No Way to Escape the Eye of the State in Rwanda

If by miracle, there’s a Rwandan, a principled Rwandan who refuses authority, then those are the ones you’ll see dead in the lake. Those are the ones you’ll see and hear that they have disappeared. As simple as that. They’ll die. – David Himbara

By Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News, 05.23.2015

On 05.21.2015, David Himbara told a US Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on US relations with Rwanda that “the smallest administrative unit is ten houses and every ten houses is watched by one individual, and as you move on, the whole state machinery driving fear is very well established.” KPFA asked him to elaborate.


KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Rosenberg: A House Foreign Relations subcommittee held a webcast Congressional hearing on Rwanda and the US relationship with Rwanda earlier this week. New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith chaired the hearing which was also attended by California Congresswoman Karen Bass. A Human Rights Watch advocate told the committee that the organization has repeatedly documented “a climate of fear and incredibly violent tactics that have been used against dissenters” in Rwanda. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to David Himbara, a Rwandan exile in Canada, who addressed the House subcommittee about how this climate of fear is created.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: David Himbara, during yesterday’s hearing, one of the most intriguing moments was when you said that the smallest unit of social organization in Rwanda is ten households and that someone is watching and controlling every ten households. I believe that’s what I understood. Could you elaborate on how that works?

David Himbara: Yes, if you look at the structure of local government, you have of course the minister and the department in Kigali. Then you have districts, you have City of Kigali and towns, you have sectors and then the smallest administrative unit is the ten houses. So ten houses have someone watching, reporting, so basically there’s no way in Rwanda that you can escape the eye of the state.

So when you see thousands attending the rally of Kagame, President Kagame, don’t think that it’s because of popularity. No.

If you don’t go, if anybody does not go and he or she doesn’t have a good reason like being sick or upset, the state knows because it has a detailed eye, as detailed as every ten houses. So that’s how the system works.

KPFA: That is fascinating because I’ve always wondered how he could keep such tight control over the population. He has a spy on every ten households.

David Himbara: Yes, and so what is going on now is that of course people are signing up, demanding for constitutional change, so that Kagame stays in power. So this is the system they are using. They have forms in every ten houses. People have to sign. If you don’t sign, then you’re gone. You know you have to sign. There’s no way around it.

So what you’ll see is millions! Millions of people, when the time comes, marching on the streets, demanding that Kagame stays. That is how this is being done. That’s the same instrument.

KPFA: What will happen to you if the state administrator, or perhaps more colloquially “spy,” reports that your household, or you in particular, did not attend these rallies or support the constitutional amendment. What would happen? Would you go to prison if you refused to go to a rally or you refused to sign the petition?

David Himbara: Ohhh. . . my answer is, first of all, that very few will refuse. How do you refuse?


David Himbara: If by miracle, there’s a Rwandan, a principled Rwandan who refuses authority, then those are the ones you’ll see dead in the lake. Those are the ones you’ll see and hear that they have disappeared. As simple as that. They’ll die.

KPFA: Himbara also said that there are other dictatorships in Africa, but nothing else like the totalitarian state, Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, which is determined to control not only the people’s behavior but also their minds.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

President Kagame Hires Assassins to Eliminate Opponents Living Outside Rwanda

By Ann Garrison

Southern California Congress member Karen Bass and New Jersey Congress member Chris Smith queried Rwanda’s representative Willis Shalita about evidence that Rwandan President Paul Kagame hired assassins to eliminate his enemies abroad.


KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Landau: And now in news from Africa, earlier this week, California Congresswoman Karen Bass and New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith heard testimony and queried witnesses in a House Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US relations with Rwanda. The central question under consideration was whether or not the U.S. should be supporting the Rwandan government with foreign aid and military assistance despite allegations of egregious human rights violations. Congressmember Smith expressed concern that Rwanda is on the Tier 2 Watch list for its failure to address country’s human trafficking problem in accordance with legislation that he authored. The most contested issue during the hearing, however, was the allegation, made by both the BBC and the Toronto Mail and Guardian, that Rwandan President Paul Kagame hires assassins to eliminate enemies abroad. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison:Former Rwandan military officer Robert Higiro told the House Foreign Relations subcommittee that he had recorded conversations in which Rwandan Colonel Dan Munyuza attempted to hire and reward him well for assassinating Rwandan President Kagame’s worse enemies, former Rwandan Intelligence Chief Patrick Karegeya and former Rwandan Army Chief Kayumba Nyamwasa. Karegeya was ultimately assassinated on New Year’s Day 2014, in South Africa, where Kayumba has now survived four assassination attempts.

Higiro shared the recordings with Toronto Mail and Guardian writers, who then published an exposé titled “Assassination in Africa: Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents” in May 2014. BBC producers spoke to Higiro and played clips of the recordings in the documentary “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” which aired in October 2014. Congress members Smith and Bass argued with Rwanda’s representative, Willis Shalita about the credibility of the recordings.

Rep. Karen Bass, CA-D (to Willis Shalita): Everything that you’ve said here today is that, I guess, that there’s no proof of anything. Everything is just allegations.

Rwanda’s representative Willis Shalita: What we’ve heard today, and you know having been an investigator for 28 years, investigating the best lawyers in this country, I hear nothing but allegations. If there are facts, why not share them with you?

Bass: Well, I think that Mr. . . . [interrupted by Mr.Shalita]

Shalita: I resent the fact that my fellow witnesses here . . .  They are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

Bass:  Well, I think that . . .[interrupted by Mr. Shalita].

Shalita:   . . . let me say something, Ms. . . . ah, Mr. Chairman . . .the allegations . . . [interrupted by Rep. Smith]

Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ:  We have a witness here who has recorded the request that he assassinate two individuals, that the Toronto newspaper and the BBC found credible. To my chagrin and I’m sure the ranking member’s, our own State Department has not even listened to those tapes. That is evidence. That’s evidence. Of course there’s a due process stream that needs to be followed, but when you get multiple allegations with streams of evidence, it begs the question, “Why are we looking the other way, and acting as if none of it’s credible?”

Shalita: With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, what the newspaper in Canada says is not evidence. It is not a legal instrument.

Bass: Let me just ask you this. As an investigator, if there are tapes, would you then want to have a tape of the voice of the person whom the allegation is made about, because there’s enough science to prove whether or not it’s the same person. It doesn’t seem . . .

Shalita: I have not listened to the tapes. I have read the transcript in its entirety.

Bass: I know. I’m just saying as an investigator, wouldn’t that conclude. . .

Shalita: I would want the real voice of Colonel Dan Munyuza to compare with what’s alleged by this gentleman.

Bass: Right, if that was done, wouldn’t we be able to know?

Shalita: If it was done, yes. I would absolutely agree with you.

Bass: It’s just hard to believe that there’s just allegations and nothing’s ever been proven.

Shalita: Well, for instance, Mr. Higiro has made an accusation that Rwandans are being flown to Texas. I live in Austin, Texas. I want to go on the record and challenge him: Tell me where are these Rwandans.

KPFA: At the end of that exchange with Congress members Smith and Bass, Rwanda’s representative Willis Shalita was attempting to deflect their convictions regarding the verifiability of the recordings by disputing an earlier witness’s claim that President Kagame was paying the airlines and hotel bills of Rwandans being flown to Dallas, Texas, to cheer for him at Rwanda Day, an annual promotional event which rotates from one major city to another in the Western world.

For Pacifica, KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

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