Last week, Bernard Ntaganda was sentenced to four years imprisonment for “endangering state security” and “harboring ethnic divisionism.” The former charge is all too familiar to human rights activists and is little different from similar politically-motivated prosecutions across the globe. The crime of “divisionism,” however, codified as “sectarianism” under Rwandese law, is relatively unique. The closest parallels to these laws are probably most familiar to Americans as “hate speech” laws common to Europe, but prohibited by the First Amendment in the United States.
International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have concluded that Mr. Ntaganda was almost certainly targeted for his opposition to the regime of President Paul Kagame. President Kagame is not well known in the United States, but he owes his prominence to the role he played in ending the 1994 Rwandan genocide as leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF. The sanitized version of this story was distributed to American audiences briefly in the award winning film Hotel Rwanda. Unfortunately, the politcally correct version omits several important facts, omissions that help explain the current political climate in Rwanda and the slide toward authoritarianism on the part of Kagame and the rest of the political leadership.