Rwanda | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Not Free

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by President Paul Kagame, has ruled the country since 1994, when it ousted forces responsible for that year’s genocide and ended a civil war. While the regime has maintained peace and economic growth, it has also suppressed political dissent though pervasive surveillance, intimidation, and suspected assassinations. Recent constitutional changes could allow Kagame to serve another three terms as president.

Key Developments: 
  • Kagame confirmed in January that he would seek a new term in the presidential election scheduled for 2017.
  • In February, the government withdrew the right of individuals and organizations to file appeals before the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), cutting off access for those who are denied justice by domestic courts.
  • Journalists and members of banned opposition groups reportedly faced arbitrary arrests, beatings, politicized prosecutions, and enforced disappearances during the year.
Executive Summary: 

With the next presidential election approaching in 2017, President Kagame announced in January that he would run for another seven-year term. Under constitutional amendments adopted in 2015, he would also be eligible for two five-year terms beginning in 2024. Although the ruling RPF and most other legal political parties supported Kagame, the small opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR)—which has no parliamentary representation—nominated Frank Habineza as its candidate in December.

Kagame’s would-be challenger in the 2010 election, Victoire Ingabire, remained behind bars on politically motivated charges in 2016, as did many other dissidents. In late February, shortly before the Tanzania-based ACHPR was to hear Ingabire’s appeal of her 15-year prison sentence, the Rwandan government withdrew from a protocol allowing individuals and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to bring cases before the court. However, the ACHPR ruled in September that the withdrawal would not affect pending cases.

Rwandan authorities continued to suppress dissent through violence and intimidation. A number of journalists and opposition members, including individuals affiliated with Ingabire’s banned United Democratic Forces–Inkingi (FDU-Inkingi) party, were allegedly subjected to enforced disappearance, trumped-up criminal charges, arbitrary arrests, and physical abuse in custody during the year.

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
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