Congolese refugees killed by security forces during protests

Peaceful assembly

Refugees killed for protesting cut in food rations

According to reports, on 20th February 2018 Rwandan soldiers opened fire on Congolese refugees when 2,000 people marched out of the Karongi refugee camp in western Rwanda to protest a 25 percent cut in food rations by the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency). The cut was due to funding problems. At least two people were allegedly wounded. A government minister has denied the reports.

Two days later, on 22nd February, 11 protesters were killed and more than 20 were injured, including police officers. Three died in the Kiziba refugee camp, and eight were killed later in Karongi town after the Rwandan police moved into UNHCR offices to evict refugees staging a sit-in over the reduction in food rations.

In response to the violence, the UN issued a press release, stating that:

“UNHCR regrets that its continued appeals for maintaining calm and restraint were not heard last week.This tragedy should have been avoided and the disproportionate use of force against refugees is not acceptable. UNHCR calls on the authorities to refrain from further use of force and to investigate the circumstances of these tragic incidents”.

Rwanda houses some 174,000 refugees from the Congo as well as 57,000 from Burundi.


Arrest of pastors for defying orders to close churches

On 6th March, authorities arrested six pastors for allegedly plotting to defy orders to close some 700 small churches that did not meet structural standards, sanitation requirements, or lacked certificates of operation. Police spokesperson Theos Badege said that the preachers "conducted illegal meetings with bad intentions".

According to news reports, most of the churches were small Pentecostal ones. Pentecostal churches, often run by charismatic preachers claiming to be able to perform miracles, have grown rapidly in many parts of Africa in recent years.

Authorities auction off family assets of jailed opposition politician

On 23rd March 2018, Rwandan authorities sold assets belonging to the Rwigara family, including stocks in the Premier Tobacco Company, for about 500 million Rwandan francs (577,842 USD) to recover what it claimed was unpaid back taxes owed by the family. As previously reported on the Monitor, Diane Rwigara ran against President Paul Kagame in the August 2017 election and was later arrested in September 2017 on charges of "inciting public insurrection,” among others, which the family maintains are politically motivated and meant to silence their criticism of the government. She is currently awaiting trial.

According to an Amnesty International report in February 2018, political opponents face severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and association, as well as incidents of threats, killings and unresolved disappearances.