While major western capitals have their eyes on terrorist groups in Syria and in Iraq, something terrible is happening in Rwanda. The corpses are floating again on rivers, just like during the 1994 genocide, tens of thousands of people are disappearing, entire families are brutally thrown in jail. Under the rule of the president Paul Kagame, Rwanda is gradually sinking into the horror.
In fact, the year 2014 which started with the discovery of the body of a former chief of Rwandan external intelligence, Colonel Patrick Karegeya, strangled on December 31st, 2013 in a South African hotel seems to have triggered a new era of state terrorism on a large scale in Rwanda.
Since the beginning of the year, forty-six thousand people among whom thirty thousand prisoners sentenced to community service and sixteen thousand inhabitants of the region of Gisenyi in north-western region of Rwanda are missing. From the month of July 2014, forty corpses tied up and wrapped in plastic bags were recovered from the lake Rweru located on the border between Rwanda and Burundi. Burundi fishermen claim that these corpses are carried down by the river Akagera from Rwanda. A membership card of the Rwandan mutual healthcare was recovered on one of the corpses.
In addition to abducting thousands of people and to commit murders, the Kigali regime imprisons and tortures in big numbers. Sometimes whole families, men, women and children are thrown into prison at the same time.
Just recently, Mr. Paul Manzi Byabagamba, his eight-month-pregnant wife and his three-year-old son were arrested and thrown in jail. Their crime would be of having supported the brother of Byabagamba, Colonel Tom Byabagamba, former head of the presidential guard arrested in August 2014 and accused of “crimes against the State” with three other former military personnel, General Frank Rusagara and his driver, Sergent Francois Kabayiza as well as Captain Kabuye.
But the two Byabagamba siblings are being made to pay for their other brother, David Himbara, former adviser to President Kagame who has fled the regime of Kigali and currently lives in Toronto.
President Kagame had uttered a warning
Even if no one could anticipate the extent of the horror to come, president Kagame had clearly announced his intentions. On January 12th, 2014, following the assassination of Col. Karegeya in South Africa, he made a speech of self-congratulation in which he stated: “Anyone who betrays our cause or wishes evil to our people will suffer the consequences. It’s only a question of how and when he will face the consequences”.
President Kagame reiterated his threat in another speech on June 5th, 2014 in Nyabihu in north-western region of Rwanda, the same place where thousands of people have been missing. On that occasion, he promised: “We will continue to arrest more suspects and if possible kill in broad daylight those who attempt to destabilize the country”.
When one remembers other similar statements by him made in the past and the number of people who have been exterminated by the Rwandan army under his command, one wonders if the worst is yet to come.
To cite only one example, speaking of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the President Kagame stated “we went to Congo, we killed those that had to be killed and we brought back those that had to be repatriated”.
Remember that the war he has started in the Congo has made more than 5 million victims. The report of the project “Mapping” of the United Nations on the most serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the DRC between 1993 and 2003 discovered that these crimes could be qualified as genocide if they were brought before a competent court.
The cost of leniency
What is currently happening in Rwanda is far from being a fatality. It is the cost of leniency and of impunity from which President Kagame and his aides continue to benefit.
Large organizations for the defense of human rights such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Reporters without Borders, the U.S. Department of State, academic researchers, and many other individuals and organizations have published reports of serious crimes perpetrated by the regime of Kigali.
These crimes cover a whole range of violations of human rights, ranging from arbitrary arrests to war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide by executions, sometimes by beheading the victim like what happened in 2010 to the vice-chairman of the Green Party Mr. Kagwa Rwisereka.
Despite all this information, no member of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in power in Rwanda has been brought to justice for these mass crimes. The only conviction of agents of the Kigali regime is the one that has just been pronounced by the South African justice.
In the verdict of the trial for attempted murder in 2010 of the General Kayumba Nyamwasa, refugee in South Africa, the judge Stanley Mkharien in charge of this case stressed that the conspiracy had political motives and came from a certain group of individuals in Rwanda. He sentenced four defendants to eight years in prison in addition to four years they had already spent in detention.
Even on the political and diplomatic level, the Kigali regime has suffered no significant harm from the international community. And this is not because Rwandans have not asked for help or have not proposed solutions to end this crisis. All the opposition parties and civil society organizations from the Rwandan diaspora do not cease to implore the international community to facilitate talks with the Government of Rwanda and to settle their disputes peacefully.
One of the most recent initiatives on this issue came from the FDLR, who are Rwandan rebels living in Congo. They have decided to put down their weapons and have called for negotiations with the regime of Kigali to give peace a chance.
Our deep values called upon.
For a long time, the regime of Kigali has been supported for the fact that it would guarantee the security of the Tutsi after having stopped their genocide in 1994. This time is past. The victims of President Kagame are both Hutu and Tutsi, who share views of not to support his repressive regime or who are just perceived as opposed to the regime.
Some have spoken out or were simply suspected of being against its project to amend the constitution to allow the president to remain in power beyond 2017, date of the next presidential elections in Rwanda. Others are opponents declared as such by the regime or other people accused of being in contact with opposition parties operating from abroad.
The regime of Kigali must be judged for what it really is, a dictatorial regime of rare cruelty. Some people compare its methods to the ones of Stalinist type. Therefore, our governments in the west cannot support it, welcome it in international forums such as the Commonwealth or maintain diplomatic relations with it without facing an obvious contradiction with our deep values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.
Just as the beheading of American, British and French hostages by terrorist groups sicken us, the same thing being done to opponents of the regime of President Kagame requires firm answers. The indifference in such situations becomes synonymous with complicity.
Dr Emmanuel Hakizimana
The author of this article has a PhD in economics, a specialist in international finance and lecturer at the University of Quebec in Montreal.