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Why I Do Fear For Rwanda

Depending on how you look at it, Rwanda is a country in chaos. That is of course if like me, you define chaos to mean a state lacking order or predictability. The establishment in Kigali knows this but accepting it is a parody.

President Paul Kagame, the powerful aristocrat who we now know will win the August 2010 presidential election for yet another seven-year term knows this. His henchmen know this as well. They of course won’t tell you now but soon you will know because the writing is on the wall.

For 16 years, Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) have tried and successfully developed the country. The economy is booming, buoyed by constant aid from Western countries. Unity and reconciliation have become the ruling government’s catchphrases. For over 10 years, the government has drummed these two in the minds of Rwandese with the belief that one day, people will forgive and forget. Whether this has been successful, no one can realistically tell. It is a case that I will leave for another day.

What I do know is that Rwanda today, is a nation threatened not by a rampant genocide, but the side effects, of it.

For any nation, race or creed, history is important. It is through knowing one’s history that focus is derived. However, there is a marked difference between using this history for the better and using it to one’s advantage. Explaining this phenomenon in relation to Rwanda, is as hard as explaining the chaos theory itself.

Chaos Theorist will have you believe that when a butterfly flaps its wings on the North coast of Africa, there is going to be a monsoon in Uganda. Strange as it may seem, this is predictable and sometimes, it has happened. While science tries to explain such behaviour through the analysis of a chaotic mathematical model, politics does not. What politics does is give you the opportunity to see and predict.

The idea, that a government should tightly guard against public rallying, suppress and stifle its population out of the basic freedoms like association, speech and press, all in the name of avoiding a repugnant history is one that I struggle to understand. History has shown that people will always move on, whatever the circumstances, as long as the issues that matter to them, are duly resolved and addressed.

If as a pastor, I spent 17 years preaching to my congregation to turn to God and they looked like they never care after those years, I certainly would consider doing something else. Either, my preaching is bad or am not the best man for the job. It is not a formula; it is simply, how things are done.

From the day Rwanda announced it was going multiparty, something seemed odd. The question on many people’s minds was, how do you effectively go multi-party with a society like Rwanda’s and at the same time avoid harming the basic fundamental human rights?

From the word go, Kagame’s government was torn between letting go and effectively crushing dissent. But because they had to appear all encompassing, they opted for accommodative politics. First Faustin Twagiramungu became Prime Minister, Pasteur Bizimungu was made president. A host of other names who many would have doubted to feature in the RPF government made it to the A-list. The idea was to look accommodating while laying the foundation for a successful real RPF take over. Behind the scenes of Bizimungu’s presidency was a powerful general called Paul Kagame. To accommodate his ego, Rwanda had to even go against its constitutional provisions and create the post of Vice President, which mind you had never existed before and does not exist anymore.

As pressure mounted on Bizimungu to rule as he was being asked to, Rwanda’s strong man saw an opening. Bizimungu was implicated in a corruption case, accused of inciting violence and promoting divisionism through his Ubuyanja Party and later, jailed.

I was there in 2007 when Pasteur Bizimungu stepped out of Kigali’s 1930 Central Prison. I like all present journalists tried hard to get to speak to him in vain. Not even were we allowed to take pictures of him coming out of the prison doors! Why deny journalists a chance to get an action picture of a former president stepping out of a prison where he could very easily have spent the rest of his life?

But that is not the point. Bizimungu was rushed into the prison chief’s main office where he was debriefed by then Internal Security minister Musa Fazil Harelimana. He only spoke to express his gratitude to president Kagame for the presidential pardon and quickly claimed he was too tired and in need of rest. He was whisked away in a waiting white Land Rover and no one has heard from him since. Is he happy, well and free? I will get back to this.

Four years later, life goes on. Rwanda is still the same country. A nation on course of a well treaded development path, some will argue. The locals still go on about their usual business and poor women are still fighting running battles with police and local defence personnel in the city centre as they (poor women) try to sell fruits and vegetables to make ends meet. Rwanda continues to get aid cash but poverty levels are still the same. More than 60 percent of the population, according to the UN, are still illiterate. Spells chaos? I don’t think so. Just predictable.

Reading the other day that Bernard Ntaganda, the leader of the PS- Imberakuri, had been ousted as party leader, made me think of two things. Who is Ntaganda and why the fuss about him? Mr. Ntaganda, Kigali has made us believe, is an accomplice in the recent bomb attacks in the country’s capital. He has previously, government claims, met with Deo Mushayidi (the gentleman being held over the grenade attacks) and therefore, predictably, was a dangerous fellow.

Now, unless you are a student of mathematics, any one with a notion of what politics is all about will know that Ntaganda, as leader of a registered political party which did not necessarily subscribe to the values or the ruling RPF was bound by circumstances to be meeting with other political parties or members of the opposition. It is normal. Even America’s top leadership was in the days after Sept 11, reported to have met with the country’s enemy number one, Osama bin Laden.

While this does not suffice in condoning the association of Ntaganda and Mushayidi – if at all there is one – it should be no reason whatsoever to force a resignation and persecution of a leader of the only registered political party so far, that has expressed interest in contesting the August presidential election. What it does prove however, is that in Rwanda, the presumption of innocence exists only in theory. In Rwanda, a suspect is an outright criminal unless of course that suspect is a beloved government official and the arrest warrant from France or Spain.

It is very easy to have predicted from the events leading to Ntaganda’s disappearance that his political future was already cut out. With Victoire Ingabire, the FDU-Inkingi party leader and Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda all fighting for their registration and having to put up with all sorts of intimidation from authorities, what was easily predictable is that in the event of a total failure to register, the two promising parties, would then most likely back PS-Imberakuri’s Ntaganda. And Kigali was not about to take a gamble on him, he had to be framed. Kagame is fine with Christine Mukabunane because unlike her predecessor, she is less known and will heed to RPF’s political pressure more easily unlike Ntaganda.

The notion of predictability even comes further into fore when one considers the recent events in Kigali regarding an FDU-Inkingi party delegates meeting that was meant to take place on March 13. Kagame is a keen political strategist. He made a mistake underestimating the strength of Victoire Ingabire when she arrived in Rwanda from Netherlands by letting her in. She has since risen as a force to reckon with. No wonder Kagame’s government using the police force, survivors associations and rogue writers in government publications has ben involved in a tarnishing campaign against her.

The police case against Ingabire will drag on and on until well August. During this time, Ingabire cannot hold a party conference, hold a meeting or even get her party registered. That is more like mission accomplished for then Kagame can go unopposed or if indeed someone comes out to stand against him it will be some stooge with a very compromised ideology. The West will pass the elections as having been democratic despite a few hurdles and complaints, and Kagame the dictator, will get another cool seven year mandate. As for Ingabire, the government is now going to keep insisting, sorry we cant help or allow you hold a conference because you are a subject of a police investigation. Ridiculous but effective!

This is even hopeless if you consider that the same government a year ago, bitterly complained when Spanish and French judges issued arrest warrants to members of the regime in Kigali. But that is not chaos, it is what should be but sadly, never gets predicted. It is a case of “Kyenkola Banange Sagala Bakinkole”. The West wont even squeak because as long as the dictator in question belongs to the good dictators, everything should be just about ok.

If division-ism or inciting violence is the case that Ingabire is being accused of, or if associating with FDLR is what is making her go through all the delays, the government should come clean here and expedite her trial. If it can’t, they should clear her name and allow her register FDU-Inkingi.

A friend of mine Keith Harmon Snow the other day leaked a secret document from the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs detailing names of Kigali critics both foreign and national to be eliminated. It gives a clear picture of what Kagame’s government is all about. Question is, why plot the assassination of your critics if you know everything is in tune?

Murder they will but the idea that by killing Keith, Annie Garrison, Rusesabagina and a few others will eliminate criticism is equivalent to believing the impossible. What Kagame should do is be fair to all and address the underlying issues that have so long characterised fall outs between him, old friends and all those under his leadership.

And yes, the Rwanda Media Fraternity has disowned Godwin Agaba. This is what amuses me. First the association of Rwanda journalists claims Agaba is not and has never been a journalist. Then suddenly they publish a story in The New Times that he has been disowned by them. How is possible to disown someone who has never been part of you?

Unless disowning means something else other than to refuse to acknowledge or accept as ones own. Agaba has and will always be a Rwandan journalist. Am glad to hear he is safe and sound wherever he is. I can only wish him the best of luck.

According to The New Times, March 18, Umuseso, a Kinyarwanda newspaper published a photograph of Agaba Godwin in its December 31, 2006 to January 6, 2007 issue, warning the public not to transact any business with him on their behalf. In the same message, it was indicated that Godwin Agaba had been sacked for extortion and warned that he was still masquerading as their employee.

Then in in 2007, (exactly 6 days after Agaba’s photo had appeared in Umuseso newspaper as alleged) Agaba joined The New Times newspaper. Give me a break. Why would The New Times want to hire a thief and an extortionist whose picture had been flashed on the front page of a rival newspaper unless they trusted him or wanted something out of him?

Over to you my little monsters!

Eleneus Akanga – ellyakanga.wordpress.com

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