Rwanda 'needs no lessons on rights'

2010-04-08 12:54

Kigali - President Paul Kagame said Wednesday Rwanda does not need international organisations to give it lessons on human rights and democracy.

"Who should be giving lessons to Rwanda's 11 million people about what is good for them, about what their rights are," he said at the national stadium in a speech marking the 16th anniversary of the 1994 genocide.

Planned and carried out by Hutu extremists, the genocide left an estimated 800 000 people dead, essentially Tutsis.

New York-based Human Rights Watch in February accused Kigali of harassing and intimidating the opposition. Amnesty International has leveled similar accusations.

"We know the value of democracy, we know the value of liberty," the president said, reacting to critics who say his government leaves no political space for its opponents.

"We sometimes prefer to let those who tell lies about us be," Kagame said, referring to Rwandan political opponents who "spend their time pouring out insults, who don't respect anything".

"They pour out insults once, twice, three times and then they say they lack the space to express themselves," he added, addressing the 25 000-seat stadium that was almost full for the occasion.

Only one opposition party - the PS Imberakuri whose controversial chief Bernard Ntaganda has declared his intention to run in the August presidential poll - has so far been accredited in Rwanda.

For their part, the United Democratic Forces, whose chief Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza also wants to contest the August poll, have said they are having difficulty with the registration process.

Kagame, a former anti-government guerrilla leader elected in 2003 after effectively being in power since the end of the genocide, is expected to run in August even if he has not yet said so publicly.