People Salvation Movement

Rights Groups Warn Of Repression Ahead Of Rwanda Polls

Amnesty International warned Monday that Rwanda’s political opposition faces “severe restrictions” ahead of elections next week that President Paul Kagame is widely expected to win.

Kagame has been Rwanda’s de facto ruler since the end of the 1994 genocide which claimed some 800,000 lives, mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.

While the country has trumpeted economic transformation under his leadership, international organisations have decried the narrowing space for civil and political society as well as reports of rights abuses.

“The political opposition continues to face severe restrictions to their right to freedom of association, as well as threats, arbitrary detention, prosecution, trumped-up charges, killings and enforced disappearances,” Amnesty said.

Independent civil society and the media also face “intimidation, harassment and reprisals for their work”, it said.

Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also warned that the authorities had “cracked down on the opposition, media, and civil society” ahead of the July 15 presidential and parliamentary polls.

“The threat of physical harm, arbitrary judicial proceedings, and long prison sentences, which can often lead to torture, have effectively deterred many Rwandans from engaging in opposition activities and demanding accountability from their political leaders,” said senior HRW researcher Clementine de Montjoye.

Both watchdogs said political figures faced significant difficulties in registering their candidacies, with neither leading opposition voices Diane Rwigara and Victoire Ingabire able to stand.

Kagame will be running against the same rivals he faced in 2017 — the leader of the opposition Democratic Green Party, Frank Habineza, and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana.

The rights groups noted that leading political and civil society figures had faced arrest, or were awaiting trial.

Amnesty urged Rwandan authorities to “immediately end their severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.

Meanwhile, HRW said the presidency and officials should “urgently and publicly condemn abuse and release all those detained for exercising their basic freedoms”.

Team PSM communication department was not involved in the creation of the content above. This article was produced by AFP. For more information go to
© Agence France-Presse

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