Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kagame and Sarkozy

I am unimpressed with the little bit of news I am seeing and hearing about Sarkozy's diplomatic visit to Kigali. The Jurist wrote the most complete reporting that I have seen so far.

Yes, it is important that genocide organisers living in France be brought to book.

But have Kagame and Sarzoky discussed the current socio-political climate? It is all well and good to acknowledge the failures of France during the 1994 genocide. It is equally, if not more important, to ask Kagame to account for the current actions of his government in silencing political opposition through intimidation, harassment and detention; the harnessing of the media through threats and persecution; and the co-optation of civil society.

The prevailing social insecurity, economic inequalities and centralisation of political power are ripe for violence and are strikingly similar to the conditions that proceeded the 1994 genocide.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Noel Twagiramungu speaks on World Focus

Anyone interested in Rwanda should listen to this conversation between Stephen Kinzer and Noel Twagiramungu:

I critise Kinzer's book as one to be read so interested analysts should read to be able to argue against it. I made two reviews, one in the African Studies Review, and in the Canadian Journal of International Affairs.

Martin Savidge, the moderator, is totally uninformed about Rwanda and the regional politics of the Great Lakes Region. This is evidenced right off the bat as he asks Stephen Kinzer to recount Rwandan history. It is downhill from there as Kinzer is apologist for Kagame's authoritarian tendencies....

That is my take on it; listen for yourself and see what you think.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ingando re-education camps

My analyses on post-genocide Rwanda are in part informed by my own experiences in being re-educated by the government after it stopped my doctoral research in 2006. I write about my Ingando re-education experience for a forthcoming volume in honour of Alison Des Forges. The pre-publication English version is available here; a French-language translation of the same chapter is available here. Thanks to the translator!

Lack of Media Freedom

Yesterday, 23 February 2010, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that three journalists from the Kinyarwanda-language weekly Umuseso were sentenced to prison with substantial fines for reporting on the conduct of two senior government officials. The report is here.

Media freedom is at the heart of any democracy. Rwanda lacks this freedom. Reporters without Borders calls President Kagame a predator to press freedom.

Indeed, as the ruling RPF has consolidated its political power, it has ruthlessly cracked down on journalists and media outlets. The government suspended he BBC Kinyarwanda service for preaching genocide ideology in March 2009. The service was re-instated after an international outcry. Radio France International was suspended in June 2006 on similar allegations.

Kigali maintains a tight grip on media activity, as evidenced in these recent sentences of Umuseso staff, including its editor-in- chief. The RPF accuses journalists who speak out against its policies of ethnic divisionism or of preaching genocide ideology under the 2001 “divisionism” law. Only those media outlets that express views that are in line with the government are able to speak out; as a result, many self-censor.

Instances of courageous journalism are followed by crackdowns on the media. Media independence and freedom of expression are all but non-existent The RPF continues to harass and detain without charge journalists who criticise government policies. Several journalists have fled the country; others have been beaten up; fined, or put in prison.

This hardly bodes well for campaigning during this election season. It also makes it difficult for ordinary Rwandans to vote for anyone besides the RPF....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ingabire seeks refuge

Today, 22 February 2010, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Presidential aspirant and head of the opposition UDF, sought refuge at the UK Embassy in Kigali. There is very little information on why she sought refuge and what was discussed with members of the UK Embassy, although this press release was made available earlier today.

I am very keen to see how the ruling RPF reacts to Mme. Ingabire's statement that she will invoke her constitutional right to silence....


Kigali 22 February 2010

I am home and safe.

This morning my political organisation, FDU-UDF INKINGI informed the national and
international community about my request for a temporary refuge. It's true I was for
many hours today inside the British High Commission in Kigali. We discussed the
current political situation in Rwanda and threats to opposition leaders and I still
expect that all the stakeholders will do the utmost for a peaceful democratisation
of Rwanda.

However, the police harassment is still on the agenda because the CID persistently
summoned for fresh questioning this evening. I like to make it public, that from now
on during this night and all next police interrogations; I will, if necessary, use
my constitutional right to silence until my case is taken to a court of law.

Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

Sunday, February 21, 2010

UDF Platform

I posted earlier this week that I did not know enough about the UDF's policies. A reader of this blog posted the party's political platform (available here).

I want to state for the record that I am impressed by the UDF's political aspirations. Particularly its stance on foreign relations, agricultural policy and reconciliation.

Let's hope the party gets a chance to show its mettle and we can test its policies in an open political space rather than the current climate of fear and intimidation that seems to be reigning in Rwanda at the moment

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Grenade Attacks in Kigali

I have recently learned from Rwandan colleagues resident in Kigali that grenades were launched in town today. The reports from the international media are rather generic (see this sample from the BBC). We will need to wait for more information to surface.

My immediate reaction is that the government launched them to strike fear into the population, and to justify its eventual arrest of Victorie Ingabire on the charge of divisionism.

Similar sorts of attacks were common in Kigali before the genocide. They were orchestrated in those days by the Habyarimana government, mostly likely his inner cabal of power. All this to say, such attacks are not new in Kigali, and are indeed a common tactic of government's willing to maintain power at any cost. Unfortunately, examples of similar violence abound across the continent at the moment. Cote d'Ivoire, Niger and Nigeria all spring to mind....

I will wait to talk to more people, notably human rights activists (both international and Rwandan) resident in Rwanda before commenting further....

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Search for Legitimacy Continues....

I have just learned from colleagues in Rwanda, and in the diaspora here in Canada, that the Criminal Investigation Department of the Rwandan National Police have summoned Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza to return for further questioning on Monday 22 February at 1pm Kigali time.

This is best interpreted as another RPF-led search for legitimacy for its policy of genocide ideology. There is no actual proof (based on Mme. Ingabire's speeches and the vague definition of the genocide ideology law) that any transgression has occurred.

This, of course, is besides the point. It is but another example of the authoritarian and arbitrary rule of the RPF.

It must also be said that the more the RPF harrasses and seeks to intimidate Mme. Ingabire into submission (compliance to its policies and politics?), the greater the burden on Mme. Ingabire, should she be allowed to stand as a presidential candidate, to seek consensus among Rwandans of all ethnicities, social groupings and economic classes.

We've yet to see a platform from Mme. Ingabire, and we don't know much about what are her plans for Rwanda. Memorializing the lives lost during the genocide and all the lives lost before, during and the after the genocide. What about the economy? Who are her main aides and allies? Does she enjoy popular support in the hills? Perhaps this is because she has yet to officially register as a candidate, and consequently cannot campaign.

Mme. Ingabire's continued harassment at the hands of the RPF makes it difficult, if not impossible, for her to get on with the business of being a politician.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Iyindi Shusho ya Jenoside yo mu 1994

Inyandiko yanjye iherutse “Rwanda’s Ethnic Card – Ikarita y’ Ubwoko mu Rwanda” yazamuye ibibazo bikomeye byanyohererejwe kuri email cg ku rubuga rwanjye. Muri iyi nyandiko, ndifuza gusangira n’ abasomyi ibitekerezo mfite k’ uburyo ishyaka FPR Inkotanyi riri k’ ubutegetsi rikoresha jenoside yo muri 1994 mu nyungu zaryo za politiki.
Mu ipfundo rya gahunda za FPR nyuma ya jenoside zigamije kubaka igihugu haganje intego y’ ubumwe n’ ubwiyunge. Mu mpapuro, gahunda igizwe n’ uburyo bwo guteza imbere ubumwe bw’ amoko y’ abahutu n’ abatutsi kugirango habeho uRwanda rumwe rw’ abanyarwanda bose. Ariko mu by’ ukuri, iyi gahunda yihishemo imigambi Leta ifite yo gucecekesha abaturage ikoresheje imvugo y’ ubumwe bw’ amoko mu gihe ahubwo bashaka gukomeza ubutegetsi bw’ ishyaka riri k’ ubutegetsi ariryo FPR.

Gahunda ya Leta irebana n’ ubumwe n’ ubwiyunge ifite imizi mu isobanurwa ry’ amateka y’ imyaka irenga ijana. Raporo z’ amateka dukesha Komisiyo y’ uRwanda y’ Ubumwe n’ Ubwiyunge zitubwira ko umuryango nyarwanda wari usanzwe ufite ubwo bumwe mbere y’ uko ba gashakabuhake na Kiliziya Gatolika baza mu Rwanda. Iyo komisiyo ivuga ko inkomoko y’ ubwicanyi bwo muri 1994 ari amacakubiri ashingiye k’ ubwoko abo bagashakabuhake bashyize mu banyarwanda. Bemeza ko bashingiye ku mabwiriza arebana n’ ubumwe n’ ubwiyunge, ubutegetsi bw’ abahutu bwa nyuma y’ ubukoloni: Kayibanda (1962-1973) na Habyarimana (1973-1994) bwakoresheje amoko mu gutatanya abanyarwanda.

Leta ya FPR yashyizeho uburyo bwinshi kugirango abaturage basobanukirwe n’ akamaro k’ ubumwe hagati y’ amoko. Leta ya nyuma ya jenoside yashyizeho ibigo byitwa ingando bigamije kumvisha abaturage impamvu za nyazo zateye jenoside. Leta kandi ikangulira abanyarwanda guhora bibuka jenoside, akaba ariyo mpamvu yashyizeho ibigo by’ urwibutso kimwe n’ ahashyinguwe abazize itsembabwoko kugirango abanyarwanda bumve ingaruka z’ amacakubiri ashingiye k’ ubwoko. Muri ayo mazu y’ urwibutso ari hirya no hino mu gihugu herekanwa ibisigazwa by’ abazize jenoside, ari ku nkuta cg mu mva zifunguye, cg mu byumba by’ ahabereye ubwicanyi. Buri mwaka haba gahunda zo kwibuka bimara icyumweru guhera taliki ya 7-14 Mata mu kwibutsa abanyarwanda ingaruka z’ amacakubiri ashingiye ku moko.

Leta iyobowe na FPR yashyizeho iminsi mikuru – Umunsi w’ Intwari (1 Gashyantare), Umunsi wo kwizera (7 Mata), Umunsi w’ Ubwigenge (1 Nyakanga), Umunsi wo kwibohoza (4 Nyakanga), n’ Umunsi wo gukunda igihugu (1 Ukwakira) – muri gahunda yo gucengeza ubumwe hagati y’ amoko kimwe no guha abayobozi urubuga rwo kwibutsa abanyarwanda ko bagomba kurwanya ingengabitekerezo ya jenoside. Itegekonshinga ryasubiwemo muri 2003 ryaciye imvugo yose yerekeranye n’ amoko (ingingo ya 33) kimwe no guhana umuntu wese uvangura amoko cg upfobya jenoside (ingingo ya 13). FPR kandi yahinduye muri 2006 amazina y’ uturere mu nzengo zose z’ ubutegetsi, kuva ku mirenge kugeza mu ntara, muri gahunda yo gukingira abacitse ku icumu no kubibagiza aho ababo baguye.

Ibi byose bijyana na gahunda y’ ubwiyunge bw’ amoko no kwibuka bigamije gukomeza ubutegetsi bwa FPR yakwirakwije abayoboke bayo hirya no hino mu butegetsi. Biragoye rwose kugirango umunyarwanda usanzwe akore ubuzima bwe bwa buri munsi, yemwe ntibinaboroheye kugirango bagere ku bwiyunge nyabwo na bagenzi babo. Umupfakazi w’ umututsikazi yagize ati, “sinshobora gushyigikira ibyo bita ubumwe mu gihe nzi ko ikigamijwe ari ugutanya abahutu n’ abatutsi. Iyiba leta yari ituretse, twakwishakiye uburyo bwacu bwo kwiyunga. Ubu tugomba kubikora mu ruhame, kandi tukabikora igihe babidusabye. FPR ntabwo ishishikajwe n’ uko twiyunga bya nyabyo, bahangayikishijwe n’ imyanya yabo gusa…”.
Mu yandi magambo, umuntu wese, baba abanyapolitiki batavuga rumwe n’ ubutegetsi, abanyamakuru, abaharanira uburenganzira bw’ ikiremwamuntu, uzatinyuka kurwanya cg gukemanga uburyo FPR isobanura aya amateka, bimuviramo ingorane zikomeye.

Summoned, not arrested

I wrote here on 15 February that Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza was scheduled to be arrested at 2pm on Tuesday, 16 Feburary.

Instead, she was summoned to CID HQ. The available report says she is cooperating with police.

I cannot tell you how much I admire this woman. She must know she has no serious chance of becoming Rwanda's next president. Instead, she is playing the much more important (and dangerous) role of revealing to international and Rwandan observers alike the extent to which President Paul Kagame and his RPF controls the political landscape.

She is what the Rwandans call igipinga, meaning someone with deep-rooted principles.

Bravo Mme. Ingabire...!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Because the law IS ambiguous

Last Friday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told international media and diplomats to stop criticising the genocide ideology law. A summary of the speech is here.

In typical dictatorial style, Kagame was all bravado and no substance. The reason international observers, and some Rwandans, including opposition politicians from the Green Party and the UDF, criticise the law precisely because it is ambiguous. Article 19, in an excellent Comment writes, "that the Genocide Ideology Law is counterproductive to its apparent objectives (2009: 3).

Indeed, the objective of the law is to eliminate the genocide ideology from the hearts and minds of Rwandans. First, as the Article 19 Comment notes, the law is poorly defined: what is genocide ideology anyway? The government has never answered this question to the satisfation of international observers, despite publishing a Senate Report on the eradication of genocide ideology in Rwandan society in 2008. (This Report appears not to be available online. I have an electronic copy which I can share). Broadly stated, genocide ideology equates with ethnic enmity, meaning the hatred that Hutu have for Tutsi which caused them to kill in the first place. This simplistic interpretation of the root causes of the genocide ignores the prevailing academic research which finds that “Rwandans’ motivations [for killing] were considerably more ordinary and routine than the extraordinary crimes they helped commit” (Straus, 2006: 96). Among ordinary Hutu, participation was driven by intra-ethnic pressure from other Hutu, usually more socially powerful Hutu, security fears in the context of civil war and genocide as well as opportunity for looting and score settling. Ethnic enmity was not the main factor that pushed ordinary Hutu to kill their neighbours. It was the state-sanctioned order to kill combined with the context of fear and insecurity that made killing an option.

Yet, the genocide ideology law, and the sentiments behind it remains a fact of life in contemporary Rwanda. As a senior RPF official told me during my re-education in 2006, "“we [senior RPF members] would rather be conscious of our enemy [read Hutu] than naively pretend, like you whites, to think we have no enemy out there planning to exterminate us but instead to hopelessly fantasise about a utopian Rwanda”.

This sentiment, which I believe is widely held among Rwanda's current political and economic elite, is what drives Kagame's angry reaction to international critics. He sincerely believes that the RPF is dealing with an internal enemy. It is this belief that makes peace and reconciliation so elusive in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region

Monday, February 15, 2010

Moving Farther and Farther Away from Democracy

As I write this, reports, both formal from NGOs like Human Rights Watch and informal from friends and colleagues resident in Rwanda and in the diaspora, continue to pour in about the excesses of the current Rwandan government. The RPF continues to tighten its grip on the socio-political sphere while taking extra-ordinary steps to appear democratic. Where is the international community in all of this? At this stage, I can only be heartened by Commonwealth's announcement that it will monitor Rwanda's upcoming elections. Where are representatives of the EAC, APRM and the AU? I have little faith that the Americans, Brits and even Canada will hold the RPF to account for its lack of democratic accountability and transparency.

I want to situate two pieces of information that I received today in broader context. First, I received a news report that the government has splurged on luxury jets. Second, I received word from a colleague that Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is due to be arrested tomorrow (16 February 2010) at 2pm Kigali time. Let's situate this information in state theory, notably the concept of neopatrimonialism. In particular, I will demonstrate that Rwanda is less democratic today than the RPF-led government claims.

Neopatrimonialism is a concept that states there is no separation of the public and private realms. In non-academic terms, this means that the politics of those in power (currently the RPF) trump the functioning of the institutions of the state. This means that the government can declare that it will arrest a political opponent at 2pm the next day because it does not fear the repercussions from other institutions of the state. In a functioning democracy, and this is the theoretical norm, there is a clearly articulated separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Post-genocide Rwanda, just like pre-genocide Rwanda, exhibits a concentration of political power in the hands of one individual. At the moment, that individual is Paul Kagame.

Kagame markets himself to international audiences as a benevolent and thoughtful leader who has brought economic development and social reconciliation to Rwandans. This is indeed the case if one does not venture beyond the confines of Kigali. Rwanda's capital is indeed a testament to the ability of any country to rebuild in the aftermath of conflict. However, looking only at Kigali's brilliance masks the fact that at least 85% of Rwandans (MINCOFIN statistics, 2006) live below the poverty line.

Kigali's gleaming exterior also hides the fact that Kagame delegates only the most trivial of tasks. He has his hand on virtually every political, social and economic decision taken in Rwanda. For anyone who doubts this, I suggest you read Joseph Sebarenzi's God Sleeps in Rwanda as he writes about how Kagame skillfully kept his distance while engineering his downfall as Rwanda's Speaker of Parliament.

Beyond this concentration of political power in one individual, neopatrimonial governments award personal favours to other elites to secure their political power. This is why Rwanda has such a large cabinet, a bloated senate and numerous political posts with no institutional mandate. If these favours are not enough to assure Kagame that those closest to him are loyal, he has also instituted imihigo (performance) contracts with local officials. Officials at all levels of the bureaucracy sign this contracts directly with Kagame in public signing sessions. In addition, local officials sign imihigo contracts with individual households in their bailiwick. Those who do not meet their arbitrarily assigned development goals are fined, imprisoned, and in some cases worse. For academic analysis of the sanctions meted out to ordinary Rwandans, see Ingelaere's Living the Transition .

In post-genocide Rwanda, personal favours takes on a different meaning. Yes, the country is one of the least corrupt in the world, let alone Africa (where I think Westerners completely mis-understand how African states and societies intermingle; African states are no more or less corrupt than Western states, it is only that the corruption is of a different texture). For Kagame, personal favour means he will not threaten, harass, beat up, imprison, or kill you.

Another good example of the insecurity of Kagame's rule is the RPF's Oath of Oneness. The Oath is a solemn declaration that individual Rwandans take (most are forced to take it) to publicly demonstrate individual commitment to RPF rule. In taking the Oath, individuals vow to faithfully serve the party and accept that any attempt to get out of the party will be interpreted by party elites as an act of treason.

Mechanisms like the imihigo contracts and the Oath of Oneness actually reveal the extent to which Kagame does not legitimately enjoy the consent of the population he governs. If he had legitimate consent, would he need to impose himself on every nook and cranny of the Rwandan socio-political realm?

Lastly, the third feature of neopatrimonialism is the misuse of state resources. A good example is the recent news that the government owns two private jets, each valued at USD50 million each, allegedly for the "exclusive" use of the President of Rwanda (the government does not deny ownership, only that they are for the President's exclusive use). Beyond the ownership of the jets is the fact that the RPF tried to hide its ownership in registering the jets to a specially-created South African company.

There are other examples of the RPF's misuse of state resources, including the toothless ombudsman's report from mid-2008, and the use of state coffers for RPF presidential and parliamentary campaigning.

Long story short, under Paul Kagame and his RPF, Rwanda is not democratic; it never was. This is wholly contradictory to the RPF's message that the country is actively democratizing as the basis of peace and security, both in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region more broadly.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Representing the 1994 Genocide

My last post on Rwanda's Ethnic Card raised some important questions, made to me via email and on the comment board. In this post, I want to share my thoughts on the ways in which the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) represents the 1994 genocide in ways that reinforce its political power.

At the heart of the RPF's post-genocide reconstruction effort is the policy of national unity and reconciliation. On paper, the programme is a set of mechanisms that aims to promote ethnic unity between Tutsi and Hutu in creating one Rwanda for all Rwandans. In practice, it disguises the government’s efforts to control its population by using the language of ethnic unity and social inclusion while working to consolidate the political power of the ruling RPF.

The government’s programme of national unity and reconciliation is grounded in a specific interpretation of more than a century of history. According to “historical” documents produced by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Rwandan society was essentially unified before the arrival of colonial powers and the Catholic Church. A direct cause of the 1994 genocide is the ethnic divisions imposed on Rwanda by colonial rule. According to the policy of national unity and reconciliation, the post-colonial Hutu-led governments of Kayibanda (1962-1973) and Habyarimana (1973-1994) used ethnicity strategically to divide Rwandans.

Significant state resources are dedicated to ensuring the population understands the importance of ethnic unity. The post-genocide government has established mandatory solidarity camps known as ingando to “re-educate” the population on the root causes of the genocide. The government also encourages a collective memory of the genocide through memorial sites and mass graves that double as genocide museums to show the end-result of ethnic divisionism. In many sites across the country, the bodies of victims are on display, exposed on shelves, in semi-open tombs, or in the rooms where the killing took place. Every year, annual commemorations are held during national mourning week (7 to 14 April) to remind Rwandans of the pernicious effects of ethnic divisionism.

The RPF-led government has introduced new national holidays – Heroes Day (1 February), Day of Hope (April 7), Independence Day (1 July), Liberation Day (4 July), and Patriotism Day (1 October) – to accord with the vision of ethnic unity and act as platforms for leaders to remind Rwandans of the need to fight the ideology of genocide. The 2003 revised Constitution made illegal public references to ethnic identity (article 33) and criminalised ‘ethnic divisionism’ and ‘trivializing the genocide’ (article 13). The RPF also changed place names at all administrative levels, from villages to provinces, in 2006 as part of Rwanda’s administrative re-structuring to protect genocide survivors from remembering where their relatives died.

All of these mechanism of ethnic unity and memory work to consolidate the power of the RPF by spreading its loyalists throughout the bureaucratic apparatus. There is virtually no room for ordinary Rwandans to shape their everyday lives, let alone sincerely reconcile with one another. As a Tutsi widower said, "I can hardly support this notion of national unity when I know it is meant to keep us [Hutu and Tutsi] apart. If they [the government] left us alone, we could find our own ways to reconcile. Now, we have to do it publicly, and when we are told to do so. The RPF doesn’t care about if we truly reconcile, they only care about their own positions...".

In other words, anyone, including opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders, who challenge or question the RPF’s interpretation of the historical record will suffer the wrath of the government.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rwanda's Ethnic Card: Who is manipulating whom?

On 10 February 2010, Human Rights Watch called on the Government of Rwanda to end attacks on opposition parties. Read the press release for the full commentary. Reuters reported that Rwanda's political opposition (meaning Mme. Ingabire) will likely face criminal charges for playing the ethnic card.

I would like to add a layer of context to these two reports. On the BBC Africa Service on 10 February (Focus on Africa), Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch spoke correctly when she said that attacks on opposition politicians were intensifying.

I agree with her 100%. Such attacks are not new, they are only more intense in this round of elections. I am pleased to learn that the Government of Rwanda has agreed to accept Commonwealth election monitors. I only hope they actually consider more than the bare basics of electoral democracy (ballot stuffing, padding voter lists, etc) to consider the ways in which the ruling RPF plays the ethnic card that it accuses Ms. Ingabire of manipulating.

The RPF has outlawed public reference to ethnicity. It justifies its intolerance of political dissent in the name of eliminating the ideology of genocide and ethnic divisionism which it claims drove all Hutu to kill all Tutsi. My own research reveals the extent to which the RPF has instrumentalised the genocide to protect and consolidate its own political power. The RPF claims that the ultimate blame for the 1994 genocide rests with the colonial powers who promoted divisive politics that resulted in the ethnic hatred of ALL Hutu for ALL Tutsi. This simplistic interpretation of events works to mask the crimes against humanity and war crimes that the RPF itself committed before, during and after the genocide.

This simplistic interpretation of all Hutu killing all Tutsi does more than overlook the myriad ways in ordinary Rwandans, irrespective of ethnicity were caught up in the maelstrom. It also hides from view, in the name of ethnic unity, that many Hutu died including those who died trying to protect Tutsi. Equally, there are Tutsi who put themselves on the line to protect Hutu family and friends. Many Tutsi survived because of the aid and succor of a Hutu family member, friend, colleague, neighbour or strangers. There are also stories of Twa and Hutu who died because of their Tutsi features (for more see Des Forges, 1999; Fujii 2009; and Straus 2006 for the various forms of killing and the attendant motivations).

These different forms of killing and surviving are not accounted for under the current government. It is recognition of what Fujii (2009) calls "webs of violence" that I think Mme. Ingabire is asking the RPF to allow. The ferocity of the government's reaction -- threats, harassment, and physical violence -- to her request to take into consideration and account all the lives lost in 1994 is revealing. It reveals the insecurity of the current government as it expects deference and compliance to its directives. Those who dare break the facade, or try to peek behind the veil of peace and security, are treated harshly.

A good example of the lack of legitimacy that the RPR-led government has among ordinary Rwandans is its politicisation of individual mourning. The RPF seeks to control the ways that ordinary Rwandans -- Tutsi, Hutu and Twa -- mourn their lost loved ones.

First, only official survivors are recognised, and the RPF represents their trauma symbolically through the image of a lonely, wounded survivor as the personification of the 1994 genocide. The RPF invokes this image of the traumatised survivor to silence criticism from the international community. The lives lost -- Tutsi, Hutu and Twa -- in the violence before (1990-April 1994) and after (July 1994 to September 1999) are not memorialised.

The government uses the official mourning period (7 to 14 April every year to assert its official version of what happened during the genocide. Survivors (read Tutsi) are clearly distinguished from the killers (read Hutu). This single version of events hardly captures the multiplicity of individual experiences.

The genocide means more to ordinary Rwandans than just the idea that all Hutu killed all Tutsi; some Tutsi killed, some Hutu protected Tutsi; Twa also participated; just as some joined in, others stood by. Despite this, the government requires that Rwandans of all ethnicities attend mourning week events, notably the exhumation of mass graves and reburial of bodies, and listening to the speeches of government officials that remind the population of the need to “never again” allow genocide in Rwanda.

Many ordinary Rwandans that I spoke with in 2006, both in formal interviews and through participant observation, said that they felt the RPF was manipulating the way the genocide is remembered to maintain their positions of power and wealth rather than truly seeking to unify the country.

As Gaston, a released Hutu prisoner, told me, “We dig up bodies for reburial at the national ceremony but how do we know those remains are even Tutsi bodies? We [Hutu] died as well, but nothing is mentioned about how we suffered during the genocide. Not all of us killed you know. Instead we go because our new government says we must; we were told this very clearly at ingando (citizenship re-education camp)”. (I write about the humiliation of ingando here).

Others, particularly Tutsi survivors, acknowledged the reburials as “a little bit necessary for national healing” but would prefer to do it in private, “away from the spotlight”. In homogenising the diverse individual lived experiences of victims of the genocide – Hutu, Tutsi and Twa – as well as those of individuals who lived through the violence of the 1990-1994 civil war, and the emergency period after the genocide (1995-2000), the RPF is stage-managing and politicizing individual mourning.

I think the RPF harassed and harmed Mme. Ingabire because she spoke out against this stage-managing and politicization of individual mourning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Current situation in Rwanda "explosive"?

Yesterday I viewed Ann Garrison's report entitled Election Rwanda 2010: Paul Kagame, Victoire Ingabire & Memories of the Genocide.

As much as I learn from Garrison's insights, and appreciate her commitment to letting the American public know what is going on at the moment in Rwanda, I think there is one part of her piece that is misleading to those viewers with a general knowledge of the country. This matters because most foreigners buy into the rhetoric of Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Rick Warren and others that Rwanda is an "African success story". Indeed it is, if you focus only on the economic developments in the country. Once you realise that economic growth is built on the politics of exclusion, with the spoils of economic growth accruing largely to members of the ruling RPF and its loyalists. I therefore want to contextualise one part of Ms. Garrison's important piece of reporting.

Garrison puts to the opposition politician (and presidential hopeful) Victoire Ingabire that "the situation is very very tense", that "it's very explosive" and "without real reconciliation there is the danger of more violence".

I agree that Rwanda is on the path to more violence but that the conditions do not presently exist for mass violence in the way that Ingabire's response to Garrison's question suggests. Ingabire, as an newly returned former exile, does not have the broad-base grassroots support to tip individuals to mass violence in ways that were a partial cause of the 1994 genocide. However, I do believe that there will be pogroms and other small-scale, local-level acts of violence. In fact these are already happening in some parts of the country according to my sources currently resident in Rwanda.

Foreign analysts like Ann Garrison and me need to watch for, document and speak out about these so-called isolated acts of violence as it is the "practice" of killing that prepares the population for mass violence while contributing to the conditions of fear and insecurity that make mass violence possible.

It is also important to keep in mind that the RPF controls the countryside ("the hills") and that the peasant population (some 80% of the populace) is highly surveilled by local government officials and other agents of the state. There is little room for manoeuvre and even less opportunity to organise any resistance let alone a revolt.

The situation is however "explosive" for Ms. Ingabire and members of her UDF party as they have been menanced, threatened and beaten up, presumably by members of the RPF security branch (mostly likely members of the Department of Military Intelligence and its agents). Ingabire rightly points out that Hutu lives lost are not part of Rwanda's collective memory, and that this needs to be rectified for sincere reconciliation to occur in the country.

I agree 100%. It is, as I write elsewhere, a false reconciliation. The RPF has politicised the memory of the genocide for its own political gain. It does so in the name of national unity and reconciliation. Anyone who speaks outside the accepted boundaries of public speech about how the genocide happened, the nature of the killing (of Twa, Tutsi and Hutu), and the role of the RPF in stopping it are treated just as Ms. Ingabire and her cohort is treated. There is no freedom of expression; there is no room for criticism of the governmtn. The local media operates at the behest of the RPF.

In sum, these are more than worrying trends. They are also the same signs of violence that characterised the pre-genocide period (1990-1994).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Swimming Against the Tide

Given all that I have seen and heard since the Rwandan Green Party first tried to register as a political party in May 2009, I am now compelled to begin to document what is going on in Rwanda. The nature of the intimidation and control that the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front uses against its political opponents is more severe in this round of Presidential elections than it was in 2003 when the government harassed and menaced the opposition while allowing it to register its political parties and campaign in a flawed election.

See the 2003 report of the European Union and the 2006 academic analysis of Meierhenrich in the journal Electoral Studies). Readers can also refer to the EU report on the 2008 parliamentary elections in which 56% of the seats went to women. I, along with Erin Baines and Stephen Brown, criticise the elections as feckless in The Guardian

This 2010 round of elections is shaping up differently. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front is more open in its tactics of suppressing dissent and ensuring that it discredits the opposition as groups intent on spreading the seeds of divisionism and spreading genocide ideology (both are undefined, applied arbitrarily to discredit and suppress opposition voices; both are also constitutionally mandated). This is not democratic in even the most narrow definitions of democracy. I think this is because the government has further consolidated its control of the socio-political space since 2003, and is now able to silence dissent with physical violence (as witnessed both again the Green Party and most recently the UDF) without repercussion.

A colleague said to me that the most recent wave of violence against opposition leaders is a test for the international community. Reflecting on what Peter Uvin wrote in his 1998 book "Aiding Violence" about how the international donor community helped create and consolidate the conditions for the 1994 genocide, I think my colleague is on to something important. President Kagame is testing the international community to see how far he can push his allies, notably the UK and the US. It is unfortunate that no donor has come out forcefully to ask Kagame to respect the democratic process that he himself asserts is the basis of Rwanda's present and future peace and security.

Of course, the alleged peace and security the Rwanda currently enjoys is built on the politics of exclusion. The ruling RPF has politicised Tutsi victimhood and is practicing mass justice for mass atrocity against Hutu. The presumption of only Tutsi survivors of the genocide and only Hutu perpetrators recreates in practice the ethnic divisions that Kagame himself claims will move Rwanda from a culture of ethnic hatred to one of ethnic unity. The two broad distinctions are now survivors and perpetrators. This has the effect of erasing the lived experiences of genocide of a significant percentage of the population. It also has the potential effect of crystallising and creating stronger dissent in the future. For those who have studied Rwanda's history, the parallels between this moment in Rwanda history and the twilight of the independence period are striking. See C. Newbury's "The Cohesion of Oppression" (1988).

That the ruling RPF is building a society built on the politics of exclusion is acknowledged only by the academics, and a few forward looking journalists. Unfortunately, most, like Kinzer and Gourevitch, praise Kagame and his RPF as a benevolent leader that cares deeply about his people (see my review of Kinzer's book in the journal African Studies Review). The available evidence certainly does not support this view; Kagame is an authoritarian dictator that cares more about his own political power than he does about ordinary Rwandans -- Tutsi, Hutu or Twa.

If you take only one thing away from the post, it is that swimming against the dominant narrative, carefully crafted by the RPF for international consumption, is dangerous, perhaps even life-threatening for courageous individuals who choose to stand up and speak out against its excesses. Swimming against the tide also means standing up and calling on international actors to take action in Rwanda. The RPF, like the Habyarimana regime before it, has imposed tight control over the activities of opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and any real or perceived critic.