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).


  1. Um but what is the main point? I mean I dont understand this. Can you please email me the current situation? I really need it for my project for historical globalization. Simpler words is actually what I am looking for....

  2. Some of you Rwandans are real idiots. Either you are misinformed, or may be you have some hidden agenda to talk shit about your country like that.

    I am Tanzanian, and have just been back from Rwanda a couple of days ago. And IMO the situation is not the best in the world, but not as grave as you are trying to put it. And honestly, I begun envying how that country is run compared to ours.

    Yes there are people are struggling in Rwanda. And cross the border to Tanzania and you will also find people struggling as well. And one obvious difference you will see is that they also have to bribe for almost anything they get.

    I wonder who are the ordinary people that feed you information from Rwanda. As I was travelling to Rwanda and back by bus, one thing I noticed is Rwandans complaining a lot when in the Tanzanian side, especially when a trafic policeman stops the bus to reqest yet another bribe. And they seemed to be using Rwanda as a reference for how things should be run.

    The solution is for people like you to stop whining and go back there and work your asses out, for the sake of the struggling men and women you worry about. The things that worried me are the shortages of indigenous professionals: teachers, etc.

    I am sure if you were given that country to run, you would be filling this blog with enormous challenges facing you, challenges that at the moment you are trying to pretend to do not exist.

  3. Having lived and worked in Rwanda I can only say one thing - it's either this or much more violence and bloodshed... One has to understand from where this country is coming from and hear what some Hutu leaders are still preaching for...

  4. I just read this for the first time, though it was written in February, Susan, and I think it's very unfair to both Ingabire and myself because there was never any talk of any desire on her part to tip individuals to mass violence." Indeed, after speaking with her off and on for six months, I am convinced that she is very much committed to nonviolent solutions, that she believes there are no violent or military solutions. She has many times urged the population not to be provoked into violence.

    This paragraph is therefore very unfair, to her and me:

    "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."

  5. Hi can anyone explain the current situation in rwanda and the international involvement in the areas of democratic uprising???