NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Rwanda's authorities have arrested, forcibly disappeared, and threatened political opponents since the August 2017 presidential elections, an international human rights group said Friday.
Human Rights Watch Friday urged the international community to condemn what it called a blatant clampdown on the political opposition in the East African country.
Those targeted recently include former presidential candidate and women's rights activist Diane Rwigara, her family members and supporters, the rights group said.
Rwandan police arrested Rwigara, a leading critic of Kagame, last week for alleged offenses against state security but she has not yet been charged in court. Rwigara's mother Adeline and sister Anne have been also detained for alleged non-payment of taxes. Speaking from the United States, Diane's brother Aristide Rwigara, told The Associated Press his family members are being denied food and his mother is very sick and is not getting medical treatment.
Rwigara told Human Rights Watch that she was also being accused of illegally forming and leading a political organization, and of inciting insurrection or trouble among the population and of forgery linked to alleged invalid signatures to establish her candidacy.
In another case Jean Damascene Habarugira, a local party representative of the unregistered opposition United Democratic Force party, went missing in May after being called to meet an official responsible for village security. Habarugira's family were called to collect his body from hospital a few days later and his party believes he was murdered because he opposed the government's agricultural planning policy, according to the human rights group.
"The Rwandan government's crackdown shows that it is unwilling to tolerate criticism or accept a role for opposition parties, and it sends a chilling message to those who would dare challenge the status quo," said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "With each arrest in Rwanda, fewer and fewer people will dare to speak out against state policy or abuse."
It was not immediately possible to get a comment from Rwanda' government regarding the allegations but top Rwandan officials have said in the past that they don't care what human rights groups say about governance in the country.
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame has won praise for advances in stability, economic development and women's rights the country since the country's genocide in 1994. But critics say Kagame is an authoritarian ruler who tolerates little criticism.