The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday accused the Rwandan authorities of being responsible for murders, beatings and kidnappings of dissidents abroad, and called on the international community to fight against this “extraterritorial repression”.
Rwanda has been ruled de facto with an iron fist by Paul Kagame since the end of the 1994 genocide. President of this country in the Great Lakes region since 2000, he was returned to power – with more than 90% of the votes – during the elections of 2003, 2010 and 2017. He announced at the end of September his candidacy for a fourth term in 2024.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Mr. Kagame’s party, “responded forcefully and often violently to criticism, deploying a series of measures to combat real or perceived opponents”, asserts HRW in a 129-page report, entitled “Join us or you die”. LONGwho has ” documented more than a dozen cases of murders, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings, forced disappearances and physical attacks targeting Rwandans living abroad.
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Contacted by AFP, Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo denied these accusations, saying that HRW “continues to present a distorted image of Rwanda which only exists in their imagination”, and evoking on the contrary “promoting the rights, well-being and dignity of Rwandans over the past 29 years”.
HRW, which focuses on abuses documented since 2017, spoke to more than 150 people in this matter, notably in France, South Africa and the United States.
Since May 2021, says HRW, “ at least three Rwandans were killed or disappeared in suspicious circumstances, while two others survived kidnapping attempts” in Mozambique including Seleman Masiya, described by a friend as very critical of the Rwandan government. This businessman and footballer, who had asylum seeker status in Mozambique, was killed at his home in the north of the country in July 2022.
Seleman Masiya, who was stabbed multiple times in the face and neck, had “been pressured to work for the Rwandan government,” according to HRW.
Despite the repeated human rights violations committed by the Rwandan authorities against these opponents, the international community has, deplores the human rights NGO, “look away from the scope and gravity of this country’s deplorable human rights record.”
An indulgence that HRW explains in particular by Rwanda’s involvement in peacekeeping operations in Africa, such as in the Central African Republic and Mozambique, where Kigali has intervened since 2021 to fight against an armed jihadist insurgency.
Human Rights Watch also points to the role played by Rwandan embassy officials or members of the Rwandan Community Abroad (RCA), an international network of diaspora associations linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the surveillance and pressure exerted on asylum seekers and refugees.
Even in Western countries, such as Belgium, the United Kingdom and France, Kigali has managed to “create a climate of fear among refugee populations”deplores the NGO.
Relatives remaining in Rwanda are also targets of arbitrary detentions and alleged assassinations “in order to put pressure on their family members abroad to stop their activism.”
These acts have “violated a range of rights, including the rights to life, (..) the right not to be subjected to torture and the right to a fair trial”concludes the NGO, asking the international community to fight against this “extraterritorial repression”.