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

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora