People suspected of threatening national security should be killed on sight, according to reports quoting Rwandan president Paul Kagame on Friday.
He also dismissed criticism of his government’s human rights record.
His comments, made in a speech in the west of the country on Thursday, came the day after Washington accused the East African nation of carrying out arbitrary arrests and urged President Kagame to respect freedom of expression.
“Those who talk about disappearances... we will continue to arrest more suspects and if possible shoot in broad daylight those who intend to destabilise our country,” President Kagame was quoted as saying by the East African.
On Wednesday the US, which has become increasingly critical of Rwanda’s government in recent months, urged the country to “account for individuals arrested over the past two months and currently in custody”.
“We also call upon Rwanda to fully respect freedom of expression, including for members of the press so that they can investigate, report and facilitate discussion on issues of public concern,” the State Department said.
Rwanda swiftly rejected the criticism, saying that it was responding to threats from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) — remnants of the Hutu group linked to the 1994 genocide in which at least 800,000 mainly Tutsis died.
“We call on all parties to refrain from discourse and actions that embolden the FDLR and its allies, and thereby endanger the lives of Rwandans,” Foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch last month reported an increasing number of forcible disappearances in Rwanda and said there were “indications of involvement of state agents.” Rwanda accused the New York-based group of spreading the equivalent of “political propaganda for terrorist groups.”