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National Election Commission (Rwanda)

Volume 513: debated on Tuesday 6 July 2010

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Rwandan National Election Commission on the forthcoming presidential elections in that country. (5779)

We are working with the National Election Commission, encouraging it to implement recommendations of previous EU election observer missions. The recent electoral code addresses most recommendations, but it is important that the presidential elections in August comply with international norms.

I am sure that the Minister will share my concerns about the increasing reports of incidents of harassment and intimidation of opposition leaders, including the arrest of one of the leaders of the opposition party just less than two weeks ago. Will he impress it on the National Election Commission and the Rwandan Government that such continued reports will stain Rwandan’s reputation, which has made much progress in the past decade, and that it is vital that they show real signs of ensuring that democracy is fully protected?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that constructive question. I share her concern about the arrest of Victoire Ingabire, who is a prominent opposition leader, and about the fact that her American lawyer, Professor Erlinder, was also arrested on what were basically trumped-up charges. We are also concerned that so far just one party outside the ruling coalition has been registered, and we are applying as much pressure as we can.

I call Andrew Stephenson—[Interruption.] He is not Andrew Stephenson, but he is very welcome. Let us hear from him.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given that top military officials have also been arrested, does my hon. Friend the Minister see any danger of interference in the elections by the Rwandan army?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. To say that Rwanda has come back from the abyss would be an understatement. We should pay tribute to the extraordinary progress that Rwanda has made. What we want to do the day after the election is call the new President of Rwanda, congratulate him on his election and say that he has enhanced credibility and trust with the world community by winning a completely free and fair election against proper opposition.

Does the Minister share my concern about the murder of Jean-Léonard Rugambage, a journalist on the Umuvugizi newspaper—I will pass that name up to Hansard afterwards—who was shot on Friday 25 June? Does he agree that having free, fair and open newspapers is an essential part of ensuring a civil space where democracy can work, and will he do everything he can to press the Rwandan Government to bring that man’s murderers to justice?

We have already made our views clear to the Rwandan Government, and we will continue with that dialogue, putting pressure on them. As I said a moment ago, it is essential that there should be not only a free election, but one with proper opposition and open and transparent media reporting it.