Start of Main Content

Grenade Attacks in Kigali, as Rwanda Looks to Elections

Earlier this month, two grenade attacks occurred nearly simultaneously in Kigali, wounding at least 16 people. Last month, a similar attack involving a trio of explosions killed one person and injured 30. Rwandan authorities blamed the earlier attack on former army chief Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who resigned as Rwanda's ambassador to India in late February and fled to South Africa in exile. Naymwasa denies the allegations and accuses the government of branding him as a member of the opposition.

These episodes of violence -- and the subsequent trading in accusations -- evokes a larger context involving two important developments in Rwanda:

Congolese rebel and former Rwandan ally, Laurent Nkunda, who has been under house arrest in Kigali for 14 months, is expecting to learn on March 26th if the Rwandan Supreme Court will decide to hear his case. And, for only the second time since the 1994 genocide, elections are due in Rwanda at the end of the summer. President Kagame's record of providing stability and economic growth, coupled with forceful control of the nation's political environment, has increased expectations that he will secure reelection. The government has been criticized for its intolerance of dissent. Reporters Without Borders ranks Rwanda 157th out of 175 countries in its press freedom index. Eritrea, Somalia, and Equatorial Guinea were the only African countries that received worse rankings.

Last month, Human Rights Watch called attention to the increasing intimidation of opposition parties and their members. HRW writes, "The Rwanda government and the RPF have strongly resisted any political opposition or broader challenge of their policies by civil society. On several occasions, the government has used accusations of participation in the genocide, or 'genocide ideology', as a way of targeting and discrediting its critics."

It is difficult to accurately gauge who is behind the grenade attacks or their intentions, besides causing injury and fear. Nevertheless, the attacks present real threats as the population -- still divided in many ways by the legacy of the genocide and war -- prepares for a major election.