FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Rwanda

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Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is accused by critics of being authoritarian and of trampling on media and political freedoms, and the key thing to watch is how he reacts to pressure from opposition parties and the West for political liberalisation.

The central African president has nevertheless been praised for progress since the 1994 genocide in his bid to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020.

Kagame was re-elected with a landslide in 2010 for a final term that expires in 2017.

POLITICAL OPPONENTS

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has said that although Rwanda’s economy has grown, the political culture remains comparatively closed and the media restricted.

Former chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa and a former chief of military intelligence, Patrick Karegyeya, both sentenced to 20 years in jail in absentia by a military court, formed the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) opposition party in December 2010.

Rwanda says the two have formed a rebel group and are collaborating with the country’s enemies.

The trial of opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, leader of the unregistered FDU-Inkingi party, resumed on March 12. She faces charges including denying the genocide, divisionism and working with a terrorist group. In mid-April she decided to boycott the trial, saying her “trust in the judiciary has waned”.

What to watch:
– Trial of Ingabire. This is a major test of the independence of Rwanda’s judiciary. Her British lawyer says the laws under which she is being tried were not enacted when the crimes were alleged to have been committed, or they lie outside the jurisdiction of the court. Ingabire denies funding Hutu FDLR rebels based in Democratic Republic of Congo and says her detention is politically motivated. The verdict is due June 29.
– Trial of Laurent Nkunda. The former leader of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a rebel force that repeatedly routed the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army, has been under house arrest in Rwanda since January 2009.

Rwanda says it is reluctant to extradite Nkunda to Congo as the death penalty is in force there. Rwandan law forbids the extradition of persons to states that have capital punishment.

Nkunda’s trial has been postponed four times since the case was passed to the military courts in April 2010.
– The media. A bill to amend the 2009 media law and a draft law on Access to Information are expected to be enacted soon. It will be the first of its kind in Rwanda. Some observers back the media law, but are concerned the changes will remain on paper alone due to a lack of capacity within the media.
– The editor of Umurabyo, Agnes Nkusi, who was sentenced to 17 years for divisionism in February 2011, had her sentence reduced at the beginning of April to four years. Umurabyo reporter Saidath Mukakibibi, who was originally sentenced to seven years, had her sentence reduced to three years.
– Grenade attacks. There have been five grenade attacks in Rwanda since the beginning of 2012, the same amount that occurred in the whole of 2011. Diplomatic sources say the attackers have become more “audacious” in recent months.

POLITICAL RIFTS, CONGO TENSIONS

Diplomatic sources say there is division within the government about how to go about increasing foreign direct investment. Any debate over a third term for Kagame is said to be “undesirable” by key sources in the government.

What to watch:
– Any signs of deepening rifts within the military. Three generals and a colonel were put under house arrest in January for “acts of indiscipline with respect to getting involved with civilians in business dealings in the Democratic Republic of Congo”. The investigation is ongoing.
– Some observers say Nyamwasa’s moves could expose further rifts within the ruling party. What emerges from the alliance between Nyamwasa and Ingabire’s party, and how the government reacts to it, could expose weaknesses among some of the political elite close to Kagame. Diplomatic sources say they do not see the coalition as a serious political or military threat.
– The fate of Nkunda. Nkunda’s arrest heralded a new era in relations between Rwanda and Congo and his fate could influence relations. Congo wants him extradited for war crimes, but Rwanda wants this done in a way that avoids “conflict of law”.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said there was a political dimension to the case and extradition was difficult and could cause instability if not handled carefully.
– Clashes between the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo and soldiers loyal to a renegade General Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes has forced 7,000 refugees to flee to Rwanda, stretching the countries resources.

Kinshasa is on the hunt for Ntaganda, a former rebel commander who fought the government before he was integrated into the army alongside other militants in a 2009 peace deal.

What to watch:
– Will more former rebel elements desert the national army and join Ntaganda’s rebellion or can the government arrest him?
– The fighting risks damaging fragile relations with Rwanda, Congo’s small but militarily powerful neighbour, which has long been accused of backing the rebels but since 2009 has been a Kabila ally.