Samantha Power says Rwanda lacks environment ‘that allows criticism’

Rwanda under President Paul Kagame does not meet the criteria for a liberal democracy, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power said Friday.

“I don’t think that there is an environment on the ground that allows criticism, or that there’s pluralistic party development or the criteria that you would have in any textbook for a liberal democracy,” Power told journalists in Brussels.

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In “Do Not Disturb,” journalist Michela Wrong explores the development communities’ curious relationship to the central African nation.

Power’s critique goes much further than that of her counterparts at the European Union institutions in the city, whom she met Friday. Top EU officials have regularly traveled to Rwanda and consulted Kagame as the bloc, worried about Chinese influence in Africa, tries to construct a new partnership with the continent.

Power’s remarks followed a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Nigeria on Friday in which he nominated democracy as one of five areas of common interest between the U.S. and Africa, ahead of next month’s Summit for Democracy. That event, convened by U.S. President Joe Biden, is designed to tackle “democratic backsliding” around the world.

Blinken did not mention Rwanda during his speech but said that across Africa, there are “leaders ignoring term limits, rigging or postponing elections, exploiting social grievances to gain and maintain power, arresting opposition figures, cracking down on the media, and allowing security services to enforce pandemic restrictions with brutality.”

Kagame won a third term in 2017 with almost 99% of the vote after amending the previous term limit. Human Rights Watch recently reported “Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture” in the central African country of 13 million, while “Fair trial standards were routinely flouted in many sensitive political cases, in which security-related charges are often used to prosecute prominent government critics.”

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Kagame’s government has come under increased scrutiny of late. Opposition figure Paul Rusesabagina was sentenced to 25 years in jail on terrorism charges in September after being renditioned from the United Arab Emirates, and British journalist Michela Wrong released the critically acclaimed book “Do Not Disturb,” tracing the deaths of Rwandan dissidents abroad and repression at home.

“I don’t think … there’s pluralistic party development [in Rwanda] or the criteria that you would have in any textbook for a liberal democracy.”— Samantha Power, administrator, USAID

Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide, also noted Friday the “tremendous development gains that have been secured over time in [Rwanda], in terms of education and infrastructure.”

“There are now moves afoot for Rwanda to move into the vaccine manufacturing business as well,” she said. “So I think it’s important to view development along the spectrum, as we do as USAID, to include governance, rule of law, democracy, human rights, as well as the full corpus of social and economic development metrics, on which Rwanda has made remarkable progress.”

source:https://www.devex.com/news/samantha-power-says-rwanda-lacks-environment-that-allows-criticism-102147

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