Between 10th and 18th July, 2016, Rwanda will host the 27th African Union Summit on the theme; ‘’2016: African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on Rights of Women’’. The African Union must be applauded for giving a particular importance to Human rights and specifically, women rights. On a regular basis, women across Africa suffer from systematic discrimination and abuse with limited ways and means for redress. Their rights to intimacy are violated with impunity by men. Their political and economic rights are also not guaranteed due to age-old traditional and cultural norms embedded in a male-dominated social superstructure. If the African Union is determined to do away with this cultural vestige against our women gender, it is a welcome development.
The venue, however, the AU chose to hold this summit raises eyebrows. For the past 20 years, the Rwandan government has been a consistent violator of women, men and children rights. Presently, one female opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is languishing in prison because she dared in 2010 to challenge President Kagame for the highest office of the land. Rwanda may boast of 63% of parliamentarians being women but let this figure not fool anyone. Rwanda’s parliament is a rubber-stamp, designed to legitimise executive decisions. Outside of parliament, Rwandan women’s rights are violated with impunity whether at the mercy of state apparatus or through traditional gender biases.
Present day Rwanda is a graveyard of all manner of rights taken for granted elsewhere. African Union is holding its summit on Human rights in a country known for indiscriminately abusing rights and the host, President Kagame is known for his deep-seated disdain for the very notion of inalienable human rights. Examples abound:
After paving a section of the city of Kigali to deceitfully showcase Rwanda’s clean image, a majority of citizens who do not possess enough means to look beautiful and well dressed, cannot dare walk those paved streets without fear of state police stopping them to question them where they are going and handing them hefty fines. There is a manhunt against street children, prostitutes and hawkers kidnapped and cast into Iwawa island in Kivu lake without even informing their relatives.
Rwanda, under Kagame, is the only government in the world that forbids people from growing subsistence food crops and instead orders them to grow cash crops or cut down people’s banana plantations to grow flowers for European market;
Over these past 20 years, the government has progressively and systematically uprooted independent human rights organisations and supplanted them with ones whose purpose is to promote the government agenda and whitewash its image to the outside world. The only media allowed to operate in Rwanda is government media and embedded media houses whose script is never to question the government;
Archives of the international community are awash with damning reports implicating Kagame and his government of human rights crimes, political crimes and war crimes both in Rwanda and in the region and these reports are silenced by an international crime like syndicate of corrupt former world leaders, including the infamous Tony Blair or the Belgian Louis Michel; internationally acclaimed journalists and prelate opinion leaders all in the pay of Kagame and his government using Rwandan meagre resources and Congo minerals.
Rwanda hosting a summit on human rights is akin to the Cayman’s Islands hosting one on money safe havens. While our political organisation, the National Movement Inkubiri, is in agreement with the African Union giving human rights a well-deserved platform, Kigali is the worst venue AU could possibly choose. Rwandans knowing the innumerable abuses their government subjects them to and then witnessing the continental governments converging on what is literally the scene of crime to decorate the arch criminal; it evokes a sentiment of anger, despair and disbelief.
The National Movement Inkubiri does not believe that Africa Union’s intention was to tell Rwandans that they do not count in the grander scale of things but at the same time we question the worst possible choice the African Union could have come up with knowing what they clearly know about Rwandan government’s human rights record. We can only hope that Kagame will not be given a blank cheque but instead challenged to live up to human rights standards enshrined in the African Charter on human and People’s Rights.
Done in Lyon (France)
On 9 July 2016
National Movement Inkubiri