Blinken rebukes Rwanda over rights, suppression concerns

Aug 10, 2022, 10:43 AM | Updated: Aug 11, 2022, 10:02 pm
Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta sp...

Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Kigali, Rwanda, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. Blinken is on a ten day trip to Cambodia, Philippines, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday rebuked Rwandan authorities over democracy and human rights concerns, saying the central African country may not reach its full potential without opening up political space and protecting freedoms.

“We recognize Rwanda’s incredibly difficult history of the 1994 genocide and we know the ongoing legacy of that genocide but the criminalization of some people … in politics, harassment of those who express opposition views to the current government, we believe (that) undermines total peace and stability and success which has been extraordinary in the case of Rwanda,” said Blinken at a press briefing. He was speaking in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, the last stop on his three-nation tour of Africa.

Earlier Blinken toured a memorial for victims of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, saying he was “moved by this memorial and inspired by the resilience of the survivors and the remarkable progress of this country.”

Blinken laid a wreath at the mass graves honoring the more than 800,000 victims of the genocide perpetrated by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus.

“My family experienced the horrors of holocaust and I appreciate the importance of memorializing such tragic events,” Blinken wrote in a guest book at the memorial. “The United States strongly supports Rwanda’s continued efforts towards renewal and national reconciliation.”

One of Blinken’s aims in Rwanda is to engage officials regarding the case of Paul Rusesabagina, a U.S. permanent resident whose conviction on terror charges and incarceration has drawn attention to what some say is the Rwandan government’s harsh treatment of its critics at home and abroad.

Rusesabagina is the hero of the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda,” which dramatized his efforts as a hotel manager to shelter hundreds of Tutsis during the genocide. The U.S. asserts that Rusesabagina, a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, is wrongfully jailed in Rwanda.

“We have been clear about our position with the trial of Paul Rusesabagina. We still have conviction that the trial wasn’t fair,” Blinken said. “I discussed this with President Paul Kagame but I won’t go into specifics of our discussion, but will continue to engage and also follow up with the family.”

Many activists believe only diplomatic intervention from Washington can possibly help Rusesabagina, 68, who has suffered poor health in recent years, according to his family. He was sentenced to 25 years last September. His conviction came more than a year after he disappeared during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs, accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition group.

Blinken, who visited South Africa and also went to Congo earlier in the week, comes to Rwanda at a particularly difficult time for Africa’s Great Lakes region, with the small central African nation at odds with vast neighbor Congo over allegations that both governments support rebels opposed to each other.

Blinken said he told Kagame that the recent U.N. report accusing Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels is “credible.”

Rwandan authorities deny those charges and have rejected the report by U.N. experts as a move “to distract from real issues.”

Rwandan authorities in turn accuse Congo of giving refuge to ethnic Hutu fighters who played roles in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide that killed ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. There have long been tensions between the countries. In the late 1990s, Rwanda twice sent its forces deep into Congo, joining forces with rebel leader Laurent Kabila to depose the country’s longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

After his meetings with the leaders of Rwanda and Congo this week, Blinken said he believes both are committed to peace talks and he said the U.S. will support African-led efforts to end the fighting.

“My message to both presidents of Congo and Rwanda this week has been the same. Any support of any armed group in eastern (Congo) endangers local communities and regional stability and every country in the region must respect the territorial integrity of the others,” he said.

A meeting between Kagame and Tshisekedi in Angola on July 6 produced a statement calling for a return to normal diplomatic relations, a cessation of hostilities and the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of the M23 from its positions in eastern Congo.

But M23, which comprises mostly ethnic Tutsis from Congo, continues to hold its positions near the border with Uganda, keeping the spotlight on Rwanda.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a letter to Blinken last month called for a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Rwanda and noted his concern that Washington’s support for Rwanda, widely described by human rights groups as authoritarian and repressive, is not in line with U.S. values.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - This still image from video taken Oct. 4, 2021, and provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows a...
Associated Press

Ruptured oil pipeline off California approved for repairs

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Texas oil company was granted permission to repair an underwater pipeline that ruptured off the coast of Southern California a year ago, spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude, and forced beaches and fisheries to close. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the approval Friday to Amplify Energy […]
20 hours ago
Police officers fire tear gas during a soccer match at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, Ind...
Associated Press

129 dead after fans stampede to exit Indonesian soccer match

MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — Panic at an Indonesian soccer match after police fired tear gas to stop brawls left 129 dead, mostly trampled to death, police said Sunday. Several fights between supporters of the two rival soccer teams were reported inside the Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java province’s Malang city after the Indonesian Premier League […]
20 hours ago
Helen Koch, a dog breeder, is evacuated with some of her 17 dogs on a helicopter for mediccorps.org...
Associated Press

Pine Island residents recount horror, fear as Ian bore down

PINE ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — Paramedics and volunteers with a group that rescues people after natural disasters went door to door Saturday on Florida’s devastated Pine Island, offering to evacuate residents who spoke of the terror of riding out Hurricane Ian in flooded homes and howling winds. The largest barrier island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

PREP FOOTBALL= Darrington 46, Lummi 36 Napavine 71, Bellingham 13 Shadle Park 42, Rogers (Spokane) 7 ___ Some high school football scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
20 hours ago
FILE - President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington, on Nov. 5, 2020. In a Friday...
Associated Press

Archives: Records from Trump WH staffers remain missing

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Archives and Records Administration informed lawmakers that a number of electronic communications from Trump White House staffers remain missing, nearly two years since the administration was required to turn them over. The nation’s record-keeping agency, in a letter Friday to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said that despite […]
20 hours ago
Women work in fields near the windmill farm in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, India, Wednesday...
Associated Press

What the war in Ukraine means for Asia’s climate goals

NEW DELHI, India (AP) — The queues outside petrol pumps in Sri Lanka have lessened, but not the anxiety. Asanka Sampath, a 43-year-old factory clerk, is forever vigilant. He checks his phone for messages, walks past the pump, and browses social media to see if fuel has arrived. Delays could mean being left stranded for […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Blinken rebukes Rwanda over rights, suppression concerns