Mr. Saddam Hussein's Statement on Human Rights and culture at the Goethe-Institut, Kigali, Rwanda


UYSHR Programs Manager, Mr. Saddam Hussein (Left) at a panel discussion about Human Rights and Culture organised  by Goethe-Institut, Kigali, Rwanda.

In your all dignified capacities, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

I am profoundly honored to be here as we discuss the issue of human rights and traditional values in Rwanda.   

What are human rights? This can be a very difficult question but also very simple question, considering whom you Ask, human rights; these are rights everyone has simply because they are human, from refugees In camps, children in war torn areas, orphans, musicians, students and every one of you here. But we cannot appreciate the word “human rights” unless we are acquainted with how they evolved.

It all began From a man called Cyrus the great who conquered Babylon in 539 BC when he decided to do something revolutionary, by declaring that people had freedom to choose their religion of choice no matter what crowd they belonged to,   that all slaves were free to go, all his proclamations were documented on clay tablet known as Cyrus cylinder, his ideas spread to Greece, to India, to roman empire and later to England but basically known as natural law,

In 1215 AD the Magna Carta was introduced which guaranteed the rights of people which not even a king would trample on. In 1689 the British Bill of Rights was finally passed recognizing peoples’ rights that stated” all men are created Equal.

The American independence of 1776 followed by French revolution in 1789 also came to suffice. These events helped in re-defining natural law to natural rights, the subsequent world events of the two world wars however, undermined the transformation which natural rights were going through.

Following the World War II devastating results, the world thought it necessary to join together under United Nations, And to reaffirm faith in Fundamental Human Rights. In 1948 with same spirit UN under the international committee chaired by  Eleanor Roosevelt drafted the Universal Declaration of Human rights comprising of 30 rights well embedded in the document, rights such as; all human Beings are born free and equal in dignity & Rights, a right to rife, right to education, right to democracy , freedom of expression, right to own property and others with the last one stating that, No one can take away your human rights, the document was adopted by the then 56 member states thus becoming the creed of humanity and a model of today’s Human Rights,

So! Has these rights been fully enjoyed by every One?

According to Oxford English Dictionaries:  Traditions are the established customs or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another:  

Whereas Rwanda has a very rich traditions and customs which date back in centuries and are widely appreciated and respected, some traditions and practices are seen as being repugnant and an impingement to human rights enjoyment, for example, customarily women in Rwanda were not supposed to inherit land where male children were available.

Women would not be consulted in making big decision in family or community since they were always considered as inferiors. Today there is a landmark transformation supported by the current government through Laws and policies that emphasis gender equality though much is still required for those laws to resonate on ground.

According to National institute of statistics of Rwanda (NISR) shows that; sexual violence against women rose from 6,248 in 2013 to 7,322 in 2014. With physical violence against women rising from 3,984 in 2013 to 4,629 in 2014.  Out of 100,000 mothers who go to give birth, 210 (320 per World Health Organization 2015 report) are never able to live the next day’s since they die while giving birth, so how do you explain the right to social security comprising of better health care to a man that has lost his beloved wife while delivering. 50% of children between age of 1-5 years die every year.

This is shrouded by poor health care, luck of basic necessities and these are the some human kind who have the right to life and social security, Rwandan tradition considers bearing many children as a source of prestige and respect to a Man in a community, this also could be good for economic development since people can be used as engines of economy if we are to take an example of china and India.

However, many children can also be burdensome to families which can only afford one meal a day. Its good this tradition is phasing out though retaining it would seem like “making one step forward and two steps backwards” in terms of development.    

Rwandan image has been tainted by unpleasant reports indicating it to be ranked among the ten worst violators of freedom of press and expression as per economist post and freedom House. Even ranked below Zimbabwe and North Korea, but I believe the government is doing a lot to undo all mistakes that may have undermined Article 19  of Universal declaration of human rights which is in conformity with Article 35 of the Rwanda constitution and principle 9 of the later constitution.

Like what UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council said:

“Offering a space for the voices of civil society, press and people with divergent views to air grievances, and work towards solutions, should be free”.

When ordinary people can share ideas to overcome common problems, the result is better, healthier, more secure and more sustainable. It is not treachery to identify gaps, and spotlight ugly truths that hold a country back from being more just and more inclusive. When a government limit public freedoms and the independent voices of civic activity, they deny themselves the benefits of public engagement, and undermine national security, national prosperity and our collective progress. Media, citizens and civil society if enabled by the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly is a valuable partner, not a threat. Rwanda with its long tradition of “Gacaca” which resolves disagreement amicably, if there is any miss understanding in regards to enjoyment of all rights, those issues can always be settled amicably or by the judiciary through pursuit of Rule of Law.

We should also be mindful that, human rights violations are not the far reaching violations that everyone can see or feel, it’s also the small actions and behavior we curry on back in our homes and in those other small areas that we lives in. 

Thank you.  

Delivered By: kiiza .S. Hussein

07 March, 2016.