Trending Topics

Rwanda Does Away with Over 1,000 Colonial-Era Laws

The Rwandan government is saying goodbye to more than 1,000 laws left over from German and Belgian rule of the East African nation, describing them as “outdated.”

According to The New Times, parliament passed a law last week that would abolish scores of colonial-era statutes, including laws mandating race-based segregation and pay-as-you-go rules on alcoholic beverages.

Rwanda Justice Minister Johnston Busingye

Rwanda Justice Minister Johnston Busingye was in full support of doing away with the thousands of colonial-era statutes.
(Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP PHOTO/Getty Images)

Germany ruled Rwanda from 1900 to 1916, and it was later occupied by Belgian forces until gaining its independence in July 1962. Earlier this year, State Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs Evode Uwizeyimana griped that the nation was still being governed by colonial law, saying, “These are not laws we should be proud of keeping.”

Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye couldn’t agree more, and was among the parliamentarians who voted to strike the colonists’ laws from the books.

“The colonial laws were made for the colonial metropole, not for colonies,” Busingye told The New Times. “They were brought to the colonies to be the legal framework to service the colonial state.”

“This step finally means that we are and will be governed by laws made by us for us,” he added.

One of the leftover laws made it possible for the Catholic church to acquire large swaths of land for its ministries. Under the 1943 decree, the governor general was free to assign or grant “up to 10 hectares of urban land and 200 hectares of rural land” religious, philanthropic or scientific organizations.

Another less serious statute required that alcoholic drinks be paid for at the bar rather than be put on a tab or “credit.” Giving away free drinks was also prohibited.

Many other colonial laws reflected the racism of the time, including those that called for separate living areas and communities for white people and Rwandans, according to The New Times. A decree signed in October 1940, was related to “hygiene standards” in indigenous (Black) constituencies and other traditional groups.

The aforementioned laws were authorized between 1885 and 1962, when Rwanda would finally gain its independence.

Back to top