Thursday, May 27, 2010

But you can't get blood from a stone

In advance of August's presidential elections, the ruling RPF is bragging about its fiscal and monetary policy. One of the key factors that keeps international donors giving the necessary funds to keep Rwanda moving economically forward is the government's management of the economy. (Note however there are few critical voices. Witness this recent policy statement from the US Department of State).

This recent posting from on the further decentralisation of the Rwandan Revenue Authority begs the question, how do you get blood from a stone?

Most Rwandans are more poor under the leadership of the RPF. True, Kigali gleams with new buildings, shiny streets and internet cafes. But some 87% of Rwandans are peasants. They own less land than they did before the genocide because of new agricultural and land policies put in place in the name of economic growth. Starvation is up, even as Rwanda reports bump crops. Bumper crops of coffee and tea do not feed people! The same people that the RPF bases its legitimacy upon and who are being told (in sensitisation speeches, radio announcements and presidential pronouncements) "to vote for the right ones this time".

Democracy without a citizenry is not democracy at all....

Monday, May 17, 2010

settling into a democratic culture?

In 1998, noted historian of the Great Lakes Region, Gerard Prunier wrote that by 1993 Rwanda had "settled into a war culture" (p. 108). Prunier means that violence became the accepted way of doing politics in the run-up to the 1994 genocide. (Prunier was writing in reaction to the failed implementation of the Arusha Accords by Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Habyarimana's National Revolutionary Development Movement (Mouvement Revolutionaire National pour le Developpement, MRND) and the internal political opposition made up of newly created political parties).

I think Prunier's words remain timely with the recent grenade attacks in Kigali (one or two dead and at least 18 injured, depending on which news source you consult). The ruling RPF has argued in The Huffington Post, in an article by Presidential advisor Jean-Paul Kimonyo, that Rwanda is not yet ready for democracy. Kimonyo furthered his argument in a 12 May article asking Who Qualifies to Judge Rwanda?.

This time, President Kagame has no senior military officials to blame; they've fled the country. Why? We don't actually know. No one is speaking out in a meaningful way.

As for the current and still only potential opposition, I don't believe that Victoire Ingabire is a serious threat to Kagame, so he has no real reason to continue arresting and harassing here. I believe that Kagame is projecting onto the current opposition what his RPF (and other political actors) did before the genocide. Use the cover the politics to foment violence. Political authorities loyal to Habyarimana organised rallies and sensitisation meetings to convince ordinary Rwandans to remain loyal to the political "family" (the ruling MRND). The RPF has done the same, asserting an oath-of-oneness that adherents are forced to swear on a sword. Those that do not uphold their loyalty to the RPF "family" can die by that same sword.

Such actions are first steps towards creating a democratic deficit rather and a culture of war that normalises violence in everyday life. We already know that this has led to mass violence and genocide in Rwanda.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Presidential results announced before the vote?

A reader of this blog sent me this morning a government of Rwanda publication on the electoral schedule for rolling out the vote.

Note that the results of the election are scheduled to be announced prior to the vote ...!

A misprint, or not?

Global Integrity is looking for critical voices in Rwanda

Last year, I worked with Global Integrity on its 2009 country report for Rwanda.

They are now asking for the names of academics, journalists and other stakeholders in the fight against corruption in Rwanda for a May 2010 meeting with Rwanda's Governance Advisory Council. You can learn more about their workshops at:

I question the timing of the workshop, and the implicit support it provides to the government when it should be disciplined for its continued (and heightened) repression. Nonetheless, it is still going to happen.

Can anyone recommend interested and critical voices that would be willing to attend such a workshop in Kigali? Given that the government is allergic to criticism and any academic, journalist, etc that you would like to talk to is likely living abroad.

I ask anyway, in hopes that some "ibipinga" might step forward!

It's not oppression, it's the rules!

I am increasingly worried about the type of information that is flowing out of the mouths of Rwandan political elites these days. This recent East African piece from the former Minister of Information and current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, is emblematic of government spin-doctoring on its oppressive behaviour. Academics, journalists and others who care about peace in Rwanda and the region need to challenge the misinformation of the government in advance of the August elections.

I would provide my views on the attached article as anyone who reads this blog (or my academic work) that the piece is absurd. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think. Perhaps we can have a dialogue on that....

I would much rather hear from Nyamwasa and others who recently fled (quit?) their senior military posts.

I also wish I had time to survey Kagame's speeches from 1999 until present more closely. My sense is that the rhetoric is hardening subtlety and creatively over time. Does anyone have a student or colleague working on such a project?