The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali

A public relations show for dictator Paul Kagame 

OTTAWA, ON, June 17, 2022 /CNW/ – Rwanda was controversially admitted to the Commonwealth in 2009, becoming the second French-speaking country to join the organization. The accession was fiercely denounced by several human rights groups who accused the Rwandan government of serious violations of fundamental rights. The Commonwealth has enshrined in its charter support for the rule of law, human rights, as well as peace and security in the world as some of its key objectives.

The decision to accept Rwanda’s application was made despite recommendations from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) that Rwanda’s membership was a bad idea and a dangerous precedent. The organization argued that despite its apparent stability, Rwanda fell far short of the criteria for membership in the organization. CHRI cited, among other things, the lack of political pluralism, the refusal to prosecute the massacres perpetrated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the plundering of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mineral resources.

Ignoring CHRI’s recommendations, several countries, including Great Britain, Canada and Australia, supported Rwanda’s application, arguing that membership could help the country strengthen its democratic institutions and carry out reforms that would bring it closer to the organization’s values.

Thirteen years later, disillusionment has set in. Rather than improving, Rwanda’s democratic deficit has reached new lows, while its human rights record is more than disappointing.

Shortly after Rwanda joined the Commonwealth, the Mapping Report, published in 2010 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, accused the Kigali regime of the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Democratic Republic of Congo between March 1993 and June 2003. According to this report, the majority of the documented crimes can be characterized as crimes against humanity and war crimes. Some of them could be described as crimes of genocide. Since then, many other reports have exposed the totalitarian abuses by Paul Kagame’s regime and its catastrophic human rights record. The regime does not hesitate to trample on the elementary principles of international law and human rights when it comes to attacking its political opponents. One of the latest examples is the kidnapping and sentencing to 25 years in prison of the hero of the “Hotel Rwanda” movie, Paul Rusesabagina, whom the Biden administration has recently listed as “wrongfully detained”.

Thirteen years later, it is mind-boggling to see that Rwanda is preparing to welcome the heads of state and government of the Commonwealth countries to Kigali on June 21. It is shocking to see the organization flouting its own fundamental values and principles and giving a known dictator one of the worst criminals in office today” an opportunity to enhance his reputation. Despite the call for a boycott by many human rights organizations, several delegations will participate in CHOGMN2022 in Kigali, which is shameful. Such an event thwarts the hopes of ever seeing democracy flourish in Rwanda, unless it is used as an opportunity for the Commonwealth to send a strong signal to President Kagame that the current situation is unacceptable. The Commonwealth has played a leading role in condemning and fighting racial discrimination. Unfortunately, it has remained silent and even indulgent towards the current regime in Kigali, which many victims see as tyrannical. May this meeting be an opportunity for the organization to stop turning a blind eye as it did in the past few years and demand important reforms in the area of human rights and democracy in Rwanda, even if it means imposing sanctions on officials of the Kagame regime or taking harsher steps such as suspending or excluding Rwanda from the Commonwealth.

Given its historical ties to Rwanda, Canada is well positioned to provide leadership at the Kigali Summit and to pressure the Kagame regime to end its violations against civil society activists, journalists and opposition figures. The regime must release political prisoners and give up its plans to destabilize the Great Lakes region. Recurrent invasions of the Democratic Republic of Congo must stop.

By remaining silent and sitting idly by, we are giving Paul Kagame a blank cheque for his ongoing campaign to whitewash his reputation. We are letting Rwanda slide towards more repression and less democracy, which certainly does not promote a peaceful future. Canada has the power to move us away from this tragic path.

SOURCE Congrès Rwandais du Canada (CRC)

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