PCC-Open Letter to the Representative of the European Union in Rwanda | Rwanda

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PCC-Open Letter to the Representative of the European Union in Rwanda

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda which brings together, the United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi), the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, the Parti Social IMBERAKURI would like to draw your attention to the growing social and political tension in Rwanda in the run up to the planned elections in August 2010.

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda (PCC) C/O. B.P. 6334 Kigali, Rwanda, Tel : +250 788563039,+250 728636000, +250 788307145

Kigali, 1st June 2010

Open Letter to the Representative Of the European Union, Kigali, Rwanda

Your Excellency,

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda which brings together, the United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi), the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, the Parti Social IMBERAKURI would like to draw your attention to the growing social and political tension in Rwanda in the run up to the planned elections in August 2010. We would like to request an urgent action from the part of the EU to use its influence to stop the situation from degenerating further, so that it does not threaten peace and security in Rwanda and indeed in the sub region. It is our very considered view that the tension which is now felt both in the military and in the civil society in general is a result of the government’s repressive measures against those who do not toe the government line and a purge in the army where some of the most senior military officials have fled the country and others have been arrested just because they hold different views from that of the President, who is the commander in chief of the Army.

We strongly believe that only a democratic system of government is the only one capable of managing the present societal and political demands of the Rwandan society. This has been acknowledged in the UNDP Human Development report which was endorsed theoretically by the Government in its blueprint for development : turning 2020 vision into reality. Among other things it called on government to “further deepen the democratisation process by strengthening the capacity of civil society, the media and the wider political sphere, which represent the pillars of a truly open and vibrant democratic society” and an important tool to managing growing society demands.

In this regard the same report warns that “Rwanda’s high growth rates are deceptive in that they hide large and growing inequalities between social classes, geographic regions and gender (Chapter 2.3). These disparities cut across all sectors and undermine Rwanda’s progress towards the MDGs in all areas from health to education and even poverty reduction”. tttp ://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/nationalreports/africa/rwanda/RWANDA_2007_en.pdf

Indeed our political organisations consider that the values of freedom of speech and association, human rights and the rule of law are not niceties of the West but universal and as former Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair declared before the US congress in July 2003, are “universal values of the human spirit and anywhere, anytime”.

We consider the recent comment of the President of Rwanda in the Guardian and The Independent that Rwanda is not ready for the ‘medicine’ of democracy, that they need food on the table more than those niceties, this implying that Rwandans are not mature to use their votes rationally. This is an insult to their conscience and their dignity.

In this respect we hold the view that a proper process in the conduct of the forthcoming elections is a turning point in deciding the political and social development of Rwanda in the future. Supporting, condoning or turning a blind eye to a process that denies Rwandans a freedom of choice between different political programs through transparent competitive elections will be tantamount to complicity in creating seeds of political and social instability in Rwanda. We hold the view that the cycle of political violence in Rwanda whether under the monarchical regime or under republicanism has been due to repressive systems of government and lack of a democratic and transparent competition for a peaceful transfer of power.

The real threat to peace and sustainable development in Rwanda is not the existence of ethnic groups or mentioning their existence but the over concentration of power in the presidency and the exercise of power unrestrained by parliament, the judiciary and the civil service, lack of respect for human rights, scandalous economic inequalities and the absence of genuine political participation due to lack of active party politics. Therefore a democratic form of government is a condition for development.

The European Union will recall the comments made by its observers during the presidential elections of 2003 when the head of the European Union Observer Mission, Ms Collette Fleische observed, as reported in the Monitor Newspaper of August 28, 2003, that there was lack of transparency in the election process pointing out that “there were cases where EU observers were not welcome at polling stations, while some officials were denied access to where votes were being consolidated” and reported that “ballot box stuffing was obvious from the significant difference between the voters’ lists and ballots”. According to the same papers she also highlighted the "mysterious disappearances" of political opponents ahead of the elections and the use of state resources by the incumbent in the campaigns.

A Belgian member of the European Parliament Nellie Maes, who observed the polls in Rwanda in 2003 equally pointed out that “You cannot speak of democratic elections in the classic sense of the word. That requires opposition, and there is no opposition."

We are surprised that the EU in light of such observation would again finance a process that is more flawed than 7 years earlier, without preconditions.

The situation is now marked by a very high turnover of people fleeing the country ; the government taking a number of steps to limit the ability of opposition parties to organize their political activities by arresting one of the political leaders and her lawyer, threatening opposition leaders and putting in jail opposition militants, refusing them the right to register, putting up laws that limit the freedom of expression, banning newspapers that are critical of government and forcing into exile human rights activists that challenge the government of its human rights record.

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda would like the European Union consider the following ;

• Require the government to register the political parties ( FDU-Inkingi and Democratic Green Party of Rwanda) without any condition ;

• Put conditions to the granting of financial support to the election process in order to ensure that the process is transparent and fair. This would mean ending the harassment of the political opposition, allowing genuine opposition political parties to register organise and campaign at grassroots level and remove law clauses that restrict the freedom of expression and in particular those that limit criticism of government policies and political leadership

• Require the government to create an independent electoral commission in which opposition parties are represented as key actors in electoral process

• Impress upon the government to stop the use of national resources to fund the campaign of the candidate of the regime in power.

• To request the Incumbent President, to stop electoral campaigns before the campaign period starts.

• Require the Rwandan government to postpone elections until the political situation is conducive to holding free, transparent elections and all political parties are given the right to exercise their civil and political rights fully.

• To be on the side of the Rwandan people during these difficult times that the government is oppressing dissenting voices in an attempt to end the democratic process that had started.

• Require the government to stop resorting to illegal means in splitting opposition parties.

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties is seriously concerned that flawed elections will further increase the social tension with unforeseeable consequences on the political and sustainable economic development of the country.

Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Chairperson, United Democratic Forces

Mr. Frank Habineza Chairman, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

Me. Bernard Ntaganda Chairman, Parti Social IMBERAKURI

C.C : All members of the European Union in Rwanda