Rwanda Government dismisses U.S criticism of rights situations
Kigali: Seventy-four days to the presidential polls, the United States government wants the authorities here to allow all media, international campaign groups and opposition critics to operate freely in the country. But Kigali described that attacks as “an out-of-Rwanda reading of the situation in Rwanda”.
The Obama administration’s senior diplomat for Africa Johnnie Carson says the political environment ahead of the poll “has been riddled by a series of worrying actions taken” by the government. He told a congressional hearing that such moves “appear to be attempts to restrict the freedom of expression”.
“We have relayed our concerns about these developments to the Government of Rwanda, urging senior government leaders to respect freedoms of expression, press, association, and assembly,” Carson said Tuesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister and Government Spokesman Louise Mushikiwabo dismissed the concerns.
“The concerns expressed by the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs over the state of rights and freedoms in Rwanda at this particular time need to be contextualized: it is a result of an out-of-Rwanda reading of the situation in Rwanda, with added election hype,” she said in an email message.
“Rwandans in Rwanda, for whom this Government works hard for, don’t have any anxiety; they are at a very exciting time of their history.”
The American diplomat for Africa also made reference to the suspended tabloids UMUVUGIZI and UMUSESO, as well as the Human Rights Watch researcher Carina Tertsakian who was refused a work permit in April. He also informed the lawmakers of the progress of the imminent trail of government critic Victoire Ingabire, as well as the registration of the two opposition parties.
“In particular, we have pressed leaders to allow all international and domestic non-governmental organizations and media to operate and report freely,” said Mr. Carson.
“We have also urged leaders to treat Victoire Ingabire in accordance with international law, ensure due process, and give her a speedy, fair, and transparent trial.”
Discussing: “The Great Lakes Region: Current Conditions and U.S. Policy”, Mr. Carson said in just the past two months, dozens of senior officials from his office have traveled to Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and DR Congo.
“These visits underline our commitment to helping regional governments, both individually and in cooperation with one another, resolve the domestic and cross-border issues that challenge regional security and stability and continue to place millions of civilians at risk,” he said.
However, Mr. Carson admitted before the lawmakers that addressing these issues “has been, and continues to be, a slow and daunting process”.
From a positive perspective, the Obama administration expects the August 09 polls will be “peaceful and non-violent.” The US government also “strongly” condemned the series of grenade attacks – with the recent ones killing two and injuring more than 30.
For Minister Mushikiwabo: “Rwandans of course still face daunting challenges such as significantly lowering levels of poverty but they’re looking forward to peaceful elections and continued struggle for a better life.”
On DRC, where President Joseph Kabila wants the 22,000 UN forces to leave his country by June next year, the US says it would be “premature and unwise” for MONUC to depart.
“I am pleased to report that President Kabila was receptive to my concerns and has softened his tone in demanding MONUC’s withdrawal,” said Mr. Carson.
Burundi also came under scrutiny for expelling Ms Neela Ghoshal, the Human Rights Watch Researcher from the country last week. The Obama administration says the act is “disturbing”.
“It appears to be another step on the part of the Government and ruling party to clamp down on foreign and domestic NGOs that it considers to be a form of unwelcome political opposition,” said Mr. Carson.
“We have conveyed our concerns to Burundian officials in both Washington and Bujumbura, and have urged the Government to reconsider its decisions and to engage in constructive dialogue with NGOs and civil society.”