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Rwanda - RFI exclusive interview with justice minister

Rwandan cabinet reviews genocide ideology law

S Maupas/RFI

As Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame heads for election victory, the government is reviewing its genocide ideology law. Rights groups have accused it of limiting freedom of speech but, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama, insists that the changes are the cabinet's own idea.

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Kagame, who is certain to secure a second seven-year mandate when full provisional results are released late Wednesday, has been criticised for gagging the opposition through the use of Rwanda’s Law Relating to the punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology.

Ahead of Monday’s election, two of Kagame's opponents were disqualified after being charged with genocide ideology, which is essentially ethnic hate speech.

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Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama told RFI that the cabinet has been working to change the genocide ideology law, which rights groups say is very loosely written.

But he denies that international pressure had prompted the move.

“Our internal assessment showed there was a problem somewhere … so we decided as a country that we would review it,” Karugarama says.

“But then external forces, who like to think they own sometimes the initiative, took advantage of our own internal debates and started mounting pressure. We are trying to amend this law, but we must investigate and see where the fault is.”

Karugarama said he had commissioned two independent groups to look at the law. One is an academic institution in north America, the other a group in Europe.

“I don’t want to give the names now, but when the law is being debated in the cabinet, we shall disclose the sources,” Karugarama says.

“I have asked Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to tell us what they think.”

Karugarama denies the amended law will be more restrictive. It will be “so clear that there is nothing you can be mistaken about”, he insists.

“We think it will address the issues that we have seen as weaknesses within the law itself … but whatever you do there will be someone who is not satisfied,” he says.
 

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