Annual Report: Rwanda 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Rwanda 2011

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Head of state and government: Paul Kagame and Bernard Makuza
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 10.3 million
Life expectancy: 51.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 167/143 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 70.3 per cent

The authorities restricted freedom of expression and association before presidential elections in August. Media outlets that criticized the government were closed down and editors fled Rwanda. Human rights defenders faced intimidation. Investigations into killings were inadequate. High-ranking military officers were detained without trial. Some improvements in the justice system were offset by laws criminalizing dissent. No country extradited genocide suspects to Rwanda.


A clampdown on freedom of expression and association before August’s presidential elections prevented new opposition parties from fielding candidates. President Paul Kagame was re-elected with 93 per cent of the vote.

Growing splits emerged within the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The former head of the army, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, fled to South Africa. Some senior military officers were arrested and held incommunicado. Others fled to neighbouring countries.

Tension grew between the government and supporters of Laurent Nkunda, the former leader of the Congolese armed group the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). Arrested in January 2009, he remained under house arrest in Rwanda without charge or trial.

Grenade attacks in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, led to heightened security concerns.

Rwanda’s hostile response to a UN mapping report on human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 1993 and 2003 drew attention to impunity for past abuses by the Rwandan Patriotic Army.

International donors grew increasingly concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation. The EU, France, Spain, the UN and the USA publicly expressed concern before the elections.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression was further restricted. The RPF became increasingly sensitive to criticism in advance of the presidential elections. Laws on ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’

The authorities continued to misuse broad and ill-defined laws on "genocide ideology" and "sectarianism". The laws prohibit hate speech, but also criminalize legitimate criticism of the government.

In April, the government announced a review of the "genocide ideology" law, and indicated that the "sectarianism" law might also be reviewed. However, the government continued to use these laws and the timeframe for review remained unclear.

  • Bernard Ntaganda, the leader of an opposition party, PS-Imberakuri, was arrested in June and remained in detention in December. Charges against him included inciting ethnic division in relation to statements criticizing government policies.
  • Victoire Ingabire, the leader of FDU-Inkingi, an opposition party seeking registration, was arrested in April and rearrested in October. Charges against her included "genocide ideology" and were based, in part, on her public call for the prosecution of RPF war crimes.


The government used regulatory sanctions, restrictive laws and criminal defamation cases to close down media outlets critical of the government. In July, the government began to enforce certain aspects of a 2009 media law which maintains defamation as a criminal offence. Some leading editors and journalists fled the country after facing threats and harassment.