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The State of Governance in Rwanda

by FDU-Inkingi and Rwanda National Congress.

(from joint open letter of FDU-Inkingi and Rwanda National Congress to members of the US Congress – 14th September 2011)

The status of governance in Rwanda

The people of Rwanda have for a very long time been exposed to repressive government, leading to recurrent violent conflict. This violence reached its peak with the genocide of 1994, with grave consequences for Rwanda and the whole region till today. We have no doubt that members of US Congress, your party and the U.S. government in general are well aware of the deprivation and immense suffering that recurrent conflict has occasioned to millions of Rwandans till today. We also acknowledge that the Government of Rwanda has, with the assistance of the international community, made some progress in restoring public order, re-establishing functioning, yet repressive, state institutions, and rebuilding the country’s economy during the period since 1994.

Unfortunately, the reconstruction efforts that Rwanda has undertaken since the genocide are not rooted in democratic values, respect for human rights and broad inclusion. As stated in the “Rwanda Briefing’ document that several former colleagues of Rwandan President Kagame published in August 2010, ” there is more to Rwanda and Paul Kagame than new buildings, clean streets, and efficient government than President Kagame’s famous friends in high places in Europe and America care to admit. Rwanda is essentially a hard-line, one-party, secretive police state with a façade of democracy’. The ruling party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), has closed space for political participation. The RPF does not tolerate political opposition or open competition for power. President Kagame does not allow opposition parties to be registered, let alone operate freely. Media outlets that are critical of the government are either shut down by the government or forced to close operations as a result of attacks against their journalists. President Kagame has now closed down all the independent media outlets the country once had.

Civil society organizations independent of the government operate under draconian restrictions that make the exercise of their role as watchdogs over government impossible. The people of Rwanda have no liberty to discuss, nor decide, how they should be governed. The Rwanda Government is controlled by a small group of Tutsi military officers and a few civilians from behind the scenes. The political system marginalizes the majority of the population from political participation.

President Kagame relies on severe repression to stay in power. The RPF government relies on a wide range of laws, administrative practices and terror to restrict citizens’ enjoyment of political freedoms. Institutions of the state continue to subject real and imagined critics of the government to a wide range of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions and involuntary disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The security services that are responsible for keeping President Kagame in power enjoy absolute impunity for grave human rights abuses. Many members of opposition parties, civil society groups, independent media outlets and individuals suspected of being opponents of the regime have been hunted down, arrested, tortured, imprisoned or killed by agents of the state.

Victims of state sponsored terror who have lost their lives over the recent past include Andre Kagwa Rwisereka (Vice-President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda), Jean Leonard Rugambage (Deputy Editor of Umuvugizi Newspaper) and John Rutayisire. The Rwanda Government has deployed a very large number of intelligence operatives in countries across Africa, Europe (including the United Kingdom) and North America to hunt down and kill opponents of the regime.

Many members and leaders of opposition parties, including Hon. Charles Ntakirutinka of Ubuyanja Party; Bernard Ntaganda, President of the Social Imberakuri Party; Victoire Ingabire, President of the FDU-Inkingi Party; and, Deo Mushayindi of PPD Imanzi Party, remain in detention and so do some innocent relatives of opposition leaders. The Rwanda Government continues its relentless persecution of government critics.

The most recent victims of this persecution include independent journalists and opposition leaders, all of whom have been sentenced to long prison terms, some after trials in absentia that did not meet international standards of fair trial. The climate of repression that prevails in Rwanda has forced many government officials, including two former Prime Ministers, two former Speakers of Parliament, and a host of former Ministers, former Judges, senior government officials, Military officers, Journalists and Human rights activists to join hundreds of thousands of their compatriots in exile, who include Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the movie, Hotel Rwanda.

As a result of the repression that security services helping President Kagame are responsible for, Rwanda is a country engulfed by fear. Not since the days of Idi Amin of Uganda have the security services of a state terrorized a nation to the extent to which Rwanda’s security services have visited fear and terror upon the country’s citizens. The climate of fear and terror that prevails in Rwanda does not permit Rwandan society to freely discuss the very grave problems facing the country and to find solutions to those problems.

Next:
Paul Kagame’s Leadership: Relentless Pursuit of Absolute Power

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