US Congress to Hold Hearing on Rwanda’s Troubling Human Rights Record

By: Jennifer Fierberg

Democracy in Rwanda Now released the following press statement today stating:

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations announced today that it will hold a hearing on May 20 to examine Rwanda’s deteriorating human rights record under President Paul Kagame.

The hearing, “Developments in Rwanda,” will feature testimony from several experts on Rwanda including David Himbara, a former top economic aide to President Kagame and coordinator of the North American branch of Democracy in Rwanda Now (DIRN); Robert Higiro, a former Rwandan army major who fled the country when he was ordered to assassinate Rwandan dissidents living in South Africa; and Robert Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs.

“I highly commend Chairman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA) for holding this very important hearing, which will shine a brighter spotlight on Rwanda’s troubling and worsening human rights record,” said Mr. Himbara.

“I sincerely hope that this hearing, in addition to raising awareness among members of Congress and the American people about President Kagame’s repressive regime, serves as a critical step toward ending the troubling, long-established authoritarian governance of Rwanda. The Rwandan people deserve to live in a country of opportunity and freedom, not one of tyranny and fear.”

In recent years, President Kagame has taken deliberate steps to control Rwandan media, silence all opposition and quiet those who criticize his regime, as evidenced in Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2015. The US State Department has condemned these actions; with spokesperson Jen Psaki noting in a Jan. 16, 2014, press briefing that the United States is “troubled by the succession of what appear to be politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles.”

Many Rwandan opposition activists have disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances; the State Department’s 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices states that Rwanda has “major human rights problems,” including “arbitrary or unlawful killings both inside and outside of the country, disappearances, torture, harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers, arbitrary arrests, prolonged pretrial detentions and government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights.”

Democracy in Rwanda Now (DIRN) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes democracy, free speech and human rights for Rwandans.

CONTACT

David Himbara

Democracy in Rwanda Now (DIRN)

End

 

This information was further detailed by The United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs confirming the witnesses to be the following two panels:

 

Witnesses

Panel I

The Honorable Robert P. Jackson

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

Bureau of African Affairs

U.S. Department of State

 

Panel II

 

Mr. David Himbara

Coordinator for the USA and Canada

Democracy in Rwanda Now

(Former Aide to the President of Rwanda)

 

Major Robert Higiro, RDF, Retired

Coordinator for Belgium

Democracy in Rwanda Now

 

End

 

Major Robert Higiro was the key source of an explosive expose written last year in The Globe and Mail in which he exposed how Colonel Dan Munyuza, Rwanda’s director of military intelligence and a trusted ally of the Rwandan president, hired Major Higiro to assist in the plans to assassinate General Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya in South Africa. Both were close allies to President Paul Kagame during and after the 1994 Civil war in Rwanda known as the 1994 Genocide.  

Dr. David Himbara, former principal private secretary to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, has been a strong outspoken critic of the Rwandan regime of which he fled when he discovered the brutality of the man he was serving. Two of Dr. Himbaras brothers are detained in Rwandan jails on elusive and fake poltical charges awaiting hearings in a court system that decides the outcomes of cases before they begin.

There are twenty years’ worth of reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the UNSC Group of Experts, Mapping reports and hundreds of well researched articles and books that detail the massive human rights violations the Government of Rwanda has committed against their own citizens by denying them freedom of speech, freedom of the press and basic human needs. However, the United States government continues to ignore this growing problem. In 2016, President Paul Kagame will come to the end of his second seven-year term as President of Rwanda thus ending his constitutionally provided term that no president shall be elected for more than two terms and yet there is little doubt that he will continue to stay in power under the guise of “the people are demanding he stay.”

Secretary of State John Kerry has made trips to Africa in the last year to meet with presidents who are seeking to change their countries constitutions in order to remain in power with the message of, “do not change your constitution and allow democracy to take its course.” Yes, this message has not been delivered to Paul Kagame. Will the US continue to protect President Kagame or will they begin to hold him accountable for the millions of lives whose blood is on his hands?

 

 

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