Paul Kagame’s replies to Susan Rice’s view on his human rights’ track record

I used to have a neighbour whose anti-social behaviour was notorious, but not as far as being criminally offensive. But each time any of his neighbours confronted him on his bad attitude he would do more of it. Luckily for the whole neighbourhood, one day they found out he had moved out to a different place nobody was interested in knowing where this was.

For four days, Susan Rice, US Ambassador at the UN visited Rwanda recently. Her government represents one of the main countries which have significantly supported Kagame’s regime since 1994. During her visit, the ambassador felt like someone who finds they cannot put under the carpet a disturbing behaviour from a neighbour, with whom they share much, or whose attitude could jeopardise their long term interests.

Among the many aspects she highlighted during her official speech at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, she pointed to the closed Rwandan political space. She said,

 “Rwanda’s economic vitality has moved the country forward. Social progress has been substantial, yet the political culture in Rwanda remains comparatively closed. Press restrictions persist, civil society activists, journalists and political opponents of the government often fear organizing peacefully and speaking out. Some have been harassed, some have been intimidated by late night callers, and some have simply disappeared.”

“Yet, the world is moving rapidly in a different direction. Across the globe, including in societies where a common system rose that freedom would never arise, we’re seeing people demand the right to chart their own future. To organize peaceful demonstrations and to criticize their own governments. From Tunisia, the demand to be heard has spread across North Africa and the Middle East…”

“…They will keep speaking out because they have a universal right to do so. And they know it. These rights: freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom to organize peacefully, are just as valid, just as inherent in Asia, in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa as they are in Europe, America or the Middle East.”

On 26/11/11, Paul Kagame responded to US Ambassador’s critic of his human rights track record by saying that,

“With regard to good governance, democracy or human rights, when there is equal opportunity, and you are the first to promote for example women’s rights, which were inexistent, if you tell me that  that’s not democracy, or in line with human rights, you must be mad ([ugomba kuba uri umurwayi] – in Kinyarwanda (Rwandan national language). “

Paul Kagame, who was speaking during a general public community work [umuganda] added that,

“…It’s 100 or 150 people out of ten millions! Among them there are those who voice idiocies, there are those who have destructive ideas. While we are busy building the country that you want to destroy, we will destroy you. And we don’t have to apologize for that! It’s the same for those who aspire to democracy ! 

And a few days later, Paul Kagame, in order to prove that he meant what he had publicly announced, one of his political prisoners, Bernard Ntaganda, Chairman of PS-Imberakuri, saw his conditions of imprisonment hardened.

In fact, in the night of 30/11 leading to 01/12, the prisoner was moved out of his usual cell then seriously tortured for several hours. As this is reported by his party, he was thereafter taken into a location inside the prison but away from where other political prisoners are normally held, but conditions are more inhuman.

Paul Kagame, must be planning to put his political prisoners into ‘Room 101,’ like the one George Orwell describes in his Nineteen eighty four novel, where those who resist Big Brother’s indoctrination, are forcibly pushed into loving their master. It is not enough to obey him.


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