From mountain Gorillas to Elephants, Rwanda is home to some of the world's most iconic species. Guest writer Lily Scott will explore how the small landlocked country has shown significant commitment towards wildlife and environmental protections becoming one of the leading voices on the African continent.
However the road to restoring the wildlife populations has not been easy. The Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 resulted in the death of around one million people. Wildlife was decimated and 90% of the cattle population in the country were killed. Key areas for wildlife such as Akagera Park became battlegrounds during the genocide and were later significantly reduced in size in order to accommodate displaced populations.
As land was fought over, poaching and human wildlife conflict became a significant issue. However, the conservation of Rwanda’s species diversity and restoring species populations has become a key goal of the government. Through focusing on addressing economic opportunities for local communities, poaching patrols and community sensitisation programs, many species have been restored in the country.
The protection, however, of domesticated animals has not been prioritised and therefore lags behind the progress Rwanda has made in protecting wildlife.
The Legal Framework
The Constitution is the Supreme Law of Rwanda. It enshrines conservation and environmental protection within Article 53, providing that everyone has the duty to protect, safeguard and promote the environment and the State ensures the protection of the environment.
The Organic Law instituting the Penal Code provides strict penalties for poaching wildlife under Article 417. Poaching, selling, injuring or killing a Gorilla or other endangered animal species shall be punishable by a prison term of more that 5 years to 10 years and a fine of five hundred thousand (500,000) to five million (5,000,000) Rwandan francs.
It also provides for the mistreating or killing of domestic animals under Article 436. Any person who, mistreats livestock or domestic animals, in a way to compromise their health shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of eight (8) days but less than six (6) months and a fine of twenty thousand (20,000) to five hundred thousand (500, 000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties. While those who maliciously and without reasonable justification kills or seriously wounds livestock or domestic animals belonging to another person, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to one (1) year and a fine of two hundred thousand (200,000) to two million (2,000,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.
Despite Rwanda's strong commitment to the protection of wildlife, there is limited concern and enforcement of the laws against cruelty to domestic animals. Education surrounding the welfare of domestic and companion animals is limited and remains largely unenforced.
Local authorities routinely engage in cruel activities, such as the poisoning of stray dogs due to their negative image in the country. This is at a time when dog breeding and ownership is growing. Rwanda should take the issue of animal cruelty and welfare seriously by enforcing current legislation and enacting more thorough laws to protect domestic animals alongside wildlife laws.
This post is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you require legal advice on animal protection laws please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.