News / Africa

Rights Group Calls for Open Dialogue in Rwanda as Kagame Begins Second Term

Michael Onyiego

Human Rights Watch called for Rwanda President Paul Kagame to allow open political space and permit opposition voices as he began his second term in office on Monday.

Kagame thanked the crowd gathered at Kigali's Amahoro stadium for his swearing-in.  He promised to continue his programs of education and development, which are widely credited for rebuilding Rwanda in the 16 years since the genocide.

The former rebel leader also used the forum, though, to strike back at critics who accuse him of repressing opposition in the small central-African nation.

President Kagame is accused by many international organizations, including New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International, of using the government to intimidate opposition and independent media.

In the months leading up to the election, two opposition newspapers were shut down for allegedly publishing articles that promoted public discord and genocide ideologies.  Opposition figure Victoire Ingabire was jailed under similar charges after suggesting that Hutus had also been victims of the genocide.

Mr. Kagame said international criticism is designed to deliberately misrepresent the situation in Rwanda.  He said poverty, not democracy, is Rwanda's greatest challenge.  He accused his critics of holding hypocritical and patronizing attitudes toward Africa.

Rwanda researcher for Human Rights Watch Leslie Haskell said Mr. Kagame's speech was "not surprising," but that the president left many questions concerning his commitment to democracy unanswered.

"The United States, the United Kingdom, France and also the European Union congratulated Kagame on winning the election, but also expressed concern about the intimidation and the violence in the run-up to elections," said Haskell.  "So I think it will be interesting to see how things evolve, whether we are going to see things return to a calmer situation without so much fear, whether we see any opening up of political space.  The big question that everyone has is whether he will actually step down in 2017.  I do not think we have any idea of that at this point."

Haskell defends the work of Human Rights Watch and calls for Rwanda's international donors to put pressure on the government to open up political space.

"The challenge will be and should be on whether he does move towards political participation for all citizens.  I think the governments that give Rwanda aid, and particularly those that spoke out in the aftermath of the election, we will wait to see whether they keep that pressure on the government to open up space or whether these were just empty statements."

Rwanda has come under intense criticism during the past two weeks, after a leaked U.N. report implicated the country's military in crimes against humanity and possible acts of genocide committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the decade following the Rwandan genocide.

The report says the Tutsi-led Rwandan army targeted Hutu civilians while pursuing the remnants of the Hutu forces responsible for the 1994 killings.  Rwanda sharply criticized the report, accusing the international community of hypocrisy through its failure to stop the Rwandan genocide.  

The country has threatened to withdraw from the joint U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur, if the report is published.  More than 3,000 Rwandan soldiers make up the bulk of the peacekeeping force in the troubled region.

Leslie Haskell of Human Rights Watch said such threats demonstrated President Kagame's lack of sincerity regarding African unity and international obligations.  She urged the United Nations not to "water down" the report in light of Rwanda's threats.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs