Rwanda opposition party cries out to Obama and Cameron
by John V Karuranga
I write to you as a leader of a democratic party in Rwanda, the RPP-Imvura.
Our party has been denied registration for participation in presidential elections scheduled for August 9, 2010. Rwanda, as you well know, is undergoing a serious political and social-economic crisis. Rwanda has gone through a series of genocides in its history, the worst of which occurred in 1994 when more than 1 million innocent people were massacred.
Since 1994, the Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame has been in power. This is a party that has shown very little or no interest at all in democratic principles and practice. Kagame demonstrated his undemocratic nature very early in his rule when he sabotaged all genuine efforts in Rwanda to engender national reconciliation.
Indeed, the genocide has been his excuse for establishing and maintaining a military dictatorship in Rwanda. He uses the genocide as a means to emotionally blackmail Rwandans as well as the international community. I say this with sadness, but the US administration under George Bush Jr and the UK administration under Tony Blair became the strongest supporters of Kagame.
President Bush described leaders like Kagame as the “new breed” of Africans who would lead some sort of renaissance in the continent.
I submit that this was false optimism and the so-called “new breed” has turned out to be bad and toxic. Mr Kagame has ruled Rwanda for many years without bothering about democratic elections and has no fresh ideas to face the new challenges confronting the country. He is a liability to Rwanda and Rwandans are paying a heavy price for this.
We are concerned that your governments have continued to support the Kagame regime even as the list of his crimes grows. We are hurt that Mr Blair is now an advisor to President Kagame.
What is he advising him on? His role goes against British values of fairness and it is very difficult for us to understand how he can continue to play such a role.
President Kagame is now organising elections that many believe have been rigged in advance. All genuine opposition parties have been denied registration. Instead, President Kagame has sponsored candidates to stand against him, to lend some veneer of credibility to these bogus elections. We question why there should be any election observers from the US and the Commonwealth in Rwanda.
What will they observe? A charade? Instead of supporting this bogus observation, the international community should boycott it and call for fresh elections where all interested parties will be allowed to register and to campaign openly.
We ask you to note Rwanda Government’s harassment of opposition politicians inside and outside the country. This policy has lately also targeted lawyers, human rights organisations, NGOs, foreign journalists and others involved in Rwandan civil society. Members of our own party in the UK and elsewhere are harassed and trailed on a daily basis and subjected to threats of violence and murder.
Latest victims of these machinations include Lt General Kayumba Nyamwasa, who was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt in South Africa, journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, who was murdered in front of his own house in Kigali, and the deputy leader of the Green Party, Mr Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, who was beheaded as a chilling warning to all Rwandans to toe the line.
We are also concerned about the fate of the Rwandan refugees living in camps in Uganda and elsewhere. Many have been returned to Rwanda against their will and despite the objections of the UNHCR, which complained that such actions are illegal and a violation of international law, particularly Article 33(1) of the UN Convention of 1951 Relating to the Status of Refugees
The RPP – IMVURA, wishes to take this opportunity to ask your Excellencies to use your influence to call upon the Rwandan Government to initiate direct peace talks with all opposition parties to resolve our political, economic and social problems once and for all, and to facilitate the peaceful return of the more than 2.5 million Rwandan refugees living in exile.
Equally, we draw your Excellencies’ attention to recent examples in Africa where there have been peaceful changes of power, especially in Ghana and South Africa.
We do not want President Kagame to be overthrown in a military coup or Rwanda to return to civil war. We do not believe coups and civil wars are solutions to Africa’s problem.
(John V Karuranga is the President of Rwanda People’s Party- IMVURA; email@example.com; www.rwandapeopleparty.org)