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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Rwanda

Rwanda’s constitution contains various measures to protect the environment. For example, Article 22 (Right to a clean environment) reads: “Everyone has the right to live in a clean and healthy environment”.

Similarly, Article 53 (Protection of the environment) states: “Everyone has the duty to protect, safeguard and promote the environment. The State ensures the protection of the environment. A law determines modalities for protecting, conserving and promoting the environment”.

Featured Legislation

1991: The National Environmental Strategy was created. The National Environment Strategy in Rwanda has the major objective of achieving sustainable development. To do this, this environmental strategy aims to: lead the country to achieve a dynamic balance between population and resources, while respecting the balance of ecosystems; to contribute to sustained, lasting and harmonious socio-economic development, so that in rural and urban areas, men and women can find their fulfillment and well-being in a healthy and pleasant environment; and to protect, conserve and enhance natural environments, activities which should be everyone's concern. These environments constitute natural resources of capital importance for the population on the socio-economic, scientific, cultural and tourist levels.

2008: Law No. 37/2008 (on the exploitation of mines and quarries) was signed. This law governs the exploitation of mines and quarries in Rwanda. It comprises 119 articles divided into 15 chapters, namely: General provisions (i); classification of mines and quarries (ii); prohibited sites and restricted areas (iii); mining permits (iv); small mining license (v); larger mining concession (vi); quarry permits (vii); operating agreement (viii); operating taxes and royalties (ix); provisions on substances useful for atomic energy (x); trade in mineral substances (xi); environmental impact study (xii); relationship between landowners and licensees (xiii); offences, penalties and the prosecution of offenses (xiv) and miscellaneous, transitional and final provisions (xv).

2008: Law n°62 (laying down the rules for the use, conservation, protection and management of water resources) was promulgated. The purpose of this law is to define the rules applicable to the use, conservation, protection and management of water resources. It comprises 92 articles divided into 12 chapters, namely: General provisions (I); Public water domain of the State (II); Water Institutions (III); Water Planning (IV); Water use regime (V); Special Provisions (VI); Sanitation of domestic wastewater and animal wastewater (VII); Easements (VIII); Public water and sanitation service (IX); International cooperation on shared waters (X); Penal Provisions (XI) and Transitional and Final Provisions (XII). Water is a good in the public domain of the State. Its use constitutes a right recognized to all within the framework of the laws and regulations in force. The protection and development of water resources, while respecting natural balances, are of general interest and constitute a duty for all, in particular the State, local authorities, legal entities under public and private law. , and citizens National policy for the protection, planning, use and management of water resources and aquatic ecosystems, including wetlands and marshes, is the responsibility of the State.

2010: Order of the Prime Minister n°143/03 ( establishing the national committee for man and the biosphere) was agreed upon. This decree concerns the creation, attributions, organization and functioning of the national committee for man and the biosphere. The main objective of the Committee is to promote and develop the activities of the international man and biosphere program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Rwanda.

2011: The Master Plan for Fisheries and Fish Farming in Rwanda was approved. The development of the present master plan entailed review of the situation regarding fisheries and aquaculture taking into account historical perspective, current management, and the different cross cutting policies.

2012: Law No. 30 of 08/01/23012 (on the use of agrochemicals) was ratified. This law governs the manufacture, import, distribution, use, storage, marketing, disposal of agrochemicals in order to ensure the protection of human health, animal health and the environment, to avoid any accident or contamination of their use.

2015: Law No. 41 (on disaster management) was established. This Law governs disaster management in Rwanda, by determining the primary responsibility of the State in disaster management, by categorizing disasters, and by laying down the principles of disaster management. Chapter II sets up the disaster management bodies and determines their attributions, organization and operation. Chapter III defines disaster prevention and mitigation, including disaster warning and communication and insurance. Chapter IV provides for disaster preparedness and response and response and assistance. In addition, this text provides for the chapter on rehabilitation and recovery following disasters (Chapter V); and the sources of funds allocated to disaster management, including the operating budget of disaster management bodies; the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Budget; the Disaster Response, Assistance, Rehabilitation and Recovery Budget; and the Creation of the Disaster Response Fund.

2018: Law n°48 was introduced. This law, which comprises eight (8) chapters subdivided into several sections and into 66 articles, determines the methods of protection, conservation and promotion of the environment.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Rwanda is committed to playing its part to ensure it can combat the illegal wildlife trade (IWT). Most of the species the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) are working with are affected globally by illegal wildlife trafficking so it is important that the RWCA address this cross-cutting issue, raising awareness and increasing collaboration between government institutions and other stakeholders. The Rwandan Government, Rwanda Development Board and the RWCA have been raising awareness among law enforcement personnel, the Rwanda National Police, Border Control Officials, and the Wildlife Crime Department to identify the challenges faced by professionals in Rwanda to tackle IWT. Action points and ways forward were developed to effectively combat and prevent IWT both within Rwanda and across its borders. What is more, pre and post workshop evaluations have shown an increased understanding in the local laws and global regulations on IWT and an increased confidence in knowing what to do when faced with such cases. Thus far, RWCA has a team of 50 Marsh Rangers, including 25 women, at Rugezi Marsh, a protected marshland in Rwanda home to wild Grey Crowned Cranes. Rangers are trained on how to regularly patrol the area, educating community members, reporting illegal activities and monitoring the population of Grey Crowned Cranes. The primary role, according to the RWCA, is education as many people are not aware that what they are doing is illegal. Capacity building is key here, as rangers use  a smartphone app to record sightings of cranes and regularly monitor breeding activities.
  • The RWCA is implementing a project through the BIOPAMA programme, with financial support from the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States. This project will build on our existing work to enhance the role of local communities in the protection of Rugezi Marsh and its iconic Grey Crowned Cranes.We will work towards the following BIOPAMA Action Component objectives:

# Enhance the management and governance of priority protected areas by addressing existing limitations

# Enforce the legal framework required to achieve effective biodiversity conservation

# Support local communities’ initiatives aiming to enhance the livelihoods of local people whilst effectively contributing to protected areas management

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment: