Category Archives: Diane Rwigara

Rwanda : meurtres, répression… le système Kagamé

Paul-Kagame-

Les Rwandais sont appelés aux urnes pour élire leur président… ou plutôt réélire Paul Kagamé, en place depuis 2000.

Les bureaux de vote ouvrent, vendredi 4 août, à Kigali au Rwanda et dans tout le pays. Ils vont attendre patiemment que les électeurs s’y pressent pour réélire le président sortant Paul Kagamé, pour un troisième mandat, qu’il a annoncé comme son dernier en mai. Le suspense n’est, en effet, pas de mise. Seuls deux opposants politiques ont été reconnus candidats officiels : Frank Habineza pour le Parti démocratique vert (PVD) et Philippe Mpayimana, candidat indépendant.

Pour les autres, la Commission électorale nationale les a écartés ou alors ils ont été victimes de campagnes de diffamation et de menaces. Mais finalement peu importe les opposants et leur nombre pour Paul Kagamé, qui répète à l’envi que l’élection est jouée depuis le référendum du 15 décembre 2015. Celui-ci l’a autorisé à se représenter jusqu’en 2034, avec 98,3% des voix. Un score impressionnant dans un pays connu pour sa répression politique.

Campagnes d’intimidation et menaces

Seuls deux opposants politiques ont donc réussi à braver les obstacles et à se faire reconnaître comme candidats officiels pour cette élection présidentielle. D’autres candidats en ont été empêchés. Le 3 mai dernier, Diane Rwigara par exemple a annoncé qu’elle se présenterait en tant que candidate indépendante. Dans les mois précédents, elle avait dénoncé publiquement la pauvreté, l’injustice, l’insécurité et l’absence de liberté d’expression au Rwanda. Une attaque directe envers le pouvoir. Quelques jours seulement après l’annonce de sa candidature, cette fille d’un financier du Front patriotique rwandais (FPR), parti de Paul Kagamé, mort dans des circonstances troubles, a fait l’objet d’une campagne de diffamation. Des photos où elle apparaissait dénudée ont circulé sur les réseaux sociaux. Elle et Philippe Mpayimana se sont également plaints que leurs représentants avaient été victimes de harcèlement et de manœuvres d’intimidation pendant qu’ils recueillaient les signatures nécessaires à la validation des candidatures.

Pour contrer cette répression, certains opposants vivent à l’étranger, comme l’abbé Thomas Nahimana. Ce candidat déclaré s’est pourtant vu plusieurs fois empêché de revenir d’exil. Même à l’étranger, il est donc difficile d’échapper à Kagamé. L’ancien chef des services de renseignements, Patrick KAREGEYA, a ainsi été retrouvé étranglé dans une chambre d’hôtel d’Afrique du Sud en 2014.

Deux décennies de répression politique

Deux décennies d’attaques contre les opposants politiques, les médias indépendants et les défenseurs des droits humains ont créé un climat de peur au Rwanda. C’est ce que dénonce Amnesty International, dans un rapport publié vendredi 7 juillet. L’ONG a donc décidé d’alerter sur le manque évident d’opposition politique et sur les dérives répressives du pouvoir.

Parmi les cas cités par le rapport, on trouve l’assassinat en mai de Jean Damascene Habarugira, un membre du parti non reconnu des Forces démocratiques unifiées (FDU), présidé par l’opposante Victoire Ingabire. Cette dernière a été condamnée en 2010 à quinze ans de détention pour “minimisation du génocide”.

“Depuis que le FPR est arrivé au pouvoir, il y a vingt-trois ans, il est difficile pour les Rwandais de participer à la vie publique et de critiquer ouvertement les politiques gouvernementales ; certains le paient même de leur vie”, a déclaré Muthoni Wanyeki, directrice du programme Afrique de l’Est, Corne de l’Afrique et Grands Lacs à Amnesty International.

Dans son rapport, Amnesty international exhorte donc l’Etat rwandais à entreprendre des réformes ambitieuses qui élargiront l’espace politique avant l’élection de 2024. Ce qui permettrait un débat véritable et l’expression d’opinions politiques diverses. Un travail de fond sur la liberté d’expression doit notamment être entrepris.

Répression médiatique

La liberté d’expression, c’est justement ce dont manquent les médias, fortement réprimés. Depuis des années, des journalistes sont emprisonnés, harcelés, parfois tués, et beaucoup ont été contraints à l’exil. En 2010, les journaux indépendants “Umuvugizi” et “Umuseso” ont été suspendus de parution pour avoir critiqué le régime, en pleine campagne électorale de réélection. Jean-Léonard Rugambage, alors rédacteur en chef adjoint del “Umuvugizi”, a été tué par balle à Kigali en 2010, alors qu’il enquêtait sur une tentative d’assassinat contre le général Kayumba Nyamwasa, passé dans l’opposition. En 2015, c’est le service rwandais de la BBC qui a été bloqué, l’un des seuls médias à délivrer une information indépendante. En 2016, au moins trois journalistes ont été arrêtés après avoir enquêté sur des sujets sensibles, comme la corruption et les morts suspectes.

Dans son rapport, Amnesty International invite le gouvernement à créer un mécanisme juridique pour enquêter sur les violations des droits de l’homme. Un défi, tant que Paul Kagamé reste au pouvoir.

Un bilan contrasté

Malgré l’utilisation d’un régime répressif toujours plus violent pour se maintenir en place, Paul Kagamé possède un bilan jugé positif sur le plan économique : croissance de 7 %, population couverte à 91 % par l’assurance-maladie, politiques efficaces de lutte contre la corruption. Ce qui corroborerait pour certains la popularité “indéniable” du président. Paul Kagamé, à la tête du Front patriotique rwandais, a contribué à mettre fin au génocide qui a fait plus de 800.000 morts 1994. “The Boss” comme on l’appelle à Kigali, a toujours été élu avec plus de 90 % des voix, dans ce pays de 11,5 millions d’habitants.

Mais la répression en vigueur va une fois encore empêcher de connaître la vraie valeur de ce vote : vote d’adhésion, de peur ou de dépit ?

Justine Benoit

Source: L’OBS

‘Rwanda is like a pretty girl with a lot of makeup, but the inside is dark and dirty’

Diane Rwigara

Diane Rwigara asks to postpone the interview. “My personal adviser is missing,” explains the text message. This is the new normal for Rwigara, who was until recently a loyal scion of Rwanda’s ruling elite.

Since the death of her father in 2015, the 35-year-old businesswoman has become a fierce critic of Paul Kagame, the country’s all-powerful president, and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

In May she announced her intention to run against him in the country’s electionon 4 August. For this, she has paid a heavy price.

In her grand, heavily fortified home in the heart of Kigali, the Rwandan capital, the interview goes ahead after her adviser – a close friend – turns up safe.

“He didn’t come home last night,” she explains. A stranger had called the night before and asked him to come for a drink. “He said he could give him some publicity for his newspaper. And you know how it is here: if you’re not part of the government, it’s hard to get publicity.”

He woke up the next day in a hotel room, his phone missing, remembering nothing from the previous night. “I’m used to it,” Rwigara says. Her best friend disappeared last December after she started speaking out against Kagame and the RPF. He has still not reappeared. “That’s life here. I’m just happy this one came back.”

Rwigara’s presidential bid was stillborn. On 7 July the National Electoral Commission barred her from standing on technical grounds, a move that came as little surprise to most. Kagame has ruled the country with an iron fist since sweeping to power after the genocide against Rwanda’s Tutsi minority in 1994. Criticism is barely tolerated, and the history of the past 15 or so years is littered with the names of opponents silenced and dissenters muzzled. To that list Rwigara adds her father, a prominent Tutsi businessman known to have been close to the RPF, at least early on.

“He was targeted because he did not want to continue to do business as usual,” she says. “If you have successful business, the RPF has to be part of it – and eventually get you out. But he did not want to let them in; he did not want to end up working for them. And he did not want to flee the country, though they did all they could to make him. So they had no choice.”

The US-educated Rwigara publicly accused the government of foul play after her father died in a road accident, contacting foreign embassies in Kigali and international human rights organisations, as well as petitioning the president. Many question the allegation, but there has been no official investigation. It is the family’s word against that of the police.

Rwigara’s thwarted candidacy was a brief flash of colour in the otherwise drab landscape of contemporary Rwandan politics. Kagame’s re-election is so certain that he himself claimed victory on the first day of campaigning, citing the overwhelming verdict of a controversial constitutional referendum in 2015 that permitted him to stand for a third term.

The proposed changes passed with a thumping 98% majority. “Pretending not to know the will expressed by the people during the referendum would be a lie, not democracy,” he told cheering crowds at a rally.

But Rwigara exposed cracks in the RPF’s confident facade. Most doubt that she would have been a significant electoral threat, but the lengths to which the authorities went to frustrate her – she claims her supporters were repeatedly threatened, beaten and jailed as they toured the country drumming up support – suggested a nervousness that belied Kagame’s breezy rhetoric.

“The RPF are scared,” Rwigara says. “If they are loved by the people, as they claim, why is that when someone like me announces an intention to run they resort to all these dirty tricks to try to discourage me and silence me? If they were really popular, then they would have let me compete.”

Many in Kigali agree. “Every week that she is not in trouble is progress,” confides one foreign diplomat. “She, not the official opposition, is the ultimate test for them.”

Rwigara represents young, prosperous urbanites who grew up under the RPF and whom it sees as essential to the country’s future. The busloads of young Rwandans who arrived to watch her announce her candidacy, and her packed press conferences, unnerved Kagame and his allies, according to insiders. Nude photos, apparently of her, soon flooded the internet – assumed to be a well-orchestrated smear.

She believes her fearlessness in speaking out is a headache for the RPF, which fastidiously cultivates a rosy image of Rwanda for the outside world. “Rwanda is like a very pretty girl with a lot of makeup,” she says. “Perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect everything. They spend so much time on the image because they know the inside is dark and dirty.”

Since her candidacy failed, Rwigara has launched what she calls a “movement” to challenge the regime on its human rights record. While her political awakening could be attributed to her father’s death, she makes allegations that go beyond personal grievance. Nobody else inside Rwanda has spoken more frankly about the extrajudicial assassinations that exiled critics and international organisations such as Human Rights Watch claim the government frequently carries out against its enemies.

“Everybody knows somebody who has disappeared, who has been killed,” Rwigara says. “The personal doctor of the president and an army major both died in the same week as my father. And those are the well-known people. You don’t hear about the other people.”

Yet she is also a former insider, and her candidacy could be seen as evidence of emerging fractures within the Tutsi elite who dominate politics and business. The government has made enemies of some of its natural supporters, such as the Rwigara family. After her father’s death, the family’s properties in central Kigali were seized and their hotel demolished.

Diane Rwigara gives a press conference after announcing her plans to run for president
Pinterest
Diane Rwigara gives a press conference in May after announcing her plans to run for president. She was later barred on a technicality. Photograph: Cyril Ndegeya/AFP/Getty Images

If she makes an unlikely spokesperson for the poor farmers who make up the majority of Rwandans, she may be more persuasive as an advocate for women. Kagame is something of a “donor darling” for his commitment to gender equality – half of the supreme court judges are women, and the country’s parliament is 61% female, the highest proportion in the world – but Rwigara dismisses such headline achievements as window-dressing.

“So what if Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in parliament? It’s really just part of the image. Because what do these women do?” she asks.

She says the parliament is little more than a rubber-stamp. There are women in senior positions in government, but none wield real power. And despite its impressive strides, academics have questioned the substance of Rwanda’s gender-equality drive, especially for unmarried women.

“Diane took big risks just being a woman in Rwandan politics – Rwanda is just not ready for that,” says Susan Thomson, assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University in the US, adding that the “the way the government sexualised her with those nude photos was frankly disgusting”. But she and others have also noted that it is precisely women like Rwigara – wealthy, predominantly Tutsi, often English-speaking – who have benefited most from the RPF’s empowerment measures.

Rwigara doesn’t see her gender as a hindrance. “They used my being a woman to get to me,” she says. “But even if I’d been a man they’d have found other ways.” In fact, it was her family that had the problem with the idea of women in politics. “Growing up I remember my family members – my mum and my aunt – saying that a girl should not have a political opinion; that a girl should not be politically active. It took me a while to make peace with being a girl who likes politics.”

Is Rwanda ready for a female president? “I think Rwandans themselves are,” she answers. “Because if the regime thought the people would not listen to me because I’m a woman, then they would not have tried to find all these ways to stop me.”

She says she doesn’t fear for her life. “Not for the moment. They know killing me will make too much noise. It’s harder to kill you once you are known, once you’ve been seen.”

Source: The Guardian