By David Himbara
A growing number of US Senators and Representatives are raising their voices about the atrocious human rights abuses and political repression by the government of General Paul Kagame. Besides expressing their individual concerns about the grim situation in Kagame’s Rwanda, the congressional lawmakers are holding a public hearing about this. On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 2:30pm, in the 2200 Rayburn House Office Building, the US Congress will put a spotlight Rwanda’s human rights and political repression. Hosted by the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), a briefing will examine “an increasingly grim for civil and political rights” in Rwanda. TLHRC describes the situation in Rwanda as follows:
“In the past several years, numerous domestic and international human rights organizations have trumpeted warnings that Kagame is using his authority to target political rivals and undermine freedom of expression. The government blocks access to news services and websites based abroad, monitors social media, permits authorities to hack telecommunication networks, maintains an onerous registration and reporting regime for nongovernmental organizations, and allows extrajudicial executions of petty offenders.
Individuals who criticize Kagame or openly challenge his administration are often the targets of government reprisals. Numerous opposition leaders have been arbitrarily arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. Close family members, employees or associates of such government critics have also found themselves targeted for arbitrary detention as a form of pressure or retaliation. Examples include 2003 presidential candidate Theoneste Niyitegeka, opposition leader and 2010 presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, relatives of government critic David Himbara, former military officers Tom Byabagamba and Frank Rusagara along with their associate François Kabayiza, and 2017 presidential candidate Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline and sister Anne.
In this context, the international community is rightfully concerned about Rwanda’s human rights situation. Panelists will review ongoing human rights abuses in Rwanda and offer recommendations for the U.S. government.
Lastly, on December 29, 2018, TLHRC reminded the world about the Rwandan opposition leader, Diane Rwigara, who was imprisoned for running against Kagame: “Peaceful political expression is not a crime. Running for office is not a crime.”