[JURIST] The Rwandan Chamber of Deputies [official website] has passed legislation that would make promoting "genocide ideology" a crime, punishable by life in prison for the worse offenders. The bill was passed unanimously by the country's lower house Friday, and now must be approved by the Rwandan Senate [official website] and signed by President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile] before becoming law. Some of the impetus behind the bill comes from a December 2007 government report which revealed that ethnic tensions between Hutu and Tutsi children in the nation's schools were widespread, and evidence that the divisions had been promoted by numerous teachers and school administrators. Lawmakers hope the bill will serve as a strong deterrent for future violence. The bill includes penalties for offenders of all degrees: children under the age of 12 could receive up to 12 months in a custodial rehabilitation center; political, administrative, or religious officials found guilty could face up to 25 years in prison and fines ranging from $360 to $1900; and both repeat offenders and those who commit or are complicit to an ethnically motivated murder would face life in prison - the country's maximum criminal penalty. AFP has more. The Rwanda News Agency has local coverage.
The bill is the most recent in a number of initiatives lead by the Rwandan government to extinguish the factional strife that lead to the country's 1994 genocide[BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive]. In addition to a nationwide anti-genocide propaganda campaign, the government has also abolished the death penalty in order to secure the extradition of suspects [JURIST reports] in the killings.