Rights group accuses Rwanda of detaining and abusing street children

Kigali – Rwanda, often lauded internationally for its economic progress and reintegration after the 1994 genocide, is detaining and abusing street children at a holding centre in the capital, an international rights group said Monday.

Two homeless boys who had been held at the holding centre, known as the Gikondo Transit Centre, confirmed to Reuters that they had been abused there, giving accounts that were similar to those compiled from 30 children in the report by by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch.

Rwanda’s justice minister, Johnston Busingye, said the centre trains young people in skills including carpentry and welding and rehabilitates them from life on the streets.

“These centres are run in full compliance with law,” he said in a text message to Reuters.

Rwanda adopted a law in 2017 that defines Gikondo, open since 2005, as a rehabilitation centre for people including minors exhibiting “deviant” behaviour. Human Rights Watch said the government is arbitrarily arresting and holding people there, and subjecting them to ill treatment.