August 14, 2019

Poorest Rwandans Refused Passports – Claims New Research

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A village meeting in rural Rwanda. The research claims local officials are hiding information about people from central government planners

Anti-graft group Transparency Rwanda has claimed in new research that derogatory names are being used on poorest Rwandans including that they are ‘imfungwa za leta’ or “government’s prisoners”.

The findings are contained in a research report on the Ubudehe social economic categorisations.

All Rwandans belong to one of four categories. The poorest and most vulnerable Rwandans are placed in Category 1 and 2, while relatively OK are in 3rd, as the wealthy are in the fourth category. These categories were introduced following the 2012 national census.

Currently, according to government figures, 52.4% of Rwandans are in Category 3, as 33.4% in Category 2, while 0.3% are Category 4 (wealthy).

At least 11.5% are in Category 1, whereas 1.5% do not belong in any category.

Those in category 1 are considered so poor they cannot even afford food and all the basics. They get completely free treatment in hospitals, and require less marks to qualify for university.

But as they benefit from all the freebies, according to the Transparency International partner, the government has stripped them of some of their rights.
The local government ministry has since early this year been undertaking a review of the Ubudehe program in response to fierce criticism from all corners.

A woman in Rubavu district is quoted by Transparency as saying that she had got a job outside Rwanda but could not get a passport from the Immigration and Emigration Directorate.

Another woman in Kayonza district had gotten a ‘muzungu’ (white) hubby who was preparing to take her out of Rwanda to live with him. She did not travel as she could not get a passport.

There is no known law or government policy barring poor people from passports, but these Transparency revelations are going to cause a national storm.

Already, at the event today where the Transparency Rwanda research was being unveiled, a government minister dismissed the allegations as impossible.

“I don’t know about these allegations that people are being denied travel documents, actually the authors of the research should give us identities of those affected and the officials refused,” said Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, the state minister in charge of social affairs, in the local government ministry.

The study, based on 2,400 respondents from across the country, also reports that only 50.6% were comfortable with the Ubudehe category in which they are based.

Ingabire Marie Immacule, the head of Transparency Rwanda, accused local officials of “hiding” information about the conditions of their people to get better performance rankings.

“They fabricate numbers create inexistent beings which they give to [government] to show that all people in their locality have been uplifted from poverty,” she said.

At least 40% said they had been denied a service yet they were supposed to get it.

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