US Governement will send election observers to Rwanda
In his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health in Washington, DC, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs Johnnie Carson has assessed the situation in the pre-electoral Rwanda and has announced that the US Governement will send observers to the August presidential elections.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my testimony, the countries of the region are inextricably linked. Refugees from Rwanda’s genocide (as well as perpetrators of it) fled across the border into the DRC, and the FDLR, no longer able to flex its muscle in Rwanda, continues to plunder the DRC.
Our policy priority in Rwanda is to further internal stability and social cohesion by promoting national reconciliation, economic growth, good governance, justice, and democratic values. We appreciate, in the context of the most tragic event in recent history –the genocide – the need for security, stability, and reconciliation is critical. But long-term stability is best promoted by democratic governance and respect for human rights.
The presidential elections in Rwanda this August are expected to be peaceful and non-violent. However, the security environment ahead of the elections is of concern. We strongly condemn the series of recent grenade attacks in Kigali that have caused numerous casualties as well as anxiety and unease in the population in the run-up to the elections.
The political environment ahead of the election has been riddled by a series of worrying actions taken by the Government of Rwanda, which appear to be attempts to restrict the freedom of expression.
In a period of months, the Government of Rwanda has suspended two newspapers, revoked the work permit and denied the visa of a Human Rights Watch researcher, and arrested (and subsequently released on bail) opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who has been linked to the FDLR.
Despite multiple attempts, two political parties – the Green Party and FDU Inkingi – have still been unable to register.
Dissention within the ruling party also appears to have surfaced.
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.
In particular, we have pressed leaders to allow all international and domestic non-governmental organizations and media to operate and report freely.
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.
We have urged the Government of Rwanda and all regional and international partners to work together to achieve free, fair, and peaceful elections that the people of Rwanda deserve.
Leading up to the elections, the United States Government has supported a program that provides organizational and policy-development skills to political party leaders from all ten parties in Rwanda. The USG also plans to send approximately a dozen teams to observe the elections.