By Ann Garrison
“If there is another bloodbath, the blood will all be on US officials’ hands.”
On Sunday I joined the three-day YouTube vigil for imperiled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The next day I realized that I must have sounded obsessive because I’d kept returning to a single classified diplomatic cable from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, sent to the US State Department. This is one of the many thousands of diplomatic cables that Wikileaks released between February 18, 2010, and September 1, 2011. I know I didn’t fully explain it although I kept returning to it because I kept turning it over in the back of my mind. Apologies to the YouTube vigil producers and listeners for any inexplicable redundancy. I’m going to do my best to clear that up now that I’ve had more time to think about.
The cable’s title is “ETHNICITY IN RWANDA – – -WHO GOVERNS THE COUNTRY?” It’s dated August 5, 2008. Its overall classification is “SECRET,” second only to “TOP SECRET,” and “NOFORN,” no distribution to foreign nationals. Those parts of it which describe Rwandan reality in general terms are marked “CONFIDENTIAL, NOFORN.” Passages naming specific individuals holding various positions in Rwanda are marked “SECRET, NOFORN.” The latter seem to explain why the cable is marked “SECRET, NOFORN” overall.
“Tutsi refugees and expatriates have told me for many years that Rwanda is headed by a Tutsi elite, but this description by a US official is far more extreme than anything they had ever led me to imagine.”
It does not identify the sender, only the location it was sent from—Kigali, Rwanda. It therefore could have been written and sent by any one of many US officials: the US Ambassador to Rwanda, a member of his staff, and/or any number of CIA, DIA, or other spooks in the region. It identifies the recipient simply as the US State Department.
The cable describes a country exclusively ruled by a Tutsi elite headed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Tutsi refugees and expatriates have told me for many years that Rwanda is headed by a Tutsi elite, but this description by a US official is far more extreme than anything they had ever led me to imagine. I knew that there were token Hutus holding official positions, but I assumed that they had the power of their office. This cable reports instead:
1. An analysis of the ethnic breakdown of the current Rwandan government shows Tutsis hold a preponderant percentage of senior positions. Hutus invery senior positions often hold relatively little real authority, and are commonly “twinned” with senior Tutsis who exercise real power. The military and security agencies are controlled by Tutsis, generally English speakers who grew up as refugees with President Kagame in Uganda. The 28-member cabinet is evenly split among Tutsis and Hutus, but most key ministries are in the hands of Tutsis (Hutu ministers do head Health and Agriculture, ministries which affect the lives of most Rwandans). While the Rwandan government (GOR) presents itself as a champion of national unity and equal opportunity, de-emphasizing ethnic identity and ostensibly opening positions throughout society to those of skill and merit, political authority in the country does not yet reflect this ideal. Ethnic identity is still keenly felt and lived, and ordinary Rwandans are well aware of who holds the levers of power. The long-term stability of Rwanda depends upon a government and ruling party that eventually shares real authority with the majority population.
“The military and security agencies are controlled by Tutsis, generally English speakers who grew up as refugees with President Kagame in Uganda.”
As to that long-term stability of Rwanda that “depends upon a government and ruling party that eventually shares real authority with the majority population,” the rest of the cable makes it clear that there’s no sight of that. I don’t see much point to my commenting in any more detail instead of republishing the rest of the cable itself; you can read it here or on the Wikileaks website :
Tutsis Dominate Senior Positions ——————————–
2. (C/NF) Post analyzed 118 senior positions in the
government, from ministries to parastatals to independent regulatory bodies, as well as the defense and security establishments to assess the ethnic composition of the current Rwandan government (GOR). Post’s review of ethnic membership showed two thirds of the senior positions are occupied by Tutsis — including ministers, ministers of state and secretaries general in the various ministries, the heads of the armed services and security services, and the heads of dozens of government offices. This according of senior positions has held steady over time — Post has reviewed internal embassy surveys of ethnic breakdowns of senior positions from several years ago and found a similar two-thirds/one-third breakdown. These percentages are far different from the ethnic breakdown commonly accepted for the two groups, at 15 percent Tutsi and 85 percent Hutu (Twas are normally accorded one percent or less of the population).
Some senior Tutsi officials privately assert that the Tutsi population, whose official size was suppressed during the Hutu-power Habyarimana era, is growing as a percentage of the population, but there is no statistical analysis to support this.
“Rwandans are well aware of who holds the levers of power.”
It Starts at the Top: Powerful Tutsis, Secondary Hutus
3. (C/NF) President Kagame is a Tutsi. So, too are the important Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Infrastructure, Local Government, and Information. Close Kagame confidant, Chief of Defense Staff General James Kabarebe, is Tutsi, as are the chiefs of the army and air force, the military district commanders, and the heads of the Rwanda National Police and the National Security Service (although some Rwandans joke that short-statured Air Force Chief Muhire is Twa). Indeed, all are English speakers who grew up in Uganda. Some major positions are held by Hutus, but their actual authority often appears limited, and they are widely perceived to be “twinned” with more powerful Tutsi colleagues.
4. (S/NF) First Twin: Prime Minister Bernard Makuza:
A Hutu, he ostensibly occupies the second-most powerful position in the Rwandan government. Affable but ineffectual, he defers in all matters great and small to President Kagame.
Second Twin: Defense Minister General Marcel Gatsinzi. A Hutu, he is entirely eclipsed by Chief of Defense Staff James Kabarebe.
Third Twin: Minister of Internal Security Sheik
Musa Fazil Harerimana (in charge of police and prisons). A Muslim Hutu, and head of the PDI political party, he defers to his ministry’s Secretary General Joseph Mutaboba, a Tutsi and former ambassador to the U.S.
“Tutsis are the chiefs of the army and air force, the military district commanders, and the heads of the Rwanda National Police and the National Security Service.”
Fourth Twin: Supreme Court President Aloysia Cyanzayire. Although she is reputedly a competent and hard-working judge, Supreme Court Vice President Sam Rugege, a Tutsi, is very much the public face of the court, and appears to hold administrative authority as well.
Fifth Twin: Long-serving Central Bank Governor Francois Kanimba, whose Deputy was Tutsi Consulate Rusagara, influential in economic circles, recently replaced by equally important regime insider and formerly head of Tristar (a business entity controlled by the Rwandan Patriotic Front) Ephrem Twahirwa, also a Tutsi.
5. (C/NF) This is not to say that all Hutus are devoid of any authority within the government. Hutus hold some key ministries that impact the lives of average Rwandans: —
Health Minister Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo is energetic and well-regarded (although a very energetic and internationally renowned physician, Agnes Binagwaho, a Tutsi, heads the high-profile HIV/AIDS portfolio);
New Agriculture Minister Christophe Bazivamo has held senior positions within the RPF (although he is far from the inner circles); his training as agricultural engineer may bring new life to a badly-managed ministry (he has, however, a well-connected Tutsi deputy minister, Agnes Kalibata);
Minister of Trade and Industry, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the respected number two at Finance in the previous cabinet, has moved up to her own ministry. But Hutus often serve in second-tier positions, such as the Ministries of Gender, Sports and Culture, and the new East African Community. The very active Sports and Culture Minister Joseph Habineza appears frequently at major public events, for example, but his influence within senior circles is small.
Other Balancing Does Occur
“Hutus hold some key ministries that impact the lives of average Rwandans.”
6. (C/NF) Ethnicity is not the only factor in how the government apportions its positions. The government and ruling RPF vet candidates closely for every senior position, and appointments reflect the need to carefully balance gender, language group, home province/district, country of residence if raised as a refugee outside Rwanda, and political affiliation (given Rwanda’s nine political parties and the formal need under the constitution to share political authority). There are regular stories of splits between francophone and anglophone Tutsis, as well as among the “Ugandans,” those English-speakers raised in refugee camps in Uganda. For example, Finance Minister James Musoni and Director General of the National Security Services Emmanuel Ndahiro, both raised in Uganda, are reputedly engaged in a long-standing “cold war” as they struggle to place their respective loyalists in various government positions.
Minister of Information Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs Rosemary Museminali, Minister ofInfrastructure Linda Bihire, all Tutsis, head important ministries (by law, 30 percent of the cabinet must go to women).
“The new Minister of State for Education told 750 secondary school headmasters that 80 percent of them were “masterminds of genocide ideology.”
Ethnic Identity — Used as a Shield?
7. (C/NF) As Ambassador Arietti noted in his departing message (reftel), Rwanda remains a deeply divided society, and average Rwandans still identify closely with their ethnic origins. Some Hutus argue that the massive gacaca program, now completing the judgment of over one million (Hutu) genocide cases, like the nationwide campaign against “genocide ideology,” which by definition only Hutus could manifest, particularly now that the 1994 genocide has been renamed “the Tutsi genocide,” are secondarily intended to keep Hutus off balance, unwilling to serve in high places (for fear of being brought low) and generally out of office. For example, new Minister of State for Education Theoneste Mutsindashyaka recently addressed 750 secondary school headmasters, and, according to the pro-government New Times, angrily told them that 80 percent of them were “masterminds of genocide ideology.“Assuming that headmasters match the general ethnic breakdown in society, the Minister essentially accused every Hutu in the room being a genocide ideologist.
8. (C/NF) For all the government’s exhortations to Rwandans to abandon ethnic identities and work in common on national goals, a policy that in fact has much to recommend it, the goals and the political reality is self-evidently otherwise. People remain keenly committed to their ethnic identities, and everyone is aware of which person holds which position and to which group he belongs. While the practical end-point for such a project may be years away, if this government is ever to surmount the challenges and divides of Rwandan society, it must begin to share real authority with Hutus to a much greater degree than it does now. End comment.
9. (S/NF) Below is a listing of cabinet positions and ethnic identity:
Prime Minister Bernard Makuza: Hutu
Minister of Local Government Protais Musoni: Tutsi
Minister of Agriculture Christophe Bazivamo: Huti
Minister of Foreign Affairs Rosemary Museminali: Tutsi
Minister of Internal Security Sheikh Mussa Fazil Harerimana: Hutu
Minister of Finance James Musoni: Tutsi
Minister of Defense Marcel Gatsinzi: Hutu
Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama: Tutsi
Minister in the Office of the President Solina Nyirahabimana: Hutu
Minister for Cabinet Affairs Charles Murigande: Tutsi
Minister of Trade and Industry: Monique Nsanzabaganwa: Hutu
Minister of Health Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo: Hutu
Minister of Education: Daphrose Gahakwa: Tutsi
Minister in the Presidency for Science and Technology Romain Murenzi: Hutu
Minister of Infrastructure Linda Bihire: Tutsi
Minister of Natural Resources Stanislas Kamanzi: Hutu
Minister of Sports and Culture: Joseph Habineza: Hutu
Minister of Youth Protais Mitali: Tutsi
Minister of Information Louise Mushikiwabo: Tutsi
Minister of Gender and Family Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya: Hutu
Minister of State for Community Development and Social Affairs Christine Nyatanyi: Hutu
Minister of State for Energy Albert Butare: Tutsi
Minister of State for Environment, Water and Mines Munyanganizi Bikoro: Tutsi
Minister of State for Industry and Investment Vincent Karega: Tutsi
Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education Theoneste Mutsindashyaka: Tutsi
Minister of State for Agriculture Agnes Kalibata: Tutsi
“Everyone is aware of which person holds which position and to which group he belongs.”
Since this cable was written in 2008, the names may have changed, but there is no reason to believe that the fundamental Rwandan reality has changed.
Why does Tutsi domination matter?
When one group of people dominate another, the dominated group will always be angry and struggling to liberate themselves. Stability will be hard to sustain. In the case of Rwanda, the Tutsi have dominated the Hutu for most of the nation’s history, before and after a succession of Western colonists drew up its boundaries. A Tutsi feudal aristocracy, in which Hutu peasants were required to revere and pay tribute to their Tutsi rulers preceded colonization, and was then followed by the colonial management of a Tutsi upper class. The majority Hutu seized power in the Hutu Revolution of 1959 to 1961, after which Belgium granted independence to both Rwanda and Burundi, the neighboring nation which is also majority Hutu and minority Tutsi with a long history of Tutsi domination.
Hutu rule ended in 1994 when General Paul Kagame—now the Rwandan President—waged war on the Hutu regime between 1990 and 1994 and finally seized power after the infamous 100-day bloodbath known as the Rwandan Genocide. Then Kagame re-instituted Tutsi rule as described in the SECRET NOFORN cable.
That wasn’t the first ethnic bloodbath in Rwanda or Burundi, and as long as one ethnicity dominates another, it may not be the last. Two competing clans of Tutsi massacred one another at some point in the nation’s history, but the principal conflict has been between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority.
Blood on US officials’ hands
Hopefully not. I’m not one to pray, but if I were, I’d pray that Rwanda won’t suffer another ethnic bloodbath. I’ve met so many gracious, intelligent, and talented Rwandans of both ethnicities that I hate to imagine it. However, if there is another bloodbath, the blood will all be on US officials’ hands. Rwanda has been a longstanding US ally and military partner ever since it helped Kagame seize power in the war of 1990 to 1994. US officials, including President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and UN Ambassador/National Security Advisor Susan Rice, have all helped Kagame and his cronies perpetuate the myth of ethnic reconciliation when nothing could be further from the truth. The classified diplomatic cable reached the State Department in August 2008. The next year Bill Clinton gave Kagame one of his Global Citizenship Awards and described him as “one of the greatest leaders in the world today.”
All former presidents have security clearance to review classified documents, but Rwanda has been one of Bill Clinton’s personal projects ever since Kagame seized power, and he no doubt knew the score long before 2008.
Kagame has such a tight lock on the democratic charade it stages every seven years that change at the ballot box is inconceivable. Anyone who mounts a real challenge to his presidency is likely to wind up in prison like Victoire Ingabire, Bernard Ntaganda, and Diane Rwigara.
An insurgency against Kagame is now reported. I know Rwandan refugees and expatriates who take it seriously, others not. I’m told that it’s a force of mixed ethnicity and, serious or not, I hope so. I also hope that the US will not help its longstanding Tutsi ally continue to crush Rwanda’s Hutu majority.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.