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Rwanda rights violations record January to July 2010

by Human Rights Watch.

Rwanda: Attacks on Freedom of Expression, Association, and Assembly in the Run-up to Presidential Election

January to July 2010

The following is a chronology of violations of the right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly in Rwanda, and related events, from January through July 2010, leading up to presidential elections on August 9. Human Rights Watch documents listed in related materials provide additional information on some of these cases.

The chronology focuses primarily on selected incidents affecting members of opposition parties, journalists, and nongovernmental organizations. It is not an exhaustive list, and Human Rights Watch has documented additional incidents that are not included.

January 16 Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, president of the FDU-Inkingi opposition party, returns to Rwanda after 16 years in exile.
January to April Ingabire is summoned by the police on numerous occasions and interrogated in relation to alleged collaboration with armed groups, in particular the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR). The FDLR is an armed group active in the Democratic Republic of Congo, consisting in part of individuals who carried out the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. She is also questioned in relation to her public statements criticizing the government, leading to accusations of genocide ideology and incitement to ethnic divisions. These accusations relate, in part, to statements she made at the genocide memorial in Kigali, in which she called for massacres of Hutus to be acknowledged – in addition to the genocide – and for justice for these crimes.
January to May Local authorities repeatedly deny the Democratic Green Party (another opposition party) and the FDU-Inkingi permission to hold their congress meetings, one of the conditions for registering as a political party. Both parties are unable to register.
February 3 FDU-Inkingi member Joseph Ntawangundi is beaten outside the local government office in Kinyinya, Kigali.
February 4 Frank Habineza, president of the Democratic Green Party, is threatened by an unknown man at a Kigali restaurant.
February 6 Ntawangundi is arrested on charges of having participated in the genocide.
February 21 Meeting of the PS-Imberakuri opposition party is disrupted violently by members of a dissident faction.
February 22 Court finds three journalists of the independent newspaper Umuseso – the editor, Didas Gasana; a former editor, Charles Kabonero; and Richard Kayigamba, a reporter – guilty of defamation in relation to an article published in their newspaper, in a case that began in 2009. Kabonero is sentenced to a year in prison, Gasana and Kayigamba to six months each. Each is fined a million Rwandan francs (approximately US$ 1,755).
February 28 Former Rwandan general, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, goes into exile in South Africa and begins speaking out against the Rwandan government and President Paul Kagame.
March 3 Deogratias Mushayidi, former journalist and exiled opponent of the government, is arrested in Burundi.
March 5 Burundian police hand over Mushayidi to the Rwandan authorities.
March 10 Immigration authorities cancel the work visa of Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Rwanda, Carina Tertsakian.
March 17-24 Ntawangundi, of FDU Inkingi, appears before a gacaca court – a community-based court set up to try genocide cases. After initially pleading not guilty, he changes his plea and confesses to participating in the genocide. He is sentenced to 17 years in prison.
March 17 A dissident faction of the PS-Imberakuri names Christine Mukabunani the new party president in an effort to oust Bernard Ntaganda, the party’s founder and president.
March 19 Mushayidi is brought before a court and accused, among other things, of endangering state security, collaboration with terrorist groups, minimizing the genocide, genocide ideology, and divisionism.
March 23 Ingabire is stopped by the police at Kigali airport and prevented from traveling abroad.
April 5 In a Senate hearing, members of the Senate Political Commission claim that accusations of genocide ideology against Ntaganda are well-founded. The Senate had summoned Ntaganda on two occasions in late 2009 to answer accusations of genocide ideology in relation to his public statements criticizing government policies.
April 13 The Media High Council suspends the two independent newspapers Umuseso and Umuvugizi for six months.
April 21 The Umuvugizi editor, Jean-Bosco Gasasira, flees Rwanda after receiving repeated threats.
April 21 Ingabire is arrested on charges of genocide ideology, divisionism, and collaboration with terrorist groups, including the FDLR.
April 22 Ingabire is released on bail, but not allowed to leave Kigali.
April 23 Appeal court finds Gasasira guilty of defamation in relation to articles published in his newspaper in a case that began in 2009. He is sentenced to a large fine and damages.
April 23 Tertsakian’s second work visa application is rejected, the day before her legal stay in Rwanda is due to expire. She has to leave the country on April 24.
May 24 The Umuseso editor, Didas Gasana, flees Rwanda after receiving repeated threats.
May 28 Peter Erlinder, Ingabire’s American defense lawyer, is arrested on charges of denying and minimizing the genocide, and malicious spread of rumors that could threaten national security.
June 7 Erlinder is denied bail.
June 17 Erlinder is released on bail on medical grounds.
June 19 Attempted murder of Kayumba Nyamwasa, the dissident former general, in South Africa.
June 24 Ntaganda is arrested.
June 24 Several PS-Imberakuri members are arrested outside the US embassy and several FDU-Inkingi members are arrested outside the Justice Ministry in Kigali.
June 24 An Umuvugizi journalist, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, is shot dead outside his home in Kigali in the evening. That morning, the online edition of Umuvugizi had published an article, based in part on information received by Rugambage, alleging the involvement of senior Rwandan officials in the attempted murder of Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa.
June 25 Police release some PS-Imberakuri and FDU-Inkingi members, but three FDU-Inkingi members and six PS-Imberakuri members, including Ntaganda, remain in detention. Several PS-Imberakuri and FDU-Inkingi members report being beaten by the police.
June 27 Another PS-Imberakuri member is arrested.
June 27 Didace Nduguyangu and Antoine Karemera are arrested in connection with the murder of Rugambage. The authorities later announce that the two men confessed to planning to kill Rugambage to avenge a murder that he allegedly committed during the genocide.
July 2 Deadline for submission of presidential candidacies to the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The PS-Imberakuri, Democratic Green Party, and FDU-Inkingi are unable to submit candidates, as the PS-Imberakuri president is in prison and the other two parties have been unable to register.
July 6 Ntaganda is brought before a court and accused of several offenses, including organizing demonstrations without official permission, endangering national security, and inciting ethnic divisions – the latter two in relation to his public statements criticizing government policies.
July 8 Agnès Nkusi Uwimana, editor of the newspaper Umurabyo, is arrested in connection with articles published in her newspaper.
July 9-13 The remaining FDU-Inkingi and PS-Imberakuri members are released, with the exception of Ntaganda.
July 10-12 Saidati Mukakibibi and Patrick Kambale, journalists with Umurabyo, are arrested. Kambale is released. Mukakibibi remains in detention.
July 13 André Kagwa Rwisereka, vice president of the Democratic Green Party, is reported missing. His car is found near the southern town of Butare.
July 14 Rwisereka’s mutilated body is found on the outskirts of Butare.
July 16 Police arrest Thomas Ntivugurizwa, allegedly the last person to see Rwisereka, on suspicion of his murder.
July 20 Official start of presidential election campaigns. The candidates are Paul Kagame, the incumbent (Rwandan Patriotic Front), Prosper Higiro (Parti Libéral), Jean-Damascène Ntawukuriryayo (Parti Social Démocrate), and Alivera Mukabaramba (Parti du Progrès et de la Concorde).
July 21 Ntivugurizwa is released.
July 21 Five PS-Imberakuri members are arrested in the party’s offices.
July 24 Two FDU-Inkingi members are arrested outside Ingabire’s house.
July 27 Mushayidi’s trial begins in Kigali.
July 28 Copies of the first edition of The Newsline, an English-language newspaper produced by Umuseso journalists from exile, are seized at the Uganda-Rwanda border. Rwandan police arrest the driver and conductor of the bus transporting the newspapers. The driver is released a few hours later. The conductor is detained for two days; he is released on July 30, but reportedly re-arrested the following day.
July 29 Three PS-Imberakuri members are released.
August 9 Presidential elections.

[Human Rights Watch].

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August 5, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda Government blames foreign enemies for killing opposition critics

Foreign-based dissidents trying to damage Rwanda’s reputation may be behind recent killings of opposition and media figures that sparked worldwide criticism, its foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Human rights groups and others accuse President Paul Kagame of clamping down on dissent ahead of an August general election. They also point to the closure of two newspapers, the arrest of activists and the fact some opposition parties are barred from running.

That has the potential to worry foreign investors who have been increasingly attracted to Rwanda in recent years, drawn by potential growth in agriculture, infrastructure, solar, gas and hydropower generation as well as services and technology.

Two high profile killings of a journalist critical of the government and an opposition leader as well as the shooting of a dissident general in South Africa drew global media attention.

“It is unfortunate because it is not the real story of Rwanda,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Reuters on a visit to London.

“We believe it is simply to do with the election. It will go away after the election. It is not a long-term problem,” she said in an interview arranged by a Western public relations firm hired to burnish the central African state’s image.

Asked who might be behind the killings and other isolated acts of violence, Mushikiwabo said they were still being investigated but pointed to rogue elements abroad possibly linked to the 1994 genocide.

“I think it’s mainly outside the country,” she said. “There are people who have fallen out with the government and have their own agenda. There is a diaspora element — some of them involved in the genocide.”

Rwanda’s genocide experience, in which politicians and broadcasters whipped up tensions leading to mass slaughter, meant it had to be particularly careful with what it allowed media outlets and others to do, she said.

LOOKING EAST, HIRING PR FIRM

“We cannot allow the media or others to encourage violence,” she said. “But our security and intelligence agencies are very good and very much on top of the problem.”
Rwanda has been heavily dependent on Western and multilateral aid that until last year made up more than 50 percent of its budget. This had come down to 40 percent in the upcoming financial year as new investments came in.

These included Chinese and Korean projects as well as hotel projects with Dubai’s troubled state-linked Dubai World, which had been scaled back in the last year.
Mushikiwabo said there were no signs yet of Western countries cutting aid commitments to Rwanda because of financial difficulties at home, but she was keenly aware of the shift in power to emerging nations.

Rwanda was opening embassies in Singapore, Abu Dhabi and elsewhere and doubling its New Delhi diplomatic staff.

“There’s no doubt the money is in the East,” she said. “It’s a new challenge and one we have to adapt to. It’s totally different to five years ago.”

But Rwanda also takes its reputation in Western capitals very seriously.

Like several other nations, it has contracted a Western PR consultancy to help. The interview in London was offered up swiftly after a story on rule of law in Rwanda that made reference to investor concerns.

“I think it’s necessary to do business these days,” said Mushikiwabo, who herself once worked in the PR industry. “But we have a saying: “just because a woman wears make-up doesn’t mean that she wasn’t good-looking to begin with”.”

[ARI-RNA]

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August 5, 2010   1 Comment

Kagame unleashes his warrior’s instincts

kirehe-kagame-speech-sm

“If you are foreigners or Rwandans, if you want to fight us we will fight back and we will win because it seems you don’t know Rwandans and the RPF, and you must know us, we are strong, we will fight back and we will win.”
Paul Kagame.

Kirehe (Rwanda) – Incumbent President Paul Kagame warned Wednesday on the latest campaign leg that he would stop at nothing to combat foreign support for what he described as so-called “illegitimate” opposition leaders.

In clear reference to FDU-Inkingi party leader Victoire Ingabire, Kagame said foreigners and even Rwandans should not be supporting her.

“Some foreigners say there is a woman who is fighting for Hutu rights and they want us to listen to that woman because she represents the majority, but which majority is that?” he said to the crowd in Kirehe district, in Eastern Rwanda.

“Which majority are they talking about because the majority is you people and Rwanda doesn’t belong to Hutu, Tutsi or Twa – it belongs to Rwandans.”

While this message has been delivered at various rallies throughout the week, none was more forceful than Kirehe’s. The crowd gathered at Kirehe was met by a stern-looking Kagame, pointing his finger and shaking his fist with more vigour than usual.

President Kagame came under criticism this week from exiled ex-spy chief Col Patrick Karegeya – now living in South Africa, who gave an interview to the Ugandan paper The Observer. In the story, he referred to Kagame as a dictator who would not leave power unless he was forced out by war.

“We owe nobody nothing!” Kagame said in the opening minutes of his speech, the only English phrase he used.

Juxtaposed with the condemnation of support for unrecognized opposition leaders was Kagame’s defense of Rwanda’s democracy. Rwandans are ready to fight for their rights and people should recognize this, he said.

“What the majority of Rwandans choose, you have to respect that, and if you don’t respect it then that’s disrespectful and undermining,” said Kagame.

Players such as Ingabire and other unrecognized opposition leaders are a threat to that democracy, he said, but Rwandans won’t succumb to such threats.

“Rwandans have won big fights in the past, and we will also win fights that some people want to impose on us,” he said.

“If you are foreigners or Rwandans, if you want to fight us we will fight back and we will win because it seems you don’t know Rwandans and the RPF, and you must know us, we are strong, we will fight back and we will win.”

Kagame campaigned in Kirehe on Wednesday and later moved to Ngoma – both in the east bordering Tanzania. He came with his wife Jeanette Kagame.

The Ngoma rally speech neither had the same forcefulness as Kirehe’s nor the same subject matter. Instead, Kagame spoke about the successes of the RPF in Rwanda and then proceeded to dance close to the chanting crowd with his wife.

A dusty haze filled the air as the Kagames danced and clapped their hands above their heads. Singing and cheering flowed from the thousands of supporters in attendance, and while the mood was high, the Kagame entourage exited through the middle of the crowd.

[ARI-RNA]

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August 5, 2010   3 Comments