AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA WONDERFUL IDEA BUT NEEDS PEACE, SECURITY, DEMOCRACY AND GOOD POLITICAL GOVERNANCE TO SUCCEED

Justin Bahunga, Commissioner for External Relations and spokesperson-FDU-Inkingi

PRESS RELEASE

The Rwandan political opposition, which is composed of Amahoro People’s
Congress – United Democratic Forces (FDU –Inkingi); PDP – Imanzi; PS
Imberakuri; Rwanda National Congress (RNC) commends the political will
of African Governments to reach an agreement on the establishment of an
African Continental free trade area and the protocol on free movement of
persons. The benefits are quite evident, and it is indeed long overdue
as the process started almost 40 years ago with the signing of the Lagos
Plan of Action in 1980 and the adoption of the Abuja treaty in 1991,
establishing the African Economic Community which was to culminate in
the establishment of an Africa common market. We would like also to
thank HE Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger most sincerely for leading this
process.

Rwandans, probably more than any other Africans are quite pleased with
the protocol on free movement of people, goods, capital and services as
Rwanda has become an open prison where citizens are choosing to live on
their knees to avoid prison, exile or being killed for criticising
government. African countries would greatly profit from the investments
of Rwandan businessmen, persecuted for their unwillingness to be part of
the omnipresent ruling party business empire “Crystal ventures” and from
the skilled labour excluded through cronyism. It would be an
opportunity for those who are forced into acts of violent repression, to
escape and help identify hit squads sent abroad to eliminate critics.

Freedom House report 2016 considers Rwanda a non-free country with 8/40
score in terms of political rights. Reporters without Borders 2017 ranks
Rwanda as 159 out of 180 countries surveyed, and 46 out of the 54
African countries. The Rwandan state is now called “an army with a state
rather than “a state with an army”, because of the central role of the
army in running the state. The army is also called or an “army without
borders “because of assassination and attempted assassinations of
critics across borders. The latest assassination attempt in London on a
British citizen of Rwandan origin was foiled by the British Police
hardly two weeks before the African Union Summit. A peaceful
demonstration of Congolese refugees in which 11 refugees according to
UNHCR happened hardly one month before the summit.

However, we also fully understand the points made by South Africa,
Nigeria and others who have not signed, because as democratic countries,
consultations must take place and laws reviewed before agreements are
signed. Notwithstanding the legal and constitutional implications, we
strongly believe that there are basic pillars to support and make the
agreement a success story namely, peace, security, democracy and good
political governance as contained in the Durban Declaration on
Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance” (July 2002).
The signatories undertook “to work with renewed determination to
enforce’, among other things, the rule of law; the equality of all
citizens before the law; individual and collective freedoms; the right
to participate in free, credible and democratic political processes; and
adherence to the separation of powers, including protection for the
independence of the judiciary and the effectiveness of parliaments”. The
African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) was then created in 2003 “to ensure
that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the
agreed political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and
standards.

In this regard that even though it is a pride for Rwandans that such an
important agreement on free trade is signed in Rwanda, the Rwandan
government was the wrong choice to organise this summit as its political
values and practices are quite opposite to the values of the Durban
declaration. Just to give a few examples, the Country Review Report of
the Republic of Rwanda 2006 by African Peer Review mechanism pointed out
that “while the Rwandan Constitution guarantees freedom to form, join
and belong to political parties, it simultaneously undermines that
freedom by attaching onerous conditions, such as political parties not
being able to operate at the grassroots below the provincial levels
which effectively “amounts to a denial of much political activity to
citizens, as most people reside at the district, sector and cell
levels”. The situation has worsened since that time. In the run up to
2010 presidential elections, several political leaders of the political
opposition and journalists were arrested, murdered or forced into exile.
FDU-Inkingi party was refused to register and its leader Mrs Ingabire
Umuhoza Victoire was arrested and has been sentenced to 15-years in
jail. The African Court for Human and People’s rights ruled that her
rights were violated during the trial and called for reparations, but
the government is still adamant to execute the ruling. Another lady Ms
Diane Rwigara who attempted to run against President Kagame in 2017
presidential elections is in prison.

In order to bring about national conciliation and durable peace in
Rwanda, the report of International panel of eminent personalities
commissioned by the Organisation of African Unity (2000) recommended
among other things to set up an international investigation to establish
the identity of the perpetrator of the terrorist act of downing a civil
aircraft carrying two serving heads of State of Rwanda and Burundi and
their entire entourage. They had concluded that this criminal act had
triggered genocide against Tutsi in 1994 and spilled over into the
Democratic Republic of Congo where more than 5 million Congolese and
200,000 Hutu refugees were killed (UN mapping report, 2010). There has
been no follow up. These numbers are bigger than the population of some
member countries. By sweeping under the carpet the monstrosity of these
killings, people outside of Africa doubt about African commitment to the
respect of the sacredness of human life and wellbeing of our people.

In terms of reginal stability, it an open secret that Rwanda has become
an epicentre of regional destabilisation particularly for Burundi and
the Democratic Republic of Congo. We commend the government of South
Africa, Tanzania and Malawi who sent troops to the DRC to end the human
tragedy caused by the murderous armed group M23 formed and supported by
Rwanda. Furthermore, UN reports have accused the Rwandan regime of
providing “training to Burundi refugees to facilitate their
participation in armed groups seeking to overthrow through violent means
the Government of Burundi” in total violation of AU Principles and the
provisions of the UN Charter. The absence or level of representation at
the summit by the neighbours should be an eye-opener with regard to the
relations between those countries and their implications on the
agreement.

The Rwandan Opposition political platform warmly welcomes an adoption of
the African continental free trade area and the protocol on free
movement of people, goods and capital. However noble our ideals are,
unless the pillars of peace within and between states, security,
democracy and good political governance are built and African leaders
dare tell each other the truth as former South African President Mbeki
pointed out, the ideal of common market will remain a dream. Democracy
allows innovation because a country can benefit from the full energy and
talent of its citizens and from the unconstrained flow of ideas that
accompanies it. It is our sincere hope that the forces of good for
Africa will prevail.

Done in London on March 23, 2018

Justin Bahunga
Chair Diplomacy Commission – P5-Platform
infocomrelext@fdu-rwanda.com; Phone: +44-7988-883-576

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