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Rwanda brushes off US rights criticism

Kigali - Rwanda said Friday relations with the United States had not changed despite Washington's criticism of Kigali over arbitrary arrests and calls for the government to respect freedom of expression.

“The relationship between the United States and Rwanda have not changed over the last many years,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told reporters.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. File picture: Steven Senne. Credit: Associated Press

“There is no such a thing as countries agreeing 100 percent on everything being done in each one of the countries.”

Earlier this month Washington said it was “deeply concerned by the arrest and disappearance of dozens of Rwandan citizens” as well as “credible reports” of threats to journalists.

Rwanda swiftly rejected the criticism, saying that it was responding to threats from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) - remnants of the Hutu group linked to the 1994 genocide in which at least 800 000 mainly Tutsis died.

“The concerns of alleged disappearances when somebody is in the hands of the police or justice, that doesn't mean that the person has disappeared,” she said, adding Rwanda would not tolerate insecurity.

“Security is a very serious matter, it is for Rwanda as it is for the United States or any other country, and we will handle any acts of insecurity very robustly,” Mushikiwabo added.

“That is not changing. We also make sure that everything is done in accordance with our own laws.”

Western nations supported Kagame after the 1994 Tutsi genocide but have increasingly been critical due to his government's purported abuses against critics and alleged interference in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Human Rights Watch last month reported an increasing number of forcible disappearances in Rwanda and said there were “indications of involvement of state agents.”

Rwanda accused the New York-based group of spreading the equivalent of “political propaganda for terrorist groups.”

Sapa-AFP

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