By ISHEMA KAYITARE
Right in the genocide aftermath, the Kagame-led RPF regime on power in Rwanda since 1994 has grown to become a champion of political repression through silencing and assassination of any vocal critique of its pompously flaunted but flawed social, political and economic achievements. 26 years later, the Kagame regime has never relented to showcase creative ingeniosity in how it can skilfully handle opposition characters by way of harassment, blackmailing, dirty smear campaigns, witch hunting and cold – blood elimination both at home and abroad. Many years following the 1994 genocide, there is now a growing, concordant if not shockingly astounding evidence incriminating the current regime in Rwanda for its methodical brutal and illegal abductions, incarcerations and assassinations of innocent citizens.
In the last ten years alone, every US department of state foreign country profile in tandem with major international Human Rights Organizations, have singled out the gruesome picture of massive and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the government of Rwanda. All these international Human Rights organizations reports, namely the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or the United Nations Human Rights Commission to name this but a few, have unanimously pinpointed the Kagame regime as directly responsible for the callous targeting, silencing and killing of political opponents to its regime. Consistently, they have produced a wealth material evidence of the active involvement of the state security organs into disappearances, torture and killing of political dissidents without being given a fair trial for their purported crimes against the regime. Evidence abounds for mysterious disappearances of people for which whereabouts could never be established or for people being summarily and cruelly shot dead in broad day light. As of today, the toll of such crimes has grown excessively high as they live on unaccounted for and shockingly unpunished.
While Human Rights Organizations helped to shed light on the continuing Kagame regime brutality, it nonetheless remains legitimate to denounce the failure by the same international community on whole to stand firmly, condemn and bring Kagame before the international justice system for his crimes accurately documented since many years. Instead, the mixed general attitude of the international community toward the Rwanda regime remains a confusing if not a totally unsettling one. Altogether, it’s fascinating to observe that, against the backdrop of the crimes of which the RPF should be held accountable, the political repression not least, the international community has opted to turn a blind eye on the massive crimes against humanity and back up his megalomanic development agendas, thus releasing to the outside world the signal that business should go on as usual. While we fail to understand the motives behind such reprehensible and irresponsible behaviour toward not only the community of Rwandans and the sub – region but also toward the whole international community, there are reasons to suspect their current attitude has a precedent in the past international community response during the 1994 genocide. Should a guilty conscience by the international community continue to be an excuse or be a sufficient motive to condone the regime’s continued victimization of its people? Then what is the meaning for the international justice system? All in all, it appears that the international system has adopted a coward numb attitude instead of convicting the regime for its crimes against humanity.
As put previously, the Rwandan regime has grown to be highly ingenious in forging ways to skilfully harm political opponents and dissidents. To this respect, we observe now in Rwanda a new trend in handling such segment of political activists. Of recent, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) has required a mandatory confinement of one political dissident in a psychiatric asylum centre, alleging that the targeted political figure had serious mental disorders. We know that the subject was simply a vocal political opponent of the regime.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Barafinda Secyikubo Fred is a popular public figure in the Rwandan politics. He was among the few politicians who had openly dared to announce his bid to compete for the 2017 Presidential elections, alongside President Kagame, by then the incumbent. Later on, with no surprise, Mr. Barafinda S. Fred was forcefully assigned to a mental health hospital against his own or family will. He will spend seven months in the hospital confinement before being released. We have reasons to believe he was put in the hospital simply because he had the nerve to criticize President Kagame and his cronies for their heinous crimes.
Consistent with the previous assertion, the same Rwanda Investigation Bureau went as far as issuing an order denying the media the right to visit Mr. Barafinda. This came as no surprise because it has now been recognized that Rwanda is a police state, which systematically resorts to coercitive measures to silence, bend the resolve or instill fears among political activists. By the same token, independent media are stifled in their attempts to expose any government mistreatments of its own people. To make matters worse, after his release, the same RIB published an announcement aimed at deterring any attempts by the media to interview Mr Barafinda whom they labelled as a person without a sound mind.
This is among others a gross violation of human rights, severing in particular the freedom of expression. Unfortunately, such cases are not marginal in the Rwandan political context.
Currently, the situation grew to become alarming for the average citizen. Political repression has ushered in a situation of widespread mistrust, fear embedded in the culture of intimidation and witch hunt orchestrated by the regime security services. We believe that the President is fully aware of the underlying fears and the tension they generate. We suspect the President feeds on this generalized state of social distress which enables him keep the citizens on check. In a recent public declaration, he alluded to this. The President observed that there are two forms of justice: a normal justice warranted by the constitution and a parallel justice, which is an informal justice of sorts, meant to solely target those threatening the interests of the country.
As late Kizito Mihigo observed it in his book, Rwanda cruelly lacks human rights and fundamental liberties are blatantly and systematically violated. In this regard, Rwandans are very much aware that open criticism of President Kagame equates to digging one’s grave. The RPF regime on power in Rwanda strenuously opposes any discordant critique of the power whom they view as a real threat to the country. In so doing, President Kagame has been transformed into a sort of demi – god. The personification of the country itself. As result, criticizing Kagame is likely to attract the heaviest punishment.
In light of the previous assertion, it is high time for the International community to stop this madness by holding President and his clique on power accountable for their misdeeds. The international should brace to condemn his damning acts in the strongest terms possible. We urge the most influential donor community members, namely the USA, the Great Britain and the European Union to commit into sending clear and strong messages aimed at requiring his regime to open the political space and to stop illegal arrests, torture practices, killings and disappearances. Similarly, we urge the United Nations to initiate the proceedings of bringing the culprits pinpointed in UN mapping report to the justice to account for crimes against innocent populations who were systematically killed in proxy wars of which Kagame and his regime are the sole planner and executor.
We are sounding the alarm so the international community react and become pro – active in stopping the continued unpunished crimes of which the Rwandan regime is responsible. We urge the international community to play a pivotal role and prevent that the situation turn sore. There are fears that if things do not subdue in Rwanda, the current latent social tensions carry the potential to grow explosive. And as the recent Rwandan history has proved, it may be too late to avoid the worse if the international community players fails to react on time. The substrates of social and ethnic related distress may still fuel the coming calamity. Because genuine and deep social cohesion, unity and reconciliation in Rwanda are either still fragile or still to be desired.
Rwandans are compassionate about the pain faced by Barafinda Secikubo and others like him. They suffer but they can not express it. This makes things worse. This can turn into a social timed – bomb. On behalf of Rwandans, we yearn for justice to be served, to enjoy freedom of speech, to access human rights, and live by the principles of a true democratic system. We would like this to be enshrined in and be the core foundations of the Rwandan Society. We are lingering to see at last the light at the end of this nightmare tunnel. However, we are helpless, unable to achieve this alone and we want the International Community to stand with us.
Because ultimately, never again should we let the international community in the future indulge in futile remorse that they have again failed to respond on time.