Climate of Fear Engulfs Rwanda’s Upcoming Vote, Amnesty Says

KIGALI (Capital Markets in Africa) – Rwandan President Paul Kagame is seeking re-election amid a climate of fear that’s the result of two decades of crackdowns on the political opposition, media and human-rights defenders, Amnesty International said.

A report from the London-based group released Friday said freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly have all been restricted since the Rwandan Patriotic Front came to power in the wake of the East African nation’s 1994 genocide. Opposition politicians and journalists are among those who’ve been jailed, attacked or forced into exile or silence, Amnesty said.

 “Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty’s regional director for East Africa, said in a statement. “The climate in which the upcoming elections take place is the culmination of years of repression.”

Rwanda changed its constitution in 2015, enabling Kagame, who’s led since 2000 and taken credit for the tiny, landlocked nation’s economic success, to seek a third term at the Aug. 4. election. Annual GDP growth has averaged more than 7 percent since the turn of the millennium. Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said by phone he hadn’t seen the report when asked for comment.

Five opposition and independent candidates submitted nomination documents to authorities last month, with the final list of presidential candidates due to be announced Friday, Amnesty said. Only Kagame and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s Frank Habineza made a provisional list of qualified candidates published June 27, it said.

Amnesty urged the government to prevent harassment of opposition candidates and their supporters in the upcoming vote and also start reforms to open up political space before the 2024 elections to allow genuine debate.

Source: Bloomberg Business News

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