By David Himbara
When President Paul Kagame speaks at Harvard University on March 10, 2017 about his political and economic achievements, his hosts should at least be aware of the latest U.S. government report on Rwanda’s human rights situation. Released on March 3, 2017, the U.S. government’s 2016 Country Report on Human Rights Practices paints a dark picture of Rwanda. Included in the depressing catalogue of atrocities is the Rwandan “security forces’ disregard for the rule of law.”
In this context, the Report notes that while the Rwandan constitution prohibits torture and other cruel/degrading treatment of detainees by police, military, and National Intelligence and Security Services officials, such ugly practices have become the norm in Rwanda.
The list of atrocities cited by the American government report is long – including:
- Abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates;
- Repression of individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control;
- Security forces’ disregard for the rule of law;
- Restrictions on media freedom and civil liberties;
- Restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties.
Parts of the Report paints an even gloomier picture, as in the following section:
“Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; government restrictions on and harassment of some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights and media freedoms.”
The Report indicates that 2016 was worse than 2015: “There were several reports the government committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, representing a slight increase compared with the previous year.” There were also more disappearances: “In contrast with the previous year, there were several reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year.”
Perhaps, the most horrific and extensive abuses in 2016 involved the so called “transit centres” described in the US government Report as follows:
“Conditions were generally worse and often harsh and life threatening in detention and transit centers…Upwards of 200–400 men, women, and children were detained at any one time in each of the Mbazi, Muhanga, and Mudende transit centers, while the number of detainees in Gikondo ranged from 200 to 800 persons, who were held in several large rooms.”
Harvard University seems to have become attached to Kagame. He is a regular speaker there – he was hosted by the university last year. He frequently guest/lectures in Harvard Business School for Professor Michael Porter, who is a member of Kagame Presidential Advisory Council. Who says being a great knowledge centre has anything to do wisdom or morality!