Roundup: Rwandan president's refutation of human rights allegations arouse strong resonance

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by Lyu Tianran, James Gashumba and Frank Kanyesigye

KIGALI, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Rwanda's president Paul Kagame hit back in a recent interview with France 24 at allegations of Rwanda's human rights situation, which aroused strong resonance in Rwanda and in social media.

The French television interviewed Kagame, alongside the European Union (EU)'s Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica at the European Development Day event in Brussels, Belgium, earlier this month. The interview video was posted on Franch 24's website on June 24.

The presenter raised up a question that how much Rwanda's human rights concern EU when it comes to providing development funding investment, citing an EU human rights report focusing on Rwanda, and then continued with more questions on human rights issues.

Kagame in the interview dismissed allegations of Rwanda's human rights record in the report, saying the report is "ridiculous."

"What we are talking about in terms of development, these are human rights: development, schools, education, health and food security," Kagame said in the interview.

The level of poverty in Rwanda has decreased by almost by 60 percent, and Rwandan people are participating in improving their own lives and have improved lives, he said.

"You really need to stop this superiority complex nonsense about human rights. You think you are the only one who respects human rights, all others are about violating human rights," the president told the presenter.

"We have fought for human rights and freedom for our people, much better and more than anyone including you, (and) people who keep talking this nonsense," said Kagame.

"Where we have taken our country from and where it is now speaks for itself," he said.

Some people think they know everything about human rights and all the kinds of things, and people in "another world" don't know, but "these are our human rights," the president said.

Despite the tremendous improvement of human rights in Rwanda and the developments including economy and human rights that are happening in Rwanda, there is generally a lack of understanding of what exactly is going on in Rwanda, Richard Karugarama Lebero, senior lecturer from school of law at the University of Rwanda, told Xinhua Wednesday in a telephone interview.

People already have preconceived ideas of what Rwanda should be and what Rwanda shouldn't be, many of which are not based on evidence, said Lebero.

Rwanda's human rights record is impressive and keeps improving, he said, adding that the country has freedom of speech, assembly and expression, right to education, as well as independent courts, he said.

Frank Habineza, member of the Rwanda's parliament and President of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, said the issue of superiority complex "is there in the West."

Rwanda is signatory to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, therefore the country knows what human rights are and what to respect, Habineza told Xinhua, adding that no one should have a "prerogative" to claim that he or she knows human rights better.

"Western countries have this superiority complex by belittling African countries on many things including human rights, President Kagame corrected this perception," said Ismael Buchanan, senior lecturer at the University of Rwanda, in a written interview.

Rwanda has made tremendous differences in every sector and part of life, in politics, health, human rights and so on compared to 25 years ago, said Buchanan.

The government of Rwanda and partners have put in more efforts to ensure that human rights are promoted and respected, he said.

Rwanda has ratified almost all core international human rights instruments, domesticated them in the constitution and in other national laws to ensure that citizens have these rights, said the scholar.

He further called on Rwandans and Africans to define their own destiny.

Rwanda's private and leading newspaper The New Times on Tuesday published an editorial titled "When will they get off their high stools and get back to reality."

"Rwandans and their leaders are not there to please them (international noisemakers). They do things in their interests, no one else's," read the editorial on the interview of France 24.

Clips of the interview have been widely circulated on twitter, one of which reached over 189,000 views by the time of the report's publication and the full interview video posted on YouTube reached over 86,000 views.

Many Twitter users expressed support to Kagame on twitter posts with the hashtag "#WhoAreYou", a rhetorical question Kagame used in the interview to ask people not to be a "judge" of others.

Another Twitter post said the interview meant to be a discussion on development turned into a "masterclass" on confronting and challenging "long-held racist views."

"Africa will not stay in that little box you've created for us," it said. Enditem

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