Kagame’s repression continues: Mushayidi and Ntaganda on hunger strike

For several months, mainstream media focus in the Great Lakes region, if any, has been on the situation of war in Eastern Congo caused by M23, a rebel group backed by both Rwanda and Uganda. 

Besides the suffering of Congolese people who are victims of an indescribable tragedy inflicted by external interests for almost two decades, the continuing plight of Rwandan citizens under their president Paul Kagame, seems to loose concern in the preoccupations of many.

Though the pattern has always been similar each time he had internal issues difficult to address, – waging war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Rwandan president is finding himself stuck with M23. He must’ve thought initially that this one would be less daunting and easy to handle.

He embarked this time on the Eastern Congo military venture probably thinking that this would, as in the past, help cover up his repressive practices inside Rwanda. The tactic was also meant to distract those seeking reforms.

But as we all know, he has failed on both grounds. His crimes are more and more being exposed and decried wherever and whenever he commits them.

Part of that exercise of raising awareness on the Rwandan president’s oppressive practices is being pursued by members of political parties of the opposition operating from the country. Undeniably they are working under a context of ferocious terror from the regime’s operatives.

Bernard Ntaganda
Bernard Ntaganda

Jambonews has published in French a recent account of two Rwandan political prisoners: Bernard Ntaganda and Deo Mushayidi, both imprisoned leaders of PS-Imberakuri and PDP-Imanzi respectively. They decided to go on a hunger strike because of the inhumane conditions of detention they experience at Mpanga prison.

The following is a translation of the related article written by Jean Mitari.

Rwanda: SOS call from PS Imberakuri

The Rwandan political opposition party PS-Imberakuri made an SOS call via its  facebook page, on Tuesday, January 8th 2013, related to its fourteen supporters who are jailed in the prison of Mpanga (southern Rwanda), and are currently mistreated and tortured.

“The information coming from the direction of the prison indicates inhuman and degrading treatments and torture, including beatings with sticks and sprinkling of wastewater,” says a statement signed by Immaculate Uwizeye Kansime, Secretary General of PS-Imberakuri. The party has already a list of seven among its fourteen members held in that prison who are victims. It includes Major Ndagijimana, Munyagisaka, Ezekiel Sebahambizi, Mazimpaka, Said, Pastor Emile Uwimbabazi, and Diallo Callixte Kagabo.

This is not the first time that such acts are reported in the prison. In fact, in October 2011, eight Sierra Leonean prisoners sentenced by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) for atrocities committed during the civil war in their country, and who are serving their sentences in Rwanda, had complained of “inhuman treatment” they had been victims of since their arrival in the Mpanga prison. These eight prisoners said they were “deprived of medical care, threatened with death by the guards, beaten, tortured, and malnourished and forced to work hard carpentry and masonry among other tasks.

Ntaganda and Mushayidi on hunger strike

On the other hand, PS-Imberakuri had in the past, deplored acts of inhuman treatment and torture perpetrated on its president, Bernard Ntaganda, sentenced on 11 February 2012 by the High Court in Kigali with four years of imprisonment. According to his party, Ntaganda is experiencing inhumane conditions while in jail: “he is kept in total isolation in a dungeon without any light; he is not allowed to receive his food from family or friends.” Last November, the party’s leadership announced that it saw in such humiliating and degrading treatment, an intention from the Kigali regime to “kill” softly its leader by “starvation, physical torture, and despair.”

Deo Mushayidi
Deogratias Mushayidi

Moreover, PS-Imberakuri announces in its statement dated January 8th, 2013 that its President and Deogratias Mushayidi, Chairman of the party PDP-Imanzi who has been in prison for more than three years, started since 05 January 2013 a hunger strike to protest against the mistreatment they have been and continue to be victims of.

“They are victims of these acts of torture and ill-treatment day and night. They are administered by officials of the prison, including Claver Bungwe: Security officer, Fabrice Ndayambaje: Intelligence Officer, Hilaire Sengabo: prison deputy director and various other prison guards. These prisoners’ lives are so alarming to the point that they can die at ant time, particularly Said who has been transferred while being already so sick, “the PS Imberakuri statement announced.

In a report published on October 8th, 2012 Amnesty International had challenged the Rwandan regime for its increasing use of torture, illegal detention and even disappearances. The following torture practices: “Electric shocks, beatings, suffocation with a bag placed over the head or sensory deprivation,” are employed and spreading in Rwanda, according to the organization.

Given the seriousness of the situation, Amnesty International had even recommended to foreign donors, especially the development partners in the areas of justice and military cooperation “to suspend financial assistance to institutions or security forces involved in human rights violations.”

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