Image for Rwanda at risk of becoming another Zimbabwe

Australia and other Commonwealth Governments naively believed admission to the Commonwealth would support Rwanda’s path to democracy, but human rights abuses have continued and worsened, President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Frank Habineza, and Australian Greens Leader, Bob Brown, warned today.


“The Commonwealth should take action or risk Rwanda becoming another Zimbabwe. Without swift action, the calls will become louder to suspend the Commonwealth’s newest member,” Senator Brown said.


“The entry of Rwanda into the Commonwealth in 2009 was allowed despite suspicions of political abuses being undertaken by the Government. A coalition of Greens in Commonwealth nations, including Senator Brown, warned against Rwanda being admitted without conditions being placed on its entry,” Mr Habineza said.


“The 2010 Presidential elections saw the Kagame government becoming increasingly intolerant towards the central role that opposition parties and a free media have in robust democracies,” Mr Habineza said.


Senator Brown and Mr Habineza call on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to undertake the following steps in the next 12 months:


•    Fund the provision of ballot box seals which are uniquely numbered or identifiable, to ensure security seals are a security feature for the next Chamber of Deputies election in Rwanda in 2013;
•    Provide observers to oversee the registration of opposition political parties in the six month leading up to the next election, and advise if there have been irregularities in this process;
•    Request the Government to re-open the investigation into the death of the Green Party Vice President, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka which occurred on 14 July 2010;
•    Seek input from civil society organisations like Friends of Rwandan Greens; and,
•    Pressure the Rwandan Government to release political prisoners and jailed journalists, and letting the independent media operate freely.


“Around the globe Green MPs will be watching to ensure the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group is taking active steps to improve democracy in Rwanda,” Senator Brown said.


Concerns have already been expressed by Human Rights Watch, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Amnesty International and also the Commonwealth Observer Group that democracy in Rwanda is being undermined.