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End of Year One of Ingabire’s open struggle for Democracy and Reconciliation in Rwanda

by Eugene Ndahayo

Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in Rwanda: the year One of the struggle for democracy and dignity.

Dear compatriots,

Dear friends of Rwanda,

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

January 16, 2010, it’s already a year ago, when Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chairperson of the United Democratic Forces, FDU-INKINGI knelt down for the first time and kissed her homeland that she left 16 years before.

A year of achievements, dedication and courage. A real struggle for democracy, for freedom, for the right to life and personal security, the right of association, freedom of expression, for political rights. A thrash against the iron fist of the dictatorship.

A year of solidarity with Rwandans in the country for the right of remembrance for all  victims of the Rwandan genocide and other crimes against humanity; for all victims’ rights; for all the voiceless; for the rehabilitation of second class citizens. A real struggle for equal access, equal opportunities for all the children of our homeland.

A wrestling against an unfair justice that has deprived Rwandans of the right to a  defense of one’s choice and the right to a due process. The controversial “Gacaca” justice parody has thrown hundreds of thousands of litigants to humiliating community services with no hope of return.

A  year of solidarity with the population of Congo (DRC) facing the consequences of military invasions responsible of over 5 millions of victims, and the plundering of the country’s natural resources. Since 1990, the whole region is engulfed in an endless turmoil.

The Rwandan President, praised by some people and some partisan media to be an all fields miracle champion, a super star, a country’s development success story, believed himself in his political invincibility.

By her presence in Rwanda, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, has brought to light the true dimension of the dictatorship: a totalitarian regime monopolized by a handful of military and ethnocentric militants who, by the means of a political police and a sprawling network of secret services, has an upper hand over all public institutions, the judicial and the civil society.

In just one year, the regime has accumulated political errors and serious violations of human rights:

– Assassination of late André Kagwa Rwisereka, Deputy-Chair of the Democratic Green Party of Rwandan, on July 13, 2010,

– Assassination of the Journalist Jean-Léonard Rugambage, Editor of Umuvugizi newspaper, on June 24, 2010,

– Life attempt against General Kayumba Nyamwasa on June 19, 2010,

-Kidnapping followed by the arrest of Mr. Deogratias Mushayidi, Chair of PDP-IMANZI on March 3, 2010,

– Arrest of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chair of FDU- INKINGI on April 21, 2010, bailed out, under house arrest the next day and rearrested on October 14, 2010,

– Arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder, US attorney, defense lawyer for Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza on June 17, then bailed out  after weeks,

– Arrest of Mr. Bernard Ntaganda, Chair of PS-IMBERAKURI on June 24, 2010

– Arrest and detention of Journalists Ms. Agnes Uwimana Nkusi and Saidati Mukakibibi,  (Umurabyo newspaper) on July 8-10, 2010,

– Arrest of a dozen of party leaders of FDU-INKINGI and PS-IMBERAKURI on June 24, 2010 then released on bail,

– Arrest of Mr. Theogene Muhayeyezu, Rwandan lawyer for FDU-INKINGI on June 24, 2010 then released 15 days later,

– Rigged Presidential elections on August 9, 2010 with total exclusion of the opposition,

– Arrest of several high-ranking officers in the Rwandan Army: General Charles Muhire, Major General Karenzi Karake, Colonel Rugigana Ngabo, etc.

– Publication on October 1, 2010 of the UN Mapping Report on war crimes, crimes against humanity and a possible genocide committed in Congo mainly by the Rwandan army.

Yes, in less than a year, the superstar Paul Kagame has faded from the limelight! The touted and self portrayed “African new generation leader” is just real, a tyrant to avoid.

His apologists are just confused and on the brink of loss of credibility. How do they justify the total seal off the political space; assassinations; arbitrary arrests and detentions of democracy leaders? How do they explain the repeated landslide Stalinist election score of 93%?

And gradually, the economic miracle of sustained growth appears to be the result of an unfortunate combination of a criminal economy, unbalanced, uneven and sorry. The Congolese blood minerals and other natural resources have a share in the miracle. There is a puncture of rural savings of 90% of the population in favor of an urban economy represented by 10% of the Rwandan population as well. The gap caused by uneven national income distribution is very deep. According to the UNDP reports, 10% of the richest population owns over 50% of the national wealth while 50% of the poorest population owns less than 10% of the national wealth.

That is the record of a year of achievements of our Chairperson, a record of FDU-INKINGI. Together with all our supporters, we are proud.

Our leader is in maximum prison since October 14, 2010. We all keep in our minds her words, just a few days back to the homeland:

“I believe in the political project that I share with my colleagues in this struggle, I love my country and all its inhabitants and I know I am not alone in this and Rwandans from all social classes, ethnic backgrounds and generations are with us. It is my source of strength and an oath that I would never betray. I will not waver in my dedication as I promised my colleagues and friends. I know and I have thoroughly thought about it, the regime may persecute me, imprison me. Let me say in conclusion that I am ready to face and endure all the difficulties and obstacles on my way until the final victory. And in case the regime attempts on my life, I trust you shall continue from where I will fall.”

In prison, where she is incarcerated, the morale of our Chairperson Ms. Victoire Ingabire is high. She is free in her mind and soul. Not because of her innocence and belief that the justice system will set her free. No, she does not believe at all in the dictator’s justice. She saw how his judicial works: trumped up accusations; fake witnesses; witness preparation and rehearsals; lack of independence; interferences and orders taken from  the State House.

No, she is simply strong because she is courageous and trust that we shall empower the momentum of the wind of freedom and the seeds of democracy she already sowed.

It is the correctness of her political struggle that will set her free. It is the faith in our political project, it is our ability to organize, it is the strength and impact of our current and future political rationale and alliances that will set her free.

Thus, our determination, our consistency in the political struggle shall overcome the dictatorship and its international  backers or lobbying organizations.

Together, we will set free the Chairperson of FDU-INKINGI and beyond, we set free our people.

Done in Brussels, on January 16, 2011

Chair of the Support Committee for FDU-INKINGI

Eugene Ndahayo.

1 comment

1 kabi { 01.17.11 at 3:48 pm }

Nairobi — Post-genocide Rwanda is often described by expatriates as “a country in a hurry.”

It is a label Rwandan leaders have no problem with. It echoes the slogan meant to rally the country behind them in their enthusiastic and single-minded pursuit of social progress: “Kwihuta mu majyambere” (speeding up progress).

President Paul Kagame, said by associates to have no room for failure, has been emphatic in his insistence that while other countries opt to walk towards development and social progress, Rwanda must run.

This view is well demonstrated by the government’s determination to force through – and I mean force through – initiatives intended to uplift the standards of living of its majority poor.

Many times these initiatives are launched against a background of protests by several groups and individuals, including the country’s development partners, who usually want to be convinced that a specific policy is feasible and affordable before lending their support.

In recent years the initiatives have included implementing a land consolidation scheme under which peasants have been coaxed, to say the least, into shifting to planned and concentrated settlements in order to free up more land for agriculture; requiring them to use more – free or subsidised – fertiliser; enforcing livestock improvement schemes; land redistribution from the rich, famous and powerful to hitherto landless villagers; switching from seven to nine years of primary schooling with an element of vocational training; and carving up the country into agricultural zones, with each concentrating on the production of one or a few crops for which its soils and climatic conditions are best suited.

An employee of a donor agency once told me that any donor wishing to influence the government’s ambitions must first of all find a way of supporting them.

Apparently those who choose to criticise are simply ignored.

The logic, as often stated by President Kagame, is clear: Rwanda must be run by Rwandans, and it is Rwandans who know what is good for Rwanda.

Currently, the initiative that has come under much scrutiny and criticism, not least by sections of local media and civil society, is the government’s “bye bye nyakatsi” campaign whose implementation has from time to time been taken a little too far by over-enthusiastic local officials eager to be seen to work.

Nyakatsi refers to rudimentary, often temporary, grass-thatched huts, in which the rural poor, unable to afford anything better or more elegant, usually live.

The government accuses these dwellings of being intrinsically unhygienic, undignified, and prone to attracting disease-causing or disease-carrying agents, and therefore of being a threat to the health and well-being of its citizens.

And so a solution has been devised: their mass destruction and replacement with improved houses with iron sheets roofing.

The government has undertaken to encourage those who can afford better houses, such as cattle keepers with large herds, to build them at their own cost.

Meanwhile the able-bodied poor are eligible for free roofing sheets, while the elderly and those of ill-health, or widows, qualify for free new houses.

The army, police, and prisoners sentenced to community service have been drafted in to help, and NGOs, Diaspora Rwandans, and some development partners are encouraged to assist where they can.

According to reports, insome areas over-enthusiastic local officials have pulled down all nyakatsi in total disregard to whatever peculiar circumstances may apply to individual owners or occupants, sometimes before the assistance promised by the government arrives to enable those affected to quickly rehouse themselves or be rehoused.

Despite criticism which might have cowed other governments into changing course, the government of Rwanda is steaming ahead, with provincial governors vowing to eliminate the offending structures within specific time frames.

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It is estimated that this “accelerated modernisation” will see the disappearance of over 600,000 nyakatsi over the next few months.

Reliable sources say the government has already dispatched the required iron sheets to local governments.

With arguably Africa’s most potent “zero tolerance for corruption” policy hanging over their collective heads, there is no expectation that local leaders will “lose” or divert them to personal use, the sort of thing their colleagues elsewhere do with a disarming sense of entitlement and impunity.

Frederick Golooba-Mutebi is a Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Social Research, Makerere University.

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