Friday, July 27, 2012

Alleged Unreasonable Political Repression in Rwanda

Western liberal political philosophy emphasizes political rights over social and economic ones. From this perspective, the criticism of Rwanda stemming from Western human rights groups neither is surprising nor acute. Often forgotten in international law or legal debates is the UN Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. In speaking with other Americans after my trip to Rwanda, I find that I am too often educating Americans about their (our) own history, particularly the Alien and Sedition Acts. No doubt those statutes remain highly controversial and subject to just criticism, but their adoption in the early years of the Republic reflects a number of similiar exigencies that induce some of the limitations on sedition and ethnic divisionalism that is proscribed in Rwanda. I am not suggesting that one must lock-step embrace every step of the Rwandan government, but it is crucial to understand that there is a context and complex balance that should be considered. One might consider striking a different balance than any current policy in Rwanda, but we should recognize the shades of gray that are involved -- not some simplistic reaction to curbing of some political speech or dissent.

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