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FCO Report: The narrow political space in Rwanda worries the UK

The United Kingdom (UK) is concerned with the narrowed political space in Rwanda and is disturbed by “credible and compelling evidence” of Rwanda’s support for the M23 militia in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the2012 Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report, reads.

Officially launched, on Monday April 15, 2013 by the Foreign Secretary, William Hague; the report of Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), acknowledges Rwanda’s impressive progress on social and economic rights as well as continued progress in advancing the rights of women and girls. Nevertheless, the UK expressed concerns about Rwanda’s constrained political space and the freedom of association and expression in general.

According to the report, “unregistered political parties experience harassment and the ability of political parties to secure registration ahead of the 2013 parliamentary elections will be a key test.” The UK says to be studying last year’s (October, 2012) conviction of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire who was sentenced to eight years by the High Court of Kigali, for conspiracy to undermine the country’s government and genocide denial. Her initial trial was denounced by renowned human rights organizations as “unfair and marred by irregularities”. Victoire Ingabire’s right to a fair trial is still in jeopardy, Amnesty international said in a report published last month. The UK says it will continue to follow the Ingabire case on the appeal, which started on March 25, 2013 and is still ongoing.

In 2009, Rwanda’s request to join the Commonwealth, although strongly supported by the British government, was heavily criticized by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). The NGO, mandated to ensure the practical realization of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth, was very skeptical about President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda membership in the commonwealth community. The reasons for this were, among others, the lack of political space and the RPF led government’s record on human rights. These were qualified as “very poor“.

The CHRI’s report presided by Professor Yash Pal Ghai, a Kenyan constitutional expert, concluded by stating that Rwanda does not merit the inclusion into the Commonwealth community: “It does not make sense to admit a state that already does not satisfy Commonwealth standards. This would tarnish the reputation of the Commonwealth and confirm the opinion of many people and civic organizations that the leaders of its governments do not really care for democracy and human rights, and that its periodic, solemn declarations are merely hot air.”

Rwandan support to DRC rebels M23

The report also pins Rwanda for its involvement in the DR Congo conflict. “There is credible and compelling evidence of Rwanda’s support for the M23 militia who have committed human rights abuses in Eastern DRC, including the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, murder and displacement of civilians” reports FCO.

Prior to FCO findings, the 2009 CHRI Report had also warned the Commonwealth about Kigali’s meddling in the bloody conflicts that have been going on for almost two decades in Eastern DRC.

Already in 2009, the CHRI declared that “President Kagame has used his power to give immunity from prosecution to some of those suspected of being perpetrators of the most serious human rights abuses. The Rwandan government’s ongoing activities in the DRC and its support for Tutsi militias in Kivu have raised serious concerns, and indeed recommendations that senior figures in the RPF ought to be brought before international and foreign tribunals.”

The 2012 FCO report provides no new elements into what is widely known for years on the state of human rights and democracy in Rwanda. The report lacks sufficient concrete recommendations on how to improve the situation. However, the report gives a fair account of the events that occurred in that region and that alone makes it highly valuable.

As Jennifer G. Cooke of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) puts it: “In the coming decade, the greatest vulnerability that Rwanda will confront is the unyielding nature of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front and its inability—or unwillingness—to allow and manage genuine political competition and debate.”

Source: Jambo News

April 22, 2013   No Comments