Rwanda: the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), including information on its structure and leaders; treatment of RNC members by the government [RWA104829.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Rwanda National Congress (RNC): Background

The RNC refers to itself on its website as a "political organization" (n.d.). However, in its 2010 Proclamation Establishing the Rwanda National Congress, the RNC states that the organization is "not a political party" but an "umbrella, broad based organization for all Rwandans to exert pressure and advocate for democratic change through peaceful means" (RNC 12 Dec. 2010, 4). Sources indicate that the RNC is a group of exiles that oppose the government of President Paul Kagame (The East African 21 Feb. 2014; Human Rights Watch 28 Jan. 2014, 11). Sources also indicate that the RNC was formed by former senior officials of Kagame's government (ibid.; Jambonews 21 Nov. 2013; Global Post 13 Mar. 2014). The RNC proclamation identifies the following persons as founders of the organization: Jerome Nayigiziki, Gervais Condo, Lieutenant General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Dr. Gerald Gahima, Jonathan Musonera, Colonel Patrick Karegeya, Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa, Joseph Ngarambe, Dr. Emmanuel Hakizimana, and Jean Paul Turayishimye (RNC 12 Dec. 2010, 6).

The website of the RNC indicates that the organization was established on 12 December 2010 in Bethesda, Maryland, with the objective of "bring[ing] political change to Rwanda" (ibid. n.d.). The RNC's Declaration of Core Values, Goals and an Agenda for a New Rwanda states the following objectives, among others:

  1. Stop and prevent violent conflict, including genocide and grave human rights violations that Rwanda's people have periodically suffered and that have historically extended to citizens - men, women, and children - of neighboring states
  2. Eradicate a culture of impunity for human rights violations
  3. Create a conducive and progressive environment for social and economic development for all the people of Rwanda
  4. Establish, nurture and institutionalize democratic governance, particularly the rule of law in all its aspects. (ibid. December 2010, 6-7)

Sources indicate that elections were held within the South African chapter of the RNC in October 2013; Frank Ntwali was elected chair, Etienne Mubazi vice-chair, and Kennedy Gihana secretary-general (The Independent 10 Jan. 2014; All Africa 6 Jan. 2014). Additional information on the RNC's structure could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Instances of Violence Against RNC Members

Human Rights Watch reports the "repression of critical voices inside Rwanda" and that Rwandan dissidents have been victims of "attacks and threats" in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and in Europe (28 Jan. 2014, 1). Similarly, an article published by Bloomberg, a New York-based international news agency, reports claims by the RNC that opponents of the government have been "targeted around the world," and that "at least 11 dissidents" have been killed in Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, as well as in Cameroon and Belgium (3 Jan. 2014). The political affiliation of these dissidents could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources report an assassination attempt against Kayumba Nyamwasa on 19 June 2010 in Johannesburg (Bloomberg 3 Jan. 2014; Human Rights Watch 28 Jan. 2014, 10; ISS 23 Jan. 2014). Nyamwasa is a former army official who fled Rwanda and sought asylum in South Africa in February 2010 (ibid.; Human Rights Watch 28 Jan. 2014, 11). Several sources report that he was indicted in France and Spain for his alleged participation in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda (ISS 23 Jan. 2014; BBC 11 June 2011; Jambonews 21 Nov. 2011). The BBC reported in June 2011 that both countries were seeking his extradition from South Africa (14 June 2011). Sources report that the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), an NGO that promotes human rights in southern Africa (SALC n.d.), and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), an NGO that promotes and protects refugee and migrant rights in South Africa (CoRMSA n.d.), launched legal action to ask the South African government to revoke Nyamwasa's refugee status for his alleged crimes against humanity (BBC 14 June 2011; The Mercury 20 May 2013). Sources reported in May 2013 that a high court in Johannesburg was considering the request (ibid.; SALC 16 May 2013). A blog dated 13 March 2014 on the SALC website said that a judgement was expected "shortly" (ibid. 14 Mar. 2014). Additional information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources report that, on 5 March 2014, armed men broke into Nyamwasa's home in South Africa (Reuters 8 Mar. 2014; AFP 7 Mar. 2014), in what Agence France-Presse described as an "assassination attempt" (ibid.). The same sources also report that, after this incident, South Africa expelled three Rwandan diplomats suspected of being linked to the attack (ibid.; Reuters 8 Mar. 2014). Sources quote the South African justice minister as saying that South Africa will not be used as a "'springboard'" to conduct "'illegal activities'" (Global Post 13 Mar. 2014; All Africa 12 Mar. 2014). In response, Rwanda expelled six South African diplomats (AFP 7 Mar. 2014; Reuters 8 Mar. 2014).

According to several sources , journalist and Rwandan dissident Charles Ingabire was shot dead in Kampala, Uganda on 30 November 2011 (BBC 2 Dec. 2011; Human Rights Watch 28 Jan. 2014, 13). According to Human Rights Watch, Ingabire had joined the RNC, although he was not a "prominent" member (ibid.). Information on the motives for the Ingabire shooting could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. Human Rights Watch also reports that an attempt was made to assassinate Frank Ntwali on 22 August 2012 in Johannesburg (ibid.). Sources further report that, in May 2011, British police "warned" Rene Mugenzi and Jonathan Musonera that there was "'reliable intelligence'" that the Rwandan government "'poses an imminent threat to [their lives]'" (The Independent 20 May 2011; Global Post 13 Mar. 2014). Global Post reports that Mugenzi is a "dissendent exiled in Britain" (13 Mar. 2014). However, Mugenzi is quoted by the Independent [London] as stating that he is "'not a political figure in Rwanda," and "left when I was 17'" (20 May 2011).

Sources report that, on 1 January 2014, Patrick Karegeya, a former Rwandan intelligence chief and founding member of the RNC, was found dead in a hotel room in Johannesburg (Human Rights Watch 28 Jan. 2014, 15; The Independent 10 Jan. 2014). Karegeya fled Rwanda in 2007 and went to South Africa (Human Rights Watch 28 Jan. 2014, 15; The Independent 10 Jan. 2014), which provided him with protection until 2012 when he voluntarily renounced that protection (ibid.). Sources indicate that, according to a family member, Karegeya had booked the hotel room for Appollo Gafaranga [also known as Appollo Kirisi Gafaranga], a Rwandan businessman who was visiting in South Africa (ibid.; Mail & Guardian 6 Jan. 2014). According to the Independent [Kampala], the same family member alleges that Karegeya went to visit Gafaranga in his hotel room on 31 December 2013 (10 Jan. 2014). According to the Mail & Guardian, a South African-based newspaper, Gafaranga was part of Karegeya's "informal network of informants during his tenure as foreign minister of intelligence in Kagame's government" (6 Jan. 2014). Additional information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 7 March 2014. "Rwanda, SA Expel Diplomats amid Shooting Row." [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

All Africa. 12 March 2014. "Rwanda: SA Not a Springboard for Illegal Activities." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

_____. 6 January 2014. "Inside the Rwanda National Congress." (Factiva)

Bloomberg. 3 January 2014. Kevin Crowley and Kamlesh Bhuckory. "Rwanda Opposition Party Urges South Africa to Protect Dissidents." [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 2 December 2011. "Rwandan Journalist Charles Ingabire Killed in Uganda." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

_____. 14 June 2011. "Rwanda Ex-army Chief Nyamwasa in SA Expulsion Threat." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA). N.d. "About CoRMSA." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

The East African. 21 February 2014. "Wrangles, Division Weaken Rwandan Opposition." (Factiva)

Global Post. 13 March 2014. Tristan McConnell. "Rwanda Denies It's Been Trying to Kill People in S. Africa, but Says that One Guy Had It Coming." [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

Human Rights Watch. 28 January 2014. Repression Across Borders: Attacks and Threats Against Rwandan Opponents and Critics Abroad. [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

The Independent [Uganda]. 10 January 2014. Haggai Matsiko and Andrew Mwenda. "Who Killed Karegeye?" [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

The Independent [London]. 20 May 2011. Cahal Milmo. "Rwandan Assassin 'Sent to Kill Dissidents in UK'." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

Institute for Security Studies (ISS). 23 January 2014. Peter Fabricius. "Not Another Murder in the Michelangelo." [Accessed 21 Mar. 2014]

Jambonews. 21 November 2013. Habimana Pacific. "The Rwanda National Congress (RNC): History, Justice and the Acceptance of Its Leaders." [Accessed 20 Mar. 2014]

Mail & Guardian. 6 January 2014. Sarah Evans. "Fake SA Passport Allegations Surround 'Killer' of Rwanda's Ex-spy Boss." [Accessed 21 Mar. 2014]

The Mercury. 20 May 2013. "Court Asked to Revoke Refugee Status of Rwandan Ex-general Accused of War Crimes." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

Reuters. 8 March 2014. Pascal Fletcher and Helen Nyambura-Mwaura. "SA, Rwanda Expel Diplomats in Row over Rwandan Exiles." [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

Rwanda National Congress (RNC). 12 December 2010. Proclamation Establishing the Rwanda National Congress. [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

_____. December 2010. Rwanda: Pathway to Peaceful Change. Declaration of Core Values, Goals and an Agenda for a New Rwanda. [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

_____. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 19 Mar. 2014]

Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). 13 March 2014. Angela Mudukuti. "Maintaining the Integrity of the Refugee System: The Case of General Faustin Nyamwasa." SALC Bloggers. [Accessed 25 Mar. 2014]

_____. 16 May 2013. "Media Advisory: Final Arguments in SA High Court Challenge to Refugee Status of Controversial Rwandan General and Suspected War Criminal." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

_____. N.d. "About." [Accessed 24 Mar. 2014]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: ABC; Amnesty International; The Citizen [Tanzania]; ecoi.net; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme; Freedom House; Front Line Defenders; IFEX; Jeune Afrique; News of Rwanda; The Guardian; Institute for War and Peace Reporting; International Criminal Court; IOL News; Political Handbook of the World; Radio France Internationale; Radio Netherlands Worldwide; Radio Télévision Belge Francophone; Reporters sans frontières; Rwanda Today; United Nations – Integrated Regional Information Networks, Refworld; United States – Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State.