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US could revoke aid to Rwanda over human rights abuses

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By Newsvot News - - 5 Mins Read

According to the head of the Senate's foreign relations committee, the US should alert its citizens that they run the possibility of being imprisoned unlawfully in Rwanda as part of a dramatic review of its relations with the nation.

Robert Menendez presented what amounted to a charge sheet against Rwanda in a three-page letter to Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, placing it on par with countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and others known for violating human rights.

He emphasized the case of Paul Rusesabagina, a 68-year-old US permanent resident and regime critic who was captured by Rwandan spies last year, smuggled back to his country, and imprisoned on terrorism charges, in his discussion of so-called transnational repression, in which the regime in East Africa harasses its expatriate opponents. The 2004 Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda focused on Mr. Rusesabagina's defense of refugees during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The State Department might upgrade the travel warning for Rwanda to "Level 3: Reconsider Travel" given Rwanda's history of preying on American citizens, Mr. Menendez wrote. This would place the department's travel warning for Rwanda on level with warnings for other regimes that hold US citizens and residents unlawfully.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington, April 26, 2022.

Rwanda has been charged with targeting rivals in a number of nations, including Britain, according to Mr. Menendez. The administration of Boris Johnson has agreed to pay Rwanda £120 million ($208 million) to accept immigrants who enter the country illegally. If they take over for him, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have both stated they will maintain the policy.

In contrast to Rwandan tourist promotions, which include a sponsorship contract with Arsenal football club, whose players' uniforms include the slogan "Visit Rwanda," Mr. Menendez's plea for the nation to be labeled as dangerous for Americans is incongruous.

Additionally, the senator cited President Biden's executive order from last week regarding assisting US citizens arrested abroad to return home and questioned whether it pertained to the Rusesabagina case. He asked for clarification on whether Rwanda should be subject to the most severe penalty in the new order, which designates nations with a D to warn US travelers they run the danger of being detained.

The US has taken action against nations like China for attempting to sabotage its rivals in the US, but Mr. Menendez argued that Rwanda has not yet been penalized for such efforts. In his letter, he said, "I urge an explanation on what the department is doing to address Rwanda's actions targeting dissidents and people living in the United States and elsewhere.

In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has made "well-known efforts to stifle journalists, human rights advocates, and opposition voices," Mr. Menendez wrote. Human Rights Watch reported that 32 journalists, internet commenters, and opposition activists in Rwanda had either been assassinated, vanished, or imprisoned since 2019 alone.

The letter also discussed Rwanda's role in supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The US shouldn't "look the other way as Rwanda foments revolt and violence," according to Mr. Menendez's letter.

On the basis that it implies "tacit acceptance" for Rwanda's repeated intrusions in the Congo, Mr. Menendez encouraged the US administration to take into account discontinuing the military training that Rwandan military soldiers are now receiving in the US.

He declared that his committee would deny all funding requests for any military help to the nation until that training program in the US was evaluated. This is a significant component of the yearly aid package to Rwanda from the US, valued at $US145 million this year.