Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. In 2003 President Paul Kagame was elected to a seven year term in largely peaceful but seriously marred elections. Significant human rights abuses occurred, although there were important improvements in some areas. Citizens' right to change their government was restricted, and extrajudicial killings by security forces increased. There were significantly fewer reports of torture and abuse of suspects than in previous years. Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh, although overcrowding decreased significantly in 2007. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Prolonged pretrial detention was a problem, and government officials attempted to influence judicial outcomes, mostly regarding the community-based justice system known as gacaca. There continued to be limits on freedom of speech and association, and restrictions on the press increased. Official corruption was a problem. Restrictions on civil society, recruitment of child soldiers by a Democratic Republic of Congo-based armed group, and trafficking in persons, occurred.
Improving governance, ensuring full respect for the rule of law and human rights, promoting reconciliation and conflict resolution, and increasing long-term stability both in the country and in the region are priorities for the United States. This includes a free, credible, and transparent electoral process; freedom to engage in peaceful criticism and dissent and freedom of the press; and the ability of civil society to express its views and advocate for change.
The United States is supporting efforts to end the culture of impunity for human rights abuses, to professionalize the military and security forces, to decentralize local government functions and make government institutions more responsive to citizens, and to improve both the formal judicial process and the gacaca process intended to resolve the cases of those accused of participation in the genocide.
To promote democracy during the year, the United States sponsored public outreach for political parties and university students that focused on democratic institutions and good governance, including best practices. The U.S. government sponsored three "American Corners" in universities around the country 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 via the Internet, printed, and electronic media. U.S.-funded programs supported decentralization efforts by working with local governments to build capacity and to support anticorruption, accountability, budgeting, and financial management efforts. In 2007, to promote multiparty democracy, U.S. officials organized a workshop on political communication for political parties, civil society, and the media, including information on democratic debate and pluralism, party organization, and mobilization.
To promote freedom of speech and the press, the United States provided training and development to six journalists and government officials through the International Visitor Leadership Program. Training focused on topics such as the role of the media in a democracy, ethics and social responsibility of the media, and radio broadcasting in the United States. A lecturer from a national university received six weeks of training at a U.S. institute on media and journalism, and several visiting scholars gave lectures and workshops on journalism and communications. The United States supported the country's efforts to reform the judicial sector and provide technical assistance to improve draft legislation, particularly regarding draft laws on religious communities, local and international NGOs, and the media. U.S. officials offered repeated and intensive reviews by international experts on the texts. The government qualified for a Millennium Challenge Corporation Country Threshold Plan designed to improve its performance on ruling justly indicators, particularly political rights, civil liberties, and voice and accountability, including in such areas as judicial independence, civil society participation, and press freedom. A team of U.S. officials worked with the government to develop strategies and programming designed to improve these indicators.
The United States was a forceful advocate in support of human rights and democracy in the country and raised concerns about human rights abuses with high-level government officials, NGOs, and international agencies. The United States utilized a wide range of diplomatic tools, including close monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses; technical assistance and training to promote government accountability and respect for human rights; programs to strengthen institutions, NGOs, and civil society; and proactive engagement by U.S. officials in individual cases of concern.
In 2007 the United States and the government held several high-level reviews of human rights problems with officials from the Ministry of Justice, internal security, local government, national police, prosecutor general, High Council of the Press, local civil society, and human rights NGOs. A U.S.-funded project targeted children involved in the worst forms of child labor, providing them with vocational training, legal support, income-generating activities, and increased access to education. The United States also supported an NGO that provided technical assistance to the government in drafting a national policy to combat child labor. Local and U.S. members of program teams received training on improving the implementation of women's rights and integrating gender into program activities. In 2007 national police officers also received U.S. instruction on proper interrogation and interview techniques for criminal cases including terrorism, organized crime, prostitution, and on human trafficking.
To promote stability and reconciliation, the United States provided funding to peace and security projects emphasizing conflict mitigation, including an effort to determine public opinion on the progress of reconciliation after the 1994 genocide, a program to promote unity and peace training for community mediators to peacefully resolve 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 in the country, 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 soldiers who served as UN and African Union peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.