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The Political Situation in Rwanda and the Role of the United States of America

by FDU-Inkingi and Rwanda National Congress.

This is a joint open letter sent to all the members of the U.S. Congress on 14th September 2011 by the two Rwandan opposition parties: Rwanda National Congress and FDU-Inkingi.
Topic: The State of Governance in Rwanda and the U.S. Policy on Rwanda

Introduction

Many Africans who live in states that are still ruled by dictators were heartened by the speech that U.S. President Barack Obama gave before the Ghanaian Parliament on July 11, 20O9. In the speech, he declared:

….In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives.

…..Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions

Tens of millions worldwide were equally heartened by the President’s words in a speech he gave at the State Department, on May 19, 2011, in which he declared :

Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

Addressing African leaders at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 13, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton amplified President Obama’s message:

…..But, even as we celebrate this progress, we do know that too many people in Africa still live under longstanding rulers, men who care too much about the longevity of their reign, and too little about the legacy that should be built for their country’s future. Some even claim to believe in democracy – democracy defined as one election, one time.

Now, this approach to governing is being rejected by countries on this continent and beyond. Consider the changes that have recently swept through North Africa and the Middle East. After years of living under dictatorships, people have demanded new leadership; in places where their voices have long been silenced, they are exercising their right to speak, often at the top of their lungs. In places where jobs are scarce and a tiny elite prospers while most of the population struggles, people – especially young people – are channeling their frustration into social, economic, and political change.

Their message is clear to us all: The status quo is broken; the old ways of governing are no longer acceptable; it is time for leaders to lead with accountability, treat their people with dignity, respect their rights, and deliver economic opportunity. And if they will not, then it is time for them to go….

Although the U.S. President and his Secretary of State were responding to current developments in North Africa and the Middle East, notably Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, it clearly has resonance for many people from across the world for whom political freedom is still only a dream. The speeches are particularly relevant to Rwanda. First because Rwanda is precisely a country where the status quo is broken, a strong and absolute ruler reigns at the barrel of the gun, against the aspirations of the people. Second, because of the close diplomatic relationship between Rwanda and the United States, the substantial development assistance that the United States provides to Rwanda and the status of democratic governance in Rwanda.

Rwanda is, in the view of the Rwanda National Congress and FDU-Inkingi, one of the situations that ought to be of the greatest concern to those in the international community who have genuine concern about international peace and security in general, and in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa in particular. The majority of the people of Rwanda, we believe, share a common perception that policies of successive governments of the United States have not reflected principled support for the development of democratic and inclusive institutions, respect for the fundamental rights of citizens and accountability of public officials for gross violations of human rights.

We write this letter to share our views on the political situation in Rwanda and on the role that the United States can play in advancing freedom and promoting long term stability, security, and peace in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region.

Next:
The State of Governance in Rwanda

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