British PM urged to act on Rwanda situation
by Rwandan Community in UK.
Open letter to PM David Cameron demanding action on the repressive situation prevailing in Rwanda
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 0AA
Dear Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned, are concerned members of the Rwandan community and other nationalities from the Central and East African region living in the UK. Today we held an authorized public protest in front of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Our concern is based on the events leading up to August 9, the day scheduled for the Rwandan presidential elections.
We are writing this letter to demand tangible actions concerning the increasing social and political tension in Rwanda that has been witnessed since the start of this year, and appears to take a tragic path for the Rwandan society, as Election Day approaches.
We know your government is aware of numerous reports made by various human rights organizations about incidents of intimidation against members of Rwandan opposition parties. We have been informed on the strong support Rwanda receives from the British government to promote political and media freedom. You engage regularly, both bilaterally and with your EU partners, to ensure that the Rwandan government respects these issues.
The Department for International Development Minister Stephen O’ Brien traveled to Rwanda on June 16th and 17th. He met President Kagame and other Rwandan government ministers. Apparently he raised the issues faced by opposition parties, and highlighted the importance that the UK, as a major bilateral donor and fellow member of the Commonwealth, attaches to core democratic values, such as freedom of speech and constructive opposition.
Surprisingly, it was on June 19th that an assassination attempt in South Africa was done against General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. On June 24th, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, a journalist working for the banned newspaper Umuvugizi, was murdered. The same day there was a general crackdown on opposition parties which peacefully demonstrated against their exclusion from participating in electoral campaign. Those detained suffered severe torture and harassment from security forces. Bernard Ntaganda, the leader of PS IMBERAKURI has been in prison since then. On July 8th, Agnès Nkusi Uwimana, Saidati Mukakibibi, and Patrick Kambare, journalists of the independent newspaper Umurabyo were arrested. On July 14th, André Kagwa Rwisereka, Vice-Chair of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, was murdered, found almost beheaded. Despite an absence of independent reporting focusing on issues faced by the population in general under Paul Kagame government, these sad occurrences filtered and came into the open.
Dear Prime Minister,
Considering the described context, we find it reasonable to admit on the part of the British government that the approach of regular engagement with the Rwandan government to address issues of human rights and democratic values hasn’t worked in the past, neither does it today.
The UK government and its EU partners have a leverage position to correct the mistreatment Paul Kagame institutions are inflicting to Rwandans. More than 50% of the Rwandan government budget comes from external contributions. Being a major donor, the UK can change the persistent pattern of social and economic injustices by taking the following measures;
1. Not recognizing the results from the presidential elections of August 9th as long as opposition parties not affiliated to the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front of Paul Kagame are not allowed to participate
2. Addressing policies of systematic torture of detainees by actively supporting the creation of an independent inquiry into torture and harassment of political prisoners who were detained in Kigali on June 24th following the police crackdown on peaceful demonstrators
3. Supporting actively the setting up of an inter-Rwandan dialogue mechanism to solve existing ethnic tensions, bring about lasting reconciliation, peace, and sustainable development in the Great Lakes and end of recurrent conflicts in Eastern Congo
Not reviewing and changing completely current approach of UK government towards recurrent abuses of human rights and freedom of speech by the Rwandan government would look as a sign of deplorable indifference for the thousands of Rwandan victims.