Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch

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Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Human rights fears over 'undemocratic' Rwandan poll

By Channel 4 News

As Rwandans prepare to vote in only the second post-genocide presidential elections, Human Rights Watch tells Channel 4 News laws intended to prevent another slaughter have instead been used to suppress free speech.
Paul Kagame is likely to be re-elected for his third and, according to the country's constitution, final term in Monday's presidential poll. But the run up to the vote has been peppered with accusations that the government is behind several moves to effectively muzzle free speech.
Carina Tertsakian from Human Rights Watch (HRW), who was forced to leave the east African country in April after her visa was revoked, told Channel 4 News "There is no democratic space in Rwanda."
Paul Kagame campaigns in the Rwandan elections (Credit: Reuters)She said although Mr Kagame has a lot of support in the country, "People are afraid if they express themselves freely they may be accused of the offence of promoting genocide ideology which could mean a prison sentence of up to 25 years. They're scared."
The crime of promoting genocide ideology was created in Rwanda in 2008 in order to prevent the re-emergence of the so-called hate speech which was instrumental in driving the 1994 massacres.
However the law itself is surprisingly vague. HRW says it is being used to frighten those who wish to stand against the government, including opposition candidate Victoire Ingabire.

Who is the RPF?
In Greek mythology Saturn ate his newborn children to stop them overthrowing him; the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), which came to power after the genocide in 1994, seems to be following the same pattern writes Channel 4 News' International Editor Lindsey Hilsum. General Paul Kagame, who is standing for re-election as president next week, fears the political opposition far less than some of his former comrades at arms.

Back in 1994, the RPF were heroes. They refused to accept international demands to compromise with mass murderers, and deposed the government which had organised the genocide. They did quite a lot of killing themselves, both in Rwanda and next door in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also managed to rebuild the country. Maybe they had to be ruthless to transform Rwanda into one of Africa's more prosperous and well governed states.

And yet, and yet. Back in 1996, Seth Sendashonga, the interior minister in the first post-genocide government, was shot dead in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Sendashonga was one of the few Hutus who had joined the RPF, but he fell out with some of the senior Tutsis in the movement. According to Africa Confidential, Kenyan police said he was shot with a pistol belonging to a Rwandan diplomat.

And this year, it has all been coming apart. In February, Kagame accused two former members of his inner circle of masterminding a series of grenade attacks in Kigali. Deo Mushayidi, a former RPF ambassdor, was arrested. General Faustin Kayumba, Kagame's former chief of staff, fled to South Africa. On 19 June, an assassination attempt in Pretoria left him with bullet wounds in the stomach. The Rwandan government says it had nothing to do with it – but Kayumba's wife, Rosette, thinks otherwise.

In April, two senior generals – Karake Karenzi and Charles Muhire – were arrested. Others, such as Patrick Karegeya, have also fled into exile.

They are all people those of us who covered the genocide knew back in the mid 90s. Ambitious men, but also intelligent and with a determination to heal their wounded country.

President Kagame says Rwanda is now a democracy, because it is holding elections. It looks more like the classic revolution that ends up eating its own children.

Ms Ingabire has faced repeated arrest since her return to Rwanda after a 16 year absence and in March this year was stopped from travelling outside the country. Her movements have been further circumscribed and she is currently not allowed to leave the Rwandan capital Kigali.
The Rwandan government says Ms Ingabire and her party, FDU-Inkingi, have been collaborating with the opposition militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), composed in part of members who carried out the 1994 genocide.
She also stands accused of making public statements criticising the government which has led to accusations of inciting divisions.
Ms Ingabire failed to become a presidential candidate because her she and her followers were unable to register as an official political party. Local authorities had reportedly hampered attempts by FDU-Inkingi to satisfy registration requirements.
Civil society has also been targeted with the Rwandan media having faced censure. Two independent newspapers, Umuseso and Umuvugizi, were suspended by the authorities.
Umuseso had published articles reportedly exposing government corruption. The two papers' editors subsequently fled the country after receiving death threats.
Mr Kagame's supporters say he has done much to improve the conditions of ordinary Rwandese, improving access to healthcare and introducing free schooling. Mr Kagame, who led the Tutsi-dominated Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) during the genocide, has ambitions to make Rwanda a regional techonological hub.
But as cracks start appearing in the fabric of the RPF and Mr Kagame faces a final presidential term, it remains to be seen if dissent in Rwanda will continue to be as effectively contained as it has been for the past 16 years.
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