A new report from the National Commission for Human Rights of Rwanda has raised a red flag on the mistreatment and abandonment of foster children by host families.
In its annual report tabled before a joint session of parliament last week, officials from the rights commission said that while a lot had been achieved, many vulnerable people were being denied basic rights.
The report looked at different programmes for protection and prevention of violence against children and the welfare of orphan children in foster families.
According to Madeleine Nirere, the chairperson of the commission, many children have been abandoned and left to seek support elsewhere, which exposes them to new risks.
“One example of a horrendous case involved a child who had been abandoned by his mother and left with the grandmother. He was locked in a pig sty and treated like a slave,” she said.
Ms Nirere said the child had suffered mistreatment and his life was in danger.
“When we went there after getting tipped off, we found the child could barely walk, was severely deformed and had been starved for a long time,” she added.
According to Ms Nirere, the district later took charge of the child and filed a case in court against the mother for abandoning her child.
The rights group report further stressed the need to improve social-protection programmes like the current VUPs (Vision 2020 Umurenge programme), which is a poverty alleviation initiative by the government that seeks to support vulnerable people.
The report categorised as vulnerable children, people living with disabilities, inmates and convicts, elderly and refugees.
“The Ministry of Gender and Family Affairs should issue directives for follow up of abandoned children, irresponsible parenting and family conflicts because they affect the welfare and safety of children,” reads part of the recommendations made in the report.
While the report acknowledged the progress made in the phasing out of orphanages, it claimed many of the children went to needy families which made their lives even worse.
The report said some of the children were not included in civil registry books, some were denied the chance to go back to school and even made to be housemaids.
“The Ministry of Local Government should provide guidelines and directives for foster families to register adopted children and enable them to access basic necessities,” reads the report.
Reacting to the findings of the report, legislators called on the commission and the government to follow up on the issues raised about neglected or abused children.
“These children have continuously had their rights denied and have no means to claim them due to their vulnerability. More effort needs to be put to support families or institutions that take care of these children,” said MP Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka.
“How do families who cannot afford to make a living end up getting custodianship of orphans? There needs to be a better way of scutinising the eligibility of foster families to avoid more cases of mistreatment,” said legislator Theobald Mporanyi.
Ms Nirere said her office received close to 410 cases last year of abuses of human rights. She was presenting the report to both MPs and senators for further probing by parliamentary committees.
The highest number of cases received were on land issue and were 704 cases in total, representing 34.7 per cent of the received cases;. Cases to do with judiciary services were 553, representing 27.2 per cent; rape cases were at 235 about 11.5 per cent while education-related cases were 102, representing five per cent.
Cases to do with the right to know a parent and be raised by them stood at 88, which represents 4.3 per cent.