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Words to heed

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How scary is the trend of repression in Rwanda? Very, says Paul Rusesabagina.

Warning signs are everywhere. Organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are strongly condemning new election-related repression. Senator Russ Feingold, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has spoken out against “renewed abuse of civil and political rights.” The government is recreating the polarizing conditions that helped lead to genocide.


Written by Niall

May 1, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Africa, Governance, Rwanda


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Are gacaca courts still relevant?  Kenneth Roth suggests that the answer is “No.”  Roth provides several other reasons to be skeptical of Paul Kagame’s government.

One tool of repression has been the gacaca courts — informal tribunals run without trained lawyers or judges — which the government established at the community level to try alleged perpetrators of the genocide. The original impetus was understandable: Rwandan prisons were overpopulated with tens of thousands of alleged genocidaires and no prospect of the country’s regular courts trying them within any reasonable time. The gacaca courts provided a quick, if informal, way to resolve these cases. In theory, members of the community would know who had or had not been involved in the genocide, but in reality the lack of involvement by legal professionals has left the proceedings open to manipulation.
Today, 15 years after the genocide, people are still coming forward and accusing their neighbors of complicity in it, suggesting that gacaca has morphed into a forum for settling personal vendettas or silencing dissident voices. The prospect of suddenly being accused of past participation in the genocide, with little legal recourse against concocted charges, is enough to make most people keep their heads down in the political arena.
The government says it will close the gacaca courts in June. But the government has another tool of control — the crime of “genocide ideology.” Formally adopted last year, the law outlawing “genocide ideology” is written so broadly that it can encompass even the most innocuous comments. As many Rwandans have discovered, disagreeing with the government or making unpopular statements can easily be portrayed as genocide ideology, punishable by sentences of 10 to 25 years. That leaves little political space for dissent.
…Western governments, guilt-ridden at not having stopped the genocide and impressed by Rwanda’s stability and economic growth, have been all too willing to close their eyes to this repressive sleight of hand.
But Kagame’s strategy is shortsighted and dangerous. He claims to be building a society in which citizens are only Rwandans, not Tutsi or Hutu, but his repression of civil society means that avenues to forge alternative bonds among people are limited. That makes it more likely that in moments of tension Rwandans will resort to their ethnic identity, as so often happens in repressive societies.

Written by Niall

April 13, 2009 at 7:58 am

Posted in Africa, Law, Rwanda

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Eastern Congo – Road to trouble?

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Any peace there was or could have been in eastern Congo looks to be in perilous jeopardy.

The Economist provided this recent comment from French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner:

We fear that huge, frightening massacres could start again in the eastern area and in Kivu.

Today’s news suggests that that prediction may be closer to coming true than hoped. From the Mail & Guardian:

A new bout of heavy fighting erupted between government and rebel forces on Wednesday in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)…The fighting was centred in an area about 30km from Goma, where thousands of civilians have been forced to flee amid the advance by Tutsi rebels.

As reported in serveal places, this is by no means a domestic stuggle. Suspicion and contempt runs wild across the borders of the Lakes Region. In many respects, this is as much a Rwandan civil war being waged on Congolese turf as it is a conflict between the Congo and rebel forces. 

UPDATE: Chaos seems to be the word of the day in Kivu. Jeffery Gettleman is reeling off some good copy on the unfolding events in Kivu. Here’s the quote that speaks the most volume:

“What can we do?”‘ said Kikaya Bin Karubi, a member of Congo’s Parliament. “We don’t have a national army. Our so-called army is a combination of different rebel militias, with a 100 from this group, a 100 from that group, and so on. They haven’t even trained together for a year. How do they stand a chance?”

Samantha at gorilla.cd provides and answer to the honorable MP’s question:

It’s total chaos in Goma. I am being told, through various phone calls and text messages, that the army have now laid down their weapons at Kibumba, 12 miles north of Goma, and are fleeing the rebels. In other words they have totally given up.

Written by Niall

October 29, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Africa, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Rwanda

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