Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rwanda land grabbing

Military and civilian authorities in western Rwanda have arrested, beaten, or threatened people who challenged recent government decisions to force residents off their land, Human Rights Watch said.

 “Threats, arrests or beatings are no way to handle a situation in which people are losing their land and livelihoods,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government’s goals to settle land disputes and modernize villages are legitimate, but trampling on the rights of those most affected who express their fears for their land and their livelihood is not.”

Many people who work their land for a living fear that the government-imposed solution would threaten their livelihoods. 
Rwanda is the most densely populated country in continental sub-Saharan Africa. Land is a scarce resource and has been a cause of tension throughout the country’s history. In 2001, Human Rights Watch published a report on a government policy to regroup Rwandans in government-created villages, employing coercion against those who resisted, resulting in many human rights abuses. Land was often expropriated without due compensation or consultation with the residents, and many Rwandans who spoke openly against the policy or refused to obey were punished by fines or arrest.
“The Rwandan government’s intolerance for dissent goes beyond political opposition leaders, journalists, or human rights activists who dare to report on government abuses,” Sawyer said. “The government can demonstrate its genuine commitment to the basic rights of its people, rights such as freedom of opinion and expression and fair process, by releasing Oscar Hakundimana immediately. It should stop harassing others who have spoken out against the government’s land decisions.”

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