Letter to My Friend Jennifer Fierberg: By David Himbara

Dear Jennifer, I keep thinking of your pain. I am advising you to please step back and take a break from I call “Rwandan activism industry.” Don’t take any of the stuff this industry is throwing at you personally, dear colleague.

Why I am saying this?

The Rwandan activism industry is a nasty business consisting of all kinds of organisations and individuals. In this industry some are against the regime of PK, some are its sycophants; some operate in the 30-odd opposition political parties; yet others are free-lancers. Some in this industry are full-time, others are part-timers.

Predictably, the nastiest players in this industry are agents of the regime roaming overseas – not just in Rwanda embassies but aligned groups and individuals some of whom even kill people. The tragic and premature demise of the brave soldier Karegeya illustrates this. The Karegeya case drives the point home that separating friends from foes is now nearly impossible. PK regime has so poisoned Rwanda political environment that even a close relative can easily plot one’s death.

Speaking for myself, I would place myself in the Rwandan activism industry in the broad camp of anti-regime non-partisan free lance activists. I am not a member of any political groupings even though the regime has “assigned” me to a political party. On the contrary, I see my role as a critic of all parties in the sense of a citizen seeking to hold governing and the opposition accountable. I firmly believe we must ensure that today’s democrats don’t become tomorrow’s tyrants.

JE, I suspect you are in the same category as the likes of me – non-aligned and non-partisan.

Let me tell you, this is the most precarious section of the Rwandan activism industry to be in. This is because most of Rwandans I know tend to practice the belief that “either you are with me or you are with my enemy.” This is what most of us face daily. We are hung to dry by all sides but we press on though developing thick skin, believing that we make a difference. So once again I say this to you: don’t take any abuse you have to absorb from any quarter of this business personally – if you did not get abused I would be more worried.

This background allows me to return to my advice. Take a breather and apply all the synonyms of this word – chill out, put your feet up, take your load off, and take ten. And then reassess and regroup.

When and if you return to the Rwandan activism industry, you will find it as you left it. That I guarantee you!

In Rwanda we have been at it since Kanjogera in 1890s, through Kayibanda in the 1960s, Habyarimana from the 1970s, and now Kagame from the 1990s.

Take all in stride Jennifer. Struggle continues!

David Himbara