Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dear International Community who support peace in Rwanda,

Dear members of the international donor and diplomatic community who think you are supporting democracy and peace in Rwanda,

I know you are all busy, and much more important that academics and other analysts of Rwanda like me. I'll get straight to the point: Paul Kagame and his RPF are employing the same mechanisms and tactics of social and political control and ethnic exclusion that Habyarimana's regime did before the genocide. There is little new about Kagame's "new" Rwanda that you support both morally and financially. You have a collective chance to intervene now that the Rwandan police have once again detained the leader of the main opposition party, Victoire Inagbire. See this report from AFP on her detention.

She has been summarily and systematically detained without cause since she returned to the country in January 2010.

I urge you to use your diplomatic resources to compare Kagame's speeches in English (incendiary againt the opposition but generally respecting Ingabire's right to be a politician) and Kinyarwanda. In his speeches for Rwandans are broadcast on Radio Rwanda in Kinyarwanda. The broad conclusion is that he uses the memory of the 1994 genocide to intimidate people. He also uses inflammatory ethnic language; the same language he accuses Ingabire and other opposition politicians of using to incite violence in Rwanda. I am not saying he is purposefully inciting violence, but he is actively promoting a climate of fear and insecurity that is contrary to the content of his English language speeches, which presumably are made for our (international audiences) consumption.


  1. may be you will be heard since many ears have close against KAGAME with his evil political of elimination and determination of his enemies.

  2. Here is some data from a recent Washington Post editorial: "Rwanda is one of the few nations in the developing world spending more on education than on the military. Kagame re-wrote the constitution such that his party cannot have more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament. Though Kagame is from one ethnic group, his Prime Minister and 70 percent of his cabinet are from the other. Thirty percent of elected officials at the level of municipality, parliament, and cabinet are required to be women; and a world-leading 56 percent of parliament is now women. The country is secure and the World Bank's Doing Business report recognized Rwanda as the greatest reforming nation in the world last year."

  3. I find your blog thought-provoking and can see that you're striving to remain neutral to the issues. But I get the feeling you haven't spent much time in Rwanda and have relied heavily on narratives provided by others who, as with all media (independent and government RPF sponsored), are pushing a private agenda.

    Selective reading will leave you heavily biased, as will entering the debate with precoceived notions of the current situation.

    As an academic, I appreciate that you're bringing a great deal of political theory to the debate about the need for 'democracy' in Rwanda. But I'd like to recommend approaching Rwandan politics with a slightly more open mind.

    For example, Kagame seems to be clamping down on opposition. This much is true. And yet, do the opposition groups offer anything constructive? -- have a quick browse through Ingabire's interviews and you'd be hard pressed to find anything regarding policy, development strategies, modes for reconciliattion, alternatives for justice that is practical or constructive.

    Plainly, yes we should support the right for opposition parties to have a voice, but we should apply similarly rigerous criticism to the rival presidential hopefuls.

    With regret, this journalist feels Ingabire lacks the political acumen to execute leadership of an extremely volatile and controversial country. We'd all like a Mandela or Ghandi to appear in opposition to the excessively repressive tendencies of Kagame and his over-zealous security forces. But this isnt the case -- Ingabire as an individual and her party's rhetoric are worryingly close to the FDLR. Incidentally, it's worth asking yourself who her supporters are, who's her political fanbase, who is funding her campaign -- you wont find much because she wont tell the press; an extra-ordinary tactic considering her desire to prove her distance herself from the FDLR and genocidaire in the diaspora.

    I dont need to repeat her comments on arrival to Kigali at the genocide memorial which was a catastrophic political blunder. She had 16 years to repare her triumphant return speech, only to gift the local propaganda machine a golden opportunity to slander and destroy her name.

    Selecting an untainted running mate should have also been a priority.

    Lastly, she should know that to be selected as a credible presidential candidate she has to pass an 'integrity' test by a panal appointed by, yes you guessed it, the cabinet. Ladbrokes say the odds of this happening is... well... unlikely.

  4. You rightly say the international commuity should examine Kagame's speeches in Kinyarwanda -- we should equally look at the seemingly legitimate Ingabire speeches in Kinyarwanda.

    If you speek to ex-pats who have lived in Rwanda for more than a week, ambassadors from the main donor countries in particular, they'll all tell you there's a dissonance between the external views of Rwanda (positive and negative impression) and reality on the ground.

    There's no doubt that the stability Rwanda currently enjoys is a direct result of the authoritarian and centralised nature of Kagame's rule. But this isn't static. Rwanda is evolving. We should continue to pressure Kagame to improve the lives of Rwandan citizens in every sphere: education, health, security, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. But the final two parts are and should be, in the Rwandan context, contingent on responsible opposition and constructive criticism.

    Re-ethnicising Rwandan politics is not going to help anybody. Rwanda needs to tackle ethnicity as a defining characteristic of identity, but this is a slow process and tricky to accomplish in a way which resolves the issue whilst avoiding stirring up the same forces which mobilised people to kill their neighbours 16 years ago.

    Having said all that, you'll probably accuse me of being a Kagame fanatic, but you can save yourslef a lot of leg-work by scrutinising your sources for the underlying truths you espouse. i.e. are 90 perecnt of Rwandans really unhappy with Kagame -- he's reinstalled security, provincial health centers, helped improve education and begun reforming the judiciary (albeit work in progress).

    And here's my counter generalisation:

    I suspect that many Rwandans prioritise the above assets more than a nebulous concept of democracy.

    QUESTION EVERYTHING -- (including this comment)