Rwanda: Civic and democratic space under total control of one party, the RPF

Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP

Paris – Nairobi – Kigali, 21 July 2022. In Rwanda, the regime, dominated by one party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), continues to violate human rights by intensifying its control over the economic and political sphere and by further restricting the civic and democratic space. Inside or outside the country, any citizen who wishes to use their freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, or defend individual rights is subject to the authoritarian model imposed by the regime. FIDH denounces both RPF and its attacks on fundamental rights, including individual freedoms, as well as the complicit silence of Rwanda’s international partners who condone these abuses.

In a new paper, titled Democratic space held hostage by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) (in French only), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) denounces the muzzling of civil society and the repression suffered by the rare dissidents attempting to make their voices heard. Since taking over the reins of power, FPR has imposed a single narrative and is coercing anyone who would oppose it.

"Democratic space has become non-existent in Rwanda and, aside from the ruling party, only facades of political groups remain. What is left of civil society and the opposition is strangled by repression."

said Paul Nsapu, FIDH Vice President

To achieve this, the regime does not hesitate to use an arsenal of measures on a large scale — surveillance, harassment, kidnapping, as well as murder and assassination disguised as enforced disappearance — against journalists, YouTubers, musicians, writers, and everyday citizens. Freedoms of association, expression, and opinion are far from guaranteed. Meanwhile, street violence perpetrated against people completes the picture of a country reduced to silence.

Despite such repressive practices, an April 2022 agreement between the United Kingdom and Rwanda allows the UK to send any person arriving illegally on British territory to Rwanda. This agreement, which is contrary to human dignity and international law — particularly the 1951 Refugee Convention — is denounced in this paper.

Beyond the blatant ethical concerns of such an agreement, the pervasive insecurity in Rwanda raises serious questions about the safeguarding of asylum seekers’ and migrants’ rights. The cases recorded show a worrying human rights situation, especially regarding vulnerable populations. The 2008 violent crackdown by Rwandan security forces on at least 12 refugees protesting reduced food rations should be a wake-up call to Rwanda’s partners and a catalyst to withdraw from the agreement.

FIDH denounces both RPF and its attacks on fundamental rights, including individual freedoms, as well as the complicit silence of Rwanda’s international partners who condone these abuses.

Read the paper (in French only) :

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