The Rwandan political opposition party FDU-Inkingi condemns in the strongest terms possible the vicious personal attack on the Chief Executive officer of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kenneth Roth, by the Rwandan parliament, something that depicts the depravity of the political system in Rwanda. It is sad and pathetic for a parliament and a national human rights commission to help cover up human abuses by the Executive and for “Honourable” members of parliament to use abusive language against whistle blowers on human rights abuses. They should rather thank HRW for filling the gap left by their omission.
During a joint session of the Rwandan Parliament (Senate and chamber of deputies) of October 19, 2017, the Rwandan parliamentarians, after hearing the report of the Rwandan National Human Rights Commission which dismissed as baseless the findings of HRW over extra-judicial killings in Rwanda, requested the government to end its cooperation with Human Rights Watch. The Rwandan National Commission for Human Rights claimed to have found alive some of the people reported dead by Human Rights Watch. One of the parliamentarians referred to Mr Kenneth Roth as “an interahamwe dog” (imbwa y’interahamwe), a “ferocious dog” (intozo). The parliamentarian called on the government to end the activities of Human Rights Watch in Rwanda as “it had done effectively with BBC Kinyarwanda programme” to stop further damage to the good image of Rwanda. The two Speakers of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, sitting side by side, never raised their voice to bring to order members of parliament who used abusive language.
We would like to point out that in Kinyarwanda culture, calling someone a dog is extremely abusive and such foul language is the preserve of people referred to as “uncultured” (abatagira umuco). Adding that he is an interahamwe is to dehumanise a person as the term has come to mean, in the narrative of the RPF regime, a killer, genocidaire. It is a dehumanising process that leads to moral exclusion, justifying hatred and even violence (verbal or physical) towards the victim of such accusation. Such accusation levelled against a Rwandan critic of the regime would justify beating and jail at its best or extra judicial execution at its worst.
The counter investigation by Radio France 24 found the HRW findings accurate in the cases it verified before being stopped by local authorities. The National Human Rights Commission had produced people with similar names who were still alive. Where it could not easily find people with similar names it attributed killings to natural death or killings by fellow men without saying what happened to perpetrators. In Kinyarwanda names are given according to prevailing circumstances at the time of birth and not necessarily the name of the father. Therefore, people could have the same names without being related to each other.
While we condemn unreservedly the personal attack on the CEO of Human Rights Watch and similar attacks on whistle-blowers on human rights violations in Rwanda, we would like to remind the international community and those who bankroll the totalitarian and repressive regime in Rwanda that they are taking a great responsibility in helping create conditions that led to genocide in 1994. For as UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, warned in his June 2014 address to the Human Rights Council, “a society without room for critical voices to speak freely and peacefully is unsustainable”, highlighting the fact that “the fear of a new genocide cannot be invoked to impede fundamental freedoms in any society, which in fact are necessary to prevent conflicts and genocide”.
We call upon the so called National Commission on Human Rights in Rwanda, to use the same expediency in counteracting HRW report in investigating the murders of our comrades Iragena Illuminée and Habarugira Jean Damascène, whose killers are still at large and other cases that identified in our earlier press releases regarding extra-judicial killings. Otherwise, the Rwandan people will legitimately consider it as an arm of the repressive regime and part of its propaganda machinery.
Done in London, November 4, 2017
Commissioner for External Relations and spokesperson