May 24, 2024

It is just over a year since President Paul Kagame’s landslide election win and observers cite the continuing lack of political space as a key issue to be addressed before the incumbent’s final term ends in 2017.

Former chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa and a former chief of military intelligence, Patrick Karegyeya, who were sentenced to 20 years in jail in absentia by a military court formed the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) opposition party in December.

The trial of opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, leader of the unregistered FDU-Inkingi party, resumed on Sept. 7, 2011. She faces charges including denying the genocide, divisionism and working with a terrorist group.

The FDU-Inkingi party and the RNC formed a coalition at the beginning of 2011 and held a congress meeting in Washington in last month.

The 2011 Political Risk Map published by Oxford University and Aon in January lowered Rwanda’s risk level from “High Risk” to “Medium-High Risk”.

POLITICAL OPPONENTS

Kagame’s election win underlined his domination of the political arena. He has been praised for restoring stability after the 1994 genocide and engineering Rwanda’s rapid economic recovery and its vision to be a middle-income country by 2020.

But critics accuse Kagame of being authoritarian and of trampling on media and political freedoms.

What to watch:

– Trial of Ingabire. The case remains a major test of the independence of Rwanda’s judiciary. Her trial was adjourned until Oct. 4

Her British lawyer says the laws under which she is being tried were not enacted at the time the crimes were alleged to have been committed, or lie outside the court’s jurisdiction.

Ingabire denies funding FDLR (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebels and says her detention is politically motivated.

Eric Nshimiyimana, a supporter of FDU-Inkingi, was shot in Kigali in early September. Police said Nshimiyimana was shot while resisting a search on suspicion of having a weapon.

The FDU-Inkingi party dispute the police version of events. Nshimiyimana is recovering in hospital.

– Theogene Rudasingwa, former Chief of Staff to President Paul Kagame, a former Ambassador to the United States and a founding member of the RNC released a statement on Facebook on Oct. 1. He claims President Paul Kagame “was personally responsible” for the shooting down of the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, which sparked the beginning of the genocide.

A French judge claimed in 2006 that Kagame’s forces were responsible for shooting down the plane. A French inquiry into the crash has yet to give its verdict.

– Trial of Laurent Nkunda. The former leader of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a rebel force that repeatedly routed Democratic Republic of Congo’s army, has been held under house arrest in Rwanda since January 2009.

Rwanda say they are reluctant to extradite Nkunda to Congo as the death penalty is still in force in Kinshasa. Rwandan law precludes the extradition of persons under arrest to states that have the death penalty.

His trial has been postponed four times since the case was passed to the military courts in April 2010.

– The media. A bill to amend the 2009 media law — emphasizing self-regulation and creation of an independent overseer — is set to go to Parliament in November. A draft law on Access to Information is also expected to be enacted in the near future. It will be the first of its kind in Rwanda.

Some observers see the draft media law as a positive move, but remain concerned the changes will remain on paper alone due to a lack of capacity within the media.

Two newspapers that were banned in 2010 for six months failed to return to the streets of Rwanda. The editors of Umuseso and Umuvugizi now reside in exile and publish online. The websites of both are inaccessible from within Rwanda.

The editor of Umurabyo, Agnes Nkusi, was sentenced to 17 years for divisionism in February. Umurabyo reporter Saidath Mukakibibi received a 7 year sentence.

POLITICAL RIFTS

Kagame’s war on graft, which has led to Rwanda being ranked the least corrupt nation in east Africa, has seen former political associates locked up.

Rwandan officials are required to declare wealth by June 30 every year, but 361 government officials did not meet the deadline in 2011.

Investment. Diplomatic sources say there is division within the government about how to go about increasing foreign direct investment.

What to watch:

– Any signs of deepening rifts within the military. Some observers say Nyamwasa’s moves could expose further divisions within the ruling party.

What might come out of the alliance between Nyamwasa and Ingabire’s party, and how the government reacts to it, could expose weakness among a section of political elites close to Kagame. However, diplomatic sources say they do not see the coalition as a serious political or military threat to the RPF.

– The fate of Nkunda. Nkunda’s arrest heralded a new era in relations between Rwanda and Congo. But what happens to Nkunda could still influence relations. Congo wants him extradited for war crimes, but Rwanda says it should be done in a way that it avoids “conflict of law”.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said there was a political dimension to the case and that extradition was difficult and it could cause instability if not handled carefully.

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