Unconditional aid and militarization: serious obstacles to Rwandan democratisation

Black Star News believes that Barack Obama’s administration could hold the key for some of the African continent’s problems. ‘His decisions could free millions of Africans from bondage — the one imposed for decades now by African dictators often with Western collusion– save millions of lives in avoided bloodshed, and help unleash the great reservoir wherein Africa’s vast potential has been condemned,’ says the news source.

In these days leading to the 9th of August elections in Rwanda, and following the series of politically motivated crimes, according to many human rights organizations and independent newspapers, Paul Kagame’s country risks loosing praises Western governments had been giving since the end of the 1994  genocide. Though similarities of situations might look somehow no so close, Noam Chomsky says that, ‘it is worth recalling what happened in South Africa. Fifty years ago, the white nationalist regime recognized that it was becoming an international pariah.’ Like the South African Foreign Minister at the time while talking to the US Ambassador, Rwandan Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo could also privately or openly claim that, ‘as long as the US supports us, it does not matter what the world thinks.’

Africa Faith and Justice Network and other human rights organization working in the Great Lakes region oppose the US continued foreign policy of supporting African friendly tyrants as long as they defend American interests.  ‘The U.S. policy has been to support strongmen,’ says Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo. ‘And at the head of the class is Paul Kagame, who has received military support, weapons, training and intelligence and as a result has been able to invade Rwanda’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and sustain proxy militia fighting there to rob the Congolese people of their natural resources. He has contributed to the death of over 6 million people in Congo and to the destabilization of Africa’s whole Great Lakes region.’

‘The UK is Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor, giving around £380m since the genocide in 1994,’ explains Sophie Elmhirst in The New Stateman. The Department for International Development Minister, Stephen O’ Brien, traveled to Rwanda on June 16th and 17th. He met President Kagame and other Rwandan government ministers. Through a local member of parliament I learned that  apparently the Minister had raised the issues faced by opposition parties, and highlighted the importance that the UK, as a major bilateral donor and fellow member of the Commonwealth, attaches to core democratic values, such as freedom of speech and constructive opposition.

Surprisingly, it was on June 19th that an assassination attempt in South Africa was done against dissident General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. On June 24th, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, a journalist working for the banned newspaper Umuvugizi, was murdered. The same day there was a general crackdown on opposition parties which peacefully demonstrated against their exclusion from participating in electoral campaign. Those detained suffered severe torture and harassment from security forces. Bernard Ntaganda, the leader of PS-IMBERAKURI has been in prison since then. On July 8th, Agnès Uwimana Nkusi, Saidati Mukakibibi, and Patrick Kambare, journalists of the independent newspaper Umurabyo were arrested. On July 14th, André Kagwa Rwisereka, Secretary General of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, was murdered, found almost beheaded. Two leaders of the FDU-Inking opposition party Mr Martin Ntavuka and Mr Anastase Hagabimana were arrested on July 24th.

It appears to be for Kagame psychologically easier to retreat behind the genocide ideology and other divisionism crimes to silence any dissent voice than to face honestly the hard facts of his discriminative policies, which unfortunately are making his regime becoming so intolerant inside and disliked throughout the world. In May this year, the imprisonment in Kigali of the American lawyer Peter Erlinder who went to represent Victoire Ingabire, leader of the main opposition leader FDU-Inkingi, accused of divisionism and association with a terrorist group, may have added its fair share onto such negative attitude.

As results of Kagame’s elections are already predictable for a candidate without real challengers, scripts of congratulation messages are also probably being finalized. In the short term, not much may change from his still strong supporters. But the future of Rwanda hangs in the balance between the determination of those who today feel oppressed by his autocratic regime and the right assessment of the evolving political climate by those seeing Rwanda as a success story. Maybe this time round they could be fast in spotting the dangerous signs before more lives are lost.

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