Human Rights Watch has repeatedly propagated, through various media, a false narrative about Rwanda's management of street children and other vulnerable citizens. HRW has also decided that the rescue of street children is a method used to clean Kigali streets - a cynical and vile accusation. The latest instance is HRW's January 2020 report.
The Government of Rwanda is strongly committed to protect its children. Among other institutions responsible for protecting children's rights is the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and the National Commission for Children.
More specifically, the Rwanda National Rehabilitation Service was established to ensure that street children are either reunited with their families or relatives, or sent to rehabilitation centers to gain life skills. The Service continues to build infrastructure and management capacity, to reform, rehabilitate, and provide skills to destitute young people, so that they are not left in the streets, where they are exposed to exploitation, drugs, prostitution, and crime.
Rwanda has 28 transit centres located all over the country, including the Kigali Transit Center at Gikondo, which serves as a temporary accommodation for children rescued from miserable conditions in the streets.
Once at the centres, they are screened to determine identity and immediate needs like medical treatment, hygiene essentials, clean clothing and bedding. They are then either taken back to their families or guardians, or transferred to a rehabilitation centre.
At the Kigali Transit Centre, a Screening Committee meets daily to analyze each case that arrives at the centre. The Committee assesses whether a child can be reunified with the family, transfers those with physical and psychological problems to health facilities, and enrolls those without health problems in rehabilitation centers.
Between 2017 and 2019, the Kigali Transit Center screened and reunified 1261 children with their families, while 2564 were transferred to the government-operated Gitagata Rehabilitation Center and 18 other private rehabilitation facilities in the country, managed by civil society and faith-based organizations
According to the National Rehabilitation Services; between July 2017 and December 2019, 5,065 children at the government-operated Gitagata centre and 18 private rehabilitation centres have either been reintegrated back in their families, or cared for and provided with education and skills.
Today hundreds of former street youth have acquired valuable, life changing skills in areas such as tailoring, catering, carpentry, welding, plumbing, masonry, driving and others. Most have turned out to be resourceful, self-sustaining and law abiding citizens.
The Government of Rwanda will continue to strengthen our protection and rehabilitation institutions to ensure that every Rwandan citizen, especially vulnerable children and young people get the best chance of living a normal and decent life.