The term ombudsman (om-budz-man) originated in Sweden the first country to have an Ombudsman in 1809 when the Swedish Parliament appointed an Ombudsman to resolve problems in the absence of the king. It essentially means “representative”. An ombudsman is an official, usually appointed by the government or by parliament , who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individual citizens.
Following the Swedish Ombudsman is the Finnish Ombudsman, which dates from 1919 and Denmark’s Ombudsman of 1954. After Sweden and Finland (1919), other countries followed the trend. The African continent also followed the trend in 1950s, Tanzania being the first country to create the office in 1965 and the idea has spread into several countries. However, not all countries in the world that adopted this kind of office use the word ‘Ombudsman’. Several names have been given to the institution following their systems and practices.
In Kinyarwanda (Rwandan language), Ombudsman is called “Umuvunyi” which is a word rooted from kingdom period where “Umuvunyi” was a person in charge of receiving citizens who wanted to meet a King or an Authority for different reasons such as bringing a complaint, thanking him or warning him on a given issue, etc.
“Umuvunyi” had firstly to listen to those people who want audience with the king or the Authority, it was up to him to know if that person has to meet the King or the Authority or if he/she has to be oriented to another relevant organ.