Rwandan president declares ’shoot on sight’ anti-terror policy
KIGALI: Rwandan President Paul Kagame has dismissed criticism of his government’s human rights record, saying those suspected of threatening national security should even be killed on sight, reports said Friday.
His comments, made in a speech in the west of the country on Thursday, came the day after Washington accused the central African nation of carrying out arbitrary arrests and urged Kagame to respect freedom of expression.
“Those who talk about disappearances… we will continue to arrest more suspects and if possible shoot in broad daylight those who intend to destabilise our country,” Kagame was quoted as saying by the East African newspaper.
On Wednesday the United States, which has become increasingly critical of Rwanda’s government in recent months, urged the country to “account for individuals arrested over the past two months and currently in custody.”
“We also call upon Rwanda to fully respect freedom of expression, including for members of the press so that they can investigate, report and facilitate discussion on issues of public concern,” the State Department said.
Rwanda swiftly rejected the criticism, saying that it was responding to threats from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) — remnants of the Hutu group linked to the 1994 genocide in which at least 800,000 mainly Tutsis died.
“In all instances, police and security agencies in Rwanda have acted lawfully. Accused individuals are entitled to, and receive, due process — suggestions otherwise, including claims of ‘disappearances,’ are false,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement.
“We call on all parties to refrain from discourse and actions that embolden the FDLR and its allies, and thereby endanger the lives of Rwandans,” Mushikiwabo said.
Western nations supported Kagame after the 1994 Tutsi genocide but have increasingly been critical due to his government’s purported abuses against critics and alleged interference in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Human Rights Watch last month reported an increasing number of forcible disappearances in Rwanda and said there were “indications of involvement of state agents.”
Rwanda accused the New York-based group of spreading the equivalent of “political propaganda for terrorist groups.”