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Rwanda: Kagame threatens challenger with prison for talking to press

The free world is still under shock after Kagame regime threatened to jail Opposition Leader and potential Presidential Candidate Victoire Ingabire if she talks to journalists.

Here is what Ann Garrison writes about it in her article “Kagame threatens challenger with prison for talking to press”

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

May 14, 2010—The Rwanda New Times reported that Rwandan Prosecutor General Ngoga threatened to jail Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza for speaking with press. Ingabire has not been allowed to register to formally run against Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
She is now facing criminal charges brought against her for challenging Kagame and his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front Party government. According to Ngoga:
The Prosecution is more specifically concerned with continued posting declarations and newspaper interviews she has been doing. The case against her is not one of robbery in which restraining physical movement would be enough to contain further damage. It is a case of destructive and divisive ideology whose damage does not require physical proximity of the offender.
Law Professor Peter Erlinder, the U.S. attorney and Lead Defense Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, who has been retained to defend Ingabire, said:
Ngoga’s threats reveal that the real purpose of the criminal charges against Madame Ingabire is to serve notice that no political opposition will be tolerated in Rwanda. And, that the 2003 ‘sham elections’ as reported by EU election monitors, and other outside human rights observers, will be repeated in 2010, unless the Rwandan government completely changes its policies to permit a functioning democracy.”
Ingabire is charged with associating with terrorists, and violations of the “genocide ideology” statutes creating speech and thought crimes unique to Rwanda, which Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and even the U.S. State Department have denounced.
Prof. Erlinder will appear at Ingabire’s next hearing, on May 24th in Kigali, to insist on her continued release on bail, return of her computers and property, an end to the state’s interference with her presidential campaign and the full disclosure of prosecution evidence and witnesses.
Erlinder has said he intends to argue that Ingabire’s internationally recognized rights to free speech have been violated, and that she is being denied due process.
He has also submitted letters to his Minnesota Senators and Congressional Representative, and to the U.S. State Department, to request protection, stating that he has reason to believe that his own life could be in danger while he is in Rwanda, because of leaked memos identifying him as a foreign enemy of the government and target for assassination.
The Human Rights Committee of the EU Parliament has written to Rwanda’s Ambassador to Belgium Gérard Ntwari. objecting to Ingabire’s arrest, and to ongoing repression of political and civil rights, including the right to free speech.

[Ann Garrison – Digital Journal]

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May 15, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda Opposition leader Victoire Ingabire punished for independent thinking!

by Prof Peter Erlinder.

Victoire Ingabire - challenges Gen. Paul Kagame and RPF

Rwanda Presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire -punished for independent thinking?

Rwanda’s Thought Police

On May 14, 2010 Rwanda’s New Times, the government daily, reported that Rwandan Prosecutor General Ngoga formally threatened to jail Presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire for speaking with journalists, following criminal charges brought against her for the “crime” questioning the policies and ideology of the current government of Paul Kagame.

According to Ngoga:”The Prosecution is more specifically concerned with continued posting declarations and newspaper interviews she has been doing. The case against her is not one of robbery in which restraining physical movement would be enough to contain further damage. It is a case of destructive and divisive ideology whose damage does not require physical proximity of the offender.”

Ngoga’s threats reveal that the real purpose of the criminal charges against Madame Ingabire is to serve notice that any political opposition will not be tolerated in Rwanda. And, that the 2003 “sham elections” as reported by EU election monitors, and other outside human rights observers, will be repeated in 2010, unless the Rwandan government completely changes its policies to permit a functioning democracy.

The three charges against Madame Ingabire include: “association with terrorist groups;” “downplaying genocide;” and, “divisionism” all of which are crimes unique to Rwanda that have been denounced by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Commonwealth Human Rights Institute and even the U.S. State Department.

The next hearing is scheduled for the week of May 24, when I will appear on Madame Ingabire’s behalf to insist on her continued release, return of her computers and property, an end to interference with her Presidential Campaign and the full disclosure of prosecution evidence and witnesses, as a prelude to dismissal of these politically motivated charges on internationally-recognized grounds of free speech, and the absence of due process.

Prof. Erlinder is the U.S. attorney and Lead Defense Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and Director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute; St. Paul, Mn. USA-he’s been retained to defend Madame Ingabire.
peter.erlinder@wmitchell.edu

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May 15, 2010   No Comments

Rwandan officials are prickly about complaints

Returning from Rwanda where he was able to uncover the sinister Rwandan Island of Shame, New York Times’ Journalist Jeffrey Gettleman concludes his report on Rwanda with the following revealing note:

Rwandan officials are prickly about complaints. President Kagame lashed out at foreign critics this month, saying, “Who should be giving lessons to Rwanda’s 11 million people about what is good for them?”

He called opposition leaders “hooligans” and said Rwandans were “as free, as happy, as proud of themselves, as they have never been in their lives.”

Several leading opposition figures, like Victoire Ingabire, say it is impossible to challenge the government, arguing that it is controlled by a cabal of Tutsis who were refugees in Uganda before the genocide and now unfairly dominate the economy.

Mrs. Ingabire, a Hutu, was an accountant living in the Netherlands until she returned in January to run for president. Today, she lives in a new housing development called Vision 2020 Estate; her sturdy, two-story brick town house is indistinguishable from dozens of others, except for the guards out front.

“There’s no space to talk about what happened in our country,” said Mrs. Ingabire, who has been charged with genocide ideology, being a “divisionist” and collaborating with rebels. It is not just Hutu politicians who feel persecuted. Charles Kabanda used to be a leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi-dominated ruling party, but split with it in the late 1990s, he said, because “they were ruthless.”

He recently worked with the Green Party, but said it had been repeatedly blocked from competing in the elections. Government officials said the Green Party failed to meet requirements like getting 200 valid signatures from all over Rwanda. Mr. Kabanda simply shook his head.

“ ‘Enemy, enemy, enemy’ — that’s what they call anyone who thinks differently,” he said. “This government’s record is dreadful. It’s only you, the international community, who is showering them with flowering praise.”

Jeffrey Gettleman – New York Times – April 30.

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May 15, 2010   1 Comment

Victoire Ingabire is not allowed to give interviews to media, says Rwandan Prosecutor General

Victoire Ingabire - Chair FDU-Inkingi

Victoire Ingabire - Chair FDU-Inkingi

KIGALI – Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, has warned Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire of FDU-Inkingi party, against giving interviews to newspapers, saying the bail terms bar her from doing that.

“She is disregarding the bail conditions and may cause the Prosecution to initiate a process of bail cancellation,” Ngoga told The New Times in an exclusive interview yesterday.

Ingabire is charged with association with a terrorist group, propagating the Genocide Ideology, Revisionism and Ethnic Division.

Ignatius Ssuuna talked at length to the Prosecutor General.

Below are excerpts.

Q: From the day she was granted bail, Ingabire has continued to conduct interviews and write several articles about her arrest. What is your take on this?

A: What the Prosecution has been observing regarding the conduct of Ingabire, who is on bail following charges of terrorism and plotting to cause state insecurity, are pointing at the breach and abuse of bail conditions. This may cause the Prosecution to initiate the process of bail cancellation.

Q: What is exactly the problem?

A: The Prosecution is more specifically concerned with continued posting declarations and newspaper interviews she has been doing. The case against her is not one of robbery in which restraining physical movement would be enough to contain further damage. It is a case of destructive and divisive ideology whose damage does not require physical proximity of the offender.

Q: When will her substantive trial begin?

A: We are keen to start the trial very soon, which will be against her person and her accomplices as well as taking steps to ensure her organization which harbours divisive ideology does not find space in the politics of our country.
We are not dealing with a unique case in a unique situation, we are dealing with a situation other countries have faced before and resolved in the same manner.

Q: Like which country?

A: The Spanish government did this with respect to Batasuna Party. Decision to contain and ban political activities of these political parties have passed the tests of hierarchy of national and continental courts in Europe.
Closeness to ETA in Spain is as dangerous to closeness to FDLR. ETA is listed as a terrorist group by Spain, the European Union and the United States.

Our critics, mostly from the West, must have regard to their own jurisprudence if they do not trust our own. We are engaged in a legal process fully complying and covered by international conventions and judicial jurisprudence.

We have reached out to our foreign counterparts to avail judicial cooperation as we seek to obtain records we consider vital in this case.

In doing so, we rely on international agreements on judicial cooperation and which here also been relied upon by the same countries to seek our cooperation. It’s time for them to reciprocate by extending judicial cooperation we are seeking.

It’s not necessarily an issue of whether we can do without these records; it is an issue of participation by all parties as we were made to understand when these agreements were offered.

Source: The New Times.

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May 15, 2010   No Comments

Praise the lord Kagame, ignore his repressive record in Rwanda!

On May 3, Mr Michael Fairbanks, Senior Advisor to Rwandan President Paul Kagame ( “working for the President of Rwanda to improve the competitiveness of that nation’s tourism, coffee and agro-industry sectors”), wrote an article in Huffingtonpost praising Paul Kagame’s leadership and achievements and minimizing the oppressive and repressive records of his master.

Here is an article published by Tom Rhodes (Africa Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists) in response to Kagame advisor’s claims:

Rwandan President Paul Kagame toured America late last month and a number of articles in the American press have sung praises to his leadership. Undoubtedly, the economic recovery under Kagame since the 1994 genocide is remarkable, but his repressive record on press freedom tarnishes this record.

A Wall Street Journal op-ed by Anne Jolis praised Kagame for his free market thinking while the Associated Press reported on Kagame’s presence at the premier of a Tribeca film, “Earth Made of Glass.” The film portrayed Kagame in a heroic light, AP reported, and was inspired by a chance dinner conversation the director, Deborah Scranton, had with Kagame two years ago.

The greatest praise and defense of Kagame’s leadership stemmed from this week’s piece written by Michael Fairbanks on HuffPost. Fairbanks applauds Kagame for his efforts to develop the economy, education, and foreign relations in Rwanda and claims critics of his press freedom record within the international community are myopic, even racist. The premise has merit — the international community must end its arrogance and listen to Rwandans more instead of pushing their own rash solutions. But all these authors seem to listen to only one Rwandan — Paul Kagame.

Fairbanks questions why a CNN interview with Kagame, for instance, focused too much on “a minor opposition candidate” Victoire Ingabire. Ingabrire, a Hutu opposition party candidate for the upcoming August elections, was detained April 21 and questioned in court over alleged “evidence of wire transfers showing that Ingabire sent thousands of dollars” to a ruthless Hutu paramilitary group. But Fairbanks failed to mention that she was released on bail the following day since the state prosecutor could not provide sufficient evidence to prove the allegations.

Press freedom organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are admonished by Fairbanks for defending two local-language “so-called opposition newspapers,” Umuseso and Umuvugizi, which were recently suspended. Umuseso and Umuvugizi constitute the only critical local media voices left in the country, and both are now conveniently banned prior to the presidential elections. He goes on to contrast these suspensions with a myriad of international media organizations allowed to operate in the country. While many international media houses do visit Kigali, the one with local-language programming and regular local coverage, BBC, is often intimidated and has been suspended in the past.

Where Fairbanks strategically omits information, at other times it appears his facts are plain wrong. A famous Rwandan general once aligned with Kagame reportedly fled this year fearing arrest after he was accused by the government of terrorism. A few independent journalists went into hiding after Kagame announced at a press conference that he was aware of some journalists interviewing the allegedly dissident general. But Fairbanks spoke to a “senior military official” and claims the general actually fled the country because he was caught cheating on his wife, not for any political reason. The international press was fooled, Fairbanks says, into portraying a womanizer as a valiant opponent to oppression. But perhaps Fairbanks should listen to more Rwandans than one military elite — the general accused of infidelity is currently in a Rwandan jail and never fled as claimed.

No doubt blanket criticism of the Kagame is unjustified, but so is blanket sycophancy. As it currently stands, Kagame will run in the August presidential elections with only one opposition party “allowed” to register and no independent local media to cover them. Thanks to the likes of Fairbanks, western donors will praise Kagame for holding the elections and the foreign aid will continue to flow, whether the people of Rwanda approve or not.

Source: Tom Rhodes – Article: “More Paul Kagame Sycophancy From the Press” – Huffingtonpost – May 12.

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May 15, 2010   No Comments

Democratic Green Party of Rwanda is not an RPF Wing Party

Frank Habineza - Chair of Democratic Green Party of RwandaFrank Habineza – Chair of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

Referring to the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda Declaration published on May 10 (see our article Democratic Green Party of Rwanda committed to Non-violence, Rwanda News Agency published an article titled “U-Turn from Green Party amid registration uncertainty” (see
Rwanda: Is Green Party becoming an RPF satellite party? in which they revealed, among other things, that the Green Party has distanced itself from opposition colleagues and come out in support of the “different achievements made by the RPF led Government”
Green Party finds that its declaration has been misinterpreted by RNA and has urged RNA to publish the following correction:

Green Party response to RNA story

The News Editor
Rwanda News Agency
KIGALI, RWANDA

Dear Editor,

Subject: Urgent Demand for Correction of Article titled: U-Turn from Green Party amid registration uncertainty

We are so much disturbed and concerned with the way you interpreted our Declaration on Non-Violence in your article published on Tuesday 11 May, titled: U-Turn from Green Party amid registration uncertainty. We urgently request you to make the following corrections:

1. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, has not made any U-Turn.

We are still an opposition party but we believe in the Global Greens Charter and African Greens Charter, which oblige us to respect the principle of Non-Violence. This is not something new, our party has always been non violent, but we wanted to clear out any misconceptions on us.

We have no soldiers, we don’t work with FDLR as some media houses have claimed and we don’t support war or any other causes of war.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda is not a party for those who may have intentions to throw the country backwards in bloodshed. It’s a party deeply rooted in green ideology, which can be found on our website: www.rwandagreendemocrats.org, or on www.africangreens.org and www.globalgreens.org

2. NO, we haven’t distanced ourselves from opposition colleagues; we believe that any one is innocent until proven guilty.

We demand fair trial and immediate justice. We believe that justice delayed is justice denied.

3. The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda that we established in February 2010, still exists even though it has been affected with the problems happening in PS Imberakuri.

4. Recognizing achievements made by the RPF led Government does not make the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda an RPF Wing Party but it’s something any reasoning person or group can recognize.
We believe that we should give credit where it’s due and criticize where necessary.

5. We believe in a constructive opposition, like the one in UK, which allows the Conservatives to put aside their differences and work together with the Liberal Democrats and at the same time send the ruling Labour back in the opposition.
So we don’t see anything unreasonable to appreciate the good things that have been achieved and that does not make us loose our political line.

6. We remain an opposition party and we are not going to fight with any one, we come with a message of peace and hope.

We thank you very much in advance for taking care of our serious concern by publishing another article.

Yours Sincerely

Frank HABINEZA
Founding President,
Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

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May 15, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda Government attacks The New York Times over Iwawa Prison Camp report

Kigali – Following a damning story published by The New York Times early this month accusing Rwandan government of forcefully deporting hundreds of youths to the remote Iwawa Island on Lake Kivu, the government has fired back.

In the article titled ‘Rwanda Pursues Dissenters and the Homeless’ of May 01, The New York Times reported that government had forced up to 900 “beggars, homeless people and suspected petty thieves, including dozens of children” to the island because they undermine the image of the country.

The paper claimed among them includes even children. It cited Gasigwa, 14, who whispered “Please call my father,” adding, “He has no idea where I am.”

“We call it the island of no return,” said Esperance Uwizeyimana, a homeless mother of four.

“None of the vocational training programs had started by mid-March. Protais Mitali, the youth minister, insisted there were no street children here, just adults. Yet squeezed in with the men were many adolescents like Gasigwa, and employees confided that several dozen boys were incarcerated here.”

Rwandan teenagers detained in remote Iwawa Island prison campRwandan teenagers detained in remote Iwawa Island prison camp

“This isn’t a good place for children,” one employee said in hushed tones because the minister was nearby. “They could get abused.”

In the story, several government officials including the Minister were quoted as well as critics.

The New York Times summarized Rwanda, based on this project and other issues, as: “orderly but repressive”.

Now Rwandan Government has angrily fired back. In a letter to the American daily, Youth Minister Mitali dismisses all the accusations.
Read the whole letter below:

Youth Center in Rwanda

To the Editor:

Re “Rwanda’s Mix: Order, Tension, Repressiveness” (front page, May 1):

The Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Development Center at Iwawa Island was established to equip young Rwandans living on the street with skills to make them employable. There is nothing sinister or repressive about the center; institutions of this kind can be found in many countries around the world.

The center caters to young men over 18; younger street children are housed and trained at a separate center east of Kigali, run by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion. None of the young people had to go through the justice system simply because they are not criminals and the center in Iwawa is not a prison. In addition, all of them are carefully screened twice, in Kigali and again once they arrive on the island.

Your reporter writes that he spoke to a 14-year-old boy. Although most of the young people do not have identification documents and often don’t know or lie about their age, anyone found to be younger than 18 is immediately transferred to the center for children.

I object to accusations of repression behind an initiative established with the best intentions to retool otherwise delinquent youth with the capacity to lead meaningful, dignified lives and contribute to the development of their country.

Protais Mitali

Minister of Youth

Kigali, Rwanda, May 5, 2010
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May 15, 2010   2 Comments