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Rwanda adopts access to information law

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - ARTICLE 19 welcomes a comprehensive new access to information law, which came into effect in Rwanda on 11 March 2013. This is a positive step by the Rwandan Government, which must be given full effect.

“This passage of this law shows that the Rwandan government is keen to entrench transparency and accountability as well as enhancing greater participation by citizens in the management of public affairs. We are enormously proud to be associated with the spirited campaign that has championed this law” said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

ARTICLE 19 has led multi-stakeholder initiatives advocating for the enactment of this law with local groups like the Rwanda Civil Society Platform.

ARTICLE 19 finds the law exemplary in terms of its scope of application. The law applies not only to public bodies but also to some private bodies, which carry out work in the public interest. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of the public interest in the right to information and we are pleased to see that this is reflected by limited fees to pay, which would cover the cost of the reproduction of papers and for postage.

The law also has clear provisions on proactive disclosure and allows for all people to seek, receive and disseminate information.

ARTICLE 19 notes that the law has some broad exemptions, where access to information may be restricted in relation to national security and the administration of justice and trade secrets.

ARTICLE 19 now calls on the Minister of Information to speed up the consultation process on implementation guidelines.

“We are hopeful that the ministerial implementation guidelines, together with oversight by the Office of the Ombudsman should ensure that this new law properly implemented,” added Maina.

ARTICLE 19 recommends that all access to information applications should be addressed within 30 days.

“It is absolutely vital that the guidelines make it clear that where requests for information have not been dealt with in time or where the information requested has been denied, the person requesting that information is entitled to an appeal to the Office of Ombudsman,” added Maina.

ARTICLE 19 recommends that an appeal should be place within 60 days.

The passage of this law makes Rwanda the 11th African country with a right to information law, and the 94th country globally. Other African countries with comprehensive access to information laws include South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Niger, Guinea-Conakry and Tunisia.

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