I read in today’s Wall Street Journal an opinion written by President Paul Kagame with a catchy title, “Reflecting on Rwanda’s Past-While Looking at the Future”, and President Yoweri Museveni’s speech in Kigali , Rwanda.
Their opinions indeed demonstrate the defining characteristics of the Presidents of Rwanda and Uganda: an alchemy of militaristic threats, myths, deceptions, and denials.
Paul Kagame: After a genocide, historical clarity is an inescapable duty. Behind the words “Never Again,” there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.
Fact: It is not only after a genocide, but generally in every human undertaking as important as nation-building, where historical clarity is an indispensable obligation. The truth must be told in full, including by those who hold on to power through illegitimate arrangements, however uncomfortable the truth may be to them.
The people who carried out genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and continuing human rights abuses were, and still are, Rwandans. And those Rwandans include Paul Kagame who provided a trigger for the genocide ( the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane), and his leading role in the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even possible acts of genocide against Hutu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. That is the truth.to be told.
Paul Kagame: We do so with humility of as a nation that nearly destroyed itself…
Fact: Rwanda has been on a slow but steady journey of self-destruction for several decades, interrupted by turning points when national tragedy becomes inevitable. Such was the case in 1959, and 1994.
Credible nation-builders must turn to history to draw sufficient wisdom to avoid the mistakes of the past. That is where humility becomes a vital asset. Paul Kagame, in words and deeds, lacks the humility to see the striking similarities of his regime to the weaknesses in the pre-colonial order that exposed it to its capture by colonial powers; the vulnerabilities of the hybrid monarchy-colonial order that made the 1959 Hutu revolution inevitable and legitimate; the decline of the Kayibanda regime that led to the rise of the Habyarimana regime in 1973; the internal crisis of the Habyarimana regime that led to its eventual collapse;
and, notably, the current abhorrent conditions in the Kagame regime that make violent revolution almost inevitable. The writing is on the wall, but Kagame lacks the humility to recognize that his regime’s days are numbered.
Paul Kagame: All genocides begin with an ideology—a system of ideas that says: This group of people here, they are less than human and they deserve to be exterminated.
Fact: All genocides, war crimes, crimes against humanity and all other forms of injustice are mainly committed by dictatorships. Dictatorships have an outlook, a narrative, and an ideology. While Kagame’s RPF was founded with a nationalist and democratic vision, its practice has delivered it into the hands of a brutal dictator whose ideology is power at any price, thriving on imposing a blanket guilt on Hutu, and fear on the Tutsi.
Germans, Belgians or the French did not invent Tutsi and Hutu. Yes, their own interests helped to politicize the identities. This was not entirely a bad thing, because for centuries power was in the hands of small minority that reproduced Tutsi kings and the system that nourished them. The politicization of identities had its down side, but it did produce possibility of change within its womb.
The Catholic Church nurtured the Tutsi kings and later worked against them, throwing their weight behind the popular 1959 Hutu revolution, which eventually degenerated into narrow Hutu cliques. Belgium, the United Nations, France, and the Catholic Church progressively missed the opportunity to be agents for promoting positive change towards national unity, democratization and the rule of law, but they should not be accused of having taught Rwandans to look at each other as less than human, and to have participated in genocide.
Certainly the Holy Bible does not teach that. It teaches love, without which Rwandans are prone to inflict trauma on each other, when encouraged and facilitated by brutal dictatorships.
More than fifty years after Rwanda’s independence from Belgium, Rwanda’s elite must stop being crybabies, conveniently denouncing foreigners every time their systems are crumbling due to their own misrule. Should Rwandans in future denounce the British and the Americans, allies of the Kagame regime since 1994, as perpetrators of the crimes that Paul Kagame and his Tutsi clique have committed, and continue to commit? Should the Anglican Church, now allied to the state, be responsible for the crimes that Kagame and his regime commit against Rwandans? Certainly, no!
Yes, the US and British Governments, and the Christian church, like the Belgians and the French before them, are missing the opportunity to help Rwandans towards freedom, democratization, national unity, the rule of law, healing and reconciliation. History will judge them harshly unless they change course,
Paul Kagame : In Rwanda, we are relying on universal human values, which include our culture and traditions, to find modern solutions to the unique challenges we faced in terms of justice and reconciliation following the genocide.
Fact: Rwanda’s traditional culture is centered on the African principle of Ubuntu. Embedded in this are the universal human values of love, truth, justice, self-respect, and respect for others. To the extent that these enhance our freedom, and freedom expands our choices, we can claim to be modernizing. There cannot be reconciliation and healing without forgiveness. Forgiveness presupposes the freedom to tell the truth. Kagame and RPF have sacrificed freedom, truth and forgiveness for political expediency in order to maintain power at any price.
Paul Kagame: Early on, we made three fundamental choices that guide us to this day. First, we chose to stay together. Second, we chose to be accountable. Third, we chose to think big. We may make mistakes….We own up and learn and move forward.
Fact: Staying together, accountability and thinking big are NOT the distinguishing characteristics of the Kagame regime. The country is more polarized than ever before on inter-ethnic (Hutu-Tutsi) and intra-ethnic (within the Tutsi and Hutu communities). In fact, the rationale of the annual Remembrance Day is to remind Rwandans and the world that Tutsi are the victims, and Hutu the perpetrators of genocide.
If Kagame’s regime was accountable, it would let the whole truth be told, and the perpetrators of crimes against Hutu in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo be known and brought to justice. It would let Rwandans know who carried out the assassination of Seth Sendashonga, Theoneste Lizinde, Patrick Karegeya, Andrew Rwisereka, Augustin Cyiza, Jean Leonard Rugambagye, Charles Ingabire, Colonel Patrick Karegeya, the multiple assassination attempts on General Kayumba Nyamwasa, and many others. If accountability was its goal, it would explain to Rwandans and the world why Victoire Ingabire, Bernard Ntaganda, Deo Mushayidi and many others are languishing in jail as political prisoners.
Accountability is about free speech, free association, open political space, independent media, and active civil society, all of which do not exist in Rwanda today.
Thinking big is not simply and solely about skyscrapers, clean streets of Kigali, economic growth and doctored statistics on social indicators. Previous governments registered positive developments in all the sectors, which successive regimes can build on.
On both accounts Kagame’s score is a failure.
Accountability is about telling your party, RPF, the government and the Rwandan people how much money Kagame pockets from Crystal Ventures, the Horizon Group, public finances, and the plunder of natural resources from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The greatest challenge to Rwanda is how to first, redress the dynamics of power that hitherto have been hijacked by ethnic-based elites, and, second, how to build national institutions that can help foster national unity, freedom, democracy, healing and reconciliation.
If you cannot keep Rwandans together, and you cannot account to them, then the claim of thinking big is simply hollow.
Paul Kagame: Our approach is as radical and unprecedented as the situation we faced. The insistence on finding our own way sometimes comes with a price.
Fact: What is radical and unprecedented about Kagame’s reign is not its inclusiveness, innovation or far-sightedness. Its belligerence in the Great Lakes region and its exceptional brutality in dealing with political opponents are radical and unprecedented. This comes at a price indeed. Kagame’s regime has made enemies at different times with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Belgium, now France, not to mention the majority of individuals and organizations that it has made a habit of antagonizing.
Yoweri Museveni: We all can witness the economic growth in Rwanda and its stabilization. As a veteran patriot of this area, I would like to warn those who hobnob with the genocidaires to know that they will have to contend with the patriotic forces that defeated the traitors with their external backers when they were still much weaker. We are now much stronger in every sense of the word (politically, militarily, socially and economically). The People of Rwanda should know that they can always count on the People of Uganda. Uganda is steadfast in the support for African emancipation.
Fact: Well, some of us Rwandans have generally desisted from commenting on Ugandan matters, despite the fact that we are more schooled on Uganda than Yoweri Museveni is on Rwanda. We are not impressed at all by his ignorance of, or his insensitivity to, the plight of the Rwandan people, and the facts of contemporary Rwanda. His refrain of economic growth and stabilization is a familiar recital of the standard narrative of Kagame and his international supporters, who choose to ignore the fact that the majority of the population is poor.
His claim of being “a veteran patriot of this area” is an attempt to hang on to his now-extinct pan Africanist credentials.
Museveni and Kagame have now become the Mobutus of this era, being a source of plunder, war-making and destabilization in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. Reactionary veterans, yes. Patriots, no!
Museveni and Kagame are more isolated in Africa and internationally than ever before. Their regimes are weak politically because they lack popular support. Economically, they are dependent on Western benefactors, who are increasingly embarrassed by the association. Socially, they run polarizing regimes that sap the social capital of their societies.
Museveni the political scientist has probably forgotten that military strength is but one component of overall national strength. Without a strong political, economic, social and professional base, the Ugandan and Rwandan militaries are just a pack of cards, distinguished in intimidating citizens for a while, but unable to withstand the pressure when populations mobilize, get organized and are well led.
Museveni has been battling his Ugandan foes without defeating them for as long as he has been President. Now, the Pan Africanist of yesterday has to swallow his pride and depend on US Special Forces. In 2001 he had to beg Clare Short, then British Secretary for International Development, to give him resources to build Uganda’s military, ironically to fight the Rwandan army whose leaders (Kagame and RPF) he described as ideologically bankrupt. Kagame has fought armed Rwandans in the DRC for almost 20 years without defeating them.
The Ugandan and Rwandan military and security establishments have been progressively degraded, their officer corps retrenched, to the extent that the remaining majority are silent while the rest owe their loyalties not to the nations and their peoples, but to Museveni and Kagame. The cross-border trio that presides over the criminalized network that abducts and kills Rwandans, and terrorizes Ugandans, include Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba (Museveni’s son), General Kale Kayihura (Inspector General of Police, Uganda), and Major General Jack Nziza (Kale Kayihura’s relative, and Kagame’s hangman who runs his assassination network). Both Nziza and Kale are Bafumbira from Kisoro, Uganda.
Paul Kagame: To prevent genocide, it is not enough to remember the past. We must also remember the future.
Fact: To prevent genocide, it is critical to have the humility to remember and learn from the past, so that we may not repeat the mistakes of the past. Kagame and RPF have advanced and progressive amnesia, hoping that forgetting recent history will save them forever. Unfortunately, history is very unforgiving. Remembering the past so as to shape the future, like “Never Again”, should not be an empty slogan or cliché. People have to build together, and trust is the glue that holds everything together. Rwanda’s trust account is now in red.
Here is a ten-point genocide prevention compact for Rwanda:
1.Stop and prevent violent conflict, grave human rights violations that Rwanda’s people have periodically suffered and that have historically extended to citizens – men, women, and children – of neighboring states;
2. Eradicate a culture of impunity for human rights violations;
3. Create a conducive and progressive environment for inclusive social and economic development for all the people of Rwanda;
4. Establish, nurture and institutionalize democratic governance, particularly the rule of law in all its aspects;
5. Establish independent, non-partisan, professional civil service and security institutions;
6. Build a stable society that promotes and protects equality, embraces and celebrates diversity, and fosters inclusion in all aspects of national life;
7. Promote individual, community and national reconciliation and healing;
8. Promote harmonious relations, reconciliation and mutually- beneficial collaboration with the peoples and governments of neighboring states;
9. Resolve the chronic problem of Rwandan refugees; and,
10. Nurture a culture of tolerance to diverse ideas, freedom of discussion, and debate of critical issues.
Paul Kagame: Les faits sont têtus—facts are stubborn, and no country is powerful enough, even when it thinks it is, to change the facts.
Fact: Messrs Kagame and Museveni, here is my message to both of you. Facts are stubborn, and no dictator is powerful enough, even when he thinks he is, to change the facts. The wind of change is blowing. You can choose to ignore it, but you cannot stop it. For both of you the writing is on the wall. You have betrayed the nationalist, Pan-African, and democratic cause. You have been weighed on scales and found wanting. The days of your regimes are numbered.
We are not easily intimidated by Museveni’s sabre rattling, and his threats that he will fight alongside Kagame against nationalist and democratic forces in Rwanda. When that happens, it will be their turn to be defeated together, decisively, justly, and swiftly. Their opportunistic marriage of convenience cannot stand the patriotic unity of Rwandans, Ugandans and other Africans.
It makes our work a lot easier to know our friends and foes.
Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
Washington D.C., 7th April, 2014.