From immemorial times, Rwandan politicians [or generally those whose decisions have always impacted on destinies of many in the country of The Thousand Hills], have all along past and present generations planted the seeds for future injustices, instead of establishing laws and implementing policies which guarantee fairness and equal opportunities to all.
Even today under Paul Kagame’s regime, discriminative practices, – worse than those of past South African apartheid where they were at least institutionalised into laws, appear such that Rwanda cannot live without injustices, as if treating its citizens equally and fairly was less appealing than its opposite.
Such prevailing situation often has found its justification in the weight of cultural pressure from family entities, clan affiliations, regions of origin, and sometimes strong ethnic identification, or most importantly the personality of leaders that particular circumstances put in front of others to rule.
But can Rwanda ever have a chance of finding that rare leader [one or many] whose ideals and practices are genuinely detached from above hindrances? When that happens, the country will be set for its renaissance. New ground like that first settlers found in its then inhabited spaces will be ready to receive different and better projects for the Rwandan society.
In 1959, during the social revolution which saw Hutus gaining their freedom from a system which had enslaved them from centuries, leaders of change at the time, led by Gregoire Kayibanda, could’ve probably found a middle ground if they had not been furiously fought by enemies of the new direction Rwanda was taking [this is only a hypothesis that events may have proven wrong or right]. Good ideals and especially unselfishness which in the first years of the struggle had characterised leaders of masses’ emancipation didn’t unfortunately last longer.
With General Juvenal Habyarimana, who ruled Rwanda from 1973 to 1994, an apparent and relative fairness among Tutsis and Hutus was introduced during the early years of his regime, but regionalism took over with time on the one side. On the other, it would’ve been particularly difficult to expect democracy from a professional soldier. In the military, democracy means indecision and at some extent lives are sometimes saved [and or equally ruined] because of the lack of it.
Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s strongman since July 1994, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front [RPF] introduced in the country’s politics, the sad reality of rebel movement fighting to take political power. Since 1990, Rwandans who survived atrocities committed all along [and not ready to end], and the rest of the world, are all today witnesses of destructions in terms of human, economic, social, psychological, and good relationships with neighbouring countries that RPF continues to be responsible for. With time, it seems futile to ask the Rwandan president to become democratic, stop his criminal activities, or alleviate injustices he has established as policies of government. Whatever the way he will quit power, though if he has ever cared about his country he could help on this, Rwandans need to start seriously thinking of limiting social, political and economical damages which could result from his exit.
Each time Rwanda has experienced change of regime there have been losers and winners. Understandably change is synonymous of moving from one state to a different other one. In the process, imbalances are created but they can be minimised. This does not mean that change sought after cannot be radical from the past and provides enough guarantees to the usually called losers to entrust the new ground brought about.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11/02/1990. ANC had been fighting against the White power for almost 80 years. When he was brought into power in 1994, he accepted to become president on the condition he would only serve one term of 4 years. That’s what he did. During his presidency, one of his urgent tasks was to prepare his exit from political active life. Because of the precedent he set, now no South African leader could dare changing the two terms of presidency the constitution allows. Tabo Mbeki [and president Jacob Zuma] who followed in Mandela’s footsteps had even to struggle completing honourably their first terms let alone think of seeking a second one.
In the particular situation of Rwanda, what could be the principles to become pillars of a sustainable ground for the future of the country?
- Personality and background of leaders Rwandans allow to be in front of them are critical to a positive transformation of their country. So far three names come to mind which could fit in such category: Victoire Ingabire, Deo Mushayidi and Me Bernard Ntaganda. Credit should be given where it is due. These three politicians have demonstrated their courage, and for that reason they are today imprisoned in Rwanda. Others in their majority, particularly in the diaspora, show only that they are risk adverse, cowards, revenge seekers, or opportunists.
- How Paul Kagame finishes his political career can impact on the country’s future. An ideal situation would be for him to be defeated democratically and face a court of justice for his crimes. His past of being a rebel has demonstrated that he cannot become a democrat. Death, accidental or announced through a court as outcome of judgment, won’t help.
- A commission of truth and reconciliation to address the enormity of atrocities committed in the country since 1990 should be a must. Contrary to what RPF has called a similar process under its rule, the new commission would task itself in objectively looking and weighting crimes and their perpetrators without considering political affiliation or ethnic origin
- Freedom of speech and association should become a new modus operandi. There cannot be a balanced development without expression of people and institutions of what they feel important to share.
- African politics have shown that accessing to power through military rebellion or coup can be damaging for harmonious development of a country. Rwanda new ground should ban and make illegal any such attempt. Incumbent leaders who would be in office through such process like Paul Kagame currently should be impeached, and made to understand that they are illegally standing as rulers.
- Since getting in power RPF has devised and implemented many policies so detrimental to the majority of Rwandans in their many ways of living that a work of assessing them is required; reparations need as well being analysed to set sustainable grounds for the country as a whole.
- RPF regime has created and flourished under a background of animosity between populations of the Great lakes region. Mending damages caused to relations with neighbouring countries should become a priority for a new start.
- Wherever around the world where Rwandans ended up fleeing wars raged by RPF or its discriminative policies, they have been under constant fear of president Kagame’s killing squads. Intimidation, harassment, and forced return of refugees have been dominant policies of the Rwandan government towards its citizens who fled its regime. Voluntary return of Rwandan refugees and genuine welcoming policies will get back the trust that millions of exiles would like to have in their country. This could be a must to sustain its future.
Most Rwandans are looking for exceptional people, true leaders, humble and unselfish, but courageous enough to stand [leave all their comfort and even die] for beliefs they share with the majority of them. They are not interested in revenge seekers, opportunists, or risk adverse, to get in front and show them the way. They are seeking bridge builders, like Nelson Mandela, having endured their share of suffering, who could get them out the hell that Paul Kagame has made the country look like for 97% of them, but leaders who would feel respectful enough to let them become responsible of their destiny once this is accomplished.
Taking Rwanda politics into a sustainable territory requires a fulltime commitment not tainted by deceit. Not like in the case of Paul Kagame, Rwandan president, who particularly during his visits in Brussels [4/12/10], Chicago [11/6/11] and Paris [12/9/11] has been using his country’s resources for satisfying his ego at the expense of his citizens, but that of individuals ready to move away from their comfort zones, take up enough calculated risks, make sacrifices to think through and unselfishly work out day and night peaceful solutions for the future of their country.