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Rwanda cracks down on human trafficking

Philipp Sandner / vjAugust 28, 2014

Rwanda´s President Kagame wants to curb human trafficking and has asked his people for their support. Even with state involvement, there is still room for improvement.

A young African boy sits with his back against a wall
Image: UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1152/Asselin

Human trafficking is a growing problem in Rwanda, say the country's police, although they are reluctant to give precise figures or even speculate. Nevertheless, there are many examples. Just last year, seven girls who had been dragged off to neighboring Uganda were successfully liberated. Police reported that the girls were forced into prostitution after having been lured with promises of good employment.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has now taken up the issue. "How is it possible that our children - particularly girls – have become a commodity, even though we are aware of the problem?" he asked in parliament.

President Paul Kagame
President Kagame has called on all Rwandans to fight human traffickingImage: Reuters

Stopping human trafficking is 'a national duty'

Human trafficking must stop, said Kagame in a recent parliamentary debate. He announced that the security forces needed to become more active. Equally important was to raise awareness among the general population. "This issue cannot be left solely to the police," said Kagame, adding that it was the responsibility of all Rwandans to combat this problem.

In an interview with DW, Rwanda's deputy chief investigator Tony Kuramba said the police were stepping up their efforts and had carried out operations in areas where children were known to be at risk. Kuramba said that the police had other strategies which he did not want to elaborate on at present.

The 3P Index

In global comparisons of government action against human trafficking, Rwanda is moving towards the international average, says Alexandra Rudolph from the Heidelberg-based Alfred Weber Institute of Economics. Each year the institute publishes the so-called 3P Index. Based on data from the United Nations and the US State Department, the index rates the following three categories: prevention, law enforcement and civil protection. A rating from a scale of one to five is given: the higher the rating, the better the measures taken for each respective category.

A young African prostitute and customer
Many young girls are taken from their homes and forced to work as prostitutesImage: picture-alliance/Ton Koene

The countries that do best are therefore those that achieve a total of fifteen points. The rating for 2012 awarded Rwanda a total of ten points: three out of five points for prevention and civil protection, four for law enforcement. The rating for prevention was lower than in the previous year, says Rudolph. "However Rwanda is very well positioned in the field of law enforcement. The necessary legal basis has been established; attempts are made to identify and impose relatively high penalties on human traffickers."

A group of armed child soldiers in DRC
The recruitment of child soldiers (here in DRC) is a form of human traffickingImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Nevertheless, Rudolph stresses that the most critical question is how consistently Rwanda applies its laws, not least because the area covered by human trafficking includes the recruitment of child soldiers. There have been repeated allegations that government officials supported this when in 2012 M23 rebels fought against the government in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Within East Africa Rwanda compares favorably to its neighbors in terms of measures taken against human trafficking: with a total of ten points on the 3P Index for 2012, it is ranked at no. 82 in the world, the same as Uganda and Kenya. Tanzania lags further behind. Bringing up the rear are Burundi (no. 138) and DRC (no. 149) who rank globally among the countries doing least in the fight against human trafficking.