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Rwanda's Opposition Leaders Criticize Tony BlairJennifer Fierberg, MSW
The letter in its entirety is published below in its original format with no editing by this writer.
(WASHINGTON D.C.) - In London on July 1, 2011 President Paul Kagame received the Humanitarian award from The Chello Foundation for his work in the areas of children’s education and healthcare and the promotion of women’s rights. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s introduction of President Kagame came via video where he praised the Rwandan President in the above listed areas as well as his leadership of Rwanda.
President Kagame then spoke for just over fourteen minutes thanking The Chello Foundation, Tony Blair and the ongoing support that the UK provides to Rwanda. The Rwandan President emphasized “meaningful and productive relationship over many years.” Attenders at the event looked on with admiration, smiles and nods as President Kagame spoke of the progress Rwanda has made in the areas of children’s education, HPV vaccine for girls and sanitary supplies so they do not have to miss school.
While President Kagame receives this prestigious award many are left wondering why his record on humanitarian abuses continues to be ignored by the former UK Prime Minister and the international community as widespread reports continue to circulate regarding President Kagame and the RPF as they systematically create chaos and destabilization within Rwanda and the DRC.
This journalist uncovered a letter addressed to former Prime Minister, Tony Blair from Oppositional Rwandan Leaders requesting peace talks with him regarding his relationship with Rwanda. These leaders asked Mr. Blair to withdraw his support until peace can be established as well as a cease in humanitarian rights abuses. As of this publication confirmation has been established regarding the former Prime Ministers receipt of this letter.
The letter in its entirety has been published below in its original format with no editing by this writer.
The writers of this letter represent Rwandan political and civil society organizations that have long had concerns about the policies of the United Kingdom government in relation to Rwanda and your Excellency’s support for President Kagame’s policies. We acknowledge that you are entitled to your personal opinion on the situation in Rwanda. We do not in any way seek to question your good faith or noble intentions in the work that you do to support Rwanda. We also appreciate the very significant humanitarian and development assistance that the United Kingdom has provided to Rwanda since 1994.
Nevertheless, we find ourselves compelled to address this letter to you in order to bring to your attention the views of our respective organizations and members as well as many other Rwandans on the situation in Rwanda. We seek, in particular, to communicate our concerns over the damaging impact of your Excellency’s public pronouncements and unqualified support for President Kagame’s leadership and conduct. Rwanda is a one party regime governed by one man who controls all organs of the state.
President Kagame does not allow opposition parties to be registered, let alone operate freely. Media outlets that are critical of the government are either shut down by the government or forced to close operations as a result of attacks against their journalists.
Civil society organizations independent of the government operate under draconian restrictions that make the exercise of their role as watchdogs over government all but impossible. The people of Rwanda have no liberty to discuss, let alone decide, how they should be governed. The political system marginalizes the majority of the population from political participation.
President Kagame maintains his grip on power by severe repression, including arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions of political opponents of the regime. Institutions of the state continue to subject real and imagined critics of the government to a wide range of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, involuntary disappearances and extrajudicial killings. President Kagame does not respect the sanctity of human life. Over the course of the last several months, several members of opposition parties, civil society groups, independent media outlets and individuals suspected of being opponents of the regime have been hunted down, arrested, tortured, imprisoned or killed. Agencies of the Rwandan state have made multiple attempts to kill opposition leaders such as Col. Patrick Karegeya and Gen. Kayumba Nyarnwasa. Victims of state sponsored terror who have lost their lives over the recent past include Andre Rwisereka (Vice President: of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda), Jean—Leonard Rugambage (deputy editor of the Umuvugizi newspaper) and John Rutayisire. As we write, many members and leaders of opposition parties (including Hon. Charles Ntakirutinka of Ubuyanja Party; Bernard Ntaganda, President of the Social lmberakuri Party; Victoire lngabire, President of the FDU-Inkingi party and Deo Mushyayidi of the PDP Imanzi Party) remain in detention, as do some innocent relatives of opposition leaders. The climate of repression that prevails in Rwanda has made it impossible for tens of thousands of refugees who remain in exile after the events of 1994 to return to Rwanda. Indeed, the human rights situation in the country continues to force Rwandese from all levels of society to take the road to exile.
President Kagame’s appalling record on human rights and governance in general is not a result of the legacy of the genocide. It was not inevitable that Rwanda should end up as a dictatorship after the genocide. The Arusha Peace Agreement provided a framework that could have led to a successful transition to democracy under a broad based government.
The RPF, and President Kagame in particular, derailed Rwanda’s transition to democracy after the genocide by driving other political forces from government in 1995. President Kagame has used his control of the ruling party (the RPF), the government, and security institutions to entrench authoritarian rule, The restrictions on the exercise of fundamental liberties that the Rwanda government has established aim to protect President Kagame’s monopoly of political power, not to promote peace. Peace and stability in deeply divided post conflict societies are best protected and promoted by inclusion and genuine power sharing. Peace maintained by a dictatorship through violent repression is not enduring.
Democracy and respect for human rights are not a luxury that any government is free to dispense or withhold at its discretion. Nor is development aid necessary to purchase freedom, an inalienable right for every human being, rich or poor. Your views on President Kagame’s accountability for human rights abuses is at variance with the values that the United Kingdom has espoused in its long history, and the positions that it has always taken on accountability in other post conflict situations, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Iraq. Your stand on the relationship between human rights and development in the context of Rwanda contradicts the policies and approaches that your own governments Department for International Development and the international community have long championed. We are fortified that our organization’s concerns about the broad human rights situation in Rwanda are shared by all major human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
We firmly believe that the violent conflicts that Rwanda has experienced over the past half century are rooted in issues revolving around governance. The only path to sustainable peace in Rwanda is a system of government that has popular legitimacy, includes all communities of Rwanda and is committed to respect of fundamental human rights, especially the integrity of the person and the right to political participation.
Economic development in post conflict societies that is not rooted in democratic values, respect for human rights, and broad inclusion is not sustainable. The tolerance that the international community has exhibited towards President Kagame’s excesses continues to fuel impunity. The endemic impunity that still thrives in Rwanda is an insurmountable obstacle to lasting peace and sustainable development. We strongly believe that accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including the crimes disclosed in the Report on the DRC mapping Exercise, is a prerequisite for national reconciliation and lasting peace.
Rwanda is in a situation of serious crisis. We are convinced that violent conflict is virtually certain to return to Rwanda if the present government does not heed calls for dialogue and agree to a process of peaceful political reform leading to democracy. The results of the substantial development assistance that your government and others have extended to Rwanda since the end of the genocide could be very swiftly undone in the event of such conflict, with grave implications for the whole Great Lakes region and international peace and security.
The climate of fear and terror that prevails in Rwanda does not permit Rwandan society to freely discuss the very grave problems facing the country and to find solutions to those problems. The people of Rwanda count on Rwanda’s development partners, especially the United Kingdom and the United States (the two countries that are widely perceived as being Rwanda’s principal allies in the West) to support the promotion of respect for human rights and advancement of democracy. We believe that Rwanda’s development partners, especially those who have close relations with the current government such as Your Excellency, have a unique role, if not responsibility, to advance the cause of peaceful change in Rwanda by President Kagame on the need for progress in guaranteeing for fundamental human rights and for national dialogue to resolve the country’s crisis. It is in this spirit that we write to urge you to keep an open mind about the situation in Rwanda; to have empathy for the suffering of the victims of past and ongoing human rights abuses for which President Kagame bears personal responsibility; to put the long—tern1 interests of Rwanda and of the majority of her people above loyalty to a President you say is a personal friend and to hold him accountable to the values and V standards of conduct that the international community ought to require of leaders exercising the responsibility of national leadership, particularly leadership that citizens, have not freely chosen and are powerless to change.
We hope and trust that this letter will be the beginning of a necessary engagement etween you (and others in the international community who want to help Rwanda attain stability and lasting peace but are at the same time still supportive of President Kagame’s leadership) and individuals and organizations whose views on the situation of Rwanda and vision of our country’s future can not be freely articulated inside Rwanda on account of the prevailing climate of repression. We assure Your Excellency of our respective organizations’ commitment to unconditional dialogue with both the Rwanda Government and Rwanda’s development partners on the way to avert the crisis that is engulfing our motherland. Some of the organizations that are signatories to this letter have already demonstrated commitment to inter-Rwandan dialogue by establishing a mechanism to advocate for such a dialogue. We take this opportunity to request Your Excellency to grant the writers of this letter audience to enable us discuss the issues raised in the letter with you in person and to brief you on our work in pursuit of peace change in Rwanda.
Accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest considerations.
The authors of this letter wished to remain anonymous.
Accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest
Jennifer Fierberg is a social worker in the US working on peace and justice issues in Africa with an emphasis on the crisis in Rwanda and throughout the central region of Africa. Her articles have been published on many humanitarian sites that are also focused on changing the world through social, political and personal action.
Jennifer has extensive background working with victims of trauma and domestic violence, justice matters as well as individual and family therapy. Passionate and focused on bringing the many humanitarian issues that plague the African Continent to the awareness of the developed world in order to incite change. She is a correspondent, Assistant Editor, and Volunteer Coordinator for NGO News Africa through the volunteer project of the UN. Jennifer is also the media co-coordinator and senior funding executive for The Africa Global Village (www.africaglobalvillage.com) Jennifer comes to www.Salem-News.com with a great deal of experience and passion for working to stop human right violation in Africa.
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