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State Sovereignty versus Individual Human Rights in the Case of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994

by Kayumba P. David

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Pub date: 2008
Pages: 121
ISBN-10: 1599426811
ISBN-13: 9781599426815
Categories: Political Science


This study entitled ‘State sovereignty versus individual human rights’ is a critical reflection of the relationship between sovereignty and (individual) human rights especially as it related to the Rwandan genocide in which about a million people perished in only 100 days. The fact that Rwanda government conducted a genocide against its citizens and continued to enjoy the benefits of sovereign rights of independent states such as the protection from foreign interference, well knowing that peoples rights were being violated, moved me to question the legitimacy of state sovereignty of an abusive government.

The purpose of this study was to find out whether the people’s sovereignty has been hijacked from the Rwandans by the state, and misused as a shield to mask violations of individual rights from international scrutiny. And further determine whether state sovereignty was made an excuse for non-intervention to stop the genocide. Therefore, the study set out to accomplish the following objectives; to establish the attitudes of the citizens about their sovereignty and independence in light of the past and present governments; to assess the role of sovereignty and international response to the1994 genocide; to examine the current level of human rights observance in the country; and make recommendations.

I employed a qualitative Ex-post facto study design since I was looking at the conditions that had already occurred. In such a case there is no manipulation of conditions i.e. the genocide had already occurred. So the design was deemed appropriate in as far as the descriptions of facts.

The study was conducted in Kigali, which was the epicentre of the genocide. Using purposive and simple random sampling techniques, a sample of 100 respondents was selected from a study population of 1000 people comprising civil servants, government officials, church leaders, civil society leaders and locals. Using self-administered questionnaires and interview guide data was collected and responses got, were organized, tabulated, and the frequencies determined.

The discussion and analysis of data collected gave the following findings; that sovereignty was not a common right in pre-genocide Rwanda and that the 1962 independence was a Hutu independence rather than Rwandan; it was found out that there was gross misuse of sovereignty by the state government, which culminated in the successive and 1994 genocide; the international community breached the 1948 Geneva Convention obligation; there is considerable observance of human rights by the current government although there are still serious human rights concerns.

It was recommended that human rights education be incorporated in the education curriculum at all levels to combat cognitive dissonance among Rwandans. Secondly, that those countries that were concerned in one way or another, should account for the untold suffering that the people went through, and thirdly, that the international community (UN) should be restructured to have new standards for prompt humanitarian intervention and that state sovereignty should cease to be used as justification to shield human right abuse. And finally, it is recommended that a regional Crisis response force be established for prompt deployment to the crisis area as an African initiative. I believe these recommendations are relevant to the UN, AU, and the civilized nations in the quest to protect human rights of all peoples everywhere.

About the Author

Kayumba David was born in Uganda in 1970. He attended Bugema Universty where he graduated with a degree in Theology in 2003. In 2006, he graduated with a Masters of International Relations from Nkumba University.