Rwanda’s Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza speaks to Women’s International News Gathering Service
by Ann Garrison
Rwanda’s FDU-Inkingi Party leader, peace and social justice activist Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, spoke to Ann Garrison for Womens’ International News Gathering Service (WINGS) in July 2010, near the close of Rwanda’s 2010 presidential election year, which was really an election stage play complete with election observers from the U.S. and the U.K. Incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame was “re-elected” on Aug. 9, receiving 93 percent of the vote, an implausible victory in any pluralist democracy, though 3 percent less than the 96 percent he received in Rwanda’s 2003 presidential election.
On Aug. 13, President Barack Obama’s National Security Council issued a statement expressing concern about disturbing events leading up to the polls, including human rights abuse, suppression of the press and the exclusion of the opposition. NSC spokesman Mike Hammer wrote: “Democracy is about more than holding elections. A democracy reflects the will of the people, where minority voices are heard and respected, where opposition candidates run on the issues without threat or intimidation, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are protected.”
The statement, notably, did not congratulate President Paul Kagame on his re-election.
Human rights activists and Africa advocates, including the Africa Faith and Justice Network and Friends of the Congo, have called for sustained attention on Rwanda, suspension of all military aid and a freeze on $240 million worth of non-military aid until Kagame releases all political prisoners, lifts bans on the press and opens political space. All the issues that Victoire and I discussed in July and throughout this year remain, including:
- political opponents still missing, in prison, or, like Victoire Ingabire, still indicted under Rwanda’s repressive laws against speech crime
- no response to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and opposition calls for investigation of recent political assassinations
- suppression of the press;
- extreme rural poverty and increasing inequality between the majority rural population and a privileged urban elite;
- mono-cropping that exhausts the soil and leaves Rwandans hungry for the sake of agricultural exports enriching the elite;
- biofuels crops planted on scarce Rwandan agricultural land by a California-based multinational, despite widespread hunger;
- natural gas extraction in Lake Kivu, endangering the populations on both the Rwanda and Congo sides of the lake;
- refugees in Rwanda’s neighbors, DR Congo and Uganda, who are cause and excuse for military incursion by the Rwandan Defense Force.
On Aug. 17, less than one week after Rwanda’s dubious poll results, the Rwandan government issued new security directives in the city of Kigali, requiring that everyone entering a hotel be searched, that hotels be equipped with detectors in one week, that all bars be equipped with power generators to keep lights on in the event of a blackout and that no one drive through the streets with tinted car window glass. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and the FDU issued a statement, saying that the atmosphere remains tense and called on the international community to “stay with Rwanda.”
[San Francisco BayView]
San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Digital Journal, Examiner.com, OpEdNews, Global Research, Colored Opinions and her blog, Plutocracy Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.