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‘We choose good guys and bad guys’: beneath the myth of ‘model’ Rwanda | Human rights

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A devastating new book will accuse Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame – long feted by his prominent international supporters as the model of visionary new African leadership – of being a serial human rights abuser, including for his role in a sustained campaign of assassinating his rivals in exile.

Written by Michela Wrong, the author who covered the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when more than 800,000 people – largely ethnic Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus – were killed by Hutu militias over 100 days, Do Not Disturb represents one of the most far-reaching historical revisions of Kagame and his regime.

Meticulously researched, with substantial new material and interviews, Wrong is careful to set competing claims next to each other where there are unresolved questions, including the suspicions – thus far uncorroborated – of Rwandan involvement in the 2001 assassination of Congolese president Laurent Kabila.

Michela Wrong
Michela Wrong, at home in London. Her new book shines a spotlight on the dubious rights record of president Paul Kagame. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

While Kagame has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, not least over the high-profile murder of his former intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya in South Africa in 2014 by Rwandan agents, Do Not Disturb alleges Kagame’s involvement in multiple rights abuses from his earliest days in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

Beginning with his role as a dour rebel intelligence officer behind the grisly executions of suspected infiltrators, Do Not Disturb chronicles Kagame’s rise as well as his part in the overthrow of two Congolese presidents and the looting of that country’s mineral resources, relying on numerous interviews with former members of his inner circle.

With Rwanda heavily reliant on international aid for almost two-thirds of its budget, Wrong’s examination of Kagame and Rwanda’s role in destabilising its neighbours in the Great Lakes raises embarrassing questions for his prominent supporters – who have included Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates and Clare Short – and for international aid donors including the UK accused of long turning a blind eye.

The book is being published just months before the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is due to be held in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, this summer, an event that will once again put Kagame at the centre of an international stage.

Far from the charismatic, driven and progressive leader he is perceived as by his international supporters, Kagame emerges from Wrong’s account as a murderously authoritarian figure; a cold, petty and vindictive individual. She compares him to Stalin’s notorious secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria, always able “to find the crime to fit the man”.

In an interview with the Guardian, Wrong described how her view of Kagame had changed radically over the years since she first encountered his RPF forces as a young reporter covering the genocide, when – like so many others – she embraced the RPF’s narrative.

Wrong has already been accused on social media of becoming a “genocide denier”, the standard accusation levelled at critics of Kagame. She has no doubt that genocide occurred, only that it hid a far more complex picture, including the subsequent murders of Hutus by Tutsi forces after the RPF took power.

“Going from village to village with the French troops you were confronted by mass graves where people had been hurriedly buried, seeing women scrubbing the floors of the church naves trying to get the blood stains out.

plane crash which killed Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana in this May 23, 1994
A Rwanda Patriotic Front rebel at the site of the plane crash that killed Rwanda’s president Juvénal Habyarimana in April 1994. Photograph: Jean Marc Boujou/AP

“Then you’d meet members of the RPF who were reserved and disciplined and spoke excellent English, who didn’t seem to speak in forked tongues like the departing government of Juvénal Habyarimana [the Hutu president who was killed when his plane was shot down, sparking the genocide].

“I was completely won over by them and completely willing to accept that their takeover was a very good thing because it spelled the end of the horror. That’s how I viewed the RPF for many years and that’s how the world saw it.”

Wrong talks of an encounter with a French diplomat who described the later pursuit and murder of Hutus fleeing into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by RPF’s forces and remembers thinking: “This is nonsense! It was so at odds with what I believed the RPF stood for. Now I look back, that was a briefing we should have paid more attention to.”

Patrick Karegeya
Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former intelligence chief who was found dead in 2014 in a hotel in South Africa. Photograph: AP

At the centre of Wrong’s revisiting is her detailed depiction of the circumstances of the gruesome strangling of Patrick Karegeya in a South African hotel room in 2014. Kagame’s charming if deeply implicated former intelligence chief was murdered in Johannesburg by, she says, Rwandan agents after he, having fallen out of favour, had fled Rwanda, setting up an opposition organisation in exile. A “do not disturb” sign was hung outside the room by his killer as they left.

It was a murder that Kagame’s ministers publicly celebrated. Defence minister James Kabarebe told journalists at the time: “When you choose to be a dog, you die like a dog, and the cleaners will wipe away the trash so that it does not stink for them.”

Kagame denied involvement. “Rwanda did not kill this person – and it’s a big ‘no’,” he answered when asked by a western reporter. Yet he could not resist: “But I add that, I actually wish Rwanda did it. I really wish it.”

Kagame’s message to Rwanda’s domestic audience was different. He delivered it at a prayer breakfast in Kigali: “Whoever betrays the country will pay the price, I assure you,” he told a small crowd of dignitaries.

“Any person still alive who may be plotting against Rwanda, whoever they are, will pay the price,” Kagame said. “Whoever it is, it is a matter of time.”

Wrong claims it has not been an isolated incident, with opposition figures and critics – including in the UK – receiving warnings that their lives may be in danger, raising a question over why the UK is so supportive of a regime that Scotland Yard has had to provide protection against.

But even long before Karegeya’s murder, Wrong admits she was harbouring doubts about Kagame.

Members of the Rwanda National Congress opposition party
Members of the Rwanda National Congress hold pictures of slain party founder Patrick Karegeya, and posters of Paul Kagame bearing the words ‘wanted, war criminal’. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty

It was the assassination in Kenya of Seth Sendashonga, a Hutu former interior minister in the government of national unity in Rwanda who had fallen out with the regime in Kigali, that was the first crack in her perception.

She recalls it as the day “when with a near-audible mental ping, I realised I no longer believed most of the key ‘truths’ upon which [Kagame’s RPF] built its account.”

“That was 1998. Early on. There were two attempts on his life and that made it impossible to pretend it was just random crime.

“It’s not what I expected the RPF to be doing. I remember the behind the scenes RPF counter-narrative to journalists and diplomats with friends in the movement was: ‘No! You have to understand, he’d gone abroad and he was mustering these former genocidaires. They were going to attack Rwanda. He’d gone over to the dark side.’”

But as Wrong points out, many, such as Karegeya and Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, the exiled former Rwandan chief of staff (who also survived an attempt on his life in South Africa), were far from former genocidaires camped out in the forests of the neighbouring DRC, but among those once in Kagame’s most trusted inner circle.

“The people that Kagame really fears, the people he is reaching out across the globe to silence, intimidate, harass and kill are more often than not members of his own Tutsi elite.”

A Rwandan soldier
A Rwandan soldier stands by a poster of president Paul Kagame during a campaign rally. Photograph: Karel Prinsloo/AP

After four years researching and writing Do Not Disturb, what shocks Wrong is how, in the light of the public outcry over the attempted and successful assassinations carried out abroad by Russia and Saudi Arabia, criticism of Kagame has been at best tepid.

“It feels like it has been consequence-free. There’s been a very tactful diplomatic cover-up by Rwanda’s allies abroad.

“At the most there have been a very few court cases, with Patrick Karegeya’s inquest being the most prominent, with testimony showing the South Africans wanted to bury the story completely because it was the Rwandan government behind it.

“There have been massive consequences for the Russian targeting of [Sergei] Skripal and [Alexander] Litvenenko abroad yet Rwanda is just given a little scolding. There’s a double standard because Rwanda is seen as the good guys. Our friends. And they’re people we give an awful lot of aid to.”

All of which raises the question: why?

Wrong sees a mixture of vanity and lazy thinking, compounded by the west’s post-colonial habit of seeking to anoint favoured African leaders.

“It’s an old story. We always pick sides. Leaders are embraced and a blind eye turned to the atrocities. There’s a temptation to personalise and simplify, to choose good guys and bad guys.

“The other argument of Rwanda’s international supporters is that it’s a stabilising force, but the destabilising force in the Great Lakes for decades has been Rwanda, including the systematic pillaging of Congo’s minerals.”

Prince William meets Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame
Prince William and Paul Kagame meet at Buckingham Palace in January 2020 after the UK-Africa investment summit. Photograph: Victoria Jones/AFP via Getty

Wrong is highly critical of the role played by the aid and development sector, including that of the UK.

“There’s a development paradigm playing out in Rwanda which goes quite deep and it’s sinister. It’s this idea that the west can deliver development irrespective of what the local government is like and that you can strip the politics out of the development agenda by focusing on education, health, mosquito nets, vaccination rates.

“But the local politics are the only thing that matters. There’s something profoundly uncomfortable about insisting that a government which has a deteriorating human rights record and has committed egregious war crimes is a worthy recipient of aid because it performs well on aid metrics yet is busy killing journalists and rounding up and disappearing critics.”



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After death of Elizabeth II, corgi prices hit record high | International

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The first of Queen Elizabeth II’s corgis was a puppy named Susan that was given to her by her parents in 1944, on her 18th birthday. The young princess fell in love with this typical Welsh herding breed. Indeed, she loved corgis so much that she would own more than 30 of Susan’s descendants over the next six decades. “My corgis are family,” Elizabeth II once said.

Corgis were often spotted walking beside the queen in Buckingham Palace, and appeared next to her in numerous personal photographs, as well as official portraits. They were an inseparable part of her image. After the queen’s death on September 8, the cost of a corgi dog has broken new records, according to the AFP news agency.

“The prices asked for by registered corgi breeders have today hit a new high, with average asking prices doubling over the past three days,” Pets4Homes, an online pet store in the United Kingdom, told the news agency. For the first time, a corgi was selling for over £2,500 ($2,678), even outstripping prices reached during the pandemic, when there was a huge spike in demand for pets.

Pets4Homes added that it was experiencing “over 10 times the volume of daily searches for corgis when compared to this time last week.”

According to Kennel Club, one of the largest purebred dog breeders in the UK, corgi prices also broke records back in 1944, when the queen was gifted Susan. “People – breeders – were servicing the market for a dog that has suddenly become very popular. It’s the 101 Dalmatians effect,” Ciara Farrell, the Kennel Club’s Library and Collections Manager, told the BBC in reference to the surge in popularity of dalmatians following the release of the 1961 Disney animated movie.

Elizabeth II arriving at King's Cross Station, London, on October 15, 1969 with her four corgis after a holiday at Balmoral Castle. She used to travel with her pets, so images of Queen II surrounded by corgis were common.
Elizabeth II arriving at King’s Cross Station, London, on October 15, 1969 with her four corgis after a holiday at Balmoral Castle. She used to travel with her pets, so images of Queen II surrounded by corgis were common.STF (AFP)

Demand for the corgi breed rose again in the 1960s, with nearly 9,000 puppy registrations, as newspapers and television showed images of the young queen with her family and corgis. By the late 1990s, interest had begun to fade, and in 2014, the Kennel Club listed corgis in the vulnerable native breed category, with just 274 new puppy registrations.

In 2017, registrations increased by 17%, and by 47% a year later, in 2018. This period coincided with the release of the popular Netflix TV show The Crown, which follows the life of Queen Elizabeth.

The last two corgis owned by Elizabeth II were Muick and Sandy, who were gifted to her by her son, Prince Andrew, following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, in April 2021. Angela Kelly, the queen’s dresser, said at the time: “I was worried they would get under the Queen’s feet, but they have turned out to be a godsend. They are beautiful and great fun and the Queen often takes long walks with them in Home Park.”

Muick and Sandy stayed with the queen until her last moments, sources close to the palace told the British newspaper Daily Mail. On September 19, the corgis also stood with Prince Andrew outside Windsor Castle to farewell their former owner. Outside, many Britons had also decided to bring their own corgis to say goodbye to the queen.

It is now up to Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, to take care of Muick and Sandy.

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Iran launches airstrike against Kurdish group in northern Iraq | Iran

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Iran has launched a deadly cross-border airstrike into northern Iraq to punish Kurds for their role in supporting demonstrations over the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in Iranian police custody that are still rattling the Tehran regime.

The attack occurred as the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, addressed the nation to express his regret over the death of Mahsa Amini a fortnight ago, but also to accuse the protesters of being agents of foreign powers.

Activists in Iran, speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, said: “Our confidence is growing. We are not backing down despite the arrests. It is very beautiful. There is a belief that something is going to change this time.”

Lawyers acting for Amini’s family have, in defiance of regime pressure, filed a formal complaint against those responsible for her arrest. They have demanded a detailed independent investigation into her death, including the manner of arrest and transfer to hospital, as well as photographs and videos of the arrest, and any brain scans.

Amini, now a symbol of resistance to the regime, died in police custody after she was picked up by the morality police in Tehran for not wearing a hijab properly.

As many as 13 people were killed and 58 injured in the Iranian drone strikes on military bases in northern Iraq that belong to the exiled Kurdish Democratic party of Iran.

The KDPI said in a statement: “The forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran attacked the bases and headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic party of Iran with missiles and drones.”

Iran said it was attacking terrorist bases, while the US described the strikes as brazen.

The KPDI urged its supporters inside Iran to return to the streets, with its London spokesperson saying: “Support for these demonstrations is building. This started about one Kurdish woman and the wearing of the hijab, but it is now something wider in over 100 cities. The chant in the streets is: ‘Death to the regime. Death to the dictator.’”

Reports on the number of deaths amid the protests differ; the Oslo-based human rights group Iran Human Rights said the figure was at least 76, while Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency has put the toll at “around 60”, including several members of the Iranian security forces.

The regime will be desperate to ensure the protests do not extend to more working-class districts, and is likely to portray the protesters as anti-patriotic liberals at odds with the values of the regime.

Iran’s police said on Wednesday they would confront protests “with all their might”. However, the country’s minister for women’s affairs, Ensieh Khazali, said she had visited arrested women in jail and was seeking the release of those not guilty of major offences.

The UN said its secretary general, António Guterres, had called on Raisi not to use “disproportionate force” against protesters.

“We are increasingly concerned about reports of rising fatalities, including women and children, related to the protests,” the UN chief’s spokeperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said.

Iran has shut down the internet to prevent protesters using social media to inform the outside world of the scale of the repression. Up to 20 reporters have been arrested, and newspapers are increasingly toeing the government line that the protests are being manipulated by Saudi Arabian or western media. Some papers are staging debates on whether the compulsory hijab is required by sharia law.

The regime has continued to claim the west’s response followed what it regarded as a successful performance by Raisi at the UN general assembly in New York. But the regime is being battered by the persistence of the demonstrations and the willingness of prominent Iranians, including musicians, actors, sports stars and academics, to demand the voice of young Iranians be respected.

Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, an award-winning actor, appeared without hijab to speak at the funeral ceremony of fellow actor Amin Tariokh. The Iranian football coach and former player Ali Karimi has also backed the demonstrations, as has the composer Hossein Alizadeh.

In Britain, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British Iranian dual-national who spent five years in an Iranian jail, cut her hair for BBC Persian cameras to show solidarity with the protests in Iran.

Companies said the continued shutdown of the internet was damaging business.

On Tuesday, authorities in Iran arrested the daughter of the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for “inciting rioters”, the Tasnim news agency reported. They have also been threatening celebrities and football stars who have supported the protesters.

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‘Never Had Such Pathetic Experience’: Indian Actresses Harassed at Movie Promo – Video

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sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual assaults, actress, movie, movie stars, movie star, promotion

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Police have filed a case and launched an investigation to identify and trace those who sexually assaulted the movie stars.

Two Indian actresses from Malayalam-language cinema have revealed that they were sexually abused at a movie promotion event in the Kozhikode district of the Indian state of Kerala.

A video of the incident shared online shows the moment when an unknown man gropes one of the actresses, Saniya Iyappan, as they were trying to get through the crowd surrounded by bodyguards. The actress can be seen turning around in an attempt to slap him, but he escaped.

Following the assault, Iyappan took to social media, saying that both she and her colleague have been to several places in the country to promote the upcoming movie — but had never had “such a pathetic experience” elsewhere.

“Kozhikode is a place I loved a lot. But, tonight while returning after a programme, a person from the crowd grabbed me. It disgusts me to say where! Are people around us so frustrated?,” the actress wrote.

She also revealed that her co-actress had a similar experience, but did not have a chance to respond to the attacker.

“She reacted, but I couldn’t in that situation as I was dumbstruck for a moment,” the victim said in a post.

“Later, I also encountered a similar experience but I reacted… I wish that no one has to face this kind of unwanted trauma in their life,” the other actress confirmed.



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