PRESS BRIEFING ON THE SITUATION IN RWANDA.

  1. Democracy
  • In the run up to 2010 presidential elections, Umuseso and Umuvugizi were suspended; Jean-Leonard Rugambage, a journalist working for the banned newspaper Umuvugizi was gunned down; his colleague who had fled to Uganda survived kidnapping in Ugandan security services. A second presidential hopeful, Bernard Ntaganda was arrested and thrown into jail, the Vice President of the Green Party was beheaded by suspected government agents just before the 2010 presidential elections. The editor of Inyenyeli newspaper who run to Uganda was gunned down in Kampala on 1st December 2011, Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, chairperson of the leading opposition Party United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), was arrested in May 2010 three months before elections and ruled out of participating in the elections. She was arrested and detained in October 2010, two months after the elections. General Kayumba Nyamwasa, former chief of Staff who had fled to South Africa survived two assassination attempts in June 2010.
  • In 2017, Ms Diane Rwigara who attempted to run against President Kagame in 2017 was barred from standing by the Rwandan electoral commission on alleged forgery of signatures. She was later jailed only to be released one year later for lack of evidence. Another presidential hopeful Gilbert Mwenedata fled the country after elections for fear of arrest.
  • The following month on 26 September, eight leaders and members of the United Democratic Forces-Inkingi (FDU-Inkingi) party were charged with forming an irregular armed group and with offences against the President.
  • Those arrested in September included FDU-Inkingi’s assistant treasurer Léonille Gasengayire. She had been arrested in March 2016 and remained in police detention for several days; she was rearrested in August 2016 and prosecuted on charges of “inciting insurrection or trouble among the population”. On 23 March 2017, she was acquitted and released only to be detained again in September 2017.
  • Since then critics of the regime are either in jail, dead, in exile or live in constant fear irrespective of ethnicity. There has been Stalinist purges in the army to weed out any critics and to intimidate the remaining. As the US Human Rights country report 2017 points out the clampdown on the opposition include: “arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture; harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on civil liberties; restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, hence denying citizens the ability to change their government through free and fair elections
  • On March 31, 2016, the Military High Court of Kanombe sentenced Colonel Tom Byabagamba and retired Brigadier General Frank Rusagara to 21 and 20 years in prison respectively, for charges including for inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image. The prosecution accused them of criticizing the government, alleging state involvement in assassinations of opponents, and complaining about foreign and economic policy.
  • Elections in Rwanda are not free and fair: Rwanda is one of the remaining countries where a President scores 99% of the votes (98.79%). There is no magic wand used to get this score if not through coercion. The period before and after presidential elections are marked by clampdown on political opponents and severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and association, as well as unlawful killings and suspicious disappearances.
  • Lack of political participation by citizens: the Country Review Report of the Republic of Rwanda 2006 by African Peer Review mechanism pointed out that “while the Rwandan Constitution guarantees freedom to form, join and belong to political parties, it simultaneously undermines that freedom by attaching onerous conditions, such as political parties not being able to operate at the grassroots below the provincial levels which effectively “amounts to a denial of much political activity to citizens, as most people reside at the district, sector and cell levels”.
  • The Economist Magazine expresses the same concerns pointing out that “The RPF has marginalized or smeared dissenting voices in the name of “one Rwanda” while the ruling party’s supporters are accruing wealth and power.
  • The Centre for Strategic and International Studies report (2011) rightly highlights the fact that the Rwandan regime was “an authoritarian government unwilling to countenance criticism or open political debate”.

2. Human rights

  • Rwanda is considered by Freedom House report 2018, as a no free country with a score of 23% on political and civil liberties compared to 24% in 2017, Reporters without borders 2018 report on freedom of expression ranks Rwanda 156 behind Tanzania 93, Uganda 117, Kenya 96, and the Democratic Republic of Congo 152. 
  • Survivors of torture reported: “beatings, asphyxiations, electric shocks, mock executions.  They also reported other methods used which include also having weights tied to their testicles, others of being handcuffed with their hands behind their backs for days on end”.
  • Théophile Ntirutwa, the party’s Kigali representative, was detained on 6 September and held incommunicado until 23 September 2016. He was later charged with supporting an armed group.
  • Violette Uwamahoro, a British national and wife of a member of the outlawed Rwanda National Congress (RNC) opposition group, went missing as she arrived by bus in Kigali on 14 February 2017. She had travelled from the UK to attend her father’s funeral in Rwanda. The authorities initially denied knowledge of her whereabouts. However, she was held in incommunicado detention until 3 March when the police announced that she was in their custody.
  • On 22nd February 2018, Rwandan police officers shot live rounds at a crowd of hundreds of refugees who were protesting the reduction of humanitarian assistance at Kibiza Refugee Camp. 11 refugees died. 
  • The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture suspended its visit to Rwanda in October 2018 citing obstructions by the authorities, including limitations on access to places of detention and confidentiality of some interviews
  • Human Rights Watch has documented 104 cases of illegal detention and torture in military detention centres between 2010 and 2017 (www.hrw.org ).
  • The UN mapping report (2010) has estimated that Rwandan forces had caused the deaths of 200,000 Hutus in its invasion to remove President Mobutu of Congo.  Prunier, French expert on the Great lakes, has since estimated that the toll is closer to 300,000. According to the U.N. report, these deaths could not be attributed to the hazards of war or to collateral damage. “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces.” According to the report “the apparent systematic and widespread attacks described in this report reveal a number of inculpatory elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be characterized as crimes of genocide. Besides the two invasions of the Democratic Republic of Congo by triggered what came to be called the 1st African world war that caused more than 6 million deaths and for the Human Rights Watch to conclude that: “by accepting the “normality” of slaughter (RPF killings in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo) for political reasons, the international community may be contributing to the conditions that will produce the very repetition of genocide they have vowed to prevent”. Africa should take the lead in condemning such atrocities.
  • Life has become so cheap that people are shot for pity crimes like attempting to steal a goat or even still a bunch of bananas. Human Rights Watch a credible human rights organisation report 2017 stated that “State security forces in Rwanda have summarily killed at least 37 suspected petty offenders and forcibly disappeared four others since April 2016. Most victims were accused of stealing items such as bananas, a cow, or a motorcycle. Others were suspected of smuggling marijuana, illegally crossing the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo, or of using illegal fishing nets”. Prisoners are shot every week under the pretext that they were trying to escape.

3. Rule of Law

  • The CHRI accused Rwanda and rightly so of using “ the constitution opportunistically as a façade, which hides the exclusionary and repressive nature of the regime; relying on power structures that sometimes run parallel to, and sometimes cross-cuts the formal government and in which the army plays a central role”. Some political analysts have called the Rwandan army  “an army with a state rather than a stated with an army”.
  • Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Chair of FDU-Inkingi Party was arrested in 2010 following an interview in which President Kagame stated when asked about her: This woman will certainly be where she belongs (i.e. prison); now the outsiders who want so badly Ingabire to be an opposition leader here or later on be our president, well, they may wait for a while.  She has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment accused of minimising genocide, spreading rumours to turn the population against the government and forming an armed group to fight the government. 
  • When she appealed to the African Court for Human and People’s rights, it ruled that her rights were violated during the trial and called for reparations. In the ruling the court “Orders the Respondent State to take all necessary measures to restore the rights of the Applicant and to submit to the Court a report on the measures taken within six (6) months. The government has ignored the ruling. 
  • Following the 2017 elections, the presidential hopeful Ms Diane Rwigara, was arrested following a warning by President Kagame in which President Kagame declared that “no one should be allowed to evade tax even those who tried to stand in presidential elections and did not make it”, telling the Justice Minister that he hoped that he understood what he meant. She was soon arrested with her mum. The goal posts were later changed from tax evasion to forgery of documents.  Diane and her mum face a common charge “inciting insurrection or trouble among the population” and Diane faced an additional charge “forging or alteration of documents and “use of counterfeited document. 
  • The East African court of Justice in its ruling between the Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda and Ms Plaxeda Rubumba (acting on behalf of her brother Colonel Rugigana) appeal no. 1 of 2012 ruled that the rights of Colonel Rugigana had been violated under the East African Community Treaty, that he had been held illegally and ruled that “the Appellant (Rwanda government) shall bear the Respondent’s costs of this appeal and of the Reference in the First Instance Division”. The Rwandan government has not respected this ruling six years down the line.  
  • The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion finding the detention of former military officers Tom Byabagamba, Frank Rusagara, and François Kabayiza by the Government of Rwanda to be in violation of international law. The Working Group—an independent panel of five human rights experts from around the world—called for the release of the three men. The Rwandan government instead tightened the conditions of detention 

Repression across borders: 

  • Critical voices inside Rwanda, dissidents and real or perceived critics outside the country—in neighbouring Uganda and Kenya (a former Minister Seth Sendashonga and former MP Colonel Lizinde were gunned down), Mozambique, South Africa and Europe including UK have been victims of assassination, assassination attempts and mere attacks and threats. Just one example:  A former bodyguard of President Kagame Joel Mutabazi was picked from a UN safe house in Uganda and brought back to Rwanda. 
  • This is the only country where a Head of State boasts of hang ordered the murder of a national in a foreign country.  In his speech at the Leadership Retreat on March 9, 2019, President Kagame said that his former Home Affairs Minister Seth Sendashonga was murdered in Nairobi – Kenya because he had crossed the line. In January 2014, while referring to the murder of his former chief spy Colonel Patrick Karegeya, he told a “Prayer Breakfast” congregation that when you betray your country you have to bear the consequences adding that “it is a matter of time”.
  • This is a country that a president states that he would order extra judicial killings. Responding to US government criticisms over enforced disappearances on June 2014, he said that he would go further and said that he would order his men to shoot in broad day light those who threaten his regime.

4. Separation of Powers

As the Centre for Strategic and International studies rightly points out “The National institutions of countervailing power i.e. independent legislature and judiciary, the media and politically active civil society groups- are very much constrained under RPF control and are thus unable to fulfil their potentially stabilising role as formal channels for national debate and peaceful political competition

The Rwandan parliament is good only for rubberstamping laws as directed by the Executive. The judiciary is under the thumb of the executive i.e. the President. What he wants is law. 

Officials of independent civil society organisations critical of government have left the country.

5. Good Governance

  • Rwandan situation: 
  • All major political and power-related matters are decided by the President, together with his key advisers; the political strategy seems to consist of maintaining the economic and social status of a narrow but well controlled power base: the elite, higher functionaries, military and police officers, key party officials, and businessmen close to the government. 

Corruption. 

  • Rwanda is reputed for zero tolerance of corruption. While it is true that petty corruption has been greatly reduced  corruption in the form of excessive patronage, nepotism, job reservations, ‘favour-for-favours’, secret party funding, and suspiciously close ties between politics and business has increased.
  • One can hardly explain how Kagame’s son, Ivan C. Kagame, 27, recently bought a $2 million mansion in a New York’s upper-class neighbourhood of Scarsdale. FormerPresident Paul Kagame’s physician, security adviser and spokesman, Ndahiro used his shell company to purchase a jet and commercial property abroad. In 2015 he became brigadier general in the Rwandan armed forces. This was a mere cover because these properties belonged to the ruling party.
  • Transparency International report 2018 has revealed that University lecturers topped the list of people who take bribes. It was revealed students pay as much as 500,000 Rwandan francs to get a good mark, that judges were paid no less than 50,000 and to get case ruled in one’s favour. The bribes given in the education sector, courts and traffic police is said to have totalled around 6 billion francs.

6. The Role of Civil Society

  • Civil society in Rwanda is very weak, due to many years of state intimidation and interference. The government remains hostile to criticism of its human rights record and strongly favours service-delivery over independent human rights reporting or advocacy

7. Freedom of Expression

  • Criticising the government policies and policies has been criminalised under various articles of the penal code including:
  • Article 233: Humiliation of national authorities and persons in charge of public service. Potentially you can be tried to criticise government officials.
  • Article 236: Insults or defamation against the President of the Republic. Potentially you can be tried for to criticising the President
  • Article 194: Spreading false information or harmful propaganda with intent to cause a hostile international opinion against Rwandan Government. Potentially you can be tried for to criticising government policy because what it is giving a narrative different from the government is considered to be spreading harmful propaganda.
  • Article 204: Causing uprising or unrest among the population Any person who publicly, either by a speech, writings of any kind, images or any symbols, whether displayed, distributed, purchased or sold or published in any manner, incites the population to reject the established Government. Potentially you can be tried for to criticising the government because by doing so you would be inciting the population to reject the government.

8. International peace and security

  • On 21st June 2012, members of the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo presented a report dated 18th May 2012 to the United Security Council  and later released an addendum detailing the role of the government of Rwanda  in violating both the arms embargo and the sanctions regime including Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23, provision of weapons and ammunition to M23, mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23, direct Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23, Support to several other armed groups as well as FARDC mutineers in the Eastern Congo.  Namibia had to send its troops to dislodge the murderous rebel group M23 formed and trained by Rwanda.
  • A panel of six independent, in a confidential report to the United Nations Security Council, accused Rwanda of providing training, financing and logistical support through early 2016 for Burundian combatants crossing from Rwanda to DRC, seeking to oust Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza.
  • Rwandan Defense officials have been accused of collaborating and facilitating militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo including, Mai Mai Yakutumba (Forces armées alléluia), Nduma Defence for Congo (Mai Mai Sheka), Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo libre et Souverain, Forces Patriotiques pour la libération du Congo, Armée de Résistance Populaire.

The two invasions of the Democratic Republic of Congo triggered what came to be called the 1st African World war that has cost more than 6 million lives, the deadliest war since the 2nd world war. It is an offence to the African conscience that President Kagame who caused this lost is getting red carpet reception in African capitals. It can be construed that African lives don’t matter at all.  

Done in Rouen on August 21, 2019.

Théophile Mpozembizi 

Commissioner of the FDU-Inkingi in charge of Information and Communication 

infocominfo@fdu-rwanda.com; info@fdu-rwanda.com

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1 https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/252929.pdf

2 https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/01/rwanda-ex-military-officers-convicted-over-comments

3 DRC: Mapping human rights violations 1993-2003:  

4 ttp://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/rwanda/Geno1-3-03.htm#P86_35545).

5 http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/923580/-/x064gg/-/index.htmlf

6 http://en.african-court.org/index.php/56-pending-cases-details/867-app-no-003-2014-ingabire-victoire-umuhoza-v-republic-of-rwanda-details

7 http://www.freedom-now.org/news/rwanda-un-declares-detention-of-former-military-officers-arbitrary-calls-for-release/

8 https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/28/rwanda-repression-across-borders

9 https://www.glpost.com/kagames-son-ivan-c-kagame-recently-bought-a-2-million-mansion-in-a-new-yorks-upper-class-neighborhood-of-scarsdale/

10https://www.okayafrica.com/panama-papers-african-leaders/

11 https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/rwanda

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