04 March 2013

Rwanda adopts Access to Information law


On March 04 the Rwandan government adopted the access to information legislation, making it the 11th country in Africa to adopt the law.

According to Article 19 “...the act meets standards of best practice in terms of the scope of application - it applies not only to public bodies but also to some private bodies, which carry out work in the public interest.”

Currently, consultations on implementation guidelines are being held by the Rwandan minister of information. The regulations that stem from the consultation process will spell out; time lines, records which should be proactively disclosed and grounds for refusals.

It is envisioned that the guidelines coupled with the information ombudsman will see to the proper implementation of the law.

Another positive point is that, the act stresses public interest in right to access information. This is reflected by the limit set on access fees.

Like the South African Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) the Rwandan gives permission to access information from private bodies. However, the law limits this right to private entities that are performing a public function. The exclusion of private bodies that do not perform a public function is however, a letdown, these because, bodies like mining houses are excluded from proactively disclosing information and  are also exclude from releasing information, which could be critical in protecting other human rights, such as, the right to a healthy environment.

Furthermore, because of the broad exemptions in the act, there may be some restrictions on records which relate to administration of justice and national security.