Rwanda abolishes more than 1,000 colonial-era legal(law) guidelines

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Members of Parliament are analyzing a government proposal to abolish 1000 legal instruments that were enacted by the colonial-era regime.

The proposal was tabled before the parliamentary standing committee on political affairs and gender in the Chamber of Deputies by State Minister for Constitutional and Legal affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana.

Uwizeyimana yesterday assured MPs that repealling all the legal instruments that were enacted in pre-independence Rwanda under the colonial regime won’t create any legal gaps.

The minister said that “it’s a shame” the legal instruments enacted by the colonial masters are still valid in the Rwandan legal system because they were never officially repealed.

Among them are instructions, orders, laws, and other forms of instruments which are often referred to in the country’s institutions like courts of law.

“Today, a stubborn lawyer would easily invoke a colonial law that we are yet to abolish and there wouldn’t be ways to challenge them because these laws were never officially repealed,” Uwizeyimana said, asking the MPs to adopt the proposal.  

Rwanda abolishes more than 1,000 colonial-era legal(law) guidelines

“It is hard for us to explain how we still have colonial laws when we currently have a functional parliament,

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“Right now we are fighting for our economic independence and there is no way we can’t fight for our legal independence as well,” he added.

At the parliamentary committee level, discussions on the draft law repealing all legal instruments brought into force before the date of independence of Rwanda kicked off on Wednesday.

The bill has proposed to cancel all the legal instruments that were enacted in Rwanda “before the date of independence” and it defines that period of time as starting with the year 1885 and ended on July 1, 1962, when Rwanda gained independence.  

Rwanda abolishes more than 1,000 colonial-era
Rwanda abolishes more than 1,000 colonial-era

The legal instruments include laws, decree-laws, decrees, legislative ordinances, law-ordinances, ordinances, ordinances of Ruanda-Urundi, royal orders, decrees of the Governor General, orders of the Resident and Special Resident, regulations, presidential orders, ministerial orders, edicts and declarations.

They were enacted by either the German or the Belgian colonial administrations when the country was under occupation by the colonialists.

While many MPs on the committee wanted reassurances that cancelling the colonial laws won’t leave the country with a legal void, the minister said that even if a legal gap is identified afterwards, the country’s current leaders and parliament will be ready to fix it.

“These are not the laws that we should be proud of keeping. We don’t see a problem in repealing them,” he said.

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The bill has put together an index of 1000 legal instruments which will be abolished as an example of specific laws that will be cancelled once the bill is passed into law.

The chairperson of the Rwanda Law Reform Commission (RLRC), Aimable Havugiyaremye, equally agrees with the state minister that the colonial laws need to be cancelled as part of the law reform agenda.

abolishes more than 1,000 colonial-era legal(law) guidelines
abolishes more than 1,000 colonial-era legal(law) guidelines

“We won’t have gaps after abolishing these laws,” he said.

He added that repealing all colonial laws is in line with finding home-grown solutions for the country’s challenges.

“If we previously had governments that really sought independence, these laws would have been abolished. Previous governments did not care about this. It is our responsibility today to repeal these laws,” he told the legislators.

The committee will review the draft law on behalf of the entire Lower Chamber of Parliament and then introduce it back to the House for final review and passing.

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