Monthly Archives: February 2011

Rwandans ask UK Members of Parliament to follow through British prime minister’s new foreign policy on dictators

On February 25th, 2011, a group of Rwandans living in UK organised a public protest in front of the UK Parliament. They requested from Members of the British Parliament to put pressure on Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, for the unconditional release of all political prisoners held in Rwandan prisons. Among the detainees are

  • Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi in prison since October 14th, 2010
  • Me Bernard Ntaganda, Chairperson of PS-Imberakuri in prison since June 24th, 2010 and sentenced to 4 years in prison
  • Mr Deogratias Mushayidi, President of PDP-Imanzi sentenced to life imprisonment
  • Dr Theoneste Niyitegetse, former presidential candidate of 2003 elections imprisoned since then
  • Charles Ntakirutinka Founder of PDR-Ubuyanja in prison for more than 10 years
  • Journalist Agnes Uwimana Nkusi, sentenced to 17 years in prison
  • Journalist Saidati Mukakibibi, sentenced to 7 years in prison
  • And thousands more detained in inhuman conditions in Rwandan prisons for their political opinions

Participants to the protest also denounce politically motivated sentences of 24 and 20 years in prison made in abstentia by the High Military Court in Kigali against General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Colonel Patrick Karegeya, Dr Théogène Rudasingwa et Dr Gerald Gahima.

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister publicly admitted recently in Kuwait that Britain and the West made “false choices” to support oppressive regimes that trampled on human rights. ‘As recent events have confirmed, denying people their basic rights does not preserve stability – rather the reverse,” said the Prime Minister. As a logic consequence of that new reality and understanding, protesters would like to see Britain translating such change of foreign policy by stopping immediately their unconditional support to Paul Kagame’s regime. It has abused Rwandans and other populations of the Great Lakes region in the millions. They would also want to see Britain use its leverage position towards the Rwandan government to push for political reforms before it becomes too late for peaceful change.

Asked by BBC World Service how they intended to proceed since in the past Britain has never considered officially Rwanda to be a dictatorship, Ambrose Nzeyimana, who represented the protesters, replied that Rwandans knew too well how oppressive and atrocious Kagame’s regime was. He added that they were planning to work with individual members of parliament to get the issue tabled during question time for ministers at the House of Commons. Such approach has successfully worked in the past. They don’t see why it wouldn’t work this time; particularly when one takes into account social uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa against dictatorial regimes.

 

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A deficit of logic in the Great Lakes of Africa

This is the title of a completly new and different look of an upcoming narrative on an African region which has not yet stopped from being talked and written about since the 1990s, such significant and telling of human cruelty are events which continue to be witnessed there.

Francis Xavier Ndagabanye Muhoozi, author of the book, which will land on UK main bookstores in March of this year 2011, is an insider to the story he narrates to his readers. The way he highlights events concurrent to the tragedy which struck Rwanda and the Great Lakes of Africa in 1994, and even some years before, provides a human dimension on a very personal level of what happened.

The writing enables your mind to picture, visualise, and experience events as if you are their only witness, or in the body and soul of the narrator. The other important aspect is the fact that it portrays Juvenal Habyarimana and his family closer to all our common humanity of love, compassion that we all have in us with different degrees.

The book shades a new light to important facts as they have been explained along the years by different interested writers on the subject. It is the first time that the same story is told from an individual who appears to be a close member of the family of the former president of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana.

The story is significantly different from what we are accustomed to about what happened in the region. It brings a human facet to the former Rwandan president who was killed on April 6th, 1994. It makes the reader feel close and can relate to the deceased as a human being like any other. This contradicts strongly with the image that his detractors, mainly the Rwandan Patriotic Front propaganda machinery and tenors of Paul Kagame’s regime, have built about him over the years.

The writer brings intelligently together events which in a recent past of Rwandan history were still disjointed, especially the continued suffering of Rwandans and other populations from the region at the hands of egocentric and greedy leaders not particularly interested in the well being of their compatriots.

For those who may at any time of their lives have had an encounter with the late Juvenal Habyarimana, Francis Xavier Ndagabanye Muhoozi’s book brings back those past and probably good memories about an ordinary person, who lived a noble life just like themselves in the bare face of the turbulent Rwanda politics.

A deficit of logic in the Great Lakes of Africa is a very commendable read. It is a human portrait of the deceased president and his family. It selects significant events about Rwanda politics by an author close to their unfolding because they impacted greatly on his life, and continue to shape his destiny and of many in the region.

Only one possible option to the Ugandan president on Elections Day

On February 18th, 2011 Ugandans will go to vote for their next president and members of parliament. At other times, Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan president, could’ve had other options. But this time he can only loose the presidential elections planned on that day. Elections either rigged or not, that will be the only acceptable outcome for him.

Considered the current wind of change sweeping across and above the African continent, after twenty five years into power, Museveni doesn’t have any logical argument to justify why he would remain ruling Uganda. This would be unthinkable while Africans everywhere are strongly and vigorously aspiring heartedly to put an end to undemocratic regimes in places where they still prevail.

The Ugandan president can claim having brought stability and economic development to his people. This could be an opinion not shared by those he victimised inside his country under NRM rule. It could however be the perspective which justified support from his West sponsors or is predominant among those who benefited from his regime. Stability and development have been a constant among African dictators and their Western supporters to oppose and oppress any dissent voices demanding democracy and an end to all sorts of injustices Africans suffer in the hand of their leaders.

The West has far too long sided with dictators and undemocratic regimes on the African continent. Western countries have been too calculating and diplomatic when it comes to human rights abuses, systematic oppression or discrimination of populations, or corruption, because of where they have invested sometimes excessively without objective analysis of the sustainability of their investment. They become very weary when symptoms show that they could loose everything. It’s time now for them to support and strengthen the real assets in any investment venture: the people.

There are situations in any context, be it science, politics, sports, history or else where outcomes from an occurrence are known well in advance.  Not because of the strong premises under which such event takes place but because only miracles which are beyond human control could change the inevitable. For Ugandans, Election Day will be like a formality to officially end the rule of a dictator who has done so much wrong to many of his people, but also caused mayhem in the whole Great Lakes of Africa.

As they say, ‘power corrupts’. If this was not the case, nobody would not understand why leaders, especially African, would want to stay in power for fifteen, twenty or more years. As far back as one can look in African recent history, particularly from the period leading to the independence of the continent, nearly every leader who sought to rule his people failed lamentably. Few and rare examples such as Patrice Lumumba, Nkwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara genuinely lived up to the aspirations of their people.

If within eight to ten years maximum, a leader could not positively transform the political, economic and social structures of his country and help with the overall well being of his people, there is no guarantee at all that adding more time to his rule will make any further difference. After such time in ruling his country,  if a leader is not already a dictator, he can only become one because of the earlier premise of corruptibility character of power. There must be strict monitoring mechanisms between accountability of leadership and term of presidency.

As the situation looks for Uganda, electoral formalities will take place on February 18th. We know who will win on that day: the Ugandan people. They will claim back what they have been robbed from for so many years by NRM dictatorship: the right to have a say over who can lead them. The incumbent president, Joweri Museveni, since he is expected to loose the elections whatever he could do to win them, let’s wish him well when the people will have declared who should lead them from then on. What will be witnessed on the day will not in fact be considered as an election as such since no dictatorship has normally changed through an election. We will see a revolution unfolding. May it be relatively as peaceful as those recently experienced in Tunisia and Egypt?

Let’s face them fearlessly across Africa

The time has come when Africans should be courageous enough to stand against those who are in the way of their well being as people entitled to a decent and dignified life. It’s not resources which are lacking to achieve better standards of living for populations, but the greed of political leaders and their irresponsibility which are the obstacles. Ben Ali is gone. Hosni Mubarak’s exit was completed on Friday 11th, 2011. The list of those on the African continent  who need to go is still very long.

Before the 60s, the oppression of indigenous people was perpetrated by the colonials and their local subordinates. It officially ended with the period of African independences. By 1963, the majority of the countries had gained their political independence. Unfortunately, past oppressors were quickly replaced by locals who in some cases made the situation worse than it was before. In fact, there are still corners of the continent where people lived relatively better than they are today.

Tunisia and Egypt examples are now there to demonstrate to the rest of the continent that relatively peaceful change is possible. There is no need of setting up rebel movements or starting guerrilla wars. That time has finished. People by taking in their hands their own destiny and being determined enough to see wanted change through, can make it happen. All depends on how much suffering people have been enduring and how far and how long they can hold on their pain without screaming that enough is enough.

Western support for African dictators has been and continues to be a constant on the continent. They work with whoever guarantees their own and selfish interests. It is not a fallacy to argue that until the Egyptian uprising the whole Western world praised Mubarak and his leadership as a factor of stability for the country and the Middle East. Plenty other dictators are perceived under the same loops. As long the West benefits from the status quo or a different scenario they are comfortable with, they are not much bothered by the impact of these leaders’ policies on their populations.

Many countries across the continent are voting this year. Uganda will be choosing his next president and MPs on February 18th, 2011. The incumbent leader Joweri Museveni has been in power since 1986. He changed the constitution several times to remain in power. But Milton Allimadi, Ugandan editor of Black Stars Newspaper, wrote on his Facebook pages, ‘We are all Egyptians.’  We all want change particularly when what we have been experiencing for decades and for some their whole lives, is only absolute misery, lack of freedom of expression, corruption, unemployment, oppression and official discrimination from our leaders.

In Tunisia and Egypt, young people and use of new technology have demonstrated changing contexts within which current political revolutions occur. Same scenarios or relatively close will apply on the continent to make required change happen. Of course, not every dictatorship is the same. But symptoms and manifestations are everywhere similar. As oppressed in other parts of the continent have learned from their brothers and sisters from Maghreb, their dictators must’ve understood the new environment they have to face.

Unless people get out and cry out publically to their leaders that the situation has radically to change, nothing will change. It’s not elections which will change dictatorships in Africa. Africans need to stop being fooled by elections organised by dictators who don’t believe in democracy. It’s the other way around. Countries where democratic principles rule, fair and transparent elections are possible. Dictators should understand and we should make them understand that change is natural. By opposing it, they are going against the laws of nature. And us by not helping it happen we are jeopardising our well-being.

Rwanda: half truth is worse than a complete lie

Since the 80s the Great Lakes region has experienced genocides, war crimes, crimes against humanity, so much so that the entire area has become like a cemetery with dead on display. There are human skeletons everywhere, some more respected than others. Picture courtesy of Keith Harmon Snow

Since the 80s the Great Lakes region has experienced genocides, war crimes, crimes against humanity, so much so that the entire area has become like a cemetery with dead on display. There are human skeletons everywhere, some more respected than others. Picture courtesy of Keith Harmon Snow

Since 1994 the Rwandan government led by Paul Kagame has initiated a way of ruling a country which when historians will objectively look into it will find it to be unique and unprecedented. Kagame’s rule has taken the art of political lies to such extremes and mastery that to find some truth in its messages one needs to work hard and most of the times decodes them to understand the meaning of what is publicly announced.

On January 31st Richard Sezibera, Rwandan Health Minister, revealed to the Senate that his department was planning to involve and or expected to see 700,000 men undergo vasectomy in a bid to curb the rapid growth of the population. The number reminds people about another one: 800,000 male Hutus that after the genocide, Tito Rutarerama, Rwandan Patriotic Front ideologist, indicated were prospectively to face justice because of their supposed involvement. According to him, for any one who officially died in 1994 – and all the victims are officially only Tutsi, there had to be at least one Hutu who had to be prosecuted.

The Gacaca controversial judiciary system happened to be an implementation of Tito Rutaremara initial argument about victims and perpetrators of the genocide. More than 1,500,000 only Hutus had by June 2010 been investigated and prosecuted at some time and extent by that instance since it started operating in 2001. The system has now enslaved more than 500,000 people who are doing unpaid Community services known as TIG’ far away from their families in most cases for years.

TIG or Travaux d‘Intérêt Général, in French, is not different from what my parents experienced during the Tutsi monarchy period when my dad, uncles and adult Hutu men of the village were forced to spend time far away from home doing unpaid work at the service of the monarch and his entourage in Nyanza – the King Palace, and other places they were sent to.

Alaa-al-Aswany, Egyptian and dentist doctor and author of the bestseller The Yacoubian Building talks of his compatriots in these terms: ‘The Egyptians are the easiest people in the world to rule. The moment you take power, they submit to you and grovel to you and you can do what you want with them.’ This could be much said about Rwandans. It took the oppressed Hutus almost 400 years to overrule their Tutsi masters. It would’ve even been quite impossible if they didn’t get some external help or if the overall contemporary period wasn’t ripe for change against all sorts of oppression across the world, from Ghana, or Indonesia to Algeria.

Certainly at the initiative of the same Tutsi extremists and Rwandan president as their leader, discriminative laws and policies geared towards excluding and eliminating Hutus have since 1994 been established. They guide today the life of everyone Rwandan and at some extent anyone external dealing with the country. Apparently these laws and policies are meant to keep relationships between Hutus and Tutsis as they were before independence for another 400 years at least. This must be what Paul Kagame referred to incidentally in 2010 when he publicly announced that anyone who opposed his will would hit a wall of laws. People need to understand that these laws are not voted by representatives of the population but his selected people that he calls MPs or Senators, and in his parliament, he dictated there should be a majority of women for political and propaganda strategy.

The emasculation policy that the Rwandan minister for health is trying to impose on poor Rwandans, who are mainly if not all Hutus, should be considered in a broader context. Tutsis have today monopolized political, military and economic powers in the country. Hutus are excluded from interesting education opportunities since they are not officially seen as survivors of the genocide. Though they are indeed, as Gersony and Garreton or UN Mapping reports can prove. Any politician who voices concerns about ongoing inequalities and Kagame’s oppressive practices is either killed, prosecuted and or imprisoned.

The new health program intended for Hutu men should be perceived as a continuation of a deliberate government policy to gradually eliminate or reduce the number of those  who could access the country’s opportunities. The policy falls in the same realm of initiatives undertaken by the Rwandan government and aimed at fooling the international communities about Tutsi extremists’ intentions towards their Hutus compatriots. Obviously such policies cannot be openly presented otherwise. But their objectives are clear for their victims.

In a country or society where leaders care enough about all their citizens, and guarantee them a standard minimum to live on in terms of health, food, education, etc, the Rwandan minister policy could find some space for consideration. Without freedom of expression in the country, or institutions which are independent from Paul Kagame, the policy is only a half truth about the real intentions of his government. And this makes it worse than a complete lie.