Insulting the president is a crime in Rwanda, but this shows how authoritarianism is being given ample space to flourish in Rwanda.
At times, people are quick to dismiss signs of authoritarianism mainly because it is convenient for them to do so. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court in Rwanda that insulting the President is a crime clearly reveals the side of President Paul Kagame that does not tolerate opposing views.
Making a piece of law that criminalizes criticizing the president is evidently a sign of deception from the top echelons of the political order. It means that there is a prevailing fear to tolerating alternative views.
The Supreme Court in Rwanda rejected a challenge to a law which says that insulting the president is a crime. The law was introduced last year, and the implications of this draconian law means that a person faces between five and seven years in prison if found guilty of the offence.
This shows democratic values are ignored in Rwanda, possibly for the convenience of economic development. It also shows that Rwanda is ruled with an iron fist veiled in legislation. There are always laws which make one afraid of challenging the established regime.
The ruling also leads to the question – do Rwandans genuinely love Paul Kagame or they fear him?
It is farcical to purport democratic values when the fundamental right to present alternative views to the president is blatantly ignored. It is obvious that President Paul Kagame has done much to the economic development of Rwanda, and bringing stability to the country after a period of a devastating genocide. But to hail his authoritarian side is tantamount to endorsing democratic and human rights violations.
Kagame’s government has been notoriously known for imprisoning political opponents. Clearly, his government believes in ruling with an iron fist. They do not want to be challenged.
This law is unconstitutional because of how it disregards the fundamental right to freedom of expression. However the Supreme Court said that the law stands due to the responsibility that the office of the President bears.
Not to go overboard, the same court ruled that a law which prohibits writing articles or drawing cartoons that humiliate MPs, ministers or other government officials should be annulled.