A human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has accused the government of Rwanda of engaging in a campaign of “extraterritorial repression,” which includes violence and threats against critics residing outside the country. This accusation comes as Rwanda prepares for upcoming elections, with President Paul Kagame, in power since the 1994 genocide, seeking to extend his rule.
In a new report, HRW claimed that Rwanda’s ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, has responded forcefully to perceived threats to its power, often resorting to violence. The report is based on interviews with over 150 individuals and covers the years since Kagame’s last election victory in 2017.
The HRW report documented several instances of killings, kidnappings, attempted kidnappings, enforced disappearances, and physical attacks against Rwandans living abroad. Furthermore, efforts to extradite critics from overseas back to Rwanda were reported.
In response to these allegations, the Rwandan government’s spokeswoman, Yolande Makolo, rejected HRW’s claims, describing them as a distorted representation of Rwanda.
The release of the HRW report coincided with the Supreme Court in London conducting hearings on the British government’s appeal against a ruling that blocked its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.
HRW pointed out that these abusive actions by the Rwandan government are alarmingly frequent, especially in African countries and nations where Rwanda maintains an active presence, including a military presence. Some countries were accused of either collaborating with Rwanda or turning a blind eye to these actions on their soil.
While incidents of such attacks are less common among the Rwandan diaspora in Europe and North America, they contribute to a climate of fear among Rwandans living thousands of kilometers away from their home country.
To exert pressure or seek retribution against individuals they cannot directly target, Kagame’s government reportedly harasses and threatens the relatives of these individuals living in Rwanda.
HRW noted that countries with close ties to Rwanda, including the United Kingdom and the United States, seldom raise human rights concerns publicly in their engagements with the Rwandan government. This lack of international recognition of the severity and scope of human rights violations in Rwanda, both domestically and abroad, has left many Rwandans feeling without support.