Rwanda’s renewed commitment to fighting corruption has led to the enactment of many laws covering anti-corruption, whistleblower protection, asset recovery, money laundering, and terrorism financing.
The Office of the Ombudsman of Rwanda was established as the coordinating organ in the fight against graft, with investigation and prosecution powers and specialized chambers dealing with corruption at Intermediate Court.
A national-level advisory council against corruption and injustice was created to direct strategies and improve the sharing of information related to corrupt activity.
Rwanda is also a member of several international and regional organizations, such as the East African Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities and its asset recovery subgroup, as well as the Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Center, the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and others.
The 2018 Rwanda Governance Scorecard issued by the Rwanda Governance Board showed that 83 percent of citizens support the government’s anti-corruption, transparency, and accountability efforts.
World Bank rankings show Rwanda has made considerable progress, rising from a 26 percent score in 1996 to 71 percent in 2017. Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Rwanda 48, up from 83 in 2005 and 121 in 2006.
Rwanda currently ranks 29th worldwide in doing business, and is second in Sub Saharan Africa only to Mauritius.
In September 2018, Rwanda enacted a new law (n° 54/2018 of 13/08/2018) to fight corruption. It expanded the definition of corruption to include bribery, sexual corruption, embezzlement, making decisions based on favoritism, friendship or hatred, influence peddling, illicit enrichment, use of public property for unintended purposes, abuse of power, and demanding or receiving undue or excessive money.
The new law includes a provision to encourage reporting corruption and to discourage both giving and taking bribes:
A person who gives or receives an illegal benefit with the aim of helping justice organs to get evidences for the offence of corruption is not considered as having committed an offense, if he or she informs the judicial organs before the occurrence of the act. There is no criminal liability for a person who gives or receives an illegal benefit and informs the justice organs before the commencement of criminal investigations by providing information and evidence.
Importantly, corruption offenses in Rwanda are “imprescriptible” — that is, they are not subject to any statute of limitations.
Specialized chambers at intermediate court level were established to prosecute corruption. The court system in Rwanda is headed by the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court with its four chambers, twelve Intermediate Courts, and forty-one Primary Courts.
Each intermediate court now has specialized chambers for corruption in criminal matters.
Public and private institutions, civil society members, and international organizations are required to implement mechanisms for the prevention of corruption. The Office of the Ombudsman has the power to request administrative sanctions against the leader of an organization that fails to comply with Rwanda’s corruption prevention measures.
Concerning asset recovery, if the defendant is found guilty of corruption, the court is required to order the confiscation of property or proceeds resulting from the offense even if the prosecutor does not request a prosecution.
There is also vicarious liability for companies, cooperatives, institutions or any organizations with legal person status.
Patrick Bizimana, pictured above, is a student of IACA Master’s in Anti-Corruption Studies, and holder of Master’s in Business Law. He has worked with the Office of the Ombudsman Rwanda (the Anti-Corruption Agency) for nine years and is an Assistant Lecturer at Adventist University of Central Africa. He can be contacted here.