Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Protesting Kagame Only One Part of the Equation

I have been contacted in the past few weeks to support Rwandans living in the Disapora to protest President Paul Kagame's upcoming visit to France. I do support such actions in principle, because I think it is important that Rwandans and others interested in peace and security in the country (and region) engage in such protest. It is important to continue to alert members of the international community of Kagame's human rights excesses and continued repression of various political freedoms.

Of late, I am finding the tone and pitch of the language used by members of the Disapora worrying. In some cases, opinion is centred on 'getting rid of Kagame' without much regard to what a post- RPF Rwanda might look like. Certainly, Kagame will have to face justice for crimes committed before and during his tenure, but this day is not around the corner. If anything, it's a long shot to think that Kagame will face international justice, and consequently not a meaningful strategy for change. By 'change', I think these critics mean opening up the political space. Indeed, this is an important issue, but is not in my opinion the most pressing one at this moment. The conditions on the ground simply do not exist for a serious accounting of history, opposition politics, and political freedoms are not ripe.

Instead, I think activists and advocates should be focusing on calling out the RPF on its relations with the peasantry. The 'peasantry' (some 90% of Rwandans) are left out of the gains brought by the country's impressive economic growth. Finding meaningful ways to narrow this gap seems to me to be the most pressing issue facing Rwanda at the moment.

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