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Rwanda Politics, Behind BarsAlysha Atma Salem-News.com African Affairs Correspondent
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza , Chair of FDU-Inkingi was arrested and incarcerated in Kicukiro on October 14th 2010. Police had surrounded her home, keeping her from leaving or receiving visitors several days prior to the arrest.
“The police should grant Ingabire access to visitors and should respect her rights to due process,” urged Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If she is to be charged, it should be on the basis of solid evidence, not as a punishment for her criticisms of the government.”
Sources confirm she has been exposed to cruel and unlawful treatment, spending many hours day and night in handcuffs since her arrest several weeks ago. According to a statement released by her lawyer, “(I) found a person submitted to dire and humiliating conditions.”
Several other members of the PS-Imberakuri and the FDU-Inkingi were arrested in June and July, few were released; others remain in detention. Human Rights Watch has consistently called for the humane treatment of these prisoners. Several have been ill-treated by the police, beaten and kicked, and kept handcuffed to other prisoners, even while eating and going to the toilet.
Bernard Ntaganda was arrested on June 24 and remains in detention, still awaiting trial. “We are worried about Bernard Ntaganda’s condition,” said Rona Peligal,. “The authorities should ensure he has access to appropriate and prompt medical treatment and that family and friends are allowed to visit him. They should also ensure that if his condition suggests evidence of abuse, for example that he has been ill-treated or attempts have been made to force feed him or retaliate against him for his hunger strike, this is immediately investigated.”
Members of a third opposition party, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, also received threats in the pre-election period. The party’s vice-president, André Kagwa Rwisereka, was brutally murdered in July; his mutilated body was found outside the town of Butare. The circumstances of his death remain unclear.
A petition targeting the United States government calls for the immediate release of the Rwandan leaders of opposition parties as well as all political, yet innocent prisoners.
An open Letter to the United Nations Security Council is demanding urgent intervention regarding the Rwandan political crisis and the immediate release of Ms. Victoire Ingabire, Bernard Ntagnda and all political prisoners.
New York, NY 10017
The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda which brings together, the United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi), the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and the Social Party Imberkuri strongly calls for an urgent intervention of the United Nations Security Council in the Rwandan Political crisis.
The Rwandan Opposition is convinced that your urgent intervention will help defuse the current political crisis in the country and help achieve sustainable peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Excellencies, as you may be aware, all the three genuine opposition political parties that have challenged the RPF Led Rwandan Government have undergone serious and dangerous trials both in 2009 and 2010. They were all blocked from participating in the recently concluded Presidential elections, which the incumbent run with stooge candidates and later awarded himself 93%.
The Government refused to register the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda after a whole year of risky peaceful struggle that was started on 14th August 2009. Its Vice President Andre Kagwa Rwisereka was assassinated and found decapitated on 14th July 2010, till now those killers have not faced justice and there are no signs of on-going investigations despite the fact that the UN Secretary General, EU, Government of France and Government of Canada called for investigations.
The Government of Rwanda also refused to register the United Democratic Forces-FDU Inkingi and many of its members have been imprisoned or released on bail. On 14th October 2010, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, FDU Inkingi Leader was arrested and incarcerated in Kicukiro police custody on politically motivated charges of forming a not-yet known terrorist organization (Coalition of Democratic Forces - CDF as an alleged military wing of FDU-Inkingi). The conditions of her detention are cruel and inhumane: she is day and night in handcuffs and denied any sleeping item.
In April 2010 she was bailed out of jail and kept since then under extended house arrest. She had never been given a chance to defend herself in a court of law and now new politically motivated
charges have surfaced. We are strongly convinced that this was a Government Plan to bar her from competing in the past Presidential elections. We are very concerned that she may be treated and incapacitated like the former Head of State, Mr. Pasteur Bizimungu. We call for her immediate release from Prison.
The Social Party Imberakuri had managed to get registered in July 2009 after several failures and beatings, but was later broken up into several factions, one of them now in the Government’s Political Parties Forum. Its Founding President, Maître Bernard Ntaganda is in prison since 24th June 2010, he is in critical healthy conditions and had been admitted at King Faycal Hospital last week, he is reported to be losing sight and to be paralyzed due to ill-treatment in the Kigali Maximum Prison known as “1930”.
The vicious cycle of political violence in Rwanda has been due to a lack of a system for a peaceful competition for and transfers of power between the political elites. We must all take a commitment to make sure that it does not happen again. Justice is needed for the country to achieve genuine reconciliation and sustainable development.
To have sustainable peace in Rwanda, there is a strong need of creating political space that enables a peaceful process of transfer and competition for power. We call for a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and a Rwandan National Dialogue.
It is quite sad that the present government has failed on many of the promises it pledged.
We have more political leaders in exile today than ever before: three former Prime Ministers, two former Speakers of Parliament, three former Ministers of Foreign Affairs, one Minister of Defence, one Minister of Justice, one Minister of Home Affairs assassinated in Nairobi, Members of Parliament (one was assassinated in Nairobi), ambassadors, military officers including (Lt.Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa who survived an assassination attempt on 19th June 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa), etc.
Many ordinary people are fleeing their country at a time when prominent members of the political elite are fleeing for their lives. We fear therefore that the present management of the political system has the potential to lead to another cycle of violence. This must be stopped immediately; UN Security council can prevent this. It should not be like the 1994 Genocide.
In this respect, the members of the Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda, decided to take part in a peaceful democratisation process of the country. We are determined to help break the cycle of fear, mistrust and impunity in Rwanda.
The Rwandan Opposition has been subjected to verbal and physical intimidation and abuse. The legal framework has been used against us to stop United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi), the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda from registering our political parties and exercising our political rights. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s founding convention on 30th October 2009 was sabotaged violently, by people suspected to be connected to security organs and others to be working for the Government.
An independent press has almost completely disappeared. In July 2010, Mr. Jean-Léonard Rugambage, a journalist and critic of the government, was murdered.
The papers that are critical of government have been forced to close down (Umuseso and Umuvugizi Newspapers) and their owners forced to flee the country, because their lives were in danger. Both are now operating online from exile. The Government has recently lifted the suspension on these papers, but the present Media Law and National Media Council are legal tools used by the Government to control free media in the country. The Media Law need serious revision. Journalists are jailed on charges related to their freedom of expression. Other media houses exercise self-censorship in order to survive. Two Editors of Umurabyo Newspaper (Ms.Agnes Uwimana Nkusi and Ms.Saidat Mukakibibi) are in Prison. Civil society organisations are forced to take the official Government line in order to operate.
We are very convinced that only a democratic system of government and rule of law can bring durable peace and development to Rwanda and to the Great Lakes Region at large. Rwandans are capable of solving these problems without resorting to violence. We have hard enough violence.
In conclusion, we are appealing to the UN Security Council to do everything in its power to bring the Rwandan Government to respect the United Nations conventions it has signed including the UN convention on political and civil rights and the African Charter on democracy, elections and good governance.
We are convinced that the only solution in the growing social and political tension in Rwanda depend more on the resolution of the internal political problems, this is why we request you to urgently intervene in the Rwandan Political crisis.
In particular, we request you to impress upon the President of Rwanda to immediately release all political prisoners: Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Maître Bernard Ntaganda, Mr. Deo Mushayidi, Mr.Charles Ntakirutinka, Ms.Seraphine Mukamana, Mr.Andrew Muganwa plus many others and also allow political parties that are critical of the regime ( the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and FDU-Inkingi) to register and exercise their full political rights and let the legally recognised leader of Social Party Imberakuri, Maître Bernard Ntaganda, manage his party without Government interference.
Mr. Frank Habineza
Founding President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda
Mr. Sylvain Sibomana
Mr. Theobald Mutarambirwa
Secretary General, Social Party Imberakuri
Sources: Human Rights Watch
Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda
Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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