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As Rwanda Prepares For Elections: The Cracks In The Mirror


continued from: Déo Mushayidi

The cracks in the mirror

Cracks in the mirror as Rwanda prepares for elections.
by Kris Berwouts,
Director of EurAc
Intro: Cracks in the mirror as Rwanda prepares for elections
1) Open debate in a closed political context?
2) Hawks on the run
3) Déo Mushayidi
4) Cracks in the mirror
Conclusion: more questions than answers.

The traditional opposition is not the main concern of the Rwandan regime at the present moment.
When you have almost complete control over the legislative, executive and judicial institutions, when an independent press has almost completely disappeared, when that section of opinion which has not openly sided with you has attained an extraordinary level of sophistication in the noble art of self-censorship, when for a large part of national and international opinion you represent the ending of genocide and the return to stability, you are not going to lose the elections.
Not against Victoire Ingabire who has not played any role in Rwandan public life and is therefore not known by the electorate in Rwanda.
Not against Bernard Ntaganda either – his team is unstable and easily manipulated.
And not against Frank Habineza, even though he has worked with people close to you including the first president (i.e. one of the first dissidents) of your country.
They have a party which was still not in existence a year ago and which is not certain to be recognised in time to take part in the elections.

The Democratic Green Party is not going to defeat the FPR in the elections but it is making the regime nervous.
This is because it shows how the Rwandan elite, the inner circle of power is losing its cohesion.
This is not the only indication and it is not new, but Kayumba’s departure, the arrest of Mushayidi and the emergence of the Democratic Green Party prove that what the government sees when it looks in the mirror can be seen by everybody, not just by the government itself.

Nothing grows underneath a baobab

Part of the problem of tension inside the regime has nothing to do with the specific context of Rwanda.
After the death of Fred Rwigema on the second day of the FPR armed struggle in October 1990, Paul Kagame took over the command of the rebellion and he still commands it today.
He was the strong man during the war and after the victory, even though he reserved for himself the role of Minister of Defense, leaving Pasteur Bizimungu to head the institutions of state.
This did not prevent anybody, inside Rwanda or not, being aware that it was he who was really running the country.
Many in the international community had a high opinion of him: after the fall of the Mobutu generation, Kagame was for some people the incarnation of a new type of African leadership with an inspiring vision, an ability to mobilise and effective enough to achieve palpable and, in some areas, even spectacular results.

However, he is following the same track as other African heads of state (e.g. Museveni and Mugabe).
His self-confidence is turning to arrogance and reading carefully the list of key people (high ranking military personnel, ministers, ambassadors) who have left the country shows that his rule has developed a self-destructive tendency, sawing off the branch on which he is sitting.
Like Museveni, Mugabe and so many others, Kagame is turning himself into the “Roi Soleil” with no heir, a baobab tree beneath which nothing can grow.

Part of the discontent within the party and the associated community results from a build up of frustration among those who hang on to the coat tails of power without having access to it, people who thought that the FPR could be the motive force to drag them out of poverty.
They can see people they grew up with in the refugee camps in Uganda who are now billionaires but they see no way in to that closed circle.

A generational aspect to their exclusion from power is also developing.
The generation which took up arms won the war and took over the running of the country invested a lot in the education of their sons and daughters who are now returning home.
Their intellectual and technical level far exceeds that of their fathers’ generation and they want to play a leading role in running the country.

International justice: the sword of Damocles

The legal procedures initiated by Juge Jean-Louis Bruguière in France and Fernando Andreu Merelles in Spain have badly shaken the inner circle of power.
The Rwanda government can rely on the loyalty of a number of countries and international institutions, and this is at least partly based on feelings of guilt on the part of the international community for not having been able to prevent the genocide (and, frankly, not having tried too much to prevent it).

To preserve international support it is vital for the Rwandan regime to be sure of the interpretation the world makes of Rwanda’s recent history.
Since 1994, the country has been managed in a psychological climate of winners of the war versus its losers, the victims of the crimes against their executioners, in which, for example, a whole system has been put in place through the gacaca courts to deal with crimes of genocide against Tutsis while at the same time there is a complete taboo regarding crimes committed by the FPR since the start of the war.
This taboo reduces the positive effect that gacaca should have been able to have: instead of being the means of taking on board its traumatic past, gacaca has become a strategy for consolidating the winners/victims versus losers/ criminals scenario.

It is true that the initiatives of de Bruguière and Andreu are very irritating. They disrupt the picture and spoil the image. And they lead to worry on the part of those who feel concerned.
Even though it is highly improbable that the current leaders of Rwanda would be brought to trial in France or Spain, perhaps the image the country wishes to present is not tenable in the medium term.
It cannot be ruled out, even if this does not happen tomorrow, that the question will become: « What are we going to admit ? Who shall we sacrifice?». Such questions do not greatly help to create cohesion.
The immediate future of Kayumba is a major concern of the regime.
What will he say and before what audience?
What if he is extradited to Spain?
Hence the pressure on the South African government to send him back to Rwanda.

Rwanda’s involvement in the Congo

Since 1996 the Congo has taken a lot of space in Rwanda’s foreign policy, and on several occasions what happened in the Congo has been a bone of contention which has haunted the regime. For example Kayumba was opposed to the confrontation with Uganda in 2000 and 2002.

A recent example is the arrest of Laurent Nkunda at the start of the joint operation, Umoja Wetu.
The operation was led by John Numbi (for the Congo) and James Kabarebe (for Rwanda) and one of the first actions was to arrest Laurent Nkunda who was the subject of a plan by Bosco Ntaganda to replace him at the head of the CNDP.
This arrest provoked much animosity in Rwanda, not only in Congolese Rwandophone refugee circles and camps in Rwanda, but also in the army.
After all, Nkunda had served in the FPR and elements of the FPR had served in Nkunda forces. This collaboration created strong links and common interests.

Clearly a great part of the Congo’s importance for Rwanda is the illegal trafficking of the Congo’s resources through Rwanda.
This traffic is evidently not controlled by the Congo government but a good part is also outside the control of the Rwanda government even though it serves the interests of key people in the Rwandan politico-military establishment.
Such business interests can be very various and do not always contribute to the cohesion of the regime either.
It is partly for this reason that one can understand the nervousness about the current obligation that the Rwandan rulers must report their wealth and their income transparently.

Directly linked to the Rwandan involvement in the Congo is the problem of demobilised soldiers.
Now that a direct presence in the Congo is no longer an option, Rwanda finds itself with much too large an army.
Part of the surplus can be deployed by the African Union but that is a limited option.
The remainder has to be demobilised, and many of these ex-soldiers feel basically abandoned by the regime which they have fought for, often in very tough circumstances.

The language issue

We all know about the linguistic tension in Rwanda: the FPR introduced English since the rebellion was led by those who had grown up in Uganda.
The fact that they had taken power gave English a much more important status in the public life of the country than could be imagined from the numbers that actually spoke it.
Over the years the balance has gradually shifted in favour of English and this was accompanied by a feeling of discrimination among many Francophones.

A decisive moment was in 2008 when English was recognised as the official language in education.
For some this was a visionary decision to open up the country to the regional, continental and global reality; for others it was a decision to set in stone the ambition of a minority regime to monopolize communication and the country’s intellectual life, to dominate the country’s youth, to rewrite history and in the end to take control of the country’s collective memory.

Quite independently of the point of view from which this question is viewed, it is obvious that the decision has strengthened some and marginalised others. It deepens the already existing gulf between those who came out of Uganda and formed the nucleus of the regime and the others, where genocide survivors found themselves in an even more uncomfortable situation than that found by those who returned from Burundi or the Congo in 1994.

Power and the clan structure

The clan structure around the Rwanda royal family, even though it has not reigned for over half a century, is still seen by many as a factor.
The monarchist movement around King Kigeli V (currently in the United States) continues to play a political role and it wants to participate in running the country.
Some Rwandan analysts point out that membership of these clans is an important aspect of the identity of a number of those currently active on the political stage.
In particular the ancestral tension between Banyiginya and Bega is one of the cracks which enable us better to understand the goings on side the power structure: Kagame is a Mwega, whereas Kayumba, Karegeya, Nyetera, Kazura, Sebarenzi and many others are Banyiginya.

I am not at all an expert in this subject to understand to what degree clans play a serious role in the present situation but I thought I should at least mention it.

Read further: Conclusion: more questions than answers.

EurAc is the European Network of Active NGOs in Central Africa. EurAC is made up of 49 member-organisations from 12 European countries.


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