The loyalty oath keeping Rwandans abroad in check

By Andrew Harding
Africa correspondent, BBC News

Publishedduration24 minutes agoimage copyrightYouTubeimage captionThe footage, which the BBC has chosen to blur, shows members of the group promising to fight "enemies" of Rwanda

Leaked footage of a controversial "oath" ceremony at the Rwandan High Commission in London has fuelled allegations of an aggressive global crackdown on dissent by the authoritarian government of the small East African nation, dubbed the new "North Korea" by its critics.

Members of the Rwandan diaspora have told the BBC that such ceremonies are commonplace and designed to instil fear and obedience.

One man said his relatives back in Rwanda had been abducted and possibly killed to punish him for refusing to co-operate. The Rwandan authorities have dismissed the allegations as false and unsubstantiated.

In the video footage, recently circulated on WhatsApp, more than 30 individuals can be seen standing in a crowded conference room at the Rwandan embassy in the UK, raising their hands and pledging loyalty to the governing party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

"If I betray you or stray from the RPF's plans and intentions, I would be betraying all Rwandans and must be punished by hanging," the group says, in Kinyarwanda, while also promising to fight "enemies of Rwanda, wherever they may be".

The RPF's use of an embassy – which in London is close to Marylebone Station – for an overtly political pledge is, in itself, noteworthy.

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