Behind Rwanda’s Electoral Alliance and Inside Kagame’s post 2017 Game Plan

By Didas Gasana

For the un-initiated, an electoral alliance may take the form of a bipartisan electoral agreement, electoral agreement, electoral coalition or electoral bloc. It is an association of political parties or individuals that exists solely to stand in elections. Each of the parties within the alliance has its own policies but chooses temporarily to put aside differences in favour of common goals and ideology. On occasion, an electoral alliance may be formed by parties with very different policy goals, which agree to pool resources to stop a particular candidate or party from gaining power.

In political science, it is different from electoral fusion- which is an arrangement where two or more political parties on a ballot list the same candidate, pooling the votes for that candidate. It is thus distinct from the process of electoral alliances in that the political parties remain separately listed on the ballot, the practice of electoral fusion in jurisdictions where it exists allows minor parties to influence election results and policy by offering to endorse or nominate a major party’s candidate. Electoral fusion is also known as fusion voting, cross endorsement, multiple party nomination, multi-party nomination, plural nomination, and ballot freedom.

The two are different from ‘Fusion Party’, which denotes multiple political parties, for example, in United States history. The different parties that used the name don’t share any particular political positions; instead, confederations of people from disparate political backgrounds united around a common cause individual to their situation—often opposition to a common enemy—and used the name Fusion Party to reflect the aggregate nature of their new party.

In Rwanda’s current political dispensation, none of the above accurately portrays Rwanda’s dilemma. Why? Rwanda’s presumed ‘opposition parties’, PSD and PL, are literally RPF satellites – an extension of the ruling party. To understand this; one needs to look into Alexandre Lyambabaje, Joseph Sebarenzi Kabuye and Jean damascene Ntawukuliryayo’s fate. Certainly, this is common knowledge.

It is a no brainer, either, that political parties which were reluctant to toe the RPF party line, the likes of MDR, faced an un-natural death in 2003.

Consequently, any individual or political grouping in Rwanda contesting for political power is unaware of Rwanda’s political dynamics since the advent of the RPF capture of power, is aligned to the party line or is up to an open confrontation with the coercive instruments of the state. Either of the three above have got a rationale.

I will dwell on the third category- open confrontation with the state’s coercive instruments of the state.

Before his death, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, former vice-president of the then newly formed Green party, had asked me to arrange a meeting between him and former Human Rights Watch Representative in Rwanda. I did the needful, and indeed, the meet took place at Hotel Meridien. He was worried of his life, following threats,

On the morning of 13 July 2011, a blue Toyota pickup was found in southwestern part of Rwanda. Its windscreen was smashed. The 61-year-old owner of the car was missing. His body was found a day later, about a mile up the road, among pine trees on the edge of a ravine. His head was partially severed. A butcher’s knife was found nearby.

Before this, The Guardian’s Xan Rice had called me on June 23, 2011 asking for my take on Jean-Leonard Rugambage’s murder. In this case, Rugambage, who was shot dead outside his house in Kigali on 24 June, had been declared by the police as a ‘revenge attack’ related to the genocide. My response was as straight forward as imaginable.

What then does this tell us?

1, there can never be a real political challenge for political power in Rwanda under President Paul Kagame.
2. Groupings or individuals can only be allowed to mount a challenge only when they add ‘value’ to Paul Kagame’s political machinations.

Understanding Kagame’s game plan post 2017

Charles Ndereyehe is a prominent opposition figure- he of the opposition party FDU Inkingi. Sometime ago, he had promised a precursor to an Arab-like spring in Rwanda by February 2017.

Ali Abdul Karim is a prominent opposition figure- he of the opposition party RNC. More than once, he has promised a ‘smart’ way of removing President Paul Kagame from power.

Thomas Nahimana, he of Ishema opposition party, promised me some time ago on a radio talk show that he will mobilise a UN brigade to protect his vote- a vote he has been denied a right to participate in!

Tharcisse karugarama, Rwanda’s former Justice Minister, faced Paul Kagame’s wrath when he said Kagame should respect the constitution and retire in 2017- by being fired from his ministerial post (less modest people will even reveal the physical wrath he faced in Village Urugwiro).

This brings us to Kagame’s game plan. Many a people interpreted Kagame’s vow not to run again after his second term as a mere talk- common practice among politicians. But to Kagame, this really wasn’t the case. He misled the public- both Rwandans and the international community- on purpose.

Robert Greene’s ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ is very instructive in explaining such situations. In a dicey period like this, a good general sends out feelers to check the pulse. One of the best ways to judge the mood is by playing weak or appear to be under siege. Then judge the reaction of the public. In the military, that would be equivalent to a tactical withdrawal.
When space is created after the general and his army have ‘retreated’, who assumes the vacuum? Who gloats and prepares his dancing shoes? Who speaks with confidence about the general in the past tense?

Secondly, ‘phantom’ guerrilla groups may spring out and reach out to people and spheres that are ostensibly hostile to the General. They act as a bait to tempt the willing into ‘fighting the general’ and his establishment.
Who gets excited, speaks ill and with confidence against the general? When this happens who uses the past tense when discussing the general? Who expresses willingness and sympathy for those against the general? Who promises support to them?

The other group who are vulnerable in this period are those who prove to be dangerously strong-headed and recalcitrant. These are simply associated with the ‘bad guys fighting the general’ and are held on a leash.

Their story will be one of house searches, court, jail, bail and all manner of endless harassment plus inconveniences that will only end if they become compliant.
But there are those who get mileage out of this situation. It justifies suspension of parts of the Constitution to reign in opponents. There is also the case of classified expenditure for covert and overt operation ‘for the security of citizens.

That is what he literally did to the likes of Sebarenzi Kabuye and Tharcisse Karugarama.
This will be a replay post 2017. Only the naive will fall for it.

NEXT: We look into how organized devils achieve more than disorganized angels (case studies being RPF (and And African ruling parties) vis-à-vis opposition parties).