Rwanda Abolishes Over 1,000 Colonial-Era Laws

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Three months after discussions to scrap all the country’s colonial-era laws kicked off, parliament has passed a law scrapping over 1,000 pieces of the legislation said to be outdated.

Rwanda was a colony of two countries: German (1900-1916), and Belgium between 1916-1962.

Addressing members of the parliamentary standing committee on political affairs and gender in June this year during an assessment of the government’s proposal to abolish the laws, the State Minister for Constitutional and Legal affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana said that it was a ‘shame’ that Rwanda was being guided by colonial laws enacted in the interests of colonizers.

“There are no legal loopholes that can emerge as a result of repealing them. These are not laws that we should be proud of keeping. We don’t see a problem in repealing them,” he said.

Some of the repealed laws

The legal instruments include a decree of July 22, 1930, that prohibited transfer on credit or for free of all alcoholic beverages.

Under that law of 1930, alcoholic drinks consumed on the point of their sale had to be paid for at the bar and traders were not allowed to sell the alcoholic drinks on credit or provide them for free.

Among the colonial laws also includes one that made it possible for Catholic Church missionaries to acquire so much land for the Church and until now it is still in its hands.

That massive land grab by the Church was made possible by a decree of January 24, 1943, on free assignments and concessions to scientific and religious associations and public utility establishments by the Belgian government.

Article One of the decree stated that “under the terms of this order and subject to approval by Royal Order, the Governor-General may assign or freely grant to scientific, philanthropic or religious associations and to the institutions in charge of public-interest recognized by the law, up to 10 hectares of urban land and 200 hectares of rural land”.

The Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye, told The New Times in a telephone interview that this step finally means that Rwandans can now be fully governed by the laws that they have made themselves.

“Colonial laws were made for the colonial metropole, not for colonies. They were brought to the colonies to be the legal framework to service the colonial state. This step finally means that we are and will be governed by laws made by us for us,” he said.

The said laws were enacted between 1885 and 1962 when Rwanda obtained independence from Belgium.

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