By Claude Gatebuke
The Kagame Regime is the enemy of free-thinking Rwandans. On almost every occasion that someone — Rwandan or otherwise– has spoken up about the repression by the regime, the government builds a case for a smear campaign against critics. Following smear campaigns are disappearances, prison sentences, and assassinations. In countless cases, the Kagame regime has combined prison sentences and assassinations.
Such is the case of Aimable Karasira, a university professor, musician, and famous YouTuber who speaks out on issues affecting ordinary Rwandans. He is bold and energetic, charismatic, and charming. He is also fearless, humane, and compassionate. His human values and compassion are demonstrated in the platform he built and used to address injustices affecting his fellow citizens within Rwanda. Unfortunately, Aimable Karasira has been a target of formal and informal smear campaigns and demonization by the RPF since 2019.
How Does Rwanda Smear & Outcast Dissenters?
Demonization and smear campaigns are run formally (by the government) and informally (by Kagame’s or his regime’s supporters). Formal smear campaigns typically utilize government tabloids and propaganda newspapers as well as known agents of the Rwandese Patriotic Front. In a coordinated attack, publications run articles demonizing and smearing Kagame critics while RPF agents take to social media to slander the victim. Inside the country, intelligence services track people down to express free thought against the Kagame regime.
Meanwhile, domestic and global supporters of Paul Kagame run informal smear campaigns. Those operating outside of the country compliment formal Kagame agents by spreading rumors about the victim and using “innocent criticism” to fuel anti-victim sentiments. They often claim the victim is too radical and should temper their criticism of the government, meanwhile overlooking blatant governmental abuses of power. They feign support while spreading the idea that the victim will eventually be “punished” for speaking out and us the fear of punishment as their reasons not to speak out against the regime.
Channels withing the government of Rwanda such as The Rwanda Diaspora also known as The Rwandan Community Abroad (RCA), the Center for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) and Ibuka often spearhead these informal movements. Even though CNLG is an official govenrment entity, the RCA and Ibuka present themselves as unaffiliated with the government. These channels seem harmless and front as anti-genocide and genocide survivor advocates. However, their demonstrated commitment to the Kagame regime and erasure of Rwandan Genocide survivors who do not align with the regime prove otherwise. Ibuka and CNLG serve as attack dogs for the Kagame regime, often using the 1994 genocide as blackmail against the victims of their smear campaigns. Abroad, RCA and Ibuka members conduct community surveillance and are coordinated and financied by Rwandan embassies in countries they operate in. They harass critics globally and infiltrate with the intent to destroy groups that are critical of the government. This isn’t conspiracy talk, either. It is a well-known fact among Rwandans that this happens. Global journalists, such as those at the New York Times, are also beginning to pick up on these tactics. Kagame’s advisor, general James Kabarebe stated recently in a vitriolic speech that they conduct these types of activities abroad intending to destroy exiles and refugees or Rwanda.
These cover-ups work two ways. First, they distract the general population from the abuses of power under the Kagame regime, including the ongoing killings within the country and the Congo (including babies). Second, these slur campaigns scare others into refraining from discussing the issues for fear of what will happen to them. The cycle continues in Rwanda until the newest targeted victim is willfully disappeared by government agents, indefinitely imprisoned, assassinated, or a combination of one or more of these events.
About Aimable Karasira
Aimable Karasira is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide that took place in 1994. The RPF won the war during which the genocide occurred, and the party claimed to stabilize the country. However, during their “stabilization efforts,” the RPF massacred hundreds of thousands of people– including Karasira’s parents and two siblings who had survived the initial genocide. Talking about his family and what was done to them by the RPF after the genocide has brought the hammer of government newspapers, the groups mentioned above, agents, and sympathizers of the government onto Aimable Karasira’s shoulders.
Supporters of the Kagame regime have even accused him of denying the genocide, which he has openly talked about surviving. In Rwanda, denying the genocide is a crime. Misinformation and false rumors by RPF agents about his genocide denial increased calls for imprisonment across the country. This all culminated in Karasira being arrested on May 31st, 2021.
For three weeks, Karasira has been held without a single appearance in court. During this time, he has reportedly been held in the Kicukiro jail without contact with other inmates. Rwandan law states he is supposed to appear in court within three days of his arrest, so his detainment without court appearance is unlawful.
On the weekend of June 19th, Karasira was moved to an unknown location with the claim that he contracted Coronavirus. Readers and defenders of global justice worldwide should be worried about this. Karasira has been quarantined for the last three weeks in a jail cell by himself, begging the question of how and where he picked up the virus. Those who have a working knowledge of the injustices of the Kagame regime understand this news is likely grim. The government might have detained Karasira to a torture chamber. It’s also possible that they plan on assassinating him and covering up the death as a coronavirus death. His safety has been in danger for years now, but he may be in much greater danger of being assassinated with this claim.
This would not be the first of such inmate deaths at the hands of the government. Countless outspoken critics of the Kagame regime have been assassinated in Rwandan jails. Kizito Mihigo died in police custody, and the government of Rwanda claimed that he committed suicide. There are dozens of cases of prisoners who the government has shot, and the government attempted to cover up the deaths by claiming they were trying to flee jail or prison. Many of these victims were shot while handcuffed.
What Can Be Done To Stop This?
Citizens of donor nations are generally unaware of their governments supporting repressive regimes like the one in Rwanda. One thing they can do is to share this article widely to ensure the rest of the world or their networks are informed about this issue.
Knowing about the injustices and human rights violations done by the Kagame regime, donor nations such as the US and the UK must withhold aid to Rwanda and be wary of accounts about dissidents coming from the government. The Netherlands, in particular, funds Rwanda’s judicial system — a system that has been proven to be broken. Their withholding of aid would go a long way to spark change at the government level. When criminals such as Kagame are given resources, they commit more crimes. Holding off on aid sends a message that human rights violations will never be rewarded and begs the regime to change its standards.
Donor nations must call for an immediate release of Aimable Karasira and other prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. These include Paul Rusesabagina (the real-life hero of the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda), Deo Mushayidi, Mitsindo Viateur and many more innocent Rwandans languishing in prisons. They must also produce poet Bahati Musa who has been missing since early February 2021.