Rwanda on Tuesday denied there was a political crisis in the run-up to the August presidential election despite the arrest of top military officers and an alleged clampdown on opposition and independent media.
In April, two generals have been arrested on charges of corruption and misuse of office, a presidential aspirant was briefly detained, two local newspapers have been banned and a foreign human rights official has been denied a work permit.
"The recent events, when bundled together, create an element of fear and panic. But, having lived in this country, and looking around these events, I don't see many Rwandans panicking," said government spokeswoman Louise Mushinkiwabo.
"We have no doubt about the reality on the ground. Rwandans are ready to participate in the elections," she told a news conference.
President Paul Kagame is widely expected to secure a second seven-year term in the election after winning 95 percent of the vote in 2003.
Kagame is praised for establishing stability and completely rebuilding the central African nation in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, and for his bold ambition to transform landlocked Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020.
Critics, however, accuse his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front of being intolerant of dissent and say he has increasingly centralised power.
Rwanda suspended two local newspapers for allegedly insulting Kagame, inciting the police and army to insubordination and creating fear among the public, according to New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The watchdog called the move a "thinly disguised attempt at censorship".
Victoire Ingabire, who heads one of Rwanda's emerging opposition parties, has been charged with promoting genocide ideology, ethnic division and collaborating with Rwandan rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, some of whose leaders organised the bloodshed in 1994.
Immigration officials have asked the Rwanda researcher for Human Rights Watch to leave the country, citing anomalies in her visa application -- a step the New York watchdog says is part of a crackdown on freedom of expression.
Mushikiwabo said the country, which has seen 7-8 percent economic growth each year over the past decade, faced challenges in various areas but the government remained transparent and willing to provide explanations about the recent events.
"It is not forbidden to talk about ethnicity in this country," Mushiliwabo said. "However, ethnicity should not be used to harm or offend a neighbour. No Rwandan should use ethnicity to think they have a special status to create trouble in this country."
ReutersLast Mod: 27 Nisan 2010, 20:24