Nov, 18th 2020 – Leaked footage of a controversial “oath” ceremony at the Rwandan High Commission in London has fueled allegations of an aggressive global crackdown on dissent by the authoritarian government of the small East African nation, dubbed the new “North Korea” by its critics.
Members of the diaspora state that the ceremonies are a commonplace and are designed to instill fear and obedience. If one fails to comply their families are tortured back in Rwanda in order to punish them.
One main said that his relatives back in Rwanda had been abducted an killed as a punishment to him for not co-operating. The Rwandan authorities however dismissed the allegations as false and unsubstantiated.
In a video footage, more than 30 people are seen standing in a crowded conference room at the Rwandan Embassy in the UK, raising their hands and pledging loyalty to the governing party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)
The group in Kinyarwanda said, “If I betray you or stray from the RPF’s plans and intentions, I would be betraying all Rwandans and must be punished by hanging.” They also promised to fight ‘enemies of Rwanda wherever they may be’
One person alleged to have been at the ceremony said, “I am certain the majority of people taking that oath did not believe it. We were lying to protect ourselves and our families back in Rwanda.”
David Himbara, who was once a senior adviser to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said, “This is what happens everywhere. It’s routine. Either you take the oath or you are the enemy. It is black and white.” He is a canadian citizen, academic and activist who says his life has repeatedly been threatened by Rwanda’s security services.
Rene Mugenzi, a British-Rwandan human rights activist, who was recently convicted of theft in the UK and jailed also said that, “The vast majority go because they’re terrified. They think that if they don’t go, something will happen to their family (back in Rwanda). You need to be active in the RPF. Even if you are neutral, they suspect you to be supporting opposition groups”
The Rwandan High Commission replying by mail about the oath ceremony said that the members of the diaspora used its conference room for a variety of cultural engagements and that participation in an RPF loyalty pledge was legal and entirely of their own choice and no one is forced to do so.
Noel Zihabamwe, a prominent member of the Rwandan diaspora in Sydney said, “They often use this kind of kidnapping or murdering family members. This has to stop. We have had enough. We would like to see the Rwandan government restore democratic rights to all citizens, cease targeted killings, kidnappings, illegal arrests and campaigns of intimidation of former citizens, like me, who are living overseas.“