ODESUDI organized a stakeholders’ dialogue on access to information that brought together 21 CSOs and media organizations. This was in a bid to have a dialogue on ATI and devise means to promote access to information in Rwanda through a joint co-created network/Forum. The idea of co- creating this network is aimed at promoting stakeholders involvement in the promotion of ATI through a co-created and co-owned forum.
The dialogue took place at ODESUDI’s conference room and resulted in the establishment of an a Rwanda Access to Information Network entitled (RATIPON) made up of the following organizations OXFAM-Rwanda, NEVER AGAIN RWANDA, Rwanda Human Rights First, LDGR, ALBEF, PALEM Rwanda, ADTS, Igihe-LTD, DUTERIMBERE NGO, CCAIBE, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RWANDA, East African Civil Society Organization Forum (EACSOF-Rwanda), Youth organization (YDPD-Association). ASOFEWA, AJEPRODHO, Pelum-Rwanda, APECOS-Rwanda, FIOM Rwanda, ARTCF and Rwanda Media Commission (RMC).
The dialogue started by the Director of Programmes at ODESUDI welcoming participants to the dialogue and explaining the objectives of the dialogue to participants. He informed participants about the need to explore appropriate solutions to Citizens’ Access to Information.
The challenges identified to citizens’ access to information include limited public awareness on ATI and scattered efforts or engagement of stakeholders. It is in this regard that ODESUDI introduced the need for the co-creation of an access to information policy forum in order to enhance synergy and networking among stakeholders for optimising available resources and space.
Participants to the dialogue also discussed the issue of limited engagement of CSOs in the promotion of access to information in sensitizing the public on ATI especially those at the grass root. Hence, this forum is seen to be a solution in stimulating CSOs dialogue and engagement in the promotion of ATI.
Jackie KAYITESI a representative from OXFAM-Rwanda appreciated ODESUDI’s innovation and courage in promoting access to information and commended their access to information website. She however mentioned the need to farther engage with communities on their access to information rights.
ODESUDI created www.sobanukirwa.rw access website in partnership with Tumenye LTD to help the Rwandan society to get access to information by sending their request freely through website and after the response is released, the sender receives the email alert.
Mr. Stephen Abbott Pugh a member of the sobanukirwa team, made the presentation demonstrating to participants on how they can take advantage of the system in advancing their ATI rights. All stakeholder’s on access to information commended sobanukirwa initiative and how it provides easy means of getting information from public and some private bodies. Sobanukirwa website is very easy for anyone to use because it is translated in three different languages; English, Kinyarwanda and French which are commonly used in Rwanda. This makes it simple for anyone to access the information needed in the preferred language.
The ATI (access to information law) in Rwanda sates that “ It is not required that anyone to demonstrate a specific legal or personal interest in the information requested or sought or otherwise required to provide justification for seeking access to the information”.
ODESUDI has been advocating to the OMBUDSMAN’s Office to update contact details of information officers at various sectors in order to easy the filing of access to information requests to public bodies. It has also established a toll free telephone line to facilitate those with no access to the internet. The hotline 4636 helps people to call or text ODESIUDI office which helps them to send their requests to the right information officer.
Mr. Fredrick informed participants to the dialogue that the delay of responding to the requests by the information officers is mostly caused by incorrect contacts due to high turn ups of personnel in public institution as a result of the recent restructuring that took place. This will be solved by using institutional contacts or emails of information officers and avoid using individual email address and the office of the Ombudsman is Kin to assist in resolving this issue. ODESUDI has also provided training on ATI to public information officers from districts. This helped them to know their roles and responsibilities which will help in getting quick ATI feedbacks from public institutions.
The great justification for the co-creation of the ATI policy forum/ Network is to encourage stakeholders to join hands in promoting FOI through enhancing sensitization campaigns, policy analysis, research and advocacy. ODESUDI together with the stakeholders on access to information will engage with stakeholders from public, CSOs and media institutions.
ODESUDI is working on producing ATI booklets to make them available and accessible to the public. It will also create media clubs in Secondary schools and Universities to enhance awareness on FOI agenda. The program also aims at enhancing information sharing through public space like community work (umuganda) which will be an added advantage to the promotion access to information in Rwanda.