Key political risks to watch in Rwanda
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who won a landslide election in August, continues to turn the screws on his rivals and dissenters, critics say.
One of Kagame’s leading political opponents, Victoire Ingabire, is back in detention after the central African nation said she had been implicated in an investigation into a former rebel commander facing terrorism charges.
Then Rwanda’s chief prosecutor said the courts would summon Paul Rusesabagina, who saved 1,200 people from genocide in events depicted in the Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda”, over allegations he helped fund a rebel force.
The reputation of Kagame, a favourite with foreign donors, has been damaged by reports of repression and charges his army committed war crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda threatened to pull its troops from U.N. peacekeeping missions after a leaked U.N. report said its troops may have committed genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some diplomats see Kagame’s attempt to blackmail the United Nations as a serious concern, although he has since backed down ahead of official publication of the draft that says the crimes could constitute genocide if proven by a competent court.
Here are some of the risk factors:
RWANDA’S POLITICAL SPACE
Kagame’s overwhelming election win in August underlined his domination of the political arena.
He has been applauded for restoring stability after the 1994 genocide and engineering Rwanda’s rapid economic recovery and its bold vision to become a middle-income country by 2020.
But critics accuse him of being authoritarian and of trampling on media and political freedoms.
Donors praise Kagame’s strong leadership and push to attract investment. But nepotism remains an issue and there are concerns that resentment among the opposition, elements of the political elite and parts of the population could foster political instability and harm long-term investment prospects.
What to watch:
►– Trial of Ingabire. She was denied bail after a court said state security could be threatened if she were freed. No date has been set for her trial. Ingabire denies the charges and says her detention is politically motivated.
►– A court summons for American lawyer Peter Erlinder. Erlinder was arrested in May on charges of genocide denial after he flew in to represent Ingabire. He was released on bail a month later on health grounds.
Chief Prosecutor Martin Ngoga said he could summon Erlinder in early November. Erlinder’s case has caused friction between Rwanda and the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where Erlinder is defending genocide suspects.
►– The arrest of Peter Rusesabagina. Hotel Rwanda was a blockbuster hit and his detention would likely generate more media interest than any crackdown on Kagame’s other critics.
►– Kagame’s overtures to donors. Some analysts say he must repair his image after cracking down on dissenters before the Aug. 9 poll and prove he is not just another African strongman with a slick international public relations machine.
They say he must convince investors he remains committed to his promise to democratise Rwanda. Investment doubled to $1.6 billion in 2009, a year after the country was named top global business reformer by the World Bank.
►– Outcome of French inquiry into shooting down of former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane in 1994. Any repeat of the 2006 claim by a French judge that Kagame’s forces were to blame could harm diplomatic relations with France.
Diplomats and sources close to the government say rifts within the Tutsi elite, including those in exile, risk undermining the nation’s stability.
The Ministry of Defence said senior party and army officials in exile are not a threat. However, observers say there is a risk Kagame’s erstwhile allies, who are sounding increasingly belligerent, could coalesce into a serious opposition force, or form a rebellion of their own.
A group of exiled former allies warned Rwanda could descend into conflict unless Kagame shares more power with the majority ethnic Hutu.
Kagame’s war on graft, which has led to Rwanda being ranked the least corrupt nation in east Africa, has seen former political associates locked up.
Diplomatic sources say the arrest of Congolese Tutsi rebel Laurent Nkunda has also fuelled tensions within the ruling elite. A U.N. panel reported in 2008 that the RPF had supported Nkunda’s rebel war in eastern Congo.
What to watch:
►– Signs of deepening rifts within the military. General Faustin Nyamwasa, Kagame’s former chief-of-staff turned arch-critic, fled to South Africa in February where he was shot in the stomach in June.
Diplomatic fallout over the attack prompted South Africa to recall its envoy to Kigali.
►– The fate of Nkunda. Nkunda’s arrest heralded a new era in relations between Rwanda and Congo. For years the two accused each other of backing the other’s rebel factions.
But what happens to Nkunda could still influence relations. Congo wants him extradited for war crimes but analysts say Rwanda would be reluctant to let him go, fearful of what he might say about Kagame’s administration.
Rwanda depends on its neighbours for the safe passage of its goods. Its petrol, diesel and heavy oil must be transported by truck from Kenya and Tanzania. U.N. sources say the alignment of various militias, including Nkunda’s CNDP and Hutu rebels, in eastern Congo is unlikely to pose any short-term threat.
What to watch:
►– Conflict in eastern Congo. Rights groups fear too hasty a withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers would trigger more violence.
►– Any violence around Uganda’s elections in early 2011 could also isolate Rwanda by disrupting transport links.
►– Kenya endorsed a new draft constitution in an Aug. 4 referendum. East Africa’s largest economy will hold a presidential election in August 2012. While the peaceful referendum has boosted hopes the poll will also be calm, the stakes will be higher in two years time.
►– Analysts fear a new rebellion could be brewing in neighbouring Burundi. Renewed turmoil in the Great Lakes region could in turn risk threatening Rwanda.
Rwanda’s economy expanded by 9.4 percent in the second quarter of 2010 compared to a year earlier, its fastest quarterly acceleration since the first three months of 2009, driven by 15 percent growth in services.
The government has focused on restructuring the tea and coffee industries and the financial system, while investing in energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure.
The only listed equity on Rwanda’s over-the-counter market is Kenya Commercial Bank although the regulator (CMAC) said Kenya’s Nation Media Group would also cross-list on Nov. 2.
Securities listed on the capital market include three Treasury bonds issued this year and one corporate bond issued by Commercial Bank of Rwanda in 2008. The August 2-year issue for 2.5 billion Rwandan francs ($4.5 million) was comfortably oversubscribed.
What to watch:
►– More government bonds and new listings. The central bank expects to issue quarterly bonds to fund energy and infrastructure projects and ease dependence on donors, who fund about 40 percent of the budget. However, the regulator says this would not significantly boost liquidity as volumes are small.
►– CMAC expects more Kenyan companies — including Equity Bank, KenolKobil and TPS Serena – to cross-list in the coming months. This will boost capitalisation of a market where domestic options are limited.
►– The government plans to sell 30 percent of brewer BRALIRWA. This had been expected either side of the election.
►– The sale of the government’s 10 percent stake in telecoms firm MTN has been slated for 2011, CMAC says.
Published by Kezio-Musoke David in International Business Times: