REPORT ON THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN RWANDA. MEMO TO THE 32ND SESSION OF THE ACP-EU JOINT PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY (19-21/12/2016): Nairobi -Kenya

About us 

We are an opposition political platform composed of the following political organizations Amahoro People's Congress - United Democratic Forces (FDU – Inkingi); PDP - Imanzi; PS - Imberakuri; Rwanda National Congress (RNC). We have a vision of building a reconciled nation in which diversity is an invaluable asset, where human life is sacred; where no one is a victim of his or her ethnic origin or past, with a true democratic system of government underpinned by the rule of law, equal opportunity, and respect for human rights.

The political organisations that form the platform consist of all ethnicities in Rwanda (Hutu-Tutsi and Twa) with members who have had a diverse life history. They include persons who were members of the RPF and political parties active in Rwanda since 1991, as well as persons who never belonged to any political party before. There are personalities that have served under President Paul Kagame of the RPF and the government of late President Juvénal Habyarimana.

We share the values enshrined in the Partnership Agreement between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Community, particularly the belief that “democratic principles are universally recognised principles underpinning the organisation of the state to ensure the legitimacy of its authority, the legality of its actions reflected in its constitutional, legislative and regulatory system, and the existence of participatory mechanisms” and that “human rights are universal, indivisible and interrelated.  We are pleased that “the Parties undertake to promote and protect all fundamental freedoms and human rights, be they civil and political, or economic, social and cultural”. Truly human rights are indivisible and the acclaimed economic successes in Rwanda should not be an excuse to deny Rwandans other human rights. This is extremely important to ensure peace and stability because as highlighted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.

  1. Concerns:

We are deeply concerned about the misrepresentation of the underlying cause of the cycle of violence in Rwanda which mislead people of goodwill who are keen to help end it. Contrary to popular discourse, Rwanda’s cyclical political violence is not due so much to lack of economic progress or African irrational tribalism but more to political and social exclusion, characterised by lack of genuine political participation and political tolerance, impunity, violation of human rights, particularly political and civil rights.  This is the root cause of the political instability that has caused many Rwandans to flee their country. Sadly, such a situation is prevailing in Rwanda today.

Rwanda has more political refugees than she has ever had in her history. They include former Prime Ministers, a good number of former Ministers, Members of Parliament, ambassadors, high ranking military officers, businessmen, journalists, human rights activists etc.... One of the military officers, General Kayumba Nyamwasa, former chief of staff and ambassador has escaped three assassination attempts in South Africa where he found refuge. His colleague Col Patrick Karegeya was not so lucky. He was strangled in a hotel room in South Africa. Critics of the regime, real or perceived as such, are in prison, exile or dead.

Freedom House report 2015, considered Rwanda as “no free country”; Reporters without Borders’ report 2015, indicates that Rwanda ranks 161 out of 180 surveyed in terms of the freedom of the media; according to the UCLA sociologist Andreas Wimmer, Rwanda has the third-highest level of political exclusion in the world (behind Sudan and Syria). 

As “Free Africa Foundation” President, George Ayittey wrote in a letter of the Wall Street Journal, “The real tragedy of Rwanda is that Mr. Kagame is so consumed by the 1994 genocide that, in his attempt to prevent another one, he is creating the very conditions that led to it.” This concern was echoed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai in his June 2014 address to the Human Rights Council, pointing out that the fear of a new genocide cannot be invoked to impede fundamental freedoms in any society, which in fact are necessary to prevent conflicts and genocide”. The Global Peace Index Report for 2015 written by “The Institute for Economics and Peace”, on the trend of peace in the world ranks Rwanda 139th out of 162.

The world needs to be aware that the apparent stability in Rwanda is maintained by violent repression and social engineering that put a veneer over deep seated grievances of political exclusions, extreme inequalities, land disputes, injustices, agricultural policy that profits only the political/military oligarchy, and tensions that may lead to social implosion in a very violent manner. Unfortunately, as the 2009 report from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative points out “Rwanda's excellent public relations machinery has succeeded in hiding the exclusionary and repressive nature of the regime". Just to give one example to illustrate the point, it was reported in the Sunday Times, London, that a London public relations company run by Tim Allan, one time key adviser to former Prime Minister Tony Blair had won a contract worth more than £1 million pounds to revamp the image of Rwanda, which has been tarnished by allegations of war crimes”.1

1. http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article1202399...

Ordinary Rwandans do not have a lot of resources to pay public relations firms to tell the other side of the story. We have taken up that job willingly without pay because we are more interested in peace.  Our aim is to inform the world about the repressive system in Rwanda and to seek support from genuine friends of Rwanda and of all peace-loving people to pre-empt any new human catastrophe. As Marc Sommers rightly points out “loosening the autocrat’s reins and helping his nation avoid another explosion is a message that only Rwanda’s international supporters can deliver to President Kagame 2. Sitting on the fence in this situation is tantamount to complicity in any future human disaster.

2. Marc Sommers is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the author of “Stuck: Rwandan Youth and the Struggle for Adulthood.”

2. Hope

We expect that friends of Rwanda and particularly those who have signed partnership agreements with the Rwandan regime and have political and economic leverage to help an end to impunity that the Rwandan regime has enjoyed in the areas of human rights and destabilisation of the region. The EU used its leverage to stop the Rwandan regime from continuing to support the murderous M23 rebel group. It has been putting pressure on Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to talk to the opposition. We believe it should do the same in forcing President Kagame to respect the political and civil rights of his people.

We hope that the European Parliament will use its position to monitor human rights abuses in Rwanda and to put pressure on the EU commission to condition disbursement of aid to Rwanda to the respect of civil and political rights.

The policy of appeasement and allowing the Rwandan regime to act with impunity has brought serious  human and economic disaster to the Great Lakes region as a former Deputy Editor of “The Independent” newspaper Ian Birrell rightly lamented, that for long, the international community has let loose “a repressive regime that has played on the conscience of the world to silence dissent, crush critics and devastate its neighbour in a conflict that has left more people dead than any war since the Second World War”.3

3. Ian Birrell: The dark shadows that stain the new darling of Africa www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators

We also hope that while you are discussing the annual report of the Council of Ministers on the implementation of this partnership Agreement, you will adopt resolutions and make appropriate recommendations with a view to bring Rwanda to meet its obligations under the partnership agreement.

 

3. Key issues

3.1 Use of violence to access and maintain political powe.

There are indications that demonstrate that the Rwandan regime believes in the use of violence to impose itself on the people. This point has been well made by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in its report of June 2011. It points out among other things that in its 17-year rule, the RPF leadership, has demonstrated that it is “unable to manage political competition and popular demands without resorting to violence or coercion”, 4. and the economist magazine issue of 13 - 19 January 2007, made a similar point saying that “Kagame rules Rwanda through fear as much as anything. RPF has marginalized or smeared dissident voices in the name of “one Rwanda” and the party’s ruling supporters are accruing wealth and power”. The CSIS report also highlighted the fact that “National institutions of countervailing power i.e. independent legislature and judiciary, the media and politically active civil society groups- are very much constrained under RPF control and are thus unable to fulfil their potentially stabilising role as formal channels for national debate and peaceful political competition”.

4. Rwanda Assessing risks to stability by the Centre of Strategic and International Studies CSIS (2011). Commissioned by AFRICOM. 

In using violence to subdue the population the regime has applied to the letter the lessons from the book of Paulo Freire on the pedagogy of the oppressed.

  • Use of violence: groups live with the knowledge that they must fear random, unprovoked attacks on their persons or property and are even forbidden to talk about their own grievances. The Minister of Local Government Mr Kabonero is quoted telling a public rally on 30 August 2016.  “You have to know people who are accommodated in your village or cell and what they do. You have to leave here with a pledge of knowing what is taking place in every house”. The DASSO (District Administration Security Support Organ), a RPF militia 5. that roams the whole countryside and watches over the smallest administrative unit of ten families (nyumba kumi). This group is responsible for many deaths. Rwanda is now run, like North Korea!

5. DASSO main responsibilities: ° to arrest any person caught red-handed in the act of disruption of public order and take him/her to the nearest police station; to inform the nearest administrative organs of anything which in its opinion represents a threat to safety;

  • One key aim of indoctrination is to create negative images of the self, make sure they are internalized and become a part one’s own beliefs. The sense of powerlessness is then created. In the case of Rwanda, the outcome is that no one in an entire population of 11 million feels worthy of stepping in the shoes of one man Paul Kagame, “the saviour”. One simple example is that during the time of campaigning to change the constitution for Kagame to rum a 3rd term, prisoners of the notorious Kigali central prison organised competitions on the achievements of President Kagame and giving reasons why he should continue to rule.

3.2 Glorifying violence

Top government officials, including the President don’t have any qualms of conscience to praise the use of violence.

On the 14th of January 2014 addressing a prayer breakfast stated about the death of Patrick Karegeya “Rwanda did not kill this person [Karegeya] and it’s a big no. But I add that, I wish Rwandans did it. I really wish it.”  “Anyone who betrays our cause or wishes our people ill will fall victim. What remains to be seen is how and when you fall victim”.

The Minister of Defence while addressing a public rally in Nyabihu, Northern Province, days later, referred to the assassination of former colleague and chief spy, Colonel Patrick Karegeya in South Africa, “When you choose to be a dog, you die like a dog, and the cleaners will wipe away the trash so that it does not stink for them. Such consequences are faced by those who have chosen such a path. There is nothing we can do about it, and we should not be interrogated over it”.

3.3 Inciting violence

President Kagame on June 5, 2014 while addressing residents of Nyabihu District, Northern Rwanda, stated in response to criticisms by the US government about enforced disappearances by security agents, he declared "We will continue to arrest suspects and when needed shoot in broad daylight those threatening to destabilise the country".

In August 2014, i.e. within two months later, forty (40) bodies found wrapped in sacks were found floating on lake Rweru on the border with Burundi. Residents and the Burundi prosecutor declared that the bodies came from the Rwandan side of the lake. Rwanda has objected to an international enquiry.

On the 11th September, 2016 while addressing an estimated 2090 students who had completed training in the Ruling party ideological school “Itorero”, President Kagame asked them to be imbued with his personal mind set of killing any person who tries to take away from them what they value most, before he/she acts, which was no less than inviting them to take the law in their own even when it means take someone else’s life. Giving an example of the convention Centre in Kigali where the ceremony was taking place, President Kagame said: “if I know of anyone planning to destroy this building, I would kill him before he does so”, “I would not be ashamed of doing that, adding “I invite you to be imbued with the same mind set”. He also revealed how he behaves towards his critics saying: “I let go those calling me names and telling lies about me, meaning his critics. I let them play around because it is their right but when they try to cross the red line they are struck before they realise where the blow came from”,

General Ibingira, Commander of the Reserve force

On 10 April 2016 at a public meeting in Nyagatare East Province, Gen. Fred Ibingira told his audience that a person who still has genocide ideology is better he/she commits suicide and disappear from people.’’ Anyone who lives in Nyagatare District and still has the ideology of genocide, it is better to move upward one building among the buildings built here and then commit suicide himself. We may recall, in April 1994, soldiers under his command killed in cold blood more than 4.000 internally displaced 6 people in Kibeho when the UN troops stood helpless. He was Colonel and is now promoted to General.

6. http://www.news.com.au/national/northern-territory/australian-troops-remember-kibeho-massacre-in-rwanda/story-fnn3gfdo-1227314070385

General Mubarak Muganga Military commander of Kigali and Eastern Province

He told a public rally on Saturday 27th August 2016 in Rwimbogo that he would relieve the police and people who take food to prisoners by dealing with those who cause the trouble in the military way that he has learnt, which means killing them “I have warned you publicly and hope you have heard. I have young people who wear the same clothes as you and others who were uniform like me. Tell those who are not here that I am a special person. “This is what I was trained to do and have learnt to do”. “Nobody will cause insecurity and we let him go unless he/she goes somewhere else abroad but not in East Africa because we are now like one country”

Minister of Local Government Francis Kabonero.

On a visit to Canada in September 2015 Minister Kabonero told a press conference: “Put aside Hutu and Tutsi issues. Let us deal with what matters i.e. Rwandanness. Then we kill anyone who causes trouble to Rwanda.”

The Rwandan current regime is possibly the only one where leaders would invite people to commit crimes, and not only go away with it, but also continue to be the darling of the donors. As Andy Storey observes: “as with pre-genocide Rwanda, international actors seem willing to strengthen a state ‘that has proved to be a killing machine’ (Oomen, 2005: 907) 7. Those who do so must accept more responsibility if the country would descend to hell again.

7. Andy Storey Structural Violence and the Struggle for State Power in Rwanda: Why ‘Conflict Resolution’ and Other External Interventions Have Made Things Worse Paper for presentation at the PSAI Annual Conference, 8-10 October 2010, Dublin Institute of Technology.

The message given by the senior officials of the government is extremely worrying.  A recent essay for African Arguments on how the Rwandan genocide changed the world 8, Omar McDoom brings out the duality between alleged economic success as well as relative stability in Rwanda and the risk of state sponsored mass atrocities. Statistical assessments of the risk of an onset of state-led mass killing identify Rwanda as one of the 25 countries worldwide currently most vulnerable to this kind of catastrophe.

8. The Rwanda enigma: https://dartthrowingchimp.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/the-rwanda-enigma-2

What is happening today in terms of extrajudicial killings, enforced or involuntary disappearances and kidnapping look like a rehearsal of what is likely to happen if the regime feels its grip on power is threatened.

One only has to look at country reports by independent Human Rights organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and governments US and UK for 2015. They give detailed accounts of the gross violations of human rights including extra-judicial killings and disappearances. You may read in the annex cases that we ourselves have been able to collect.

3.4 Lack of political participation

For all intents and purposes Rwanda is one party state. Indeed, as the report of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative 2009, observes: Rwanda gives a strong impression of a one-party state”, the regime “uses the constitution opportunistically as a façade, which hides the exclusionary and repressive nature of the regime; relies on power structures that sometimes run parallel to, and sometimes cross-cuts, the formal government; and in which the army plays a central role. The report quotes some schools of thought that describe Rwanda as “an army with a state” rather than a state with an army.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr.  Maina Kiai, noted that undue restrictions on political parties curtail the opportunity for genuine political participation and dialogue and that any opposition political party keen to compete against the ruling party at risk to fall victim to various laws punishing the crimes of negationism, minimizing the genocide, sectarianism, spreading false information, inciting or attempting to incite insurrection, and sedition.

Also, anyone who tries to present another understanding than the official one of the recent history of Rwanda is accused of spreading genocidal ideology and divisionism. For example in the run up to 2003 presidential elections, President Kagame gave a speech on the 31 March 2003 in which he warned his political opponents: ‘If they come with the objective of hindering our programmes, they will be injured. … Our clemency decreases. … To whoever prides himself of having harvested sorghum or maize, we will say that we have mills to crush them.’ ‘I can tell you that the result of the elections is known. … I can tell you for 100 percent that the elected will be those who follow the policy of reconstructing the country. … .  President Kagame won by 95% of the votes cast.

The Country Review Report of the Republic of Rwanda 2006 by African Peer Review mechanism pointed out the following observations:“conditions for a healthy competition for power including adequate guarantees of equity of access to the political space for all contending political organisations at all administrative levels and a political environment sufficiently liberal to afford equal chance for all individuals appropriately qualified, to compete for political office”, were lacking ( para 102). It also observed that “although the principle of political pluralism or systems of constitutional democracy is well entrenched in the Constitution, political parties as such are not able to operate freely. And that while the Rwandan Constitution guarantees freedom to form, join and belong to political parties, it “simultaneously undermines that freedom by attaching onerous conditions, such as political parties not being able to operate at the grassroots below the provincial levels which effectively “amounts to a denial of much political activity to citizens, as most people reside at the district, sector and cell levels” (para 103).

In the run-up to the 2010 presidential elections, to ensure a “landslide victory” for Kagame in August 2010 elections, the government ordered a crackdown on newspapers critical of government and on political opponents. The government suspended two popular independent newspapers, Umuseso and Umuvugizi, described by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists as 'the only critical media voice left in the country'. Jean-Leonard Rugambage, a journalist working for the banned newspaper Umuvugizi was gunned down; his colleague who had fled to Uganda survived kidnapping thanks to a swift intervention of Ugandan security services. A second presidential hopeful, Bernard Ntaganda, was put in prison on four charges, including terrorism. The Vice President of the Green Party was murdered in dubious circumstances. Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, chairperson of the leading opposition Party United Democratic Forces (FDU - Inkingi), was arrested and charged with genocide denial. The leader of PDP Imanzi Deo Mushayidi was kidnapped from Burundi and brought to jail in Rwanda.

President Kagame was generous this time and dished out 7% of his cake to other political parties and kept 93% of the votes for himself. Commenting on the results.” former US Ambassador Robert Krueger: “Many corporate leaders and economists will be pleased that the government of a Central African country claiming the fastest economic growth in its region has won again. Only justice, democracy, and the silent and terrified majority of the Rwandan population will have lost”.

CONCLUSION

It is for all these reasons that the political platform cannot, in the face of the current political landscape and the legal framework on political activities and pluralism, take part in the forthcoming elections in which the winner is already known. We are not alone in holding such a view. As a matter of fact, the US State Department in its response to the flawed elections in Rwanda in 2010 made the following statement: A democracy reflects the will of the people, where minority voices are heard and respected, where opposition candidates run on the issues without threat or intimidation, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are protected.” Nothing has changed. The situation is rather worse.

Therefore, we call on the ACP - EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly to show that they represent the wishes of the people and not some protection for bad regimes. In this regard we request the present joint assembly to make recommendations asking the Rwandan government including but not limited to:

  1. End arbitrary unlawful killings and torture, government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association;
  2. Implement recommendations of the UN Special rapporteur, the UN Human Rights Council and the European Parliament such as:
    1. Offer all citizens the right and opportunity without any distinctions and without unreasonable restrictions to freely form and register a political party and operate in a pluralistic political sphere;
    2.  Ensure that all political opponents are free to participate in the political process, and are not labelled as enemies of the State;
    3.  Offer all political parties equal opportunities to pursue their legitimate activities and to treat them equally;
    4. Refrain from interfering with the internal functioning of political parties.
  3. Ask the Commission to link part of the aid package disbursements to a precise roadmap in reforms to meet the terms of the ACP-EU partnership agreement  and d enounce the flawed process of changing the constitution to allow President Paul Kagame to rule for life.

Brussels, December 18, 2016.

Jean-Damascène Munyampeta

Chair Platform

Acteur.changement@gmail.com

 

Annex: 

  • Extra judicial killings

These are a few examples in one area of the country during the last 2 month of November and December 2016,

  • : Ngoma Sector, Nyabirasi cell, Rutsiro district, western province was killed on November 21, 2016
  • Nshimiyimana Innocent son of Mr Buhinja Simon and Mrs Nyirankundimana Gaudence of Rebero village Munanira sector Nyamyumba cell Rubavu district, Western province. He was shot on December 1, 2016. He was shot by a soldier on suspicion of stealing a bunch of bananas.
  • Nzabonimana Jean Claude of Ngoma district was killed on December 5, 2016. He was shot by police on suspicion of having stolen a computer. The news was reported by “Imirasire newspaper” (www.imirasire.com). The newspaper was later pressured to block the article.
  • son of Mr Hitimana and Mrs Nyirampuguje of Cyeza village, Munanira sector, Nyamyumba cell, Rubavu district Western Province. He was shot dead by soldiers on December 6, 2016 under suspicion that he steals cows.
  • Musonera Samson 22 years old and Bizabarimana Jean Claude 24 years old of Nyamuremure village, Kigombe sector, Muhoza cell, Musanze district, western province, were killed on December 7, 2016. They were picked from their homes by plain clothed armed men, who handcuffed them at the time of arrest. The assailants were led by the village executive secretary Mr Gahutu Antoine who is also RPF party leader in the village. They were knifed to death.
  • Channy Mbonigaba was shot on 18 August 2016, by the Rwanda National Police which informed the public that it had shot dead an armed terror suspect in a Kigali suburb of Nyarutarama;
  • On Friday, 19 August 2016, the Rwanda National Police is said to have shot and killed three suspected terrorists in in Bugarama Sector of Rusizi District.
  • On 20 August, two more people were killed in Rusizi district in a so called "crackdown on terror».

 

  • Enforced or involuntary disappearances

Some samples that we have been able to collect. There is a lot of underreporting due to fear of the authorities, helplessness, and hopelessness that it is a waste of time to report. Here are a few cases:

  1. Major Emmanuel Nkubana October 2016;
  2. Mr Ntirutwa Theophile 18/09/2016 (FDU - Inkingi); released after public outcry;
  3. Mr Ndabarasa John 7/08/2016 (journalist, musician);
  4. Ms Gasengayire Léonille 26/03/2016 (Student, FDU - Inkingi) released after three days of interrogation;
  5. Mrs Iragena Illuminee 26/03/2016 (nurse + helping poor children) reported dead under torture;
  6. Mrs Uzamukunda Marie Claire 24/01/2016 (Hospital admin) reappeared after 8 months but warned not to talk to anyone about what happened to her;
  7. December 2015, Boniface Twagirimana 1st Vice President FDU - Inkingi (found later in the hands of the Police and released after 3 days);
  8. Mr Ntirugiribambe Jean Chrysostome 23/06/2015 (UN ICTR investigator) ;
  9. Major Ir Munyaruguru Emmanuel (former Rwandan military officer of GF) 19 Jun 2015;
  10. In its report of 30 July 2014, the Correctional Service of Rwanda reported that 30,000 convicts of TIG (convicts committed carry community work as part of their sentence) were missing;
  11. n June 2014 Mr Musoni the Minister of Local administration stated that 16 000 of Ngororero Northern province were missing (ordinary people);
  12. Detainees without charges in prisons and unofficial detention centres (military barracks, safe houses…). Example: 30/07/2014, 7099 detainees without properly done charge sheets;
  13. Mr Mutabazi Joel 25/10/2013, (Rwanda president’s body guard unit);
  14. Mr Karemera Johnson 11/02/2014 (brother of Joel Mutabazi) kidnapped from UNHCR protected house in Uganda and found later at the infamous military camp of Kami;
  15. Mr Gafirita Emile (defence witness in the shooting down of the plane of the former Rwanda President Habyarimana - case led by French judge Marc Trevidic) Nov 2014;
  16. May 2011, the United Kingdom Police foiled an attempt on the lives of two British citizens of Rwandan origin;
  17. Col. Cyiza Augustin, deputy chief of Supreme Court.Kidnapped on April 2, 2003, not found yet;
  18. Hon. Hitimana Léonard. MP kidnapped on April 7, 2003, not yet found.

The list is endless.