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The Rwandan parliament recently passed a law authorising high-ranking security officials to monitor email and telephone conversations of individuals considered potential threats to the national security. Although the law is secretly rejected by most Rwandan citizens around the country, only opposition militants in exile dare to openly denounce what they call a text dictated by fear and violence.

By Clive Muhenga, Kigali

In Rwanda, the chief of police, the army commander and the head of the intelligence services are all allowed to monitor the communications of anyone suspected of threatening national security. The law, which has just been passed by Parliament, also prohibits accessing banned websites or reading certain materials.

Reading documents considered subversive by the government is equated with complicity with the author and carries the same sentence. “It means that if I were to call Patrick Karegeya or read his party’s communiqué, I would be punishable by law,” comments an independent journalist who wishes to remain anonymous.

Colonel Karegeya, former head of military intelligence under President Paul Kagame’s regime, is currently in exile in South Africa with General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, the former Army Chief of Staff. Two years ago, they formed the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), together with other defectors of Kagame’s administration. The party continuously calls for the Rwandan president’s departure.

Anything and everything
“[The law] means that we are now at the mercy of these three big men of the police, army and intelligence, because the threat to national security is an umbrella charge than can include anything and everything,” explains a young lawyer, who also doesn’t want to reveal his name. “It’s a means of silencing us. It’s censorship, plain and simple,” says a young university student.

On local radio stations only a few voices have criticised the law, denouncing the violation of individual privacy. In a reaction, the Rwandan Interior Minister, Fazil Harerimana, announced a campaign to explain the wisdom behind the law.  Read more…