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11th AFRICAN GAMES – BRAZZAVILLE, REPUBLIC OF CONGO, 04-19 September, 2015
August 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

newsletter-special-brazzaville-2015-englishThe 11th Edition of the African Games is scheduled to take place on 4th to 19th September, 2015, in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. This edition will mark the 50th Anniversary of the African Games, since the 1st edition in 1965 that was also hosted by the Republic of Congo. Approximately 7000 athletes from 50 African countries will converge back to the birth place of the African Games in Brazzaville to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the African Union in the spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.

This edition is also a milestone for the AU as it is the first one under the auspices of the African Union as the owner of the Games, following the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) as well as the integration of the functions of the SCSA into the AU. The integrated functions of the SCSA include the ownership, coordination and organization of the African Games.

The opening ceremony will take place on 4th September, 2015, and will be presided over by H.E. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo, and attended by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, H.E. Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs and H.E. Martial de Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology. The African Games will be preceded by the Bureau Meeting of the Specialized Technical Committees on Youth, Culture and Sport and a Sub-Committee of the STC Ministers of Sport on 3th September, 2015.

During the games, the AU will rally the continent around the spirit of Pan-Africanism through its key message i.e. “I am African, I am the African Union” and through its 50 year Agenda 2063 development framework. Agenda 2063″ is an approach to how the continent should effectively learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress now underway and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the immediate and medium term, so as to ensure positive socioeconomic transformation within the next 50 years. The agenda will assist the continent achieve its vision, i.e. an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.

“Because of the power of sport, we see this event as an important milestone on the road to achieving the objectives of our continental vision and action plan, which Africa has christened Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want”, said AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

SOURCE African Union Commission (AUC)

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Rwanda Spy Chief Freed After U.K Refuses Extradition to Spain
August 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Saul Butera* [caption id="attachment_19809" align="alignleft" width="234"]General Karenzi Karake General Karenzi Karake[/caption] The U.K. has rejected a request by Spain to extradite Rwanda’s intelligence chief on allegations he committed war crimes following the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago, according to the African government. General Karenzi Karake, director of the nation’s National Intelligence and Security Service, had been on bail awaiting an extradition hearing since he was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London on June 20. Karake was one of 40 senior officials in the Rwandan government indicted by a Spanish judge in 2008 for alleged war crimes in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The government condemned the arrest of Karake, who had been in the U.K. on an official visit, and President Paul Kagame characterized it as a show of contempt for Africa. Karake’s “arrest was an abuse of law and violation of his diplomatic immunity,” Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said in a text message on Monday.

Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said she was “delighted” by the ruling and that Karake was on his way back to the East African nation. “This was an unnecessary and abusive process,” she said on her Twitter account. “He’s now free. Should never have happened.” About 800,000 people were killed between April and June 1994 when Hutu extremists massacred Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Kagame led a Tutsi force known as the Rwanda Patriotic Front, which Karake was part of, that helped end the killings before taking power. As the country’s ruler, Kagame has earned praise for his economic agenda and criticism for quashing dissent. *Source Bloomberg]]>

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Rwanda launches consultations on Kagame third term
July 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Rwandan lawmakers begin a national tour consulting people on possible constitutional changes to allow strongman Paul Kagame, pictured, a third term in power (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker) Rwandan lawmakers begin a national tour consulting people on possible constitutional changes to allow strongman Paul Kagame, pictured, a third term in power (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker)[/caption]

Kigali (AFP) – Rwandan lawmakers began a national tour Monday consulting people on possible constitutional changes to allow strongman Paul Kagame a third term in power, parliament speaker Donatilla Mukabalisa said.

Last week both houses in parliament voted in support of a constitutional change, backing a petition signed by millions of citizens.

“All lawmakers will go to consult with the population… to ask them their opinion about the amendment – what they expect from this reform,” Mukabalisa told AFP.

Over 3.7 million people — well over half of the voters — signed a petition calling for a change to Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the president to two terms, according to Rwandan media.

The consultations, which end on August 11, will guide lawmakers as they draft proposed changes.

Any change to the constitution would require a vote in support by at least three-quarters of both parliamentary houses, followed by a national referendum.

Kagame, 57, has been at the helm of Rwandan politics since 1994, when an offensive by his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels put an end to a genocide by Hutu extremists that left an estimated 800,000 people dead, most of whom were Tutsis.

As minister of defence and then vice president, Kagame was widely seen as the power behind the throne even before he took the presidency only in 2003, winning 95 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2010 with a similarly resounding mandate. The next elections are due in 2017.

From the trauma of genocide, he has been painted as a guarantor of stability and economic development, earning praise from donors — and his supporters say many in Rwanda view the prospect of his departure as a step into the unknown.

Critics say however that he has silenced the opposition and the media.

Kagame says the decision is for the “Rwandan people”.

The move comes amid a wider controversy in Africa over efforts by leaders to change constitutions in order to stay in office.

Neighbouring Burundi has been in turmoil since April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid to stand for a third term in polls, a move branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that paved the way to end civil war in 2006.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Rwanda parliament votes in support of Kagame third term
July 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Stephanie Aglietti*

Kigali (AFP) – Rwandan lawmakers voted Tuesday in support of a constitutional change to allow strongman Paul Kagame a third term in power as president, backing a petition signed by millions of citizens.

[caption id="attachment_19226" align="alignleft" width="300"]Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been in power since 2003 (AFP Photo/) Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been in power since 2003 (AFP Photo/)[/caption]

The crowded parliament, packed with members of the public who had come to watch, cheered and chanted Kagame’s name after all lawmakers present in both the lower and upper houses voted in the first step of the process for constitutional change.

“I want to thank all members of parliament for showing support to the people’s wishes,” parliament speaker Donatilla Mukabalisa said.

Any change must be also passed by a national referendum.

Over 3.7 million people — well over half of the voters — signed a petition calling for a change to Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the president to two terms, according to Rwandan media.

“There was a request that we engage the people and consult them about the amendment of 101, and other articles,” Mukabalisa added. “I promise you we are going to fast track the process as requested.”

Parliament was crammed to capacity Tuesday with both lawmakers and the public, with the two chambers holding separate, parallel debates.

Nkusi Juvenal, a member of parliament from the Social Democratic Party (PSD), said that “3.7 million Rwandans from different constituencies and walks of life have spoken, we are their representatives here, we have no option but to… listen to their pleas.”

At one point, lawmakers and the public chanted slogans of support for Kagame.

“Paul Kagame, oyee! (oh yes),” they shouted.

The public were invited to watch the debate.

“I wanted to participate, so that is why I am here — I am very proud,” Alpha Mundendke said, a 23-year old student in parliament for the first time.

– Elections in 2017 –

But Jean-Claude Ntezimana, from Rwanda’s tiny but main opposition group, the Green Party, had complained that parliament should not vote on a decision to press ahead with any constitutional changes until their challenge opposing it had been heard in court.

Kagame, 57, has been at the top of Rwandan politics since 1994, when an offensive by his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels put an end to a genocide by Hutu extremists that left an estimated 800,000 people dead, most of whom were Tutsis.

As minister of defence and then vice president, Kagame was widely seen as the power behind the throne even before he took the presidency in 2003, winning 95 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2010 with a similarly resounding mandate. The next elections are due in 2017. From the trauma of genocide, he has been painted as a guarantor of stability and economic development, earning praise from donors — and his supporters say many in Rwanda view the prospect of his departure as a step into the unknown. Critics say he has silenced opposition and the media. Kagame says the decision is for the “Rwandan people”. “I have not asked anyone to change the constitution and I have not told anybody how or what to think about 2017,” Kagame said in April. Any change to the constitution would require a vote in support by at least three-quarters of both parliamentary houses, followed by a national referendum.

The move comes amid a wider controversy in Africa over efforts by leaders to change constitutions in order to stay in office.

Neighbouring Burundi has been in turmoil since April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid to stand for a third term in polls, a move branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that paved the way to end civil war in 2006.

*AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Rwanda's Kagame eyes 3rd term as voters call for law change
June 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Stephanie Aglietti*

Kigali (AFP) – The list of supporters is long: more than two-fifths of Rwanda’s voters have signed a petition calling for constitutional reform to allow strongman Paul Kagame a third term in power.

The authorities speak of a popular mass movement, critics of a manipulation of power.

[caption id="attachment_18716" align="alignleft" width="300"]Over two-fifths of Rwanda's voters have signed a petition calling for constitutional reform to allow President Paul Kagame a third term in power (AFP Photo/Stephanie Aglietti) Over two-fifths of Rwanda’s voters have signed a petition calling for constitutional reform to allow President Paul Kagame a third term in power (AFP Photo/Stephanie Aglietti)[/caption]

As the second and final seven-year mandate of Rwanda’s president draws to a close, there are increasing indications he may join other African leaders in changing the rules to stay put in elections due in 2017.

Kagame is a “gift from God,” said Aimable Ngendahayo, one of the 2.5 million people who have signed the petition calling for a change of Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the president to two terms.

The move comes amid a wider controversy in Africa over efforts by leaders to change constitutions in order to stay in office.

Kagame, 57, has been at the top of Rwandan politics since 1994, when an offensive by his ethnic Tutsi rebel force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), put an end to a genocide by Hutu extremists that left an estimated 800,000 mostly Tutsis dead.

As minister of defence and then vice president, Kagame was widely seen as the power behind the throne even before he took the presidency in 2003, winning 95 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2010 with a similarly resounding mandate.

-Popular movement?

From the trauma of genocide, he has been painted as a guarantor of stability and economic development, earning praise from donors — and his supporters say many in Rwanda view the prospect of his departure as a step into the unknown.

Kagame says the decision is for the “Rwandan people”.

“I have not asked anyone to change the constitution and I have not told anybody how or what to think about 2017,” Kagame said in April.

Weeks of political unrest in neighbouring Burundi began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid to stand for a third term in polls next month, a move branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a 2006 peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.

Since late April in Rwanda, crowds of Kagame fans have signed the petition asking parliament to amend the constitution to “convince” their president to stand again.

“Kagame is a special man,” Ngendahayo said. “This is not the time to let him go,” said the 35-year old businessman. “Kagame loves his people, so if we the people ask him, he will accept.”

Kagame himself has said he is “open to going or not going depending on the interest and future” of Rwanda.

Rwanda watchers however question the spontaneity of the petition, in a country where the political debate is tightly controlled.

Unlike Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore, who was chased out last year after he tried to stay for a third term, Kagame can be confident of few headaches in a country with no real opposition.

– ‘Strong institutions, not strong men’ –

Yet Washington, once among Kagame’s closest supporters, has spoken against the third term, saying it supports “a new leader” in 2017 and saying democracy requires “strong institutions, not strong men”.

Several people said they were encouraged into signing the petition.

One person, who declined to be named, said the local neighbourhood security chief, “told me it was a paper to sign”.

Without the door-to-door campaign the person would not have signed.

“Of course I signed… I am known in the neighbourhood… I do not know what might have happened (otherwise),” the person added.

One Rwandan journalist, who also requested anonymity, said that “there are people who sign in good faith, but many also who do so for fear of being labelled as enemies of the state,” while others who are illiterate in rural areas sign without even knowing what it is.

Rwandan media has reported that prisoners in one jail, Rubavu in western Rwanda, where many are serving long sentences for their role in the genocide, had also signed the petition.

The government denies any pressure has been applied.

[caption id="attachment_18717" align="alignright" width="300"]Supporters of Rwandan President Paul Kagame gather during a rally near the offices of UNESCO in Paris on February 27, 2015, where the president was attending a meeting (AFP Photo/Francois Guillot) Supporters of Rwandan President Paul Kagame gather during a rally near the offices of UNESCO in Paris on February 27, 2015, where the president was attending a meeting (AFP Photo/Francois Guillot)[/caption]

Ministry of Local Government spokesman Ladislas Ngendahimana said he “categorically denies that people have signed petitions under the instigation of the government”, adding that all door-to-door canvassing was banned so as not to “influence” the people.

“The RPF never gave any instructions to local officials” to collect signatures, he said, adding that all who signed “did so of their own will… we do not need to force them.”

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Rwandans Back President for 3rd Term, Finance Minister Says
June 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

by * [caption id="attachment_18562" align="alignleft" width="586"]Rwanda's president Paul Kagame. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg[/caption] Rwandan voters want President Paul Kagame to serve a third term and have the power to change the constitution to make this happen, Finance Minister Claver Gatete said. “The president has not said he wanted a third term, the president has made it very clear that he will follow the law,” Gatete said Thursday in an interview at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town. “But the people of Rwanda have a say in whoever has to be the leader and also what the constitution should look like.” Kagame has been in power since 2000 after he led a rebel army that ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide of about 800,000 people. The country’s parliament said last month it received 2 million signatures calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow Kagame to extend his rule for another seven-year term at elections scheduled for 2017.

Rwanda has a $7.5 billion economy that relies on exports of crops including coffee for most of its foreign-exchange revenue. Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop operator, plans to double its purchases of the country’s output. The East African nation sold $400 million of Eurobonds for the first time in April 2013. In neighboring Burundi, the ruling party’s nomination in April of President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in office sparked violent protests that left at least 21 people dead and more than 550 injured.

Investor Sentiment

“In Burundi it’s the opposite, the leader is saying we want a third term, but some of the people are saying we don’t see it that way,” Gatete said. “Here for us it’s not the president who is saying anything, it’s ordinary people.” Human rights activists have accused Kagame’s administration of clamping down on dissent and stifling the media, a criticism the government denies. The European Union on Friday criticized Rwanda’s decision to suspend the British Broadcasting Corp.’s local-language Kinyarwanda service after it aired a documentary on the 1994 genocide, saying the move restricted free speech. Rwanda’s regulator said it suspended the service in October after receiving complaints about the program that it needed to investigate. Rwanda and Burundi are part of the East African Community, which together with Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania form a five-nation trade bloc with a $110 billion economy. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Africa’s biggest coffee exporter since 1986, has yet to say whether he will seek another term. In Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete is stepping down at the end of his second mandate after October elections.

Doing Right

The unrest in Burundi won’t undermine investor sentiment in the region or harm economic growth in Rwanda, where as many as 27,000 refugees have fled, Gatete said. “This is happening in Burundi, it’s another country,” he said. “What Rwanda is doing can be seen by everyone, in terms of making sure that we do the right things, in terms of promoting the investment.” Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, is less sanguine. He said the conflict in Burundi may damage investors’ perceptions of the whole continent. “Situations like the one in Burundi and other countries facing a bit of instability show that progress made in a decade can be offset in a year,” Diop said in an interview in Cape Town on Friday. “This stop-and-go is a most detrimental element to sustainable growth.” *Source Bloomberg]]>

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Cost of Living rises in Rwanda as Inflation go up
May 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

kigali-rwanda In recent months the cost of living has risen as reflected in the last Consumer Price Index released   National Institute of Statistics. According to Rwanda’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), main measure of inflation; prices have risen to 0.9 percent year on year in April 2015, up from 0.8 percent in March 2015. The publican focuses on urban Consumer price Index calculated based on approximately 1022 products in twelve urban centers from Rwanda. The CPI is released in the wake of an increase of oil prices announced by Ministry of Trade and Industry. The urban CPI increased by 0, 9 percent on annual basis and increase by 0,8 percent on a monthly basis. The annual average rate between April 2015 and April 2014 is 1.1 percent. According to Minicom, statement the current price of oil is Frw 840 per litre.Minicom says the increase is attributed to global oil prices increase observed since February.Minicom adds that since then the prices have increased 40%. Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana,an economist analyst and authors of publications on price volatility and market analysis says ,the CPI increase is somehow strong and will likely go up as fuel prices have increased again. According to National Institute of Statistics, the price increase is mainly attributed to rising prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages 2,5 percent , housing ,water ,electricity  and other fuel prices 2,9 percent. The biggest negative contribution to CPI increase came from ‘Transport’0,7 percent.Habyarimana says the slight change on global oil prices will likely affect price of imported fuel. “The transport cost increase caused by global oil prices fluctuations affect many others product prices since our economy depend on imports,” explain Habyarimana As Rwandan economy depends largely on import,Habyarimana says prices will continue to go  up since local currency is weak against US Dollars. “The BNR can’t intervene on exchange rates.” Jean-Christian Hahirwa, a resident of Kigali, says if prices continue to rise, life will become hard and will seek others ways of generating income in addition to his monthly salary. According to Habyarimana, CPI rise will impact national economy negatively on saving reduction as more consumers will reduce saving, thus will reduce local investment. The increase of food prices in recent months was attributed to bad weather. One of monetary policies BNR adopt to curb inflation is raising interests’ rates to commercial banks so as to reduce the quantity of money in circulation. Urban CPI is very useful to measure cost of living and inflation since most products are consumed in urban areas. The weakening Rwandese franc against US Dollars also explains CPI increases since national economy depends largely on imports. Explained Habyarimana “My purchasing power will reduce as my salary will remain constant despite price increases of commodities and products I consume.” added Hahirwa“I will change my spending habit by reducing expenses but there are still certain needs I have to satisfy “. The urban CPI increased by 0.9 percent in April 2015 compared to the same month previous year. “I may also work extra hours to increase my income.” the Kigali resident said CPI  reads in April 2015, ‘Food and non-alcoholic beverages’ 2.5 percent and ‘Housing water, electricity, gas and other fuels’ 2.9 percent while transport decreased by 3.8 percent. Figures also show the “local goods” increased by 1.5 percent on annual change and increased by 1.0 percent on a monthly basis, while prices of the “imported products” decreased by 0.3 percent on annual basis and was stable on a monthly basis. The monthly change in CPI is 0,8 percent  compared to March 2015.’Food and non- alcoholic beverages increased by 2.8 percent. The prices of the “fresh products” decreased by 0.1 percent between April 2015 and April 2014. While the overall Rwanda CPI increased by 1.2 on annual bases, and increased by 2.0 percent on a monthly basis. “The consumer bears all costs, for instance policymakers can’t intervene on salaries of consumers by increasing them when prices go up,” commented the economic analyst told Rwanda            ]]>

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Dynamic US-Africa Partnership Lauded at African Day Celebrations in Washington,DC.
May 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Rev Jackson and Ambassador Teitelbaum in a group photo with African Ambassadors in Washington,DC. Rev Jackson and Ambassador Teitelbaum in a group photo with African Ambassadors in Washington,DC.[/caption] In celebrations to mark the 2015 African Day  in Washington, DC,  dynamic ties between the USA –Africa hailed by the Ambassador of Egypt Mohamed Tawfik. Speaking as co-Chair of the celebrations organized by the African Ambassador’s group, the Egyptian Envoy cited the last US-Africa’s Leaders’ Summit and the support that Africa continues to receive from the US in multiple forms. “The celebration is about Africa’s success”, said Ambassador Tawfik as he enumerated a litany of positive developments taking place in the continent. Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world he said, with life expectancy ticking up, and more children in school than at any other time. The continent is increasingly taking charge of its own security challenges and Egypt will be hosting a historic summit soon geared towards the creation of a broader Pan African free trade zone ,said Tawfik. In addition to Women serving as Presidents, and in parliament, Tawfik also cited the example of AU Chair Dlamini Zuma to highlight the progress made by women in the continent. Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs delivered the keynote speech in which he highlighted the important role women have always played in the history of Africa. [caption id="attachment_18381" align="alignright" width="586"]Rev Jackson poses with members of the Ivorian dance troupe that animated the celebration Rev Jackson poses with members of the Ivorian dance troupe that animated the celebration[/caption] Celebrated under the theme “Women Empowerment & Development towards Achieving Africa Agenda 2063”, Ambassador Teitelbaum saluted the strides that have been made by the African Union and African countries. Africa’s biggest resource is its people Ambassador Teitelbaum and no country can get ahead if half of its population is left behind. Africa represents a growing a growing market and just this year alone, there have been some 316 million new cell phone subscribers reported ,Teitelbaum said. Programs like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, have been helpful in alleviating the health plight of women and children, said. Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana of Rwanda who heads the African Ambassadors Group in Washington, DC, also spoke on the importance of placing women at the center of development. With Maureen Umeh of Fox TV as MC, the celebration had as special Guest the Rev Jesse Jackson ,Founder and President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.  Other guests from the African American Community included Melvin Foote from the Constituency for Africa, and Denise Rolark Barnes, Publisher of the Washington Informer. Sponsored by Chevron, Coca Cola, and Exxon Mobile, guests were treated to an art exhibition and entertainment performance of folk dances from Egypt, Rwanda and Ivory Coast.      ]]>

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US Congress to Hold Hearing on Rwanda's Troubling Human Rights Record
May 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

Witness David Himbara: Hearing to Shine Light on President Kagame’s Repressive Regime

ob_4f037e_himbara-davidThe House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations announced today that it will hold a hearing on May 20 to examine Rwanda’s deteriorating human rights record under President Paul Kagame.

The hearing, “Developments in Rwanda,” will feature testimony from several experts on Rwanda including David Himbara, a former top economic aide to President Kagame and coordinator of the North American branch of Democracy in Rwanda Now (DIRN); Robert Higiro, a former Rwandan army major who fled the country when he was ordered to assassinate Rwandan dissidents living in South Africa; and Robert Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs.

“I highly commend Chairman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA) for holding this very important hearing, which will shine a brighter spotlight on Rwanda’s troubling and worsening human rights record,” said Mr. Himbara.

“I sincerely hope that this hearing, in addition to raising awareness among members of Congress and the American people about President Kagame’s repressive regime, serves as a critical step toward ending the troubling, long-established authoritarian governance of Rwanda. The Rwandan people deserve to live in a country of opportunity and freedom, not one of tyranny and fear.”

In recent years, President Kagame has taken deliberate steps to control Rwandan media, silence all opposition and quiet those who criticize his regime, as evidenced in Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2015. The US State Department has condemned these actions, with spokesperson Jen Psaki noting in a Jan. 16, 2014, press briefing that the United States is “troubled by the succession of what appear to be politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles.”

Many Rwandan opposition activists have disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances; the State Department’s 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices states that Rwanda has “major human rights problems,” including “arbitrary or unlawful killings both inside and outside of the country, disappearances, torture, harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers, arbitrary arrests, prolonged pretrial detentions and government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights.”

Democracy in Rwanda Now (DIRN) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes democracy, free speech and human rights for Rwandans.

*Source PR Newswire

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Rwandan Petition May Help Kagame Extend Rule to Third Decade
May 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

by * [caption id="attachment_17989" align="alignleft" width="300"]Rwandan President Paul Kagame, “like all heads of state who change term limits, wants to give the impression that he would prefer to leave but is reluctantly staying on for the good of his people.” Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Rwandan President Paul Kagame, “like all heads of state who change term limits, wants to give the impression that he would prefer to leave but is reluctantly staying on for the good of his people.” Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg[/caption] Rwandan President Paul Kagame may be able to extend his rule in 2017 elections after parliament received 2 million signatures calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for a third term. The East African nation’s president is restricted to two, seven-year mandates under the current charter. Kagame, who’s been in power since 2000, said last month that he was open to either staying on or leaving the position “depending on the interest and future” of the country. He said he doesn’t support changing the constitution to remove the cap on terms. Kagame may want “to give the impression that he would prefer to leave but is reluctantly staying on for the good of his people,” Francois Conradie, political analyst at NKC Independent Economists in South Africa, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The possibility of Kagame, 57, running for an extra term with the backing of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front bears similarities to the political situation in two of Rwanda’s neighbors. In Burundi, the ruling party’s nomination of Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in June elections has sparked more than a week of violent protests. Four people died in Thursday’s unrest, including one person killed by a grenade, raising the death toll since protests began to at least 17, Agence France-Presse reported.

‘Important Differences’

Rwanda, a nation of about 12 million people, has seen economic growth averaging 7.8 percent over the past decade as it recovered from a genocide that saw as many as 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus killed in three months of attacks by Hutu militias in 1994. Starbucks Corp. this week said it plans to double its purchases of Rwandan coffee, while Kigali-based brewer Bralirwa SA is a unit of Amsterdam-based Heineken NV. The nation sold $400 million of Eurobonds for the first time in April 2013. Neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo saw demonstrations in January when lawmakers sought to change laws that would have delayed elections and extended President Joseph Kabila’s 14-year rule. Parliament eventually approved a revised law that allows the 2016 vote to take place as planned. The African Union on Thursday said holding elections in Burundi would be impossible in the current environment. In an interview with CCTV Africa, AU Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the country’s constitution is clear that “really there shouldn’t be a third term.” The continental body can’t send election observers until there is peace, she said. Burundi’s Constitutional Court has cleared the way for Nkurunziza to run for a final time. “There are important differences with Burundi and the DRC -– most notably the fact that the RPF can very easily change the constitution with relatively little opposition from political parties or civil society,” Conradie said. *Source Bloomberg]]>

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Rwanda to export Irish potatoes to Zambia, South Sudan
April 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

Dealers wait for a vehicle to transport Irish potatoes. A wholesale market for Irish potato will be set up in Kigali. Dealers wait for a vehicle to transport Irish potatoes. A wholesale market for Irish potato will be set up in Kigali.[/caption] A number of countries, including Zambia and South Sudan, have expressed interest in Rwanda’s Irish potatoes, a development that could turn around the fortunes of farmers and expand the country’s exports base and revenue. Francois Kanimba, the Minister for Trade and Industry, said farmers must now double their efforts to satisfy the growing local and regional demand for Irish potatoes, and ensure quality along the value chain. Kanimba was addressing farmers and traders during a breakfast meeting organised by Private Sector Federation’s (PSF) Chamber of Agriculture. He, however, did not say whether any export deals had been reached with the two countries. “It is critical for farmers to focus on producing for the export market because that’s when you will benefit more from your efforts,” he said. Kanimba also revealed that the government and PSF will soon set up a wholesale market for Irish potatoes in Kigali to ease market access for farmers. “This will help remove middlemen, who have been exploiting farmers,” the minister said. Kanimba was optimistic the market will raise morale among farmers since they will be assured of a ready market. The market, to be built in Gisozi sector, will serve as a selling point for Irish potatoes in the City of Kigali. It is also one of the initiatives geared at promoting export trade, the minister added. Christine Murebwayire, the Association of Rwanda Farmers chairperson, said the market will organise both farmers and traders, noting that it will also help promote Irish potato export trade. Murebwayire, also the Chamber of Agriculture chairperson, however, noted that farmers still lack access to quality seeds, fertilisers and finance, besides being exploited by middlemen. Yvette Mukarwema, the chief operations officer at PSF, said the wholesale market will tackle challenges, like price uncertainty, which farmers have endured for years. She added that PSF’s partnership with government will improve the industry. Other initiatives Collection centres will be created at cell and sector levels, while selling points will be set up in the major Irish potato producing areas to ensure proper linkages between farmers and buyers, according to Kanimba. The minister added that there will also be committees at all levels of the value chain, which will file weekly reports for given collection and selling centres and monitor quality. Last year, both government and the Federation of Irish Potatoes Traders in Kigali signed an agreement to harmonise the Irish potatoes trading practices in the country. The deal aimed at regulating potato trade to reduce losses that were faced by farmers. Irish potatoes are one of the country’s staple food crops, with the Northern and Western province as main producers of the crop.   It is one of the priority crops that have been identified by the Ministry of Agriculture for value-addition. *Source NewTimes]]>

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Is Rwanda making the most of growing investments in ICT?
April 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Primary school pupils using computers. (File) Primary school pupils using computers. (File)[/caption] The 2015 World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology report was released this week, with Rwanda topping the world in the cluster ‘Government success in ICT promotion.’ Indeed, the government has invested heavily in building IT infrastructure and is encouraging both private and public enterprises to tap into the potential of technology to improve the welfare of Rwandans and help accelerate the country’s development. But are the players doing enough to transform people’s lives? According to the Clement Uwajeneza, the chief executive of Rwanda Online Platform Limited, there has been impact, but it is not yet adequate, “With heavy investments in ICT infrastructure, we are witnessing a change in people’s lives,” Uwajeneza says. “However, we still need to do more.” Rwanda Online is a platform currently under construction and, upon completion, it is expected to serve as the central station for delivery of government services. The platform is expected to offer more than 100 services. “Lately, we are seeing an increasing trend in the use of online services, but there is still lack of understanding of the potential of ICT businesses,” Uwajeneza added. Under the cluster of ‘Government success in ICT promotion’, Rwanda is followed by United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Luxembourg and Qatar while the next African country is Kenya ranked number 21. The WEF report assessed 143 countries based on their capacities in information and communication technology sectors. The classification is based on 52 individual indicators categorised under 10 different clusters, including political and regulatory environment, business and innovation, infrastructure, affordability, skills, individual usage, business usage, government usage, as well as economic and social impacts. On the extent to which governments have a clear implementation plan for utilising ICTs to improve their overall competitiveness, the report placed Rwanda fourth after United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Qatar. The power of ICT The particular assessment is under the pillar of importance of ICTs to government vision of the future, which addresses the level of services delivered to the public. Jean Paul Uwayezu, a marketing consultant with the Service Mag, said ICT has enhanced service delivery through the ability it gives ordinary people to demand feedback from public offices, that were traditionally known for delays. “The beauty of technology today is that you don’t need to go through a lot of bureaucracy to get a feedback from public offices; some officials have made it easier to the extent that they respond to queries on social media directly… we, however, need to sensitise the public so that they exploit these initiatives,” said Uwayezu. The report assessed how ICTs enable all citizens to access basic services, including health, education, and financial services, among others. Globally, Rwanda was ranked 20, but topped the continent. ‘More to be done’ One of the projects that are designed to help deliver quality education in Rwanda is the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) . The project director, Eric N. Kimenyi, says the gadgets have not only increased the interest of learners and their teachers, but also enabled remote schools get access to quality content. “After training teachers in OLPC, we built in content related to the subjects children study. This has given impressive results; this time it’s not just about programming, the computers are facilitating in class work which has made children more innovative and creative with the machines,” Kimenyi said. “We have witnessed an increase in class attendance and also a high demand among children to go to schools. We are drawing an ICT in Education Master Plan, which, when completed, will give us a clear parameter to measure the impact of such initiatives.” Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the director-general of ICT in the Ministry of Youth and ICT, said there is still a lot more to be done if Rwanda is to sustain and build on the achievements registered so far. “The report is a good sign of recognition of our efforts in advancing IT in the country although we are still faced with challenges. We emerged the best in one sub-index out of 14 which gives us a reason to strategise on how we can perform better in other sub-indexes,” Nkurikiyimfura said. One area that Rwanda did not feature prominently in the report is the private sector and individual usage of ICT. But Nkurikiyimfura said the reason could be that it is too soon to measure the impact in these two areas. “Private sector investment in ICT is impressive, we are still on the right path and soon the results will be felt. An example, 45 per cent of Foreign Direct Investments in the past five years were directed to the ICT sector, the 4G LTE project attracted investments worth $140 million in one year, yet we are supposed to measure the final attraction in two years, so we are on track,” he said. *Source NewTimes ]]>

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