Rwanda - Where a Private Conversation Can Get You Jailed


President Kagame wins praise abroad and funds from his Western donors for his leadership. But in modern Rwanda, politics is a no-go area of discussion which can land you in jail -- as happened to my father and uncle.

The country I still call "home" will next year host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Welcoming the leaders of an organisation committed to democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law should, in theory, be a proud moment for a small African nation with a haunted history.

However, the country concerned is Rwanda, and CHOGM's choice of venue betrays the very principles the organisation embraces. Whatever it once pledged, the Commonwealth's newest member -- Rwanda only joined in 2009 -- shows little interest in upholding a charter whose articles guarantee freedom of expression and peaceful dialogue. Nothing better exemplifies President Paul Kagame's intolerance of open debate than the case due to be heard in Kigali's Court of Appeal on 15 November 2019.

Retired Brigadier-General Frank Rusagara and his brother-in-law Colonel Tom Byabagamba will be appealing prison sentences of 20 and 21 years respectively. These harsh verdicts were handed down not for murder, or a role in spearheading...

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