As Rwanda Prepares For Elections: More Questions Than Answers
continued from: The Cracks in the mirror
Conclusion: more questions than answers
Is the Rwandan regime in crisis?
It is possible, certainly. Given the over-reaction of the authorities when confronted by new situations on the ground, we get the impression that the regime believes so, even while the authorities keep declaring that everything is under control. Is the reign of the FPR approaching its end? I meet many people who hope so, but that remains to be seen. Even though I believe that the Rwanda government is not working towards a lasting solution to its problems, it seems clear that the control which it has established remains solid based as it is on a culture of silence and a tradition of obedience to authority.
Is the country about to implode again?
We definitely hope it isn’t. It is very hard to imagine that Rwanda and its people have anything to gain from that, and any such event would have serious consequences for the whole region – for the essential but fragile peace process in Burundi for example; or for the people in eastern Congo who have seen many changes since the Umoja Wetu operation without any resulting sign of future lasting peace.
What is certain is that things are not going well. People are not comparing the situation with the pre-electoral atmosphere in 2003 but with that of 1993.
The grenade attacks have provoked fear.
The question: « Who threw them? » remains unanswered.
Victoire Ingabire and the presidents of the other opposition parties simply want a really free and transparent electoral process. For them the present climate is counter productive.
Kayumba ? There are plenty of precedents in the history of post-colonial Africa of generals trying to take power but I do not remember any case where they began their campaign by throwing grenades at a bus stop.
The FDLR? I have just been in eastern Congo and I had a strong impression that the FDLR had other things on their mind.
Déo Mushayidi? Frustrated demobilised soldiers? People who were angry because they found that Sarkozy was not forced to make a proper apology (that was one of the suggestions I heard)?
Not very likely. In fact there are no probable explanations but one of the least improbable ones is that the regime itself organised the attacks so as to create a climate where citizens could be arrested and intimidated. I met many people who were frightened and there were others I was not able to meet as they were so frightened that they did not dare meet me.
The pre-electoral situation remains volatile.
It is hard to foresee what Rwanda will be like during and after the elections if the opposition remains muzzled, harassed or crushed. It is important for the Rwandan regime to receive signals from the international community that it must stop this intimidation.
At the present time this community gives the impression that it is not at all concerned.
It seems to believe that the pre-election tension was predictable, that the situation is under control, that the nervousness might increase a little before the election but that in the end Kagame will win with a comfortable, even crushing, majority.
Then the international community will continue business as usual.
This is a rather weak analysis. It underestimates the destabilising potential of the present situation and it serves very badly the chances for democracy in Rwanda in the medium and longer term.
From our point of view we must recommend that the international community put pressure on the regime to take measures that will help create political stability in Rwanda and the holding of truly free and transparent elections. Such pressures should principally consist of:
* urging the regime not to refuse to register opposition parties, not to prevent them from working on the ground and not destroying them;
* stopping political and police harassment of the leaders and members of the opposition ;
* asking the government not to use the public media to demonise its opponents;
* demand that a new electoral law be published and an independent electoral commission be set up;
* rapidly deploy an international electoral observer mission.
Beyond the immediate question of the election, it is really important for the FPR to reverse trend to restriction and exclusion and to put its effort into solving the antagonisms which exist, but this falls outside the Terms of Reference of my March visit.
EurAc will come back to this matter in a future document.
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EurAc is the European Network of Active NGOs in Central Africa. EurAC is made up of 49 member-organisations from 12 European countries.