By Heather Murdock
Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice criticized Rwanda’s “comparatively closed” political culture and said the East African nation should take steps to broaden democracy.
Restrictions on the media, harassment of civil-society activists, opposition figures and journalists as well as the disappearance of some of them pose the “next developmental challenge” for the country, Rice said in a copy of a speech delivered at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in the capital today.
“The deepening and broadening of democracy can be the next great achievement of this great country and its remarkable people,” she said. “Economic development and political; openness should reinforce each other.”
A genocide in Rwanda in 1994 that left more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead led the Rwanda government to introduce laws that stifle free speech and political opposition, Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group, said in June. A presidential elections last year, in which President Paul Kagame won 93 percent of the vote, was marked by a “clampdown on freedom of expression,” it said.
The government called the report “inaccurate” and said it reviewing genocide-ideology and sectarianism laws, while also taking steps to develop its media.
Rice, who is on a four-day diplomatic mission to Rwanda, praised Rwanda for its economic growth and technical capabilities, saying per capita gross domestic product has tripled since the genocide.
Rwanda’s economy doubled in size in the nine years through 2010, according to the World Bank. The government forecasts growth will be 8.8 percent this year.