Amnesty: ‘Climate of fear’ ahead of Rwanda election
Amnesty International has warned next month’s election in Rwanda will be held under a “climate of fear”, following “two decades of attacks on the political opposition, independent media and human rights defenders”.
The organisation is calling on Rwanda’s government to prevent political harassment ahead of the August poll. In the same report, it also urges the country to initiate reforms that will open up the political landscape and create space for political debate and freedom of expression before the next election to be held in 2024.
‘Climate of fear’
“Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago, Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “The climate in which the upcoming elections take place is the culmination of years of repression.”
Amnesty isn’t the only right group to accuse Rwanda of creating a climate of fear as a means of political oppression. Paul Kagame’s early reputation as Rwanda’s hero gradually shifted to one of a quiet dictator in a country eerily void of political dissent.
Human rights violations
The report documents cases of opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders facing restrictions on freedom of expression, including the groups they associate with and peaceful meetings they attend. Many have been jailed, forced into exile or even killed, according to the report.
“Killings and disappearances in 2017 need to be placed in the context of many years of similar violence for which no one has yet been held to account,” Muthoni Wanyeki added. “In this chilling atmosphere, it is unsurprising that would-be government critics practice self-censorship and that political debate is limited in advance of the elections.”
Featured image: By © ITU/J.Ohle, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31853376