Category Archives: CHOGM

My story proves Rwanda’s lack of respect for good governance and human rights

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

Responsibility for defending what the Commonwealth stands for must not pass to the country without reforms.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza launched the Dalfa Umurinzi party to ‘strive for the rule of law’.

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If Rwanda had hosted the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, which has been cancelled for the second time due to Covid-19, the UK was due to hand the country the Commonwealth chair.

Rwanda would have held the responsibility for defending what the Commonwealth stands for – despite violating those same values for decades. When Rwanda was admitted as a member in 2009, I had hoped our government would apply Commonwealth values in its governance. But this did not happen.

In January 2010, I made the decision to leave my family and career in the Netherlands and return to my beloved Rwanda. I intended to register my party, the United Democratic Forces of Rwanda (UDF-Inkingi), and to contest the 2010 presidential elections.

But the Rwandan government does not tolerate dissenting voices. I was arrested and dragged into politically motivated judicial proceedings. After I was sentenced to eight years in jail by the high court, I appealed to the supreme court and the sentence was increased to 15 years. The African Court on Human and People’s Rights cleared me and held that Rwanda had violated my rights to freedom of expression as well as to adequate defence. After eight years’ imprisonment, I was released under presidential grace in 2018.

I spent five years in solitary detention, during which time I wrote a book, Between 4 walls of the 1930 prison: memoirs of a Rwandan prisoner of conscience. In it, I recount the three years between announcing my presidential candidacy to my incarceration in the infamous “1930” maximum security prison. I dedicated my book primarily to all who are engaged in the struggle for democracy in Rwanda, with a special thought for the vice-president of the Democratic Green Party, André Kagwa Rwisereka, who was murdered in 2010 and the former head of intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, who was murdered in 2013.

The more injustice that I and my fellow citizens have endured – including the killing of my close political aides – the more motivated I am to fight for democracy in Rwanda. On my release, I launched the political party Dalfa Umurinzi with a mission to strive for the rule of law and for sustainable development benefiting every Rwandan. Although the constitution provides me with the right to organise a general assembly, I’m not permitted to register my political party or be approved to operate.

The more injustice I and my fellow citizens have endured, the more motivated I am to fight for democracy in Rwanda

In 2019, I received an international award from the Association for Human Rights of Spain (APDHE). I couldn’t travel to Spain to collect the prize because I had no right to leave Rwanda without permission from the justice minister. Two requests to do so have received no response from the authorities. I have not seen my family in the Netherlands for more than 10 years.

There is a pattern of limiting political participation to those affiliated to the ruling party and excluding serious contenders in Rwanda’s presidential elections. This is done by fabricating charges and abusing the judicial system. These acts represent a violation of Commonwealth core principles.Advertisement

They also challenge the claim often advanced by the ruling circle in Rwanda that the established political system is based on power-sharing consensus democracy with the intent of overcoming ethnic divisions and accelerating development.

Rwanda’s oft-repeated development success story is flawed. In 2006, 72% of Rwanda’s debt was written off under the IMF and World Bank’s heavily indebted poor countries initiative, while Rwanda received more overseas development assistance than countries with similar incomes – a total of $17bn (£11bn) from 2000 to 2019.

Despite this, Rwanda remains one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 160th out of 189 countries in the UN Human Development Index of 2019. The government’s 2000 development agenda, which aimed to transform Rwanda into a middle-income economy by 2020, has not succeeded and delivery has been postponed to 2035.

Although economic growth has been high in Rwanda, it is characterised by low per capita income, low private investment, low exports and high reliance on aid. Since 2012, Rwanda’s borrowing has intensified, increasing indebtedness to 66% of GDP in 2020.

The main economic challenges include an undeveloped private sector, increasing unproductive indebtedness, high youth unemployment and a consistently high poverty rate, as well as a population happiness deficit.

Rwanda’s alleged role in regional political tensions has also prevented economic development. Reconciliation policies, implemented after the civil war and the 1994 genocide, are not inclusive. They weaken the social capital that is needed for our population to trust each other and work together efficiently. The repression of dissenting voices has encouraged Rwanda’s citizens to abstain from participating in social, economic and political decisions.Advertisement

Prior to Covid-19, Rwanda had a cash gap of 15.7% of GDP a year to meet its sustainable development goals by 2030. This has increased to 21.3% of GDP per year. Given that its government was provided with significant financial assistance to support its development plan to transform Rwanda into a middle-income state over the past two decades, and has not succeeded, I would argue that any further financing must be accompanied by radical governance reforms. Current governance in Rwanda – that limits political space, lacks separation of power, impedes freedom of expression and represses critics of the government – cannot lead to sustainable development.

I believe I made the right decision to return to Rwanda. My story, and those of others who have been harassed, jailed, forced into exile or worse for challenging the government, are tangible evidence of a lack of respect for human rights and of good governance, and are violations of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values. Governance reforms should be a prerequisite before Rwanda hosts the next Commonwealth heads of government meeting and takes over the chair.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is president of the Dalfa Umurinzi political party, Rwanda.

The Guardian

37th Universal Periodic Review: UK statement on Rwanda

The UK delivered a statement on Rwanda at the 37th Session of Universal Periodic Review (UPR), sharing recommendations to improve their human rights record.

Published 25 January 2021

Julian Braithwaite
Ambassador Julian Braithwaite, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, Geneva.

The United Kingdom welcomes Rwanda’s strong record on economic and social rights, and promotion of gender equality. We remain concerned, however, by continued restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom. As a member of the Commonwealth, and future Chair-in-Office, we urge Rwanda to model Commonwealth values of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.

We recommend that Rwanda:

  1. Conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture, and bring perpetrators to justice.
  2. Protect and enable journalists to work freely, without fear of retribution, and ensure that state authorities comply with the Access to Information law.
  3. Screen, identify and provide support to trafficking victims, including those held in Government transit centres.

Thank you.

Kagame Should not host Queen Elizabeth II and Commonwealth Leaders in 2020

Kagame Should Not Host Queen Elizabeth II And Commonwealth Leaders In 2020
Open Letter to The Right Honourable Theresa May, British Prime Minister

Dear Right Honourable Theresa May, as you are of course well aware, the 2020 Commonwealth Heads of States and Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Rwanda. This means Rwanda’s President, General Paul Kagame will hold the position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office from 2020 to 2022 as leader of CHOGM host country. With all due respect, Kagame hosting CHOGM and subsequently holding the position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office for two years is most appalling.

Madam Prime Minister, how you and fellow Commonwealth leaders determined that General Kagame would be a suitable host for CHOGM remains a mystery. You were fully aware that Mr. Kagame practices politics that does not remotely resemble the Commonwealth’s democratic principles and norms. You knew, for example, that in 2017 Kagame “won” a presidential majority of over 99%, after “winning” a referendum to end term limits that could see him remain president until 2034 when he will be 77 years old. This puts General Kagame in the league of the North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Be that as it may, what is currently taking place inside Rwanda and in its neighborhood leaves no doubt about what Mr. Kagame stands for. In the past four days, General Kagame literally shut down Rwanda’s common border with Uganda. The two countries are members of the East African Community (EAC) and the Commonwealth. Nobody knows for sure why the Rwandan ruler has taken this extraordinary measure and its impact, but one thing is for sure. This outrageous action will adversely affect Rwandans, not least because more than half of the country’s annual international trade of about US$3.3 billion transits through Uganda onto the seaport of Mombasa, Kenya for overseas markets. For a poor country with a per capita income of US$748, shutting the gateway to international trade is a case of shooting oneself in the foot. This is a country heavily dependent on foreign aid of which UK’s contribution was £55.8 million for 2018/2019.

Madam Prime Minister, Kagame is also involved in conflicts with Burundi and South Africa. In the South African case, the national prosecutor has stated in court that the four Rwandan nationals who murdered the former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya, in Johannesburg in 2013 are closely associated with the Kagame government. Because of the Karegeya case and past illegal activities by Rwandan officials in South Africa, relations between the two countries, remain poor. For example, South Africa no longer provides consular services in Rwanda, despite the fact that hundreds of Rwandans do business, study, and seek medical attention in that country. To travel to South Africa, Rwandans must apply for visas in other countries, especially in neighboring Uganda, whose country Mr. Kagame has now locked up.

Meanwhile, inside Rwanda itself, fear, tension, and uncertainties which the people of Rwanda experience every day have intensified in the past two days. Reports indicate that Mr. Kagame has placed three top military generals under house arrest including General Joseph Nzabamwita who is the chief of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Right Honourable Prime Minister May, I put it to you that Mr. Kagame should not host Queen Elizabeth II and the Commonwealth Leaders in 2020. None of the unfolding conflicts involving him and his counterparts in neighboring states can be fixed in the near term. This being the case, the Commonwealth should instead urgently mediate between Rwanda and Uganda to avert the worst case scenario of a war breaking out between two members of the Commonwealth.

Yours Respectfully,

David Himbara