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Vague Laws Keep Political Opposition ImprisonedAlysha Atma Salem-News.com African Affairs Correspondent
The Kagame government is facing heavy criticism from international human rights advocates.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Amnesty International (AI) is calling on Rwanda’s new government to urgently review vague ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’ laws that are being used to suppress political dissent and stifle freedom of speech.
“The ambiguity of the ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’ law means Rwandans live in fear of being punished for saying the wrong thing,” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Program director at AI.
“Most take the safe option of staying silent.”
Several political opposition leaders have been imprisoned, charged with ‘genocide ideology’, the Permanent Consultative Council of opposition parties in Rwanda (PCC) is demanding their immediate release.
Threats against political opposition parties, closing of independent papers, editors and journalists in exile are the consequences of these powerful laws The BBC and VOA have both been accused of circulating ‘genocide ideology’ by the government. These accusations led to the suspension of the BBC Kinyarwanda service for two months.
The Kagame government is being heavily criticized by international human rights advocates. The impunity seen in this small African nation is leading to unrest in the Great Lakes region. The lack of government transparency, open political forums and loss of freedom of press have led many to question President Paul Kagame version of democracy.
AI recent report Safer to Stay Silent: The Chilling Effect of Rwanda’s Laws on ‘Genocide Ideology’ and ‘Sectarianism’ details the manipulation of these laws; misused to criminalize criticism of the government and legitimate dissent by opposition politicians, human rights activists and journalists. The laws allocate for criminal punishment for children as young as 12; parents, guardians or teachers can be convicted of “inoculating” a child with “genocide ideology”. Sentences for those convicted can range from 10 to 25 years imprisonment.
AI told Salem-News.com “The Rwandan government must significantly amend the laws, publicly express a commitment to freedom of expression, review past convictions and train police and prosecutors on how to investigate accusations.”
*Sources: Amnesty International
*Sources: The 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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