Playing a Devil’s advocate: In defense of Frank Habineza.

By Didas Gasana

My first editor, Ibrahim Asuman Bisiika, always cautioned me never to make a judgement when the objectivity of my judgement can be called into question. To this i adhered. But to this, i will for a moment go astray today.

You see, Frank Habineza is my good friend. We worked together in the world of journalism before he, against my advice, ventured into active politics.

Before he launched his party, we spent hours and hours in my newsroom discussing the trajectory he was about to take. Against my advice, he soldiered on. To be frank like his name suggests, i needed some one to occcupy the political space we from the independent media were then occupying from 1994-2010. Back in those damn days, independent press were considered by the government as centers of political dissent.

Habineza Frank
Dr Frank Habineza

Enter Frank Habineza alongside Ingabire Victoire and Bernard Ntaganda. The terrain shifted abit- from the focus on us as political adversaries to more open adversaries in the aforementioned trio.

Frank Habineza is something far from courageous. His appreciation of the political invironment he operates in may be lacking. I have on many occasions had to defend myself on talk shows explaining the sensibility of his actions. But one thing stands clear- he knows what he is doing and he is up to the task. Along the way, he has crossed some, sometimes including me, but his zeal for a sustained, albeit dismal opposition to Rwanda’s reigning dictator, has to be appreciated. Many will cast stones to him, many will appreciate him, but few will understand the rationale.

I can’t claim either to know the rationale. Whether he gets into the parliament and becomes onother silent animal or whether he is there to legitimise electoral malpractices is not for me to decide. Time will. My issue are the sustained attacks against his campaign, especially from the presumed opposition.

One of them is Anastase Gasana: “”Basomyi banditsi bo kuri fcbk, muririrwa muvunika mwibaza kw’ikinamico rya Green Party nkuko Mugisha John amaze kubisobanura neza! Byonyine mwibaze kw’isyhaka ubwaryo:ishyaka rya politiki rijyaho rigamije gukemura ibibazo by’ingutu igihugu na bene cyo baba bafite. Ko namwe mri anbanyarwnda ikibazo cy’ingutu u Rwanda n’abanyarwnda bafite ni “ukurengera ibidukikije”? Biragaragara ko ari ishyaka ry’umurimbo wa opposition wa FPR wo kubeshya abanyarwanda n’amahanga ngo hari ishyaka rya opposition mu Rwanda ubundi rigahabwa izina ridafite icyo rinenga muri politiki ya FPR Inkotanyi iriho mu Rwanda(ibidukikije) ubundi ryo bakaryemera kwiyandikisha kugirango rikingire FPR ikibaba kuri critiques z’abanyarwanda n’abanyamahanga. Ubu noneho ngo Green Party igiye gusaba abanyarwAnda kuzatora NON. Ikinamico riracyakomeza., ahubwo abafite impano yo kwandika za pieces de theatrre mukore mu nganzo abantu bisekere!”

This, from a former minister and Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN, now claiming to lead an opposition party, is absurd to say the least. Unless one is cursed with bad luck when it comes to thinking, my namesake Anastase Gasana knows or is supposed to know the politics of the Greens movement worldwide.

For a person who admiited to lying the international community about RPF war crimes to be demonising a young politician tussling it out to the zenith is intellectual dishonesty at its best. Assuming, arguendo, that Frank Habineza is what Gasana Anastase tells us, is Gasana Anastase any better?

Dr Anastase Gasana
Dr Anastase Gasana

There is no doubt that Habineza cut deals with some people who own power in Rwanda. This, owing to what he stands to gain in the sustained Greens campaign inside Rwanda. Whatever the deals may be, they fade in comparison with Gasana Anastase’s.

If you think Gasana Anastase is alone, you are mistaken. Many opposition groupings outside Rwanda demonise the person of Frank Habineza, yet he has been able to accomplish more than they have. Even celebrated regional political commentators like Fredrick Mutebi have no kind words for him

Central is that the opposition groupings need to take the struggle inside Rwanda. Whether he is doing it right is a different matter altogether. But it sounds pathetic that opposition groups outside Rwanda are demonosing the person inside, feeling the heat, subjected to humiliation, while they are in comfort of their home in the US.

To cut a long story short, you need to be somehow mad to do what Frank is doing. But you need to be madder to be Anastase Gasana and the likes. For the opposition outside here to be more relevant, they need to join him on the ground, and probably take him to the hospital, but carry on his work.