Rwanda scraps over 1,000 colonial-era laws passed by Germany and Belgium

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Rwanda Justice Minister Johnston Busingye was in full support of doing away with the thousands of colonial-era statutes.

Rwanda has passed a law repealing over 1,000 colonial-era laws from its statutes.

This comes after Rwanda’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs State Minister, Evode Uwizeyimana advocated for the scrapping of the colonial laws.

Germany ruled Rwanda from 1900 to 1916. It was later occupied by Belgian forces until gaining independence in July 1962.

After three months of discussions and review of the laws by the Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender of the Rwandan Parliament, a law was passed to do away with the colonial laws.

For Uwizeyimana, it is embarrassingly shameful for laws enacted by colonial masters to still be valid in the Rwandan legal system.

“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law that we are yet to abolish and there wouldn’t be ways to challenge them because these laws were never officially repealed,” he said earlier this year when he asked the Members of Parliament to adopt his proposal to scrap the colonial-era laws.

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

“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.

The scrapped laws

According to a local newspaper, The New Times, Parliament passed the law repealing the colonial era legislations last week.

This means all the legal instruments that were enacted “before the date of independence” – starting with the year 1885 and ending on July 1, 1962, when Rwanda gained independence will be scrapped.

For example, the Decree of July 22, 1930, that prohibited transfer on credit or for free of all alcoholic beverages will be scrapped.

Also, the law which made it possible for Catholic Church missionaries to acquire so much land for the Church will be abolished.

The massive land grab by the Church was made possible by the January 24, 1943 decree on free assignments and concessions to scientific and religious associations and public utility establishments by the Belgian government.

Article One of the decree stated that “under the terms of this order and subject to approval by Royal Order, the Governor-General may assign or freely grant to scientific, philanthropic or religious associations and the institutions in charge of public-interest recognized by the law, up to 10 hectares of urban land and 200 hectares of rural land”.

Speaking to The New Times, Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye noted scrapping those laws mean Rwandans could now be fully governed by laws they made themselves.

“Colonial laws were made for the colonial metropole, not for colonies. 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 said.