Friday, August 6, 2010 | Categories:
Sixteen years after the genocide in Rwanda, the tiny east African country has - by many accounts - come a long way. In recent years, Rwanda has been held up in the western world as a model of progress and a beacon of hope.
But these days, a much different storyline is emerging out of Rwanda - one that has Frank Habineza, president of Rwanda's Green Party, living in fear. Earlier this month, Habineza's deputy turned up dead - nearly decapitated.
The brutal murder of his deputy is just one in a troubling series of events leading up to Rwanda's August 9th national elections. In those elections, President Paul Kagame, the Tutsi leader whose army put an end to the 1994 genocide, is expected to maintain the grip on power he has held for the last 16 years. But critics say that's because the President and his supporters have effectively eliminated any competition.
Kagame and his ruling RPF party have been accused of barring major opposition parties from registering in the election. The government has arrested opposition leaders; shut down newspapers, and arrested at least two journalists who were critical of the president. A third journalist was shot and killed.
Kagame's government has denied any involvement in the killings. And it says it has only cracked down on opposition voices guilty of inciting ethnic tensions ... the same ones that 16 years ago led Hutu extremists to slaughter 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Carina Tertsakian has been monitoring the situation as a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. She was working in the country until April, when she was denied permission to stay. She joined us this morning from London.
Rwanda Elections - Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Another outspoken critic of President Kagame is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, leader of Rwanda's United Democratic Forces Party. After 17 years living in Europe, she returned to Rwanda in January to run for the presidency.
Umuhoza, an ethnic Hutu, immediately stirred controversy with a speech she made at Rwanda's main genocide memorial. She said, in order to properly heal, the country needed to commemorate and seek justice for Tutsi victims of the genocide and Hutus killed by Kagame and his army. CNN's Christiane Amanpour spoke to President Kagame about Umuhoza in March. We aired a clip with what he had to say.
In April, Umuhoza was arrested on charges of genocide denial, ethnic divisionism and ties to a terrorist group. Her party has been prevented from registering in the election, and she remains under house arrest in Kigali. She joined us from there today.
Rwanda Elections - Edda Mukabagwiza
In response to mounting international criticism, President Kagame last week vowed the upcoming elections would be 'free and fair.' So to speak for his government today, we were joined by Edda Mukabagwiza. She is Rwanda's High Commissioner to Canada and before that, served as Rwandan Minister of Justice. She joined us from Ottawa.