Rwanda Information Portal

Kagame’s zero tolerance policy: Controversial “genocide ideology” law to send more Rwandans behind bars

By Jane Nishimwe

Rwanda National Police logo

Rwanda National Police logo

Despite the promise to review the law on “genocide ideology” in January 2011, Rwanda continues to prosecute citizens under the contentious law. In the last three weeks following the genocide commemorations, ORINFOR reports that incidents have escalated resulting in a total of 42 arrests.

Since the beginning of the national commemoration of the Rwandan genocide on April 7th in Rwanda, 42 people are said to have been arrested for “harboring the genocide ideology” and “uttering inflammatory speeches that negate the genocide”, informs the Rwanda Bureau of Information and Broadcasting (ORINFOR).

The Rwandan police, however, insisted it has gathered sufficient evidence for 33 of the arrests for prosecution, while the remaining 11 are being further investigated for “suspicion of inflammatory speech» based on the genocide ideology law of the post-genocide period in Rwanda.

The country’s Commander in Chief, President Kagame called, in his annual commemoration speech, for a collective fight “against those who continue to deny or trivialize the Genocide against the Tutsi whether they are Rwandans or foreigners”. He added that there would be zero tolerance for “those with plans to propagate genocide ideology”.

“Genocide ideology”

Yet, to this day, because of the vagueness of the law at issue, it remains unclear as to what precisely defines and constitutes “genocide ideology”. Article 2 of Low No 18/2009 defines genocide ideology as follows:

“The genocide ideology is an aggregate of thoughts characterized by conduct, speeches, documents and other acts aiming at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate people basing (sic) on ethnic group, origin, nationality, region, color, physical appearance, sex, language, religion or political opinion, committed in normal periods or during war.”

Article 3 describes the characteristics of the crime of genocide ideology:

“The crime of genocide ideology is characterized in any behavior manifested by acts aimed at dehumanizing (sic) a person or a group of persons with the same characteristics in the following manner:

1. Threatening, intimidating, degrading through diffamatory (sic) speeches, documents or actions which aim at propounding wickedness or inciting hatred;

2. Marginalizing, laughing at one’s misfortune, defaming, mocking, boasting, despising, degrading, creating (sic) confusion aiming at negating the genocide which occurred, stirring (sic) up ill feelings, taking revenge, altering testimony or evidence for the genocide which occurred;

3. Killing, planning to kill or attempting to kill someone for purposes of furthering genocide ideology.

Rwanda has been criticized for violating its international human rights obligations and commitments to freedom of expression through this law, notably through its lack of a clear definition on what behavior is punishable and what is not, and the broadness of the terminology used for different conduct in article 3.

Furthermore, Amnesty International, in its 2010 report Safer to stay silent: The chilling effect of Rwanda’s laws on “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism”, found that “many Rwandans, even those with specialized knowledge of Rwandan law including lawyers and human rights workers, were unable to precisely define genocide ideology” and, remarkably, “even judges, the professionals charged with applying the law, noted that the law was broad and abstract”.

Up for review

In January 2011, the international criticism led to the Rwandan government committing itself to review the law at the United Nations Human Rights Council. However, now, two years later, very little has changed. Rwandans continue to be prosecuted based on the vague act, mostly resulting in convictions of opposition members and journalists. They are mostly found guilty of “marginalizing the genocide” and “altering testimony or evidence” of the genocide whenever they refer to the atrocities allegedly committed by the current ruling party RPF.

Notably, one of the charges against Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, President of opposition party FDU-INKINGI, was “genocide ideology and divisionism”. She challenged the rules before Rwanda’s Supreme Court in in March 2012 in which she demanded a constitutional review of the genocide ideology laws because these were “threatening freedom of expression and the rule of law”. However, in October of the same year, the Supreme Court dismissed the case “on grounds of lack of merits” because Victoire “failed to add copies” of certain Rwandan laws mentioned in her case.

Yet in November 2012, shortly after the verdict, Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama proposed several amendments to the parliament that would make the law “definitive” by «clearly defining constitutive elements of the offences». The major change in the new draft is that the crime of genocide ideology, is characterized with speeches, documents, threatening words and other public acts aimed at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate a group of people based on tribe, religion, color, sex, among others. Furthermore, the punishments for the manifestation of a genocide ideology now varies between fines of 100,000 Rwandan francs and 9 years in prison, thereby lowering the maximum sentence of life. The characteristics of the crimes at stake were not further amended and the official law has yet to be approved by the parliament.

As such, Amnesty International’s outcry in its report Rwanda: unsafe to speak out: restrictions on freedom of expression in Rwanda published in June 2011 still stands. Indeed, up until today Rwandan authorities are called to «accelerate the review of the genocide ideology law» because through its broad drafting it «criminalizes expression that does not amount to hate speech, including legitimate criticism of the government».

Source: Jambo News

April 26, 2013   No Comments

Rwanda birth control – Is Malthus back?

By Cyiza Clément

Rwandan mothers with their babies

Rwandan mothers with their babies

I was just 6 years old when Malthus appeared in Rwanda, a ghost most people felt without really seeing him. In fact, in 1994, Malthus visited Rwanda leaving behind him around a million of deaths and 19 years later, the reasons for his visit are still there. Will he be coming back?

To answer this question, I will first define who Malthus is and what is meant by the so called “Malthusian model”. Secondly, I will demonstrate that what happened in 1994 can recur in Rwanda if no measures are taken to avoid this. Thirdly, I will provide some examples of Rwanda’s attempts to avoid the return of Malthus and last but not least I will make recommendations as to how the government can improve its strategies.

The Malthus model: The Genocide in Rwanda as an example

Malthus was an English economist who lived in the 18th- 19th century. He is the author of a famous and controversial article on the dynamic of population: An Essay on the Principle of the Population. The Malthusian model can be summarized as follows: the available land limits the population growth vise versa. If the population grows more rapidly than the output, the output per capita reduces. This leads to poverty and a decrease in population growth as a result of limited food supply. As the population decreases, the available land per person increases which raises the output per capita. The better off people were, the faster the population would grow. As the population increases, the available lands decline. Consequently, the population would be so poor that “this poverty would in turn limit population to grow”.

Malthus asserts that this dynamic transition will lead, in the long run, to a level of output per capita characterized by a zero population growth. For him, the decrease of population is done in two ways: the preventive and positive checks. The former refers to solving the overpopulation problem by a moral restriction such as limiting the number of children. The latter implies that nature can solve the overpopulation through other means such as war, famine, genocide etc.

Although the Malthusian model is mostly used to explain the population transition before and during the time of Malthus, this model can still be applied to understand some of the events that occurred in our current societies. As observed by renowned scholars such as Jared Diamond, the Rwandan genocide can be partially explained by the Malthusian model.

It has been argued that ethnic hatred was the only reason for the drastic events of 1994 in Rwanda. However, the erroneous conclusion made by many people is to see hatred as an exogenous justification to explain the tension between the people of Rwanda whilst there could be other possible driving forces that could have led to what happened in Rwanda. In his book “Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed”, Diomand found an instrumental variable which helps to control for endogeneity of hatred when explaining the genocide in Rwanda: the available land. Indeed, on the eve of the tragedy, Rwanda was the most densely populated country in the world with an average of 272 people per square mile, one of the highest in Africa[1]. As an average measure, the distribution of the population varied. Therefore, some areas were more populated than others. For instance, there were about 2.040 people per square in Kanama, a district in North West of Rwanda[2]. The overpopulation and the lack of sufficiently arable land, combined with poor governance were, on the eve of the war, a sufficient environment propitious to Malthus’ theory.

In point of fact, jealousy and hatred started to appear between ethnic groups but also among people in the same group. Although the Rwandan government tried to tackle this problem of overpopulation through a preventive check, the positive check dominated. Catherine Andre and Jean-Philippe Platteau[3] assert that before and during the genocide, some people were killed in order to get their arable land. Even if the victims were mainly Tutsis, no ethnic group was spared.

19 years later, Malthus still threatens Rwanda

As discussed earlier, the overpopulation combined with lack of sufficient arable land is an instrumental variable explaining the hatred among ethnic groups. The question that then arises is; is present-day Rwanda protected from a new outbreak of Malthus? I will demonstrate that it is not.

Before the genocide, the government of Rwanda was aware of the overpopulation. Indeed, Rwandan government prior to 1994 used to run campaigns inciting people to use contraceptive methods[4]. However, this policy did not work well.

After the tragedy, birth control was no longer a priority for the government. Because of the killing of thousands of children during the genocide, birth control was a very sensible topic. Efforts made by the former government to reduce the Rwandan population were abandoned years after the genocide. From 1994 up until now, the Rwandan population has increased by almost 60%, rising from 6.6 to 11 million.

The Rwandan population’s density is still one of the highest in the world: 417 people per square km. In principle, this high population density is not problematic. There are other countries such as The Netherlands and Belgium that have a similar population density. However, with its 11 million people and a growth rate of 2.7% per year, the Rwandan population is expected to double in 25 years. This means that the country will have 834 people per square km[5], a considerable increase compared to 417 per square km today. Rwanda’s population growth is problematic because it cannot be sustained in the medium and long term. For instance, the agricultural sector remains a major sector of employment (90% of the labor forces), and the country lacks natural resources. This surely cannot support the high population density. Moreover, although Rwanda has made remarkable progress economically and significantly improved its human development, inequalities in life expectancy at birth, education and income remain a challenge for the population. When adjusted for inequalities the country’s human development index of 0.434 as achieved in 2012 falls to 0.287, a figure close to where it was in the 80s.[6] In addition, property injustice occurred in the aftermath of the genocide helps to intensify hatred among people. It has been reported by Human Rights that several individuals were falsely charged and convicted of genocide with the objective of depriving them from their properties.[7] Hence, when one compares the land against the overpopulation issue in Rwanda prior and after the 1994 genocide, thinking about Malthus’ return could not be a completely wrong prediction. In case nothing is done to a) curb the demographical growth, b) reduce the poverty and c) restore justice (through a fair distribution of land), the positive check will restore the equilibrium that the Rwandan government would have failed to reestablish by the preventive check.

Failure of some Rwandese preventive checks

The first mistake made by the RPF led government has been to consider that the hatred among ethnic groups has a separate exogenous variable to explain what happened in 1994. A good policy would have been, in my opinion, to seriously tackle the overpopulation problem even if, in that period, birth control was a sensitive issue. However, after realizing that the Rwandan population was growing in an unsustainable way, many actions have been taken.

One of these is sterilization. Whilst my intention here is not to demonstrate whether sterilization is beneficial or not, my critic is rather linked to the way in which such sterilization program has been and continues to be implemented. When the sterilization program was introduced, the government aimed at sterilizing all the poor men. This measure has been extremely unpopular and the program was considered by most Rwandans as immoral. Indeed, forcing sterilization on people based on their income is pure discrimination against the poor and thus, morally inacceptable.

Another additional point that is worth mentioning, though it is not part of the Malthusian model, is the way in which justice has been done after the genocide. This could perhaps be another factor which expands hatred among Rwandans. After the genocide, many Tutsis who had settled in neighboring countries came back to Rwanda. Considering that some of them lacked housing, they started to appropriate themselves the houses and lands of Hutus who had then fled the country after the war. Sometimes, as mentioned above, they would unfairly allege the actual owners of the properties at issue as having participated in committing genocide. These allegations led many Hutus to prison.

Despite such selective yet national commitment, testimonies from victims of the genocide of 1994 heard on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s programme[8] of April 13th 2013, reveal that many have not been compensated for their land confiscated through Rwanda government’s reconstruction programs. Furthermore, the genocide survivors claimed that they have not had justice in regards to their lands that were unfairly taken by people with more influence or given away by the authority in ambiguous processes. In this sense, Rwanda is at a very difficult turning point. On the one hand, restitution of property will require the government to implement policies towards new housing facilities. On the other hand, failing to provide for an effective remedy and thereby restitution, will further nurture hatred among Rwandans.

Conclusion

Malthus still threatens Rwanda. The overpopulation problem has not been solved yet and this can lead to another drama if the Rwandan government does not take the problem seriously.

The Government should, firstly, restore justice by releasing people who were falsely imprisoned in order to avoid nurturing more hatred among Rwandans. The Government should also nationally revise the land distribution. In such distribution, no ethnic group would feel excluded of the society.

Secondly, the government should promote education and development as where there is a higher standard of living, people tend to have fewer children[9]. However, the solution of overpopulation through education takes many years. With an adult literacy rate of 70%, does Rwanda have enough time to wait until all its people are educated in order to reach a sustainable growth rate of population? In the short run, as I have written previously, I am not completely against sterilization. Indeed, if sterilization is the only way to avoid another genocide, it should be used. However, in this case, the decision of sterilizing someone or not should be based on criteria’s other than the financial situation of the person. As an example, it can be based on the maximum number of children that a household can have.

Source: Jambo News

April 26, 2013   No Comments

General Bosco Ntaganda to be Charged With Involvement in 1995 Kibeho Massacre of Rwandan Hutu Civilians

Children Massacred in Kibeho by Rwandan Patriotic Front

Children Massacred in Kibeho by Rwandan Patriotic Front

General Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese warlord held by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  between 1997 and 2011 will be charged for crimes he committed in Rwanda in 1995, his relatives tell AfroAmerica Network.

General Bosco Ntaganda was transferred to the ICC after spending days hauled within the compound of the US Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. He had surrendered to the US Embassy on Monday March 18, 2013, fleeing for his life, when he found out that Rwandan Military Intelligence operatives were after him (see our March 19, 2013 article: General Bosco Ntaganda Evades Rwandan DMI Killing Squad).

Preparing for the Defense of Imprescriptible Crimes
Since his transfer to the Hague, General Bosco Ntaganda has been preparing for his defense with the help of select lawyers. Before his surrender, his case was built around the crimes he allegedly committed in Eastern and North Eastern DRC. Meanwhile, the prosecution has decided to expand the charges to all imprescriptible crimes committed in Rwanda and elsewhere.  Among the imprescriptible crimes identified by the Prosecution, accusations of which cannot lapse with time,  were the massacre of internally displaced Rwandan refugees in Kibeho on April 22, 1995.

The Kibeho Massacre: A Scourge of The Rwandan Patriotic Army on Rwandan People.
The Kibeho massacre occurred in a camp for internally displaced persons(IDP) near Kibeho, in Southern Rwanda on April 22, 1995, 18 years ago this week, under the helpless watch of Australian blue helmets serving as part of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). UNAMIR estimated that at least 4,000 people, mostly children in the camp were killed by soldiers of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), known as Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), now transformed into Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF). The Commander of the troops who conducted the massacres was General, then Colonel, Fred Ibingira, the current Chief of Staff of Rwandan Defense Forces Reserve Forces. Then Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu rushed to tell the World that only 330 civilians had been massacred.

According to Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) doctors and MINUAR troops that witnessed the massacres, around 10 am, the civilians gathered in a hospital compound in Kibeho under heavy rain. RPA forces who had surrounded the compound began firing into the crowd in the hospital compound and at fleeing refugees for the next two hours. The RPA soldiers initially used automatic weapons to fire into the masses that included mostly children, women, and the elderly. The, the RPA troops switched to 60mm mortars, grenades, and other weapons of mass destruction.

General Bosco Ntaganda Participated in the Massacre
According to sources within Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) and who were also members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) at the time, General Bosco Ntaganda, then a low ranking officer, was among the troops that led the massacre of the civilians under the command of Colonel Fred Ibingira. For that reason, the ICC prosecutor has decided to add these crimes to General Bosco Ntaganda’s long list of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

General Bosco Ntaganda’s line of Defense: “We were given orders”
According to sources close to General Bosco Ntaganda’s relatives, General Ntaganda’s line of defense will be that the troops were given the orders to shoot at the refugees. The sources add that the orders came from the top of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and ultimately General Paul Kagame himself.
Other sources in contact with General Ntaganda confirmed the new accusations by the ICC Prosecutor and the defense strategy. According to the sources, “General Ntaganda, was a low ranking soldier. His unit was ordered to shoot at the Rwandan ex-FAR and found out that they were really civilians afterwards. Maybe Colonel Ibingira knew it. But the orders come from well above him. At least that is what he told his unit.”

S0urce: Afro America Network

April 26, 2013   No Comments

Museveni Flies UPDF Chopper On Rwanda Trip

Museveni is received at Kigali International Airport. In the background is the helicopter he used during the trip

Museveni is received at Kigali International Airport. In the background is the helicopter he used during the trip

President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday boarded a military helicopter on his trip to Rwanda where he delivered the annual State of East Africa Community address at a special sitting of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) held at Rwanda’s Parliament.

This followed reports that Museveni’s official Shs88.2bn Gulfstream V jet had developed a mechanical fault. High profile officials who welcomed Museveni in Kigali were amused as the President disembarked a UPDF chopper. Under normal circumstances, Museveni uses the Gulfstream to travel across borders.

In previous trips to Rwanda, Museveni has always used the jet. Contacted, Special Forces Command (SFC) publicist Edison Kwesiga requested for 15 minutes to “crosscheck.” He was yet to give us feedback by the time we posted the story. The President’s Deputy Spokesperson Lindah Nabusayi denied reports the jet was grounded.

President Kagame receives his Ugandan counterpart,Museveni, following the East African Legislative Assembly address on April 24

President Kagame receives his Ugandan counterpart,Museveni, following the East African Legislative Assembly address on April 24

“I am not aware of that. But what I know is that the President was in Kisozi before crossing over to Rwanda and coming back. It is not true that every time the President is travelling he must use a jet.”

She added: “And you see these are neighbouring countries. So he could have found it easier to use a helicopter to Rwanda and then return to his cows. We recently used that jet to Nairobi and other countries. It is not grounded,” she emphasized.

In a related development, Museveni stepped in his new S600 Pullman Guard armored limousine during his Rwandan trip.

This was the second time the President was seen being chauffeured in the Mercedes Benz since 50th Independence Anniversary at Kololo ceremonial grounds in 2012.

Source: Chimp Reports

April 26, 2013   No Comments

Rwanda Marks Girls in ICT Day

Girls in ICT

Girls in ICT

Students watch closely as Clarisse Iribagiza, the CEO of Hehe Ltd demonstrates how to use mobile applications, during the Girls in ICT Day celebrations in Kigali.

Rwanda yesterday joined the rest of the world to mark the International Girls in ICT Day, in an event held at Lycée Notre Dame des Citeaux School.

The event brought together about 100 students from six secondary schools in Kigali to share experiences with the leading women in the ICT industry in Rwanda. It was marked under the theme , “Expanding Horizons and Changing Attitudes.”

“ICT is a very exciting and a rewarding career that can help transform people’s lives both socially and economically. I encourage Rwandan girls to consider pursuing ICT as a career,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and ICT.

Source: The New Times

April 26, 2013   No Comments

Rwanda: Ingabire’s Defence Counsel objects to grounds upon which Ingabire’s new sentence was given

By Boniface Twagirimana, Interim Vice President of FDU-Inkingi

Madame Victoire Ingabire with her Defence Counsel Mr Iain Edwards

Madame Victoire Ingabire with her Defence Counsel Mr Iain Edwards

The Defence Counsel of political prisoner Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Mr Iain Edwards has told the Supreme Court that her client was sentenced on the ground of new charges based on documents found on Wikipedia and on personal thoughts expressed by Yves Ternon on the history of Rwanda and not at all based on Rwandan or international jurisprudence.

When the Defence Counsel Iain Edwards took the floor to give reasons for his appeal to the Supreme Court, he regretted how her client, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza had been sentenced by the High Court on the basis of new charges which were not brought before it during the trial while it had cleared her of the 6 charges submitted to it by the Prosecution. The two new charges include negationism/revisionism and high treason.

The defence counsel pointed out that the accusations are not based on legal documents but rather on information picked from Wikipedia without any reference to their author or place of publication. The High Court had also based its sentence on the publications of an individual, Yves Ternon, instead of using laws and regulations applicable in Rwanda and at international level. He regretted that the High court did not have the courtesy to invite the accused to say something about those publications.

The Defence counsel also pointed out that the High Court had supported its verdict using extracts from the political programme of a Party and on a speech made by Mrs Victoire Ingabire at the Genocide Memorial of Gisozi.

With regard to the political programme of FDU INKINGI, the High Court had heavily relied on the use of the word “Rwandan genocide”. In this respect the defence counsel pointed out that the document was written in 2006 and at the time the Rwandan constitution had not yet been reviewed to use specifically the term “Tutsi genocide”. The Defence Counsel Mr Iain therefore pointed out that his client could not be sentenced for not using a term which was did not exist in law at the time of writing.

With regard to the charge of negationisme/revisionism, Mr Iain asked the Supreme Court to take into consideration its own decisions in the case n°0031/11/S/CS relating to journalists Sayidadi Mukakibibi and Uwimana Agnès Nkusi. In its verdict, the Supreme Court cleared the journalists of the charge of negationism/revisionism basing itself on article 4 due to the vagueness of the definition. Besides, the Supreme Court had pointed out that the Public Prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt the intention of the accused to commit a crime. Counsel Iain highlighted the fact that his client was victim of the use of the same law and therefore deserved justice like in the case of the two journalists.

Commenting on the vagueness of the law the Counsel Iain stated that the law seriously contravened international conventions that Rwanda is party to particularly the international conventions on civil and political rights, specifically the freedom of expression and of thought, which the Rwandan government signed on the 16/07/1997.

The conclusions of MR Iain followed those made by his co-counsel Gatera Gashabana who had also highlighted the irregularities that had marred the legal process during the trial before the High Court. The irregularities included the violation of international conventions on fair trial to which Rwanda is party, including the right of defence as stipulated in article 119 of the code of criminal procedure as well as lack of tangible evidence to prove personal responsibility in the charges brought against Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. .

Mr Gatera told the Supreme Court that he was surprised that the co-accused of Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza would be acquitted of crimes for which they had pleaded guilty and asked pardon. This decision implied that their guilty plea had not been accepted. On the contrary and to his great surprise the High Court was ready and quick to generously accept statements made by the co-accused against his client in order to condemn her.

The defence continues its submission today 24th April 2013 by looking at the video of the speech made by Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza at Gisozi to demonstrate how the speech was manipulated by the Prosecution in order to incriminate her.

Source: FDU-Inkingi

April 26, 2013   No Comments