By Dr David Himbara
Dear brothers, as the Rwandan judiciary prepares to sentence you, and seeing you standing tall, brave, and courageous in face of fabricated cases against you, I am reminded of a gentleman name The Marquis de Sade. In a letter to his wife from a prison cell in France on February 20, 1781, Sade wrote the following powerful words:
“These wretched chains, yes, were they to drag me into the grave, you would still find me exactly the same. I have the misfortune to have received from heaven a strong soul that has never known how to stoop and never will. I have not the slightest fear of offending anyone at all…It is not up to anyone to increase (the sentence) or to reduce it. Moreover, even were this not so, these fellows here that hold me in thrall would not be the ones to do it: this would be a matter for the king.”
And so it is with you, too, brothers. These fellows that hold you — the prosecutors, the judges, the so-called witnesses —they are all victims like you. It is not them that are trying you. Just in Sade’s case, it is the king who is trying you.
There is one big difference between you being tried on fabricated charges in March 2016 and Sade’s trial in February 1781. Unlike in Sade’s days, today we live in a global village and instant communication. And so your case is on global stage. Not only Rwandans have been with you in the two years you were held illegally without trial, and through the laughable trial; many people in the outside world have followed your, too, with utter disbelief.
After all you two brothers distinguished yourselves immensely in and outside Rwanda, by serving your country and humanity at large.
Frank, as a general you served in all kinds of capacities in and outside Rwanda. From a senior military officer, you served as a top accounting officer in the defense ministry; you are an educator; and you are a scholar. While serving in Britain as defense attaché, you became a general of a different kind. In your spare time, you wrote a fantastic doctoral dissertation for a well-deserved PhD. Many of your fellow scholars, friends, and government officials in the United Kingdom are with you, and witnessing in total disbelief the trial, not of Frank but of Rwanda’s judiciary system.
Tom, I do not anyone who works so hard as you. You earned an Oxford IT degree in your spare time — amazing. I was right there encouraging you everyday. Later you advanced your military education in the United States. All this time you served your country with distinction. And later you became deputy commandant of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Your fellow Rwandans, colleagues in the United States military university where you studied, and in the United Nations system are following your story stand with you in your hour of need. They too do not see Tom on trial — but the judiciary system that is demeaning itself.
To my sisters and brothers and other relatives of Frank and Tom, I say this to you. No matter how hard it is, we must not feel sorry for ourselves, and forget the big picture. We must ask ourselves these questions: 1) How many people in Rwanda are imprisoned under questionable circumstances? 2) How many people have died in mysterious circumstances in Rwanda and in diaspora? 3) How many military generals have been imprisoned in Rwanda? 4) How many families have their loved ones locked up for years?
We are not alone — the entire country is in prison.
And so Frank and Tom, we stand with you to the very end. The religious among us are praying for you and your jailers, and asking the Almighty to guide the misguided who know not what they do. The militants among us see you as a sign of defiance because you refused to beg for mercy for crimes you did not commit — a common practice in our land. The historians among us see how the more things change in Rwanda the more they stay the same — autocracy and injustice seem to be the country’s DNA.
We love you Frank and Tom.
About the author:
David Himbara is an educator, political economist, and author based in Toronto, Canada. He teaches and works in the field of development and competitiveness.