In history there are numerous comparable situations. Though once looked at objectively they might all demonstrate some striking similarities, nonetheless they always bear their own unique particularities which characterise them. These make them somehow distinct, despite their comparability.
In 1991, Agathe Uwilingiyimana was one of four members from Butare [southern Rwanda] of the national political bureau of MDR, main party against MRND of Juvenal Habyarimana, president of Rwanda at the time. Multiparty system had been only allowed one year before. Agathe was the local vice president of her party in her native province. After internal divisions emerged and seriously damaged the political organisation she was part of in 1992, they undoubtedly impacted widely on the Rwandan political landscape.
Dr Dismas Nsengiyaremye, prime minister from MDR faced opposition from other political forces opposed to President Juvenal Habyarimana. These were particularly Party Liberal (PL) and Party Social Democrats (PSD). Though they were all represented in a multiparty government, they wanted a consensual personality to lead the multiparty government. As the main political opposition, MDR had to provide a new candidate to become prime minister, and with its ongoing internal divisions, other political forces opted for Faustin Twagiramungu, who was then the President of MDR in his province of origin of Cyangugu [southern/western Rwanda]. He was as well leader of one of the MDR factions.
Probably by opportunism or political strategy, Faustin suggested Agathe Uwilingiyimana, on whom every political force entitled to be part of the government agreed. She then became Prime Minister. The presidential side found in her apparently a weaker political opponent than was her predecessor. But for Faustin, she was certainly and only a gatekeeper, as this was to emerge in the year or so which followed. In fact, when the Arusha Accords between the Rwandan government and Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were signed on August 4th, 1993, Faustin Twagiramungu’s name was there as Prime Minister of the Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG). This structure was meant to prepare the country to democratic elections, which unfortunately never came, because RPF was more interested in the monopolisation of political power. It used a short cut: the assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6th, 1994 and triggered the Rwandan genocide.
Immediately after the political created vacuum, Agathe Uwiligiyimana, who played her part in getting RPF in a better political position in Rwanda, became one of many first politicians from the opposition who were targeted and killed by the presidential guards. Looking back, though she was courageous and ambitious in her own right, she let herself to be used by opportunists in the Twagiramungu MDR camp and RPF rebel movement which was working through the former. She became victim of her ambitions, but most significantly of those who wanted to use her position for their selfish and political gains.
In August 2011, Kagame’s regime is confronted with a similar political situation as was Habyarimana at the eve of October 1st, 1990 [when Rwanda was attacked by the Tutsi led rebel movement RPF] – with additional aspects that could be borrowed from 1992, when political parties were openly active seeking his fall. The only apparent difference is the absence of an organised military force threatening the RPF government at the moment. But this too may change soon, especially after the recent visit to Rwanda of Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda. If people remember false promises he made in 1987 to Habyarimana about any military invasion coming from his country to attack Rwanda, they should expect the worse from his side.
Having said that, time for change is coming soon. It is midnight minus one in Rwanda. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, leader of FDU-Inkingi, has significantly demonstrated her courage for changing Rwandan political landscape. This is particularly evident since her arrival in the country on January 16th, 2010. She has been consistent on one important point: being the effective voice of voiceless Rwandans from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, who have been dispossessed, made unemployed, imprisoned, humiliated, refugees, orphans, widows, homeless, helpless and hopeless.
She may become a symbol, and people should perceive her objectively under that light. And it is obviously in that capacity that her courage and sacrifice could unify all political forces of change in Rwanda and serve more the future of the country. Like other important names in Rwandan history, former companions of Gregoire Kayibanda – Secyugu and Kayuku, Gapyisi, former MDR president in his native province of Gikongoro [southern Rwanda], or Fred Rwigema and Seth Sendashonga, former RPF members, and probably many others, they could all foresee upcoming political changes and actively took part, with some degree of opportunism, but certainly a great deal of idealism, which would’ve set their country on a different and better path.
They helped shape and change political situations of Rwanda. But their actions, and particularly martyr, were used, most specifically in the case of Ingabire, by those other politicians more ruthless and cynical to step into their feet to achieve their personal agendas, which unfortunately don’t always coincide with those publicly announced.