HRW 2015 Report: Why so much dishonesty, Mr. Roth?

Like a bad case of the flu that simply refuses to know when its beaten, the unaccountable, untrustworthy and unsavory organisation that calls itself Human Rights Watch or HRW has, once again, authored its yearly diatribe against the government of Rwanda.

Like a bad case of the flu that simply refuses to know when its beaten, the unaccountable, untrustworthy and unsavory organisation that calls itself Human Rights Watch or HRW has, once again, authored its yearly diatribe against the government of Rwanda.

And like its reports of yesteryear, this year’s ‘report’ is full of innuendo, lies and old news. Honestly, the document is so small (if compared to previous ones) that I must ask in all seriousness, is this all they had?

HRW, led by Ken Roth, subdivide the report into eight sections: Political Opposition, Attacks on Opponents Abroad, Civil Society Organisations, Media, Unlawful Detention and Enforced Disappearances, Security-Related Trials, Justice for Genocide and, lastly, Key International Actors.

I want to share with you some of the things the human rights ‘experts’ deem to be worthy of a factual country report.

On the subject of ‘Political Opposition’, they write, “The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) dominates all aspects of political and public life. Opposition parties cannot operate in a meaningful way”.

Now, I don’t know if the authors of this report are being silly, malicious or just plain stupid. What do they mean about RPF dominating ALL aspects of political and public life?

What is ALL aspects of public and political life anyway? Does the RPF hold all government positions? No.  Our constitution mandates a power-sharing arrangement.

So, when the folks in New York write that opposition parties cannot operate in a meaningful way, I guess they didn’t ask Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi of the Social Democratic Party, House Speaker Donatille Mukabalisa from the Liberal Party their opinion on the state of the political opposition.

My guess is that when HRW talks about ‘meaningful’ opposition they aren’t talking about effective governance and people pulling together in the same direction; rather what they call ‘meaningful’ opposition is like what happened in Kinshasa a week or so ago, with people dying and property destroyed because they opposed a proposed law. Well, here in Rwanda, we have chosen to play our cards differently.

It is obvious what kind of opposition HRW wants in Rwanda. It writes about the sentence handed down by the Supreme Court to FDU-Inkingi’s Victoire Ingabire, complaining that the Court had “increased from eight to fifteen years” after being found guilty of conspiring “to undermine the government and genocide denial in 2012”.

Why didn’t HRW add that much of the evidence used to nail her came from her personal computer in Holland? Or that the Dutch government saw it fit to share the ‘smoking gun’ with the government?

Or that there was a paper trail showing that she actually sent money to people who aimed to overthrow the legally established government? Perhaps because they didn’t want to muddy the waters and actually call her what she actually was, and is. A dangerous insurgent.

Let us move on to the ‘Attacks on Opponents Abroad’ section. The report states “On January 1, Patrick Karegeya, former head of Rwanda’s external intelligence services and a prominent government opponent exiled in South Africa, was found murdered in a hotel room in Johannesburg. South African authorities launched an investigation, which was ongoing at time of writing”. All which is true in all honesty.

Yes, he was living in South Africa and yes, he was engaged in a deadly struggle with the former government he served. So far so good. Where the report goes from facts to hearsay is when it attempts to link his killing to the Government of Rwanda.

Sorry guys, there was no proof then and there has been no proof since then linking the two directly. Same with Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Add the fact that HRW continuously omitted Rwanda’s views in their successive reports and made your own conclusions.

I will not be so blind as to say that Rwanda doesn’t have certain challenges when it comes to human rights. I mean, who has a perfect human rights record anyway?

Not the UK. Not the US. Not China. Not France. Not Canada. Not any of the Nordic nations. In not being truthful, HRW is simply being a stumbling block to Rwanda’s human rights journey and not a good partner.

The writer is an editor at The New Times.

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