.1 percent practiced traditional indigenous beliefs. This study indicated a 19.9 percent increase in the number of Protestants, a 7.6 percent drop in the number of Catholics, and a 3.5 percent increase in the number of Muslims from the United Nations Population Fund survey in 1996. The figures for Protestants include the growing number of members of Jehovah's Witnesses and Evangelical Protestant groups. There also is a small population of Baha'is. There has been a proliferation of small, usually Christian-linked sects since the 1994 genocide.

Foreign missionaries and church-linked nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) of various faiths operate in the country, including Trocaire, Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Federation, World Vision, World Relief, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Norwegian Church Aid, Salvation Army, African Muslim Agency, American Jewish Distribution Committee, Jesuit Relief Society, Christian Aid, Christian Direct Outreach, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and Jesus Alive Ministries.

There is no indication that religious belief is linked directly to membership in any political party. Of the eight parties, the only one with a religious component to its name--the Democratic Islamic Party--claims to have non-Muslim members.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, while the Government generally respects this right in practice, it imposes some restrictions. There is no state religion.

The law provides for small fines and imprisonment for up to 6 months for anyone who interferes with a religious ceremony or with a minister in the exercise of his profession.

On April 1, 2001, the Government promulgated a law requiring all nonprofit organizations, including churches and religious organizations, to register with the Ministry of Justice in order to be granted the status of a "legal entity." The registration requirement is not new, and groups can maintain their up-to-date valid registrations, renewing them only when they expire. Major religious groups and churches reported no difficulties in registering with the Ministry of Justice.

Foreign missionaries openly promote their religious beliefs, and the Government has welcomed their development assistance.

The Government permits religious instruction in public schools. In some cases, students are given a choice between instruction in "religion" or "morals." In the past, missionaries established schools that were operated by the Government. In those schools, religious instruction tends to reflect the denomination of the founders, either Catholic or Protestant. Christian and Muslim private schools operate as well.

The Government observes four religious holidays as official holidays: Christmas, The Idd-El-Fitr, All Saints' Day, and Assumption.

The Government, within its limited financial means, has sponsored or participated in a number of religious fora aimed at increasing interfaith understanding and support.

In the past, the Government forbade religious meetings at night on the grounds that insurgents formerly used the guise of nighttime "religious meetings" to assemble their supporters before attacking nearby targets; however, by the end of the period covered by this report, the Government had stopped restricting religious meetings at night and had lifted local restrictions on meetings for worship and proselytizing.

In late 2000, several "storefront" churches consisting of wooden frames covered by plastic sheeting were torn down because the churches were not registered with the Ministry of Justice. In late 2000, a few "storefront" evangelical preachers applied for status as nonprofit groups but were refused following a determination by the Ministry that the groups were profit-oriented. However, by the end of the period covered by this report, the Government's strategy had changed to one of urging the groups to register with the Ministry of Justice in order to regularize their status. At least one application for registration was accepted, and some applications were pending at the end of the period covered by this report.

In July 2000, there were reports of radio broadcasts by local officials announcing restrictions on the Jehovah's Witnesses' right of assembly and worship; however, by the end of the period covered by this report, there were no further reports of restrictions on Jehovah's Witnesses.

There were no reports of any adherents of the Temperance or Abagorozi groups being detained during the period covered by this report.

The Government continued to watch closely for the development of cult churches after the doomsday cult deaths in Uganda in 2000. During the period covered by this report, government officials noted their concerns regarding doomsday cults developing in the country in local newspapers.

Local officials detained members of Jehovah's Witnesses for refusing to participate in nightly security patrols; however, there have been no reports of detention or harassment since late 2000.

Several members of the clergy of various faiths have faced charges of genocide in Rwandan courts, in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and in foreign courts, notably in Belgium. Catholic Bishop Misago, who was cleared of genocide related charges in June 2000, again appeared on the list of accused genocidaires after the prosecution announced its intention to appeal the verdict. On October 25, 2000, two Catholic priests were released when their 1998 convictions on genocide charges were overturned on appeal.

Numerous groups, particularly human rights groups, reported that Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) troops and Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) targeted Catholic clergy for abuse. Abuses reportedly took the form of attacks on missions, killings of priests, the rape of nuns, and the burning of churches. Credible reports indicate that RCD and RPA troops deliberately targeted Catholic churches as a means of both intimidating the local population and in retaliation for the Church's perceived role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Between February and September 2000, RCD rebels and Rwandan authorities operating in the DRC kept Archbishop Kataliko of Bukavu in exile in the Kivu provinces because they suspected him of condoning resistance to the rebellion. These authorities only allowed the Archbishop's return to Bukavu, DRC, on September 14, 2000, following significant U.S. and international pressure. The Archbishop died of a heart attack the following month while in Rome.

Some religious leaders were perpetrators of violence and discrimination. For example, on June 8, 2001, a jury in Belgium convicted four Rwandans--a physics professor, a former government minister, and a nun and her mother superior from a Benedictine convent--for complicity in the murder of approximately 7,000 Tutsis in and around the town of Sovu in the spring of 1994. The two nuns were sentenced to 12 and 15 years, respectively, and the professor and former government minister were sentenced to 12 and 20 years, respectively.

There were no reports of religious prisoners, although some Jehovah's Witnesses were detained in 2000 for refusing to participate in nightly security patrols.

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

In the latter half of 2000, the Government lifted restrictions on Jehovah's Witnesses holding meetings and preaching publicly. Members of Jehovah's Witnesses who were detained for non-participation in nightly security patrols were released by September 2000. Senior government officials intervened personally with local officials to ensure that religious freedom is respected at all government levels, and local church members reported that harassment of members by local officials had ceased and that the church now enjoys religious freedom.

Unlike in previous years, few Catholic officials repeated the claim that the Government is prejudiced against the Church; senior clergy reported that relations between the Church and the Government had improved because of collaboration and dialog in the areas of education and reconciliation. The Church and the Government moved closer to a resolution of the question of using churches as genocide memorials, and several churches were reconsecrated and returned to serving the community.

Relations among the different religious groups generally are amicable. Disputes between religious groups are rare; however, in July 2000, some local authorities increased tensions between groups when they harassed members of the Jehovah's Witnesses for not participating in nightly security patrols and publicly pointed out that Protestants, Muslims, and Catholics participated regularly.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. Embassy officials maintain regular contact with leaders and members of the religious communities in the country.

In July and August 2000, U.S. Embassy officials approached senior government officials in regards to complaints of harassment and detention from local and international offices of Jehovah's Witnesses. In early 2001, Embassy officials discussed the destruction of small storefront churches with senior Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Local Governance and Social Affairs officials.

U.S. Embassy political officers held numerous meetings with members of the Catholic and Anglican Churches, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, leaders of the Muslim community, and small, evangelical Protestant groups, among others, to promote interfaith dialog and discuss religious freedom. In addition Embassy political officers regularly met with local and international nongovernmental organizations involved in peace, justice, and reconciliation efforts that focus on religious tolerance and freedoms.


Rwanda is a republic dominated by a strong presidency. The largely Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took power in 1994 and formed a Government of National Unity that functioned during the transitional period following the civil war and genocide until 2003, when elections were held. In May 2003, a country-wide referendum resulted in the approval of a new constitution, which provides for a multiparty system and nullifies the suspension of political activity, although it provides few protections for parties and their candidates. In August 2003, the country held its first multicandidate national elections since independence; President Paul Kagame was elected to a 7-year term in largely peaceful but seriously marred elections. In September 2003, President Kagame's party, the RPF, won the majority of the seats during legislative elections and therefore remained the principal political force that controlled the Government. The judiciary, which was not operational for most of the year as the country implemented judicial reforms, was subject to executive influence and suffered from a lack of resources, inefficiency, and some corruption.


The crime rate in Rwanda is low, with the important exception of murder. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Rwanda. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Rwanda will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1999 was 45.08 per 100,000 population for Rwanda, 1.00 for Japan, and 4.55 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1999 was 35.93 for Rwanda, compared with 1.47 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1999 was 114.31 for Rwanda, 15.97 for Japan, and 329.63 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1999 was .31 for Rwanda, compared with 34.01 for Japan and 412.70 for USA. (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1999, but were derived from data reported to the United Nations for 1999) No total could be given for the index crimes because data for three crimes, robbery, burglary, and larceny were not given for Rwanda.


The Minister of Defense is responsible for external security and national defense; the Minister of Internal Security is responsible for civilian security matters as well as supervision of the prisons and the national police. The Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF), which maintain external security, and the police, which maintain internal security, comprise the security apparatus. Following the formal withdrawal of all its troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002, the Government began to reorganize its military establishment to provide for a smaller force more suitable for territorial defense than for expeditionary action abroad. Government authorities did not always maintain effective control of the security forces, and there were several instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authority. Some members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses.

There were no political killings by the Government or its agents; however, there were reports of arbitrary killings by members of the LDF.

On April 29, an LDF member named Micombero beat an 18-year-old plantation worker to death in Kanama district in Gisenyi Province. By year's end, it was not known whether officials took any action against the LDF officer.

On May 14, an LDF officer named Ndacyayisenga, with the complicity of another LDF officer named Kinyinya, shot and killed Jean Baptiste Nsekanabo, after he failed to produce his identity card. The LDF officers were not arrested as of the end of the year.

LDF officers who were arrested for committing abuses in 2003 remained in jail, and none of their cases reached conclusion during the year.

There were no developments in the 2002 killing in Kigali of RDF officer Alphonse Mbayire by a soldier in uniform.

Military courts actively prosecuted RDF soldiers accused of violating the human rights of citizens. On January 28, two soldiers arrested Protais Ntiruhunwa, a young boy accused of stealing a radio and took the boy to the barracks and beat him to death. On February 6, the soldiers were arrested, although the trial was not completed at year's end. In the case against Sergeant Nyamaswa and Corporal Karangwa for the April 2003 beating death of an agronomist, Nyamaswa was acquitted and Karangwa received 5 years in prison on June 26.

Despite the official 2002 withdrawal of its forces from the DRC, during the year, there were unconfirmed reports from multiple credible sources, including a panel of U.N. experts, that the Government continued to provide material support for ex-RCD/G forces operating in the DRC under former RCD/G commanders such as Colonel Jules Mutebutsi and General Laurent Nkunda. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that the Government provided support to the Union of Congolese Patriots.

There continued to be reports throughout the year of killings and other human rights abuses, including torture, rape, and looting, committed with impunity in the DRC by both pro-DRC and anti-DRC government forces, although RDF forces were reportedly no longer directly involved. Verification of these reports was extremely difficult, particularly those originating from remote areas and those affected by active combat in the eastern part of the DRC. The Government maintained that it no longer had troops in eastern DRC, and that its influence over former RCD/G combatants was decreasing. It rejected any responsibility for the numerous serious human rights abuses committed against civilians by former RCD/G soldiers in the DRC.

During the year, the Government prosecuted nine members of the military on charges of murder or attempted murder in the DRC prior to the 2002 withdrawal. For example, on April 24, Private Phenias Kanyarwanda was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing his Congolese porter. Of the nine tried during the year, two were found innocent. The highest-ranking official tried during the year was a corporal, and he was convicted. At year's end, the Government had not opened any new inquiries into the abuses by its troops in previous years in the DRC. The appeals of RDF Sergeants Nkusi and Sebuhoro, both convicted of two 1998 murders by a military court in 2003, were pending at year's end.

According to several human rights organizations and government officials, hundreds of witnesses to the Genocide were killed throughout the country, reportedly to prevent testimonies and undermine the rural justice system (Gacaca). For example, on June 12, three persons lead by Jean Munigankiko killed Valentine Mukanzeyimana of Butare Province. Munigankiko admitted to police that he killed Mukanzeyimana because Mukanzeyimana had accused him in Gacaca proceedings of having killed his family. By year's end, police had detained suspects in connection with some of the killings.

There were reports in the northwest of killings by insurgents who were allied with persons responsible for the 1994 Genocide. On November 15, an FDLR attack on a village in Gisenyi Province resulted in two deaths. Such attacks were rare and appeared to be aimed at destabilizing the tourism economy and the April commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide.

The U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Arusha, Tanzania, continued to prosecute genocide suspects during the year

There were reports of politically motivated disappearances within the country.

On April 17, police arrested Jean Damascene Tuyizere of Gisenyi Province in Gisenyi town. A military intelligence officer questioned Tuyizere for several days at the police station, after which he was transferred to an unknown location. Several days later, the prefect of the province visited the family and said they should be careful not to travel without their identity cards. By year's end, his family had not been given news of his whereabouts.

On October 6, police arrested four campaign workers of former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu, who ran in the 2003 presidential elections. The families of Jean de Dieu Kwizera, David Habimana, Block Mugambira, and Jean Paul Kamondo last heard from the four men on October 21, and by year's end, had been given no news of their whereabouts.

On November 20, an RDF captain, Jean Leanard Kagabo, disappeared after police arrested him in Byumba Province. By year's end, his family had been given no news of his whereabouts.

There were no developments in the 2003 disappearances of two prominent citizens and four high-level government officials, including parliamentarian Dr. Leonard Hitimana.

On June 30, the Government released a report on the status of several ongoing investigations of high-profile disappearances that occurred in 2003, following the release of a 2003 government report criticizing the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), an opposition party, and calling for its dissolution. According to the report, Lieutenant Colonel Cyiza, a former Supreme court Vice-President who disappeared in April 2003, was residing in the DRC; two other military officers previously reported missing were in Burundi. In both cases, however, the Government did not provide any proof of these claims. The report provided no new information on the whereabouts of Dr. Leonard Hitimana, an MDR member of the National Assembly.

There were no developments in the case of the missing Banyamulenge (Tutsi) soldiers reportedly arrested in 2002 by the RDF; the Government continued to deny that any such arrests had occurred.

There were no developments in the reported disappearances of two persons detained in 2002 at Ndosho in the DRC by RDF and RCD/G forces.


The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary was subject to executive influence and suffered from inefficiency, a lack of resources, and some corruption. The justice system collapsed during the war and Genocide of 1994. With help from the international community, it continued to undergo a slow rebuilding process. For example, in July, the Government dismissed approximately 500 district- and provincial-level judges from the national court system who were deemed to be unqualified, and it subsequently appointed more than 230 judges as replacements. Despite the reforms, the Government did not have the capacity to ensure that provisions in the Constitution were enforced or that due process protections were observed.

The ordinary courts operated only during the last 2 months of the year. For the first 10 months, Parliament debated and passed judicial reform bills, which restructured the court system and were intended to strengthen the required qualifications for judges. During this legislative process, only courts handling high profile cases functioned. They began hearing cases again in late October, although the Supreme Court was still redistributing 40,000 pending cases, all of which were unrelated to the Genocide, at year's end.

There were problems enforcing domestic court orders. For example, security forces at times ignored court decisions and refused to release prisoners. In the high profile case against Pasteur Bizimungu, the Prosecutor's Office refused to implement the court's decision requiring officials to return material resources confiscated during Bizimungu's arrest to his family, despite appeals from the family and their lawyer. An ombudsman is mandated to conduct investigations into judicial corruption; however, by year's end, no such investigations had been conducted.

The Constitution provides for the adoption of a system of ordinary and specialized courts. Ordinary courts included the Supreme Court, the High Court of the Republic, the provincial courts, and district courts. Specialized courts included Gacaca courts and military courts.

Although the judicial reforms adopted in July were seen as providing the framework for a more independent judiciary, observers raised concerns about the fairness of the process used to appoint and dismiss judges. Despite meeting the criteria delineated in the new reforms, several judges were fired. For example, Jean Baptiste Nsabimana was dismissed despite having a university law degree and 6 years of experience.

The law provides for public trials with the right to a defense (but not at public expense), a presumption of innocence, and a right to appeal, and these provisions were generally respected in practice; however, some appeals cases were subject to lengthy delays. By year's end, there were between 67 and 100 lawyers in the country, and the abject poverty of most defendants made it difficult for many of them to obtain legal representation. An estimated 10 percent of defendants were able to afford a private lawyer. Lawyers Without Borders continued to train Gacaca judges but did not provide defense or counsel to those in need. New court officers continued to be sworn in and assigned to courts across the country, but the Government did not have a sufficient number of prosecutors, judges, or courtrooms to hold trials within a reasonable time. During the first half of the year, the Ministry of Justice--as part of a campaign to professionalize the judicial sector--began dissolving the Corps of Legal Defenders, an organization supported by international donors that provided those accused of genocide with free legal aid. By year's end, the Corps was no longer functioning.

During the year, there were trials that did not meet internationally accepted standards. On June 7, former President Pasteur Bizimungu, former transport minister Charles Ntakirutinka, and six other persons believed to be involved with Bizimungu's banned PDR-Ubuyanja party were found guilty of belonging to a criminal, antigovernment association; the eight individuals were arrested in 2002 on charges of "threatening national security by forming a criminal association." A court sentenced Bizimungu to 15 years in prison, Ntakarutinka to 10 years in prison, and the remaining six to 5 years each. The trial against Bizimungu and his seven codefendants, which began in March, was marred by a lack of corroborating evidence against the defense and was characterized by many international observers as having fallen short of international standards of fairness and impartiality. During the course of the trial, Bizimungu's attorney was detained for 24 hours for contempt of court, the judge prevented the defense from fully cross-examining the prosecution's witnesses, and the defense was only allowed to present a limited number of witnesses. The codefendants lodged an appeal in June, which had not been heard by year's end.

The RDF continued to dismiss soldiers for indiscipline and criminal offenses. The RDF routinely tried military offenders in military courts, which handed down sentences of fines, imprisonment, or both during the year. The law stipulates that civilians who were accomplices of soldiers accused of crimes be tried in military court. Civilians tried in military court had received stolen goods from soldiers, had acted as accomplices with soldiers to commit theft, or had participated in rape. Military courts tried fewer than 10 civilians during the year.

The judiciary focused on resolving the enormous genocide caseload of more than 80,000 detainees. Unlike in the previous year, the Government did not continue to implement the program referred to as the Gisovu, or pre-Gacaca, project, a release program in which genocide-related detainees and prisoners who were elderly, ill, or without files were taken to their former villages to allow villagers to make complaints against them or to confirm that there was no reason to detain them.

Gacaca courts, a grassroots participatory form of justice, served as the Government's primary judicial process for adjudicating thousands of genocide cases. Gacaca courts were established in more than 9,000 villages across the country during the year. Human rights observers have criticized the Gacaca courts of being biased against those who acted on behalf of the former government and not trying others who committed serious human rights violations from 1990 to the present in support of the current Government. The National Commission for Gacaca Courts, created in 2003, oversaw the rewriting of the Gacaca law. The new law, passed on July 19, reduced the number of judges required for a Gacaca trial, recategorized crimes, and reduced sentences. The Gacaca law provides for reduced sentences for cooperation and credit for time served. Lawyers were not permitted to participate officially in Gacaca. The procedure for observing Gacaca trials made it difficult for human rights groups to monitor the trials. The training of judges on the new Gacaca law was still being completed at year's end, and no courts had progressed beyond the pretrial phase.

In addition to Gacaca courts, genocide-related cases were tried by the ICTR and by the Government in local courts. Less than 10 percent of individuals detained as genocide suspects have been tried in ordinary jurisdictions, and local legal aid organizations reported that no genocide-related trials took place in the country during the year.

A section of the Organic Genocide Law is designed to encourage confessions in exchange for reduced sentences for the vast majority of those involved in the Genocide. Following efforts by the Government, international donors, and NGOs to widely advertise the confession provisions, 65,000 prisoners have confessed since the law was implemented in 1996. However, only a small number of confessions were processed due to lengthy administrative review and hearing proceedings, and the lack of officials to process the confessions through the system. The testimony of the 63,000 prisoners have implicated as many as 500,000 additional persons in the Genocide who have not yet been detained by police.

There were some reports of political prisoners, including former President Pasteur Bizimungu and seven other persons believed to be involved with Bizimungu's banned PDR-Ubuyanja party.

Few people had success pursuing their property restitution cases through the court system, partly because it was not functioning. There were reports that orphans, ex-combatants, and returning refugees had difficulty reclaiming their family land.


Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has registered approximately 76,000 prisoners detained on genocide or security-related charges and estimated that an additional 10,000 prisoners were detained on charges unrelated to the genocide; however, the Ministry of Justice routinely referred to the prison population as numbering 87,000. While the Government was committed to improving prison conditions, chronic overcrowding remained a major problem. During the year, the Government completed the construction of two new prisons while closing down the four remaining cachots (local detention centers) in the country.

Sanitary conditions were extremely poor, and despite continuing efforts, the Government did not provide adequate food or medical treatment. The ICRC provided 30 percent of the food in the 16 main prisons and also provided additional expertise and medical, logistical, and material support to improve conditions for inmates. Prison deaths largely were the result of preventable diseases and suspected cases of HIV/AIDS. There was an undetermined number of deaths in prison reported during the year. Prisoners may also be hired out to perform work at private residences and businesses.

Women were detained separately from men, and more than 500 minors were incarcerated with adults throughout the prison system. During the year, the Government made efforts to better ensure that minors were incarcerated separately from adults, as well as efforts to release children; however, an undetermined number of children classified as minors remained incarcerated on genocide-related charges at year's end. Pretrial detainees generally were separated from convicted prisoners; however, there were numerous exceptions as a result of the large number of genocide detainees awaiting trial. High profile political prisoners, such as former president Pasteur Bizimungu, were kept in special sections of regular prisons.

The ICRC, human rights organizations, diplomats, and journalists had regular access to the prisons. The ICRC continued its visits to communal jails and military-supervised jails.

Unlike in the precious year, there were no reports that RCD/G combatants (or ex-RCD/G combatants) incarcerated persons in the private residences of rebel military commanders.

The Constitution provided legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention; however, authorities rarely observed them in practice, and security forces continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily.

The National Police was a young organization. The National Police is headed by the Commissioner General and has two Deputy Commissioners, one for operations and another for administration. Five Assistant Commissioners oversee the various units, such as traffic, intelligence, criminal investigations, protection, and the provincial areas. The police lacked basic resources such as handcuffs, radios, and patrol cars. However, they participated in extensive training programs, and the police academy curriculum included training on human rights, nonlethal use of force, and professionalism. There was little problem with corruption or discipline within the police force due to national pride, strict training, and close monitoring.

The LDF received less training than the National Police and fall under the Ministry of the Interior, along with locally staffed "civil disorder" units. The LDF performed basic security guard duties throughout the country and were known to chase illegal street vendors, petty criminals, and prostitutes away from public areas. While they have no arrest powers, they reportedly acted with impunity. During the year, the Government initiated a project to integrate the LDF into the National Police.

The law requires that authorities investigate and then obtain a judicial warrant before arresting a suspect. Police may detain persons for up to 48 hours without a warrant, and formal charges must be brought within 5 days of arrest; however, these provisions were widely disregarded during the year. The law permits investigative detention if authorities believe that public safety is threatened or that the accused might flee. There is no bail, but the authorities may release a suspect pending trial, if they are satisfied that there is no risk that the person may flee or become a threat to public safety and order.

During the year, security forces used arbitrary arrest and detention frequently. Authorities detained numerous individuals after they expressed viewpoints unacceptable to the Government, particularly those who raised complaints about land reform and Gacaca proceedings.

In Kigali city, police arrested Eric Mutemberezi on April 12, Oscar Hbarurema on April 13, and Gad Byiringiro on April 14 and accused them of attempting to recruit young persons to join Rwandan rebels in Burundi. All were released in June because there was no tangible evidence against them.


The law did not specifically prohibit domestic violence, and domestic violence against women, including wife beating, was common. Cases normally were handled within the context of the extended family and rarely came before the courts. Since the courts were being restructured during the year, no new cases were heard. In recent years, those convicted of rape generally received sentences of from 20 to 30 years of imprisonment.

A Human Rights Watch study, released September 30, addressed justice in cases of sexual violence and highlighted that only a few perpetrators of sexual violence had been prosecuted over the past decade. The report found that weaknesses in statutory law, insufficient protections for victims and witnesses, lack of training for authorities with respect to sexual violence, and poor representation of women among police and judicial authorities have resulted in an inadequacy on the Government's part to ensure legal redress and medical assistance. According to Amnesty International, although an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped during the Genocide, the survivors still had almost no opportunity for legal recourse; and although some organizations estimate that 75 percent of genocide widows were living with HIV/AIDS, medical care was unavailable to the majority of them.

Prostitution and trafficking were problems.

Women continued to face societal discrimination. Women traditionally performed most of the subsistence farming. Since the 1994 Genocide, which left numerous women as heads of households, women have assumed a larger role in the formal sector, and many have run their own businesses. Nevertheless, women continued to have limited opportunities for education, employment, and promotion. Government efforts to expand opportunities for women included a clause in the Constitution providing that at least 30 percent of the seats in Parliament be reserved for women; women won approximately 40 percent of the seats during September 2003 legislative elections. Other efforts included scholarships for girls in primary and secondary school, loans to rural women, and a Ministry of Gender program to train government officials and NGOs in methods to increase the role of women in the workforce. The Family Code generally improved the legal position of women in matters relating to marriage, divorce, and child custody. The law allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands, and it allows couples to choose the legal property arrangements they wish to adopt; however, in practice, it was much more difficult for women to successfully pursue property claims than for men.

The Ministry of Gender and Women in Development was charged with handling problems of particular concern to women, and the Minister was an active advocate of women's rights. A number of women's groups were extremely active in promoting women's concerns, particularly those faced by widows, orphaned girls, and households headed by children.


The Government was committed to children's rights and welfare, and it attempted to provide education and health care to every child. Children headed at least 65,000 households. The Government worked closely with international NGOs to secure assistance for children who were heads of households, and sensitized local officials to the needs of children in such situations.

Education is compulsory through primary school or until age 12. While primary school fees were officially waived during the year, most parents still had to pay the fees to support basic school operations. School fees routinely were waived for orphans. Public schools lacked essential and basic supplies and could not accommodate all children of primary school age. A UNICEF study reported that 400,000 school-age children were unable to go to school in 1999. Private schools often were too distant or too expensive to serve as an alternative for many children. Examination decided entry to secondary school. According to a UNICEF report published during the year, 67 percent of primary school-age boys and girls were enrolled in school. Of the children who entered the first grade, 78 percent reached the fifth grade. Approximately 74 percent of men were literate, compared with 60 percent of women.

Child prostitution was a problem.

During the year, there were reports that former RCD/G forces in the DRC recruited, sometimes forcibly, children from refugee camps within Rwanda with the aid of local Rwandan officials. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers reported that armed groups in the DRC continued to use approximately 2,000 Rwandan children as soldiers in Ituri district of the DRC. The Government denied that any such recruitment activities occurred in the country and that Rwandan children were being used as child soldiers in the DRC.

The Government's program of demobilization and reintegration continued during the year, with a number of child soldiers from the DRC participating in the program. In January, the Government opened a demobilization center dedicated specifically to children. The Government participated in an International Labor Organization (ILO)-International Program for Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) program to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflicts and support the rehabilitation of former child soldiers. There were credible reports that, in some regions, children were recruited to work for the LDF; however, these were isolated cases.

Child labor was prevalent

There were approximately 6,000 street children throughout the country. Local authorities rounded up street children and placed them in foster homes or government-run facilities. The Gitagata Center still housed approximately 400 children, the majority of whom were rounded up in December 2003. The Government supported a "Childcare Institution" in each of the 12 provinces that served as safe houses for street children, providing shelter and basic needs. The Government continued to work with NGOs throughout the year to address the question of street children.


Rwanda is a source country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, domestic labor, and soldiering. Small numbers of Rwandan women are trafficked internally or to Europe for prostitution. As a consequence of the 1994 genocide and the AIDS epidemic, children comprise 50% of the population; an estimated one million orphans are vulnerable to exploitation. A small number of child victims are trafficked to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.). UNICEF estimates that 2,100 child prostitutes are active in Rwanda. Many impoverished children enter prostitution as a means of survival. Former adult prostitutes prey on children from rural areas, recruiting them to work in cities, often under false pretenses. The Rwandan Government has demobilized more than 500 child soldiers returning from the Congo; upwards of 2,500 are expected to return by the end of the repatriation effort.

The Government of Rwanda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government should vigorously investigate and prosecute alleged traffickers and begin to systematically monitor the trafficking problem.

Rwanda has no law specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons. However, traffickers could be prosecuted under laws that criminalize slavery, coerced prostitution, kidnapping, and child labor. In 2003, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Gender and Family Protection began a review of trafficking-related laws to identify gaps and to develop a strategy to improve the legal framework. No traffickers have been prosecuted, but the government, under direct presidential order, vigorously prosecutes cases involving sex crimes, particularly those committed against children. Rwanda prosecuted 581 persons accused of sexual crimes against children in 2003. The police assisted local authorities in identifying and destroying homes being used as brothels. In 2003, the Swedish police trained 24 Rwandan law enforcement officers to identify and investigate cases of trafficking. They also assisted Rwanda in the opening of a forensic lab in 2004 to aid police in building stronger cases against traffickers. The government monitors immigration and emigration patterns, as well as border areas that are accessible by road.

In January 2004, the government opened a residential demobilization center to prepare child soldiers returning from the D.R.C. for reintegration into their home communities. The children receive three months of rehabilitation, including counseling, medical screening, and schooling. This center is funded by the government and has received approximately 100 former child soldiers. The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission holds sensitization meetings to train the families of returning child soldiers to accept and avoid stigmatizing them. The Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs supports these families financially, through the provision of school fees, uniforms, and supplies. In addition, the Demobilization Commission supports Centers for Youth Training, where older children not returning to school learn a vocation. Throughout the country, the National Police and the Ministry of Gender and Family Protection have set up a network of doctors on 24-hour call to treat victims of sexual assault. The doctors assist police in building stronger cases against accused perpetrators.

In November 2003, the Ministry of Public Service hosted a conference to develop a strategy to address trafficking. The government conducted programs to prevent women and children from becoming victims of trafficking. During 2003, the Ministry for Gender and the World Food Program piloted a school lunch project in 200 schools to promote enrollment. The Ministry also ran solidarity camps to help street children reintegrate into their home communities and is studying the issue of child-headed households. Training on sex crimes and crimes against children is now a standard part of the police training curriculum, spurring officers to begin a program to educate primary school students on the common ploys used by traffickers. The Ministry of Labor deployed one inspector to each province to monitor hazardous child labor situations.


Rwanda does not have a significant drug-abuse or trafficking problem, although police contacts suggested that the problem had become slightly worse relative to last year. The main drugs at issue were cannabis (which may be imported but is also grown in Nyungwe Forest) and heroin. Sources felt that most of the users, particularly of heroin, have not grown up in Rwanda; the problem seems generally to be limited to some districts of Kigali and is almost unknown in the countryside. Government officials attempt to address the problem primarily through programs designed to prevent drug abuse from spreading from the existing small abuser group.

According to police sources, Rwanda does not have a large trafficking problem. Some cannabis from Nyungwe may be sold in Burundi. Otherwise, some cannabis may also be grown in the Virungas Park in Uganda and DRC, and can be relatively easily transported through the forest by the local population, as the borders in that region are porous. Raids, however, have only netted about 30 kilograms of cannabis this year. There is a smaller problem associated with heroin, which police believe is being imported from Uganda and the Congo, and used primarily by well-off urban youth.

The police have a dedicated drug unit, and other branches of the police also pursue drug-related offences. Any illegal drugs found are seized, and the police and the prosecution service take drug-related crime very seriously. Police sources say that prosecution difficulties arise due to a lack of training among all police regarding drug- related procedures and rights.

The GOR monitors all monetary transfers totaling more than $50,000 (ref B), information the police say they can access if necessary. However, nobody believes the problem is significant or organized enough in Rwanda that someone could be getting rich off the illicit trafficking of drugs.

The GOR is a party to the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Despite minimal resources, the government is attempting to meet its obligations in the following ways:

  • Illicit cultivation: there is perhaps some illicit cultivation in Nyungwe Forest, for cannabis only. The police raid the forest about once a year in order to destroy any cannabis crops they find.
  • Production: There is no indication of domestic drug production.
  • Distribution: Distribution seems to be almost exclusively in Kigali. Traffic police can seize drugs if they are found as part of routine work.

Sniffer dogs are employed at the airport in an attempt to identify illicit drugs. The police lack sophisticated equipment to do more than that. At other customs points, officials rely on intuition & experience to try to find potential drug carriers. Drug-unit officials work with customs officials to remind them of their role in identifying drugs that could be coming in. There is a police unit against terrorism; and there will soon be one for financial crime, both of which will help ferret out suspect monetary transactions. At the moment, the drug unit does not engage in regular financial investigations. They are investigating to what extent the drug trade might be organized; it does not seem to be highly so and as such the finance angle has not received a lot of attention. The GOR does not believe there is an organized trade in illicit drugs; and, therefore, there is no one getting rich off of their production and/or sale. The police have seized only small amounts of drugs. The police are working on drug abuse education campaigns in schools; the Ministry of Health also has a unit for the control of legal drugs and prevention of their abuse.


Internet research assisted by Mary Joan Flores and John Quincy Turner

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Dr. Robert Winslow
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