The war was brought to an end by the RPF’s military victory, which, upon assuming control of government in 1994, promised to re-launch the process of transition to democracy. Regrettably, the promised transition to democracy has failed to materialize. On the contrary, Rwanda is now far less free than it was prior to the outbreak of the genocide. President Paul Kagame has converted both the RPF and the Rwandese Patriotic Army – now the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) – into instruments for sustaining his personal and
absolute control of the state. Indeed, due to President Kagame’s maneuvering, the entire political system, despite the false and misleading appearance of a multi-party democracy, does not, in fact or deed, provide any real or meaningful opportunity for political participation or political opposition.The country’s laws make it impossible for individuals and organizations, other than the RPF, to participate meaningfully in politics. Rwanda holds regular elections, but their outcomes are pre-determined, as political groups are not allowed to obtain legal status, nor compete for power on an equal footing with the ruling party. The so-called “opposition political parties” that participate in the RPF-dominated government do not have any power or influence within the government. They are tolerated for the purpose of lending a false legitimacy to the government by giving the appearance of political plurality and competition.
Rwanda is today a de facto one-party dictatorship
Rwanda is today a de facto one-party dictatorship dominated by a presidency that absolutely controls all other branches of government. The people of Rwanda do not have any opportunities for meaningful political participation and cannot exercise their fundamental right to choose and change government. Further, the political system does not provide opportunity for checks and balances, which is a prerequisite for a thriving democracy.
The Rwandan government is not accountable to the people of Rwanda. The entire machinery of government is controlled by the Head of State, Mr. Paul Kagame. The legislature is nominated, not elected, even within the RPF. Virtually all of its members belong to the ruling party, which serves as a reliable rubber stamp for the executive. The judiciary lacks independence. Power is concentrated in the hands of a small group of officials answerable only to the President, who control all institutions of the state from behind the scenes. The RPF has used restrictions on debate relating to the issue of identity in order to prevent discussion of policies, which serves to marginalize the majority of Rwandans from meaningful political participation.
The RPF and Paul Kagame maintain their monopoly.
The RPF and Paul Kagame maintain their monopoly of political power by means of repressive laws, unfair and illegal administrative practices, and violence against the citizens of Rwanda. Administrative, law enforcement, judicial and security institutions are regularly used to suppress the exercise of fundamental human rights of Rwandan citizens. Draconian restrictions limit the ability of civil society, including the media, to hold government accountable. The government uses the security services to persecute opponents and critics of the government. Elements of the security services regularly resort to illegal detentions, politically motivated prosecutions, imprisonment on trumped-up charges of opponents and critics, enforced kidnappings and disappearances, and extra-judicial killings and other forms of violence to maintain President Kagame’s monopoly of political power.
President Kagame justifies these draconian and wide-ranging restrictions on the exercise of civil and political rights on the grounds that the rules the government has set, and actions it has taken, are necessary to prevent the manipulation of ethnicity and the recurrence of genocide. The real motives for these restrictions are self-evident, namely, to insulate the RPF from political competition and to entrench President Kagame‘s absolute rule for the foreseeable future.