April of each year since 94 reminds Rwandans and the rest of the world of the million or so people who died within one hundred days as a consequence of betrayal, opportunism and criminality at their extreme expression. We remember the dead, how they died, and sometimes wonder how all that became possible. But history is there to tell us.
In the summer of 2006, a gathering of Rwandans was convened for the community based in UK. On the program of the day was a video narrating the 1996/97 perilous journey of Hutus refugees in ex-Zaire. This was a right to remember that those in the audience wanted to exercise revisiting their recent life experience. They were not trying to plot against any one but only looking into their album of memories.
Spies of the Rwandan government who happened to be at the event did not like what they witnessed: Hutus being capable of remembering comfortably their suffering. With the help of the Rwandan Embassy in London, BBC and British government, a conspiracy to destabilize the Hutu community living in UK was developed and implemented. In December 2006, it resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of four individuals from the Rwandan community on allegations of participation in the Rwandan genocide. After more than two years in the high security prison of Bermash and a long campaign of advocacy on their behalf and hard work from their lawyers, they were luckily released.
Remembering like thinking in its basic sense are mental processes which should be left on their own and not tampered by external controls. More importantly, what we think and particularly the way we express our thoughts should not be hindered by any fear of punishment as long as we remain within the limit of the law of the land. Remembering makes us whole. Our past is part of who we are; consequently taking it from us is another form of oppression. The same applies to changing people’s or a country’s history. Though, each person has their own interpretations of historical facts. This brings me to the interview that General Kayumba Nyamwasa who is based in South Africa gave in Kinyarwanda to BBC on Tuesday April 5th, 2011 [I translated the extract of interest for this post]. He was responding to an accusation broadcasted by the same media from Francois Ngarambe, Secretary General of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the ruling party whose Chairman is President Paul Kagame.
RPF Secretary General explains during his interview that, ‘there is nobody who comes out triumphant [when they are against us]; look at these examples: Twagiramungu[ex-Rwandan Prime Minister under RPF rule] insulted Habyarimana [ex-President], then he got into difficulties, became afraid, couldn’t cope with the situation he had put himself into, then he fled, left and forgot about Rwandans; then after 11 years, he came back to seek their votes. Then Ingabire came. She wants to lead Rwandans. Who is Ingabire to rule them? Are these the type of personalities or politicians we need? The ultimate insult came with the following list of characters: Gahima, Rudasingwa, Karegeya, Rusesabagina, Kayumba, Mushayidi and others, all people who have proven to be incompetent in accomplishing effectively their responsibilities.’ All these individuals are opponents to Paul Kagame’s regime. They are either languishing in Rwandan prisons or in exile.
General Kayumba Nyamwasa, who is among the founders of Rwandan National Congress, the recently constituted in exile Rwandan political party, was closely missed by Paul Kagame’s henchmen in June 2010 in South Africa. He was so important to RPF inner circle until he left the country in February 2010 that the regime seems today disoriented since he has distanced himself from the group. His person and RPF system have been very intertwined for a long period of years. His name is listed among those that French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière and Spanish Judge, Fernando Andreu Morelles, indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region of Africa. He replied to RPF’s Secretary General’s allegations against him through a BBC right to response. He explains that, ‘if he (Secretary General of RPF) thinks that all those people didn’t help RPF in getting into power, it’s because he is ignorant. Twagiramungu, since 91, at the negotiation meetings held in Belgium, if Ngarambe cannot appreciate rightly the contribution of Twagiramungu, it is apparently because he does not know RPF. If he does not know well Arusha negotiations, what were its outcomes when even Twagiramungu’s name was written in the final agreements; it is because he does not know. If he does not know the contribution of Gahima, Karegeya, Rudasingwa, how could he have known all these things anyway? ….. Obviously he cannot see others’ people contributions. [Today]He doesn’t see people’s [contributions] like Ingabire, Mushayidi and others.’
The exchange of views on BBC between the secretary general of RPF and the exiled general reveals known truths worth remembering in connection with what happened in Rwanda or is happening in the country politically. Depending on the side people stand, these historical facts will be interpreted differently, when while they were unfolding you were a live witness of history. For example praising so publicly Twagiramungu for his important contribution to getting RPF into power, this appears to many in the Rwandan society including myself as a lack of some political sensitivity on the part of General Nyamwasa, knowing well what effectively Faustin Twagiramungu’s regrettable role played in the Rwandan tragedy which has now become part of who the citizens of that country are and will be for generations to come.
The wind of democracy which is sweeping the world at the moment should bring a new type of leadership in countries where it is blowing and change is needed. If not, victims who come with it will have died in vain. Let’s look at Tunisia, Egypt and even Libya. I would find it regrettable if after the change sought so vividly has been achieved; new leaders to emerge were from old corrupted groups of personalities without much moral authority to lead others or adopt policies of governance similar to those of their predecessors who excelled in politics of betrayal, opportunism or criminality. In the particular case of Rwanda, leaders whose past is questionable in terms of integrity, honesty, decency, empathy towards the suffering of their compatriots indiscriminately and are self-centred, if they could state clearly where they see themselves in the political future of the country [or the civil society could help them], instead of continuing playing with the suffering of their compatriots, they would be serving their nation enormously. They certainly have a particular role to play but not as political leaders.
To give a chance to a new era in countries that access to a new leadership through current democratic uprising or otherwise, new leaders who are selfless in their attitudes and new systems/ structures of serving people must be fought for as passionately as the way citizens in different places including Rwanda are seeking removal of dictators and criminal leaders. Rwanda needs a new generation of morally clean leaders. This is a challenge that all Rwandans have to take on and overcome.