Leader Of New Opposition Calls Rwanda August Vote "Sham"

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[Global: Africa]

Rwanda Opposition Head Calls August Vote "Sham"
By Norman S. Miwambo

Even as the U.S. Department of State continues to urge the Kigali regime to lift press restrictions and ensure that the Presidential elections in August be carried out smoothly, the leader of a newly-formed opposition political party says the voting will be a sham unless it's postponed to address major concerns.

“We are now trying to send our clear message to the international community to support us so that the elections that are supposed,” John Kalulanga, the interim leader of the recently structured Rwanda People Party-Imvura (RPP-Imvura), said in an interview with The Black Star News.

“Many things are happening in Rwanda and not reported at-all because of the media restrictions.” He says his party welcomes Rwandans of all ethnic background.

"Presidential elections are scheduled to be held this year, but opposition parties have been prevented or obstructed from any meaningful participation. Many have been arrested and it seems the government wants a situation where the current president stands un-opposed,” he said.

He says with the spate of recent several bombings in Kigali, the capital, the country is rife with rumors of an impending military takeover. The interview was conducted in London at The Marriott Hotel-London.

An official at the Rwanda embassy in London, who identified himself as David Ruvubi said the ambassador was attending meetings and unavailable to comment. “We have not refused to comment, but we want to read the article first,” he said.

Separately, Andy Laney, a spokesman from the U.S. State Department, told The Black Star News: "We are concerned by the recent actions by the government of Rwanda to restrict freedom of expression in advance of the election. We have relayed our concerns We will continue to urge the government of Rwanda to allow all international and domestic NGOs and media outlets to operate and report freely We urge the government of Rwanda and regional partners to work together to achieve the free, fair
and peaceful elections that the people of Rwanda deserve."

After being lauded by Western countries shortly after his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) seized power in 1994, Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, in recent months has been battered with criticism: His government has clamped down on independent media and opposition political figures, preventing political parties to register for the elections. A candidate who is believed to present him with a realistic threat at the polls, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza remains under house arrest in Rwanda. The government has claimed she is linked to rebels associated with the 1994 genocide.

Kagame had been credited by Western governments for halting the 1994 killings of an estimated one million Rwandans, mostly of the Tutsi ethnicity. Some critics contend the RPF also committed massacres and have never been brought to account by the Western powers.

Kalulanga, who is also ethnic Tutsi, as with Kagame, also grew up in Uganda, like many Tutsi refugees. He says while Kagame preaches reconciliation, his actions have only increased tensions between Rwanda's ethnic groups. "There is nothing Mr. Kagame can do for Rwanda even if mandated for another seven years," Kalulanga said.

"He failed to unite the country for the past 16 years; instead he has divided the people of Rwanda so badly.” Kalulanga adds: “Not everyone who is fleeing Rwanda is a Hutu. Many who are running away are Tutsi because the current regime is repeating the same mistake that led to the 1994 and previous genocides.”

In recent months a top Kagame generals have fled the country. In February this year, a former Army Chief and Ambassador to India, Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa fled to South Africa where the government there refused to extradite him. The country's former spy Chief Patrick Kalegeya fled in 2007.

Kalulanga says President Kagame has become just as intolerant of opposition voices as were previous president, including Grégoire Kayibanda and Juvénal Habyarimana, whose assassination sparked the mass killings of 1994. Kayibanda was toppled in a coup staged by Habyarimana and died in detention shortly after.

Forcing Rwandans into exile has always led to further conflict Kalulanga said. “Unfortunately President Kagame and his government have made it impossible for us to return home,” he said. "It gives no pleasure at all to put My Kagame in the same basket as My Kayibanda and Mr. Habyarimana, and all other dictators in Africa who have ruined Africa and left a legacy
of shame and permanently engulfed our people in darkness and hopelessness.

This is not too much to ask even at this late stage."

He claims the best thing Kagame could do for Rwanda to quit politics.“We don’t want to see Kagame going into exile, we want to see him stepping down, he has no fresh ideas for the country.”

He says not only Hutus, the ethnic majority, are discriminated against: “The atmosphere here is not different from that of 16 years ago. Rwanda is a police state where people live in extreme poverty and fear. The state is run like a family business; there is widespread discrimination against Tutsi returnees sometimes based on their country of past asylum.”

Other top Rwandans who have fled since last year include: Theoneste Musindashaka, Senator Stanley Safari, Lt. Col. Sam Baguma, Capt. Eliphaz Ndikuyezu, Capt. Claude Bizimungu, Capt. John Wuwintari, Capt. John-Bosco Muhizi, Capt. Theobal Gakumba, Capt. John Ontabuka and Jean Pierre Kagubare.

Kalulanga said the government classifies anyone who opposes the regime with the 1994 genocide. “There are hundreds of Rwandese fleeing Kagame’s oppressive regime for sanctuaries in neighboring countries and other countries most of whom are in Europe, and US."

"A climate of paranoia has enveloped the country to an extent neighbors are encouraged to spy on each other, just like members of families are encouraged to do the same,” Kalulanga said. “The media today remain completely muzzled and freedom of expression, a fundamental human right is virtually non-existent.”

President Kagame has denied there is press repression in Rwanda.

Miwambo writes for The Black Star News from Europe

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