The Political Bureau of the Rwanda National Congress met on 20th December, 2015, to review its achievements and challenges as it celebrates its fifth anniversary since its founding on 12th December, 2010.
Notably, the RNC Political Bureau meeting takes place at a time when Rwanda has just concluded a sham constitutional referendum (announced just one week in advance) that paves the way for President Paul Kagame to serve as President for life. President Paul Kagame has been de facto President of Rwanda since July 1994.
During his 21 year rule, President Kagame has turned the state of Rwanda into a personal fiefdom. Rwanda has the trappings, but none of the substance, of a democratic government. Rwanda’s president enjoys unbridled power. The president rules with the assistance of a small clique of military officers and a few civilians connected, often, by family relations and business links. The same group controls the judiciary and the economy of the country. President Kagame, through his control of the enterprises that enjoy a monopoly of business with the government and most lucrative licences, has amassed a personal fortune worth billions of dollars.
In order to maintain his stranglehold on the Rwanda state, President Kagame has imposed a reign of terror upon the people of Rwanda. Freedom of expression and the press are non-existent. Political opposition is equated with treason and punished accordingly. Critics and opponents, real and imagined, of the regime are subjected to arbitrary arrests and detentions, trials on trumped up charges, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings committed both inside and outside Rwanda. Rwanda has in effect become a state held hostage by a criminal enterprise that preys upon our people with impunity. Operating under the cover of government, this criminal enterprise now operates transnationally. The absolute terror with which Kagame controls Rwanda explains the clockwork precision with which he has, in a little less than two months, coerced both houses of the legislature, the courts and the populace to crown him life president without debate or opposition.
The holding of the just concluded referendum did not come as a surprise to those familiar with the governance context of Rwanda, and its outcome was a foregone conclusion. Repressive regimes of the kind that Paul Kagame has established in Rwanda rarely ever voluntarily relinquish power.
Nevertheless, the referendum marks a turning point in Rwanda’s history. Rwanda is once again at a cross roads.
The yearnings of the people of Rwanda for liberty, respect for fundamental human rights and a say in how they are governed are irrepressible and enduring. Over the past 60 years, regimes that have held power in Rwanda for a long time and were unwilling to countenance political reform and democratic change have been driven from office by violent means, often with very catastrophic consequences for the people of Rwanda, and the Great Lakes region.
The political elites of each generation have left the people of Rwanda no option of choosing or changing their government other than political upheaval and violence. As result, successive political transitions in Rwanda have been cataclysmic events. The consequences of the choices that President Kagame has made in his repressive stewardship of government over two decades and in seeking to extend his reign indefinitely, should not be underrated. Repression, violence and exploitation may go on unabated, and may even get worse.
Nevertheless, political change in Rwanda is both necessary and inevitable. The only question is how the rule of law and the democratic change that the people of Rwanda demand and deserve shall come about.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that it is “essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights be protected by the rule of law”. Given Rwanda history, Paul Kagame’s manipulation of the laws and institutions of Rwanda to pave the way for him to serve as president for life may have foreclosed the possibility of peaceful political change and transition to democratic rule. Kagame has failed to learn the obvious lessons of our painful past. The choices that he has made in seeking to stay in power for life have set Rwanda, once again, on the path to inevitable change of government by violent means, however long that prospect may take.
Kagame was never freely elected President. He is President only because he has made Rwanda a de facto one party state, in which he runs for office without opposition. To paraphrase the United States Declaration of Independence, Kagame is ‘A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, [He] is unfit to be the ruler of a free people’. Violation of government by consent calls forth the right, if not the duty, of the people to alter or to abolish a government destructive of their rights and to institute a new system of government based on respect for their legitimate aspirations and inherent rights.
This (RNC) statement is not a call to arms. Rather, it is merely an acknowledgement of the self-evident, logical and inevitable consequences of the choices that President Kagame has made. By this statement, we seek to forewarn the world of the extreme dangers to which President Kagame’s treasonable actions have condemned the people of Rwanda and the region.
We call upon the people of Rwanda to unite in their opposition to President Kagame’s selfish and reckless choices that can only led to violence, destruction and bloodshed.
We also call upon the international community, particularly those governments upon which Rwanda depends for aid flows that now exceed one billion dollars annually, to demonstrate their unequivocal solidarity and support for the aspirations of the people of Rwanda.
On 4th December, 2015, the EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement, “The adoption of provisions that can apply only to one individual weakens the credibility of the constitutional reform process, as it undermines the principle of democratic change of government.” On 11th December, 2015, six European nations raised concerns about human rights in Rwanda when they stated that, “We have continuing concerns in the areas of freedom of expression and freedom of media, civil society development, freedom of association and other areas related to political rights.” Today, 20th December, 2015, the United States White House said that, “The United States is disappointed that a referendum was called on short notice to amend the Rwandan constitution and introduce exceptions to term limits.”
The writing is on the wall, urgently demanding a move beyond words to more effective action.
Africa and the international community should engage Rwandans struggling for democracy and peace, and, to avert the danger of bloodshed, aggressively pursue political, diplomatic and economic measures to prevent President Kagame from staying in office after the expiry of his current mandate in 2017.
For and on behalf of the RNC Political Bureau,
Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
Rwanda National Congress (RNC)
20th December, 2015
Tel: 001 240 477 9110
ABOUT THE RNC
The RNC works to promote peace, transition to democratic rule and the rule of law in Rwanda. The organization was established on 12 December 2010. Our vision of the future Rwanda is a country that will be a united, and prosperous nation inhabited by free citizens and harmonious and safe communities living together in peace, dignity and mutual respect, regardless of ethnic or other differences, within a democracy governed according to universal principles of human rights and the rule of law. Our political program comprises a comprehensive set of policies, strategies and activities that aim to transform Rwanda into a united, democratic, peaceful, stable and prosperous nation.
The RNC is banned in Rwanda. Its members, in and outside Rwanda, face incessant persecution, including abductions, torture, illegal detentions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Despite these hardships and challenges, the RNC has during the course of its five years of existence become the pre-eminent voice of Rwandans seeking peaceful democratic change, as abundantly demonstrated by the massive propaganda of the government of Rwanda and the growth and reach of our organization. Our compelling work has brought Rwanda’s governance deficit to the attention of the world as nothing ever had before. It has motivated large numbers of Rwandans inside and outside Rwanda to commit to working together to promote the rule of law, respect for human rights and peaceful political transition in Rwanda. Together with the coalition we have co-built, we are the only multi-ethnic alternative to the current Rwanda regime.