Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Erlinder detention

The recent arrest and detention of Peter Erlinder provides important insight on how the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front will run the August elections.

While I don't believe much of what Erlinder writes (his work is decontextualised and comes off as agenda-driven), it is a travesty of justice and democratic ideals to allow him to be imprisoned. It is also not a unique situation; Rwandans from all walks of life are treated in the same way on a regular basis. The message is the same: do not mess with the official narrative of the RPF as arbiters of peace, security and justice in Rwanda and the GLR.

THe US, the UN, the EU and others that care about peace for all must condemn the arrest. If someone of Erlinder's status and privilege can be arrested, imagine how it must be for regular people resident in Rwanda and subject on a daily basis to its oppressive policies and politics.

While I have never met Erlinder I also don't believe government allegations that he tried to commit suicide. This is a long-standing tradition within the RPF to discredit its opponents and silence dissent. It targets individuals (witness the recent HRW expulsion) then works to discredit them through various personal attacks. Mental illness, trauma, sexual immorality, etc. This is likely what they are doing in this case. It must stop; hopefully, Erlinder will be released soon and his arrest will highlight to international audiences the deep-rooted authoritarianism of the current Rwandan government.

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