afrol News, 15 July - Political murders, media censorship and fraudulent elections in Rwanda are pulverising the large international goodwill President Paul Kagame recently had, after reconstructing the country in an excellent way.
Rwanda has returned to international headlines on a daily basis. With the negative news focus the international press still has on Africa, that is bad news for the small East African country.
The upcoming August presidential elections have turned Rwanda into a more repressive state on a day-by-day basis. President Kagame is not even trying to hide he will not accept an opposition win in the polls.
Since opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza returned from her exile in January this year, announcing she would stand candidate in the presidential elections, her Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) party has been attacked fiercely by the Kagame government.
The UDF election campaign has been interrupted several times and opposition followers are increasingly complaining about harassment and intimidation. Ms Umuhoza herself was briefly detained in April, accused of "denying" the 1994 genocide. Strong international pressure assured her release.
In June, Rwandan Lieutenant-General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who is seeking asylum in South Africa, was shot and wounded in Johannesburg. South African police more than indicated that Rwandan state agents were involved in the attack on the political refugee.
This week, UDF Deputy President Andre Kagwa Rwisereka was killed in Butare, southern Rwanda, where his dead body was found dumped in a river yesterday. The UDF, not daring to point directly at the Kagame government, today urged for an international investigation into Mr Rwisereka's assassination.
At the same time, the Rwandan press is being cornered by the regime. Any critical media voices in the country have been intimidated or totally silenced ahead of the elections. Several journalists have been arrested and Rwanda's two leading independent newspapers were ordered to close down for six months.
Last month, editor Jean Léonard Rugambage of the independent 'Umuvugizi Newspaper' was shot dead in Kigali, shortly after he had published an article about the Joha
Rwanda opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
nnesburg attack on Mr Nyamwasa. Editor Rugambage was the last Rwanda-based journalist of 'Umuvugizi'.
The Rwandan government anyway has made sure next month's elections would be nothing to report about for an independent press. The UDF and the Democratic Green Party in the end were denied from registering with the election commission, meaning they cannot send their candidates into the race.
Only one serious contester to President Kagame's ruling party was allowed to register; the Rwandan Socialist Party. However, its leader Bernard Ntaganda has been detained over an "illegal gathering". That leaves the party without its most known candidate.
The sudden rush of repressive measures completely has changed the image of Paul Kagame's Rwanda during less than one year.
Mr Kagame, a rebel leader turned politician, has never been a convinced democrat, but for most of the last decade, he was known to put the Rwandan people's interests ahead of his own ambitions. His government can show to an impressive economic and social development of the country since in lied in ruins after the 1994 genocide.
For many years, Rwanda therefore has been a donors' favourite, receiving substantial development aid. It has also been able to maintain its position as a Western ally despite Rwanda's sometimes dubious role in the eastern Congo war.
But Rwanda's earned goodwill is about to be wasted as President Kagame is using methods associated to Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Already, strong voices are emerging to reconsider Rwanda's favoured position among Western donors and allies.
The Rwandan opposition is asking for international pressure on Mr Kagame to allow for fair elections. And the Paris-based group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today asked the international community to stop "endorsing this repressive regime."
"If the European Union stopped disbursing its funding, it would be clear sign of opposition to the Rwandan government's practices," RSF said in a statement today.
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