According to a new Freedom House report, Rwanda has been accused of being among the worst perpetrators of transnational repression in the United States, pursuing, harassing, and threatening exiles.
In addition to Rwanda, China, Russia, Iran, and Egypt, are named in a study by the Washington-based advocacy group as the main culprits in attempting to extend the influence of their repressive regimes into the United States.
Transnational repression is used to silence entire communities as well as hurt or threaten individual dissidents, journalists, activists, and diaspora members.
The findings, according to Isabel Linzer, one of the report's authors, raise further concerns about the UK government's arrangement with Kigali to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. The first deportation flight is set to depart on June 14th.
Authorities have argued that people often focus on Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and Russia, but Rwanda is one of the serious perpetrators of transnational repression, and it hasn't gotten the same kind of scrutiny as some of those other countries.
According to the report's authors, the UK-Rwanda asylum pact is shocking given how frequently the Rwandan government has targeted Rwandans in the UK, and the British government is well aware of this.
Attacks on exiles in the United States and the UK have occurred since the Cold War, according to the Freedom House report. However, foreign intelligence activities have considerably increased in recent years.
Iran, China, Egypt, Russia, Rwanda, and Saudi Arabia are continuously defying US laws by threatening, harassing, surveilling, stalking, and even plotting to physically attack exiles throughout the country.
One of those targeted was Paul Rusesabagina, a former Kigali hotel manager whose efforts to save people during the 1994 genocide. Rusesabagina, now a permanent resident of the United States, was kidnapped in the Middle East in August 2020 and duped into boarding a private plane to Rwanda, where he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The US State Department publicly labeled him "wrongfully detained" last month.
Rusesabagina's daughter, Carine, and other Rwandan dissidents were discovered to have been monitored by the Israeli security firm NSO Group's Pegasus malware. The Rwandan government has denied employing the spyware but has yet to react to a Freedom House request for comment on the recent report.
Critics of the Rwandan government in the US talk of continual surveillance, harassment, and threats. Former President Paul Kagame's chief of staff, Theogene Rudasingwa, who was formerly Rwanda's ambassador to the United States and is now a vocal critic of Kagame's regime, indicated that his family is always in fear.
In 2015, an assassination attempt against Rudasingwa was foiled after he postponed a scheduled trip to Belgium. The state department warned Rudasingwa to take extra care after the murder of his fellow opposition leader, former Rwandan intelligence head Patrick Karegeya, in South Africa in 2013—a crime widely thought to have been ordered from Kigali.
The FBI developed a webpage on transnational repression in March of this year, with tips on how to report incidences, as part of a larger drive by the government to combat the growing threat. However, due to the close diplomatic relations between Rwanda and the United States, the victims have argued that reporting such occurrences is a waste of time.
The critics of the Rwandan government also accuse the United States and the United Kingdom of failing to call out the Rwandan government.