Rwandan Opposition Leaders and members have been assaulted, arrested and hundreds are still missing.
The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda (PCC) C/O. B.P. 6334 Kigali , Rwanda , Tel : +250 788563039,+250 728636000, +250 788307145
For Immediate Release : Rwandan Opposition Leaders and members have been assaulted, arrested and hundreds are still missing.
A planned demonstration against the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has been blocked today, while they are receiving nominations for the Presidential Elections. The genuine opposition has been denied a chance to participate in these presidential elections. The planned demonstration was blocked this morning when Maitre NTAGANDA Bernard, founding president of PS Imberakuri was violently grabbed from his home by unidentified armed plain clothed officers. Sources suggest that he is held incommunicado in a police cell. On the same occasion Ms. Victoire INGABIRE of FDU Inkingi woke up to find that her house had been surrounded by armed policemen and was prevented to get out of the residence. The Democratic Green Party Leader, Mr. Frank HABINEZA, and his Vice President, Andre Kagwa RWISEREKA were held up by police, their National Identity cards and phones were taken for almost one hour at US Embassy in Kigali. Two Executive Members of FDU INKINGI, the Secretary General Sylvain Sibomana and the Treasurer Alice Muhirwa are missing. The Secretary General of PS Imberakuri, MUTARAMBIRWA Theobald is believed to be in police custody.
The ‘Parti Social Imberakuri-PS Imberakuri, had written to the Mayor of GASABO district on 17th June 2010, requesting for permission to demonstrate on 24th June 2010. The Letter specified that the demonstrations were to start from the Prime Minister’s Office in Kimiruhura, continue to the Parliament and then end at the Ministry of Local Government in Kacyiru, where a public message was to be read.
The District never responded by Wednesday, 23rd June and Maitre NTAGANDA a senior Lawyer and advocate, confirmed to other opposition Leaders that legally in this case silence is not NO, and the program remained as planned.
To our surprise early this morning, the Democratic Green Party Leader, Frank HABINEZA, received a phone call from PS Imbearakuri Secretary General, informing that the party Leader had gone missing and they have changed plans and instead of the planned demonstrations they will go to the American Embassy in Kacyiru and ask US Embassy officials to intervene in this serious situation. They also asked the Green Party Leader to help them out so that Maitre NTAGANDA could be released.
To our surprise upon arrival at the US Embassy visitors parking at around 09:00 local time, when we called the PS Imberakuri Secretary General, instead of getting his response we heard a lot of commotions on his phone and by the time we reached outside the US Embassy buildings, we saw police chasing PS Imberakuri members and also saw others being arrested and being put on Police Vans. The Secretary General is believed to be in police custody with hundreds of other Imberakuri members.
We proceeded and talked to US Embassy officials and after a while as we were leaving the US Embassy grounds, police stopped us and took away our National Identity Cards and Phones for about an hour. Both the President and Vice President of the Green Party were released, thereafter but without any harm.
Meanwhile, hundreds of members of FDU Inkingi were arraigned and beaten by policemen at Gishushu (Remera) and in front of the Ministry of Justice in Kimihurura. They were heading to a peaceful demonstration in front of the Ministry of Justice to request the government to lift restrictive measures and false charges against their leader Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza who remains since April 22nd 2010 bailed under house surveillance deprived of her political rights. Demonstrators spontaneously reacted to the statement by the General Prosecutor that the government does not have enough evidence to prosecute and challenge the case in a court of law.
The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda is deeply concerned with the deteriorating political harassment and denial of political space in Rwanda ahead of the August 9th Presidential elections.
The Government of Rwanda has continuously done all political manoeuvres to deny the genuine political opposition a chance to exist and be able to participate in the upcoming Presidential elections.
The Ruling Party-RPF has indeed shown to the Rwandan people and the International community that it is too scared to compete with the real opposition and has rather resorted to getting stooge candidates to compete with.
That is the real picture of President Kagame’s RPF competing with stooge candidates of PSD, PL and other satellite partners, who have been comfortably enjoying ministerial and parliamentary positions along the RPF state party for the last 16 years.
The opposition in Rwanda has been subjected to verbal, physical intimidation and abuse. The legal framework has also been used to stop the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi) from registering their political parties and exercising their political rights. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s founding convention on 30th October 2009 was sabotaged violently, by people suspected to be connected to security organs and others to be working for the Government. The Green Party Leader, Mr.Frank HABINEZA has also received several death threats, the latest one indicating that he is supposed to be killed before the August 2010 Presidential Elections. Despite the fact that he reported this matter to the police and wrote to the Minister of Internal Security, he never received any response.
The FDU Inkingi Leader, Ms.Victoire INGABIRE was physically assaulted early this year in a Government office at Kinyinya-Kigali. She has also faced serious allegations and has been charged for working with a terrorist organisation and as well for having a genocide ideology. Her Party has also been refused chance to register on pretext that its leader has criminal charges, which must be cleared first. The problem though is that even though she was charged in court, she has never been given chance to defend herself. Instead her lawyer, Peter Erlinder, was arrested as well.
All these actions are done by the Government to demonise these politicians and make them hated by the population.
PS Imbearkuri is the only opposition party that had managed to get registered last year, but its leader Maitre Bernard NTAGANDA, has faced a lot of challenges and was summoned by the Rwandan Senate on charges of having the genocide ideology. The party has now been divided into several factions, one illegal faction was recently recognised by the Government after its head was appointed Vice President of the pro-Government’ Political Parties Forum, though they very well know that this Lady has never been gazetted or approved by the cabinet according to the Rwandan Law.
The legally recognised Leader, Maitre NTAGANDA is now unable to present his credentials for official nomination as a Presidential Candidate by the Electoral Commission. This division is believed to be done by the Ruling Party-RPF in order to weaken the real opposition and deny it a chance to participate in the upcoming August 2010 presidential elections.
Neither Ms.Victoire INGABIRE, FDU-Inkingi’s Presidential candidate, nor, Mr. Frank HABINEZA, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s Presidential candidate will be able to present their credentials for approval by the Electoral Commission, since both of their parties have been denied a chance to register in time and they are not criminals.
We call upon the Rwandan Government to postpone these elections until the political field is levelled enough to allow a peaceful competition for political power in Rwanda.
We request the President of Rwanda to use his powers as vested to him by the Constitution to impress upon the Rwandan Government officials to allow political parties that are critical of the ruling party-RPF, (the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and FDU-Inkingi) to get registered and exercise their full political rights and as well let the legally recognised leader of PS Imberakuri, Maitre Bernard NTAGANDA, manage his party without any outside interference.
We would like to remind H.E. Paul KAGAME that he under took an oath seven years ago, to protect the Rwandan Constitution. He is the custodian of the Law. The Constitution guarantees multi-party politics and democracy in Rwanda. We call upon His Excellency, the President of the Republic to respect his pledge.
Done at Kigali, 24th June 2010.
Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Chairperson, United Democratic Forces
Mr. Frank Habineza
Chairman, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda