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Rwandan officials are prickly about complaints

Returning from Rwanda where he was able to uncover the sinister Rwandan Island of Shame, New York Times’ Journalist Jeffrey Gettleman concludes his report on Rwanda with the following revealing note:

Rwandan officials are prickly about complaints. President Kagame lashed out at foreign critics this month, saying, “Who should be giving lessons to Rwanda’s 11 million people about what is good for them?”

He called opposition leaders “hooligans” and said Rwandans were “as free, as happy, as proud of themselves, as they have never been in their lives.”

Several leading opposition figures, like Victoire Ingabire, say it is impossible to challenge the government, arguing that it is controlled by a cabal of Tutsis who were refugees in Uganda before the genocide and now unfairly dominate the economy.

Mrs. Ingabire, a Hutu, was an accountant living in the Netherlands until she returned in January to run for president. Today, she lives in a new housing development called Vision 2020 Estate; her sturdy, two-story brick town house is indistinguishable from dozens of others, except for the guards out front.

“There’s no space to talk about what happened in our country,” said Mrs. Ingabire, who has been charged with genocide ideology, being a “divisionist” and collaborating with rebels. It is not just Hutu politicians who feel persecuted. Charles Kabanda used to be a leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi-dominated ruling party, but split with it in the late 1990s, he said, because “they were ruthless.”

He recently worked with the Green Party, but said it had been repeatedly blocked from competing in the elections. Government officials said the Green Party failed to meet requirements like getting 200 valid signatures from all over Rwanda. Mr. Kabanda simply shook his head.

“ ‘Enemy, enemy, enemy’ — that’s what they call anyone who thinks differently,” he said. “This government’s record is dreadful. It’s only you, the international community, who is showering them with flowering praise.”

Jeffrey Gettleman – New York Times – April 30.

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