Kikwete’s proposal about Rwanda is not sustainable

Kikwete and Obama

Kikwete and Obama

Views of the non-sustainability of Kikwete’s proposal expressed in this note are fundamentally different from those advanced by the Kigali regime and its affiliated agencies like Ibuka. The Rwandan president Paul Kagame by opposing the suggestion of talks between Rwanda and FDLR is only aiming at sustaining RPF internal oppression against Hutu and external aggression against the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the reflections explained here demonstrate other concerns that could avoid future antagonisms in the strained relations between Hutu and Tutsi. On May 26th, 2013, in a speech at Addis Abeba, the Tanzanian president made his suggestion of necessary talks between rebel groups and their respective governments of the Great Lakes region, namely Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to end the persistent insecurity which affects sustainable development in the area.

Many reasons indicate how unsustainable the proposal is, particularly in the case of Rwanda. However, the main objection to the Kikwete’s proposal is that it did not come from Rwandans. On that unique ground, if the proposal was to evolve in its current form, it would appear to be imposed on them by external stakeholders. Like the Arusha negotiations of 1992/93 held between the then rebel group [Rwandan Patriotic Front] and Habyarimana government, the suggested dialogue between Rwanda and FDLR would risk avoiding the true questions of ethnicity of Hutu and Tutsi embedded in the country’s history and that characterises a strong past and today’s political rivalry.

To start with, it is important to remind the reader that Tutsi and Hutu figures in the Rwandan population stand at 14% and 85% respectively, but the demographics are being reversed by policies put in place by Kagame’s regime since 1994. Along that line, the official policy of the Rwandan Patriotic Front has been to consider every citizen first and foremost as Rwandan and nothing else in order to discriminate legally against Hutu. In fact there are many laws that punish anyone who refers publicly to ethnicity. Ongoing political court cases in Rwanda fall in that line.

1.    The proposal starts from the wrong premises of thinking that the issue between Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi is only political; it is as well social, cultural and historical.

The idea that Tutsi supremacists have had from immemorial times of considering that they always have to dominate Hutu will hardly find a sustainable solution if Rwandans themselves don’t discuss that issue from its different aspects and address it once for all. And unfortunately such debate will not have space under the framework of the proposed dialogue.

Relations between Hutu and Tutsi have been forged by their respective history of living together for many centuries in a permanent situation of potential social conflict between subjects and masters. Attitudes that developed between the two groups along those centuries define even today political problems that the Rwandan society experiences.

Under the RPF leadership, the country’s history has been rewritten to accommodate the official narrative of what Rwanda experienced as a nation from its early foundations until today. It would be completely wrong and unproductive in the long run for the leaders in Kigali to consider that by distorting the reading of the past erase from memories its true meaning for present and future generations of Rwandans who will come to know about it.

2.    Contrary to the South African situation of Apartheid era, the solution being suggested for Rwandans is coming from outside of the antagonistic parties

Further to a long and meticulously prepared strategy of communication, the Rwandan Patriotic Front and its previous predecessors groups of Tutsi propaganda worked the international opinion in order to present Tutsis as victims in the Rwandan past and recent history. That policy is still at work when Kigali always uses the Rwandan genocide of 1994 to silence anyone critical towards its criminal activities inside Rwanda and in neighbouring countries.

By the force of its African and Western lobbies, until now, the RPF has managed to impose itself to the Rwandan society. In 1990/94, using military strategy and political lobbying it removed from power a Hutu government. The change of regime was a military coup with a human tragedy of apocalyptic dimensions.

In South Africa, racial tensions of the Apartheid era were resolved because the whites found realistic to initiate direct negotiations with blacks. The international policy of economic, political and even cultural boycotts had started to reach unsustainable proportions. The business white community approached ANC leadership to find a way out of the prevailing solution. At the end they found a common political ground. This was achieved between two parties without major external intervention.

The relations between Rwanda and its external partners, though they are not as positive as they were in the immediate post-genocide period, have not fundamentally changed to put untenable pressure to Kigali to force it into negotiating with its opponents. Instead of pushing Paul Kagame into sitting around a negotiation table, conditions should be created for him and his government to feel that there is no other alternative. He would be the one, or his Rwandan affiliated interests groups, to seek such dialogue.

3.    Arusha negotiations of 1992/93 between Habyarimana government [hutu] and RPF [tutsi] failed mainly because the dominant side, meaning the latter, succeeded in marginalizing the question Hutu/Tutsi at the table of negotiations

Strengthened by the status of victims that it had developed for many years and gained the unconditional support of the international community, RPF hardened its positions in Arusha. Despite all the elements that Habyarimana government gave in, RPF wanted no less than total political power without sharing it with no one. And that is what happened after July 1994.

The fact that the Tutsi elite as a group has always historically demonstrated its persistent desire to dominate other communities at any cost in the Great Lakes region explains its politics of violence, genocides, deceit, and extreme ethnic discrimination. From Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, the picture is the same: they take or control directly or indirectly the main strategic political, military, economic decisions in all these countries.

4.    The proposal of the Tanzanian president responds primarily to political/ economic interests external to Rwandans

The opportunity cost of the prevailing situation in the Great Lakes region for the last two decades is widely heavy for all the concerned countries.

For example, from an only economic point of view, what these countries have endured during all these years is enormous.

Despite immense potentialities in terms of natural resources, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, persistent instability purposely entertained by Tutsi led or inclined regimes of the region in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, effective development is difficult to take steady ground. Ongoing pursuit of regional hegemonic power by these countries is continuously jeopardizing that development..

On the one hand, that Kikwete made his proposal to address this fundamental problem of missing out on economic opportunities in the region, this does not necessarily mean that it has at its core the preoccupation of Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi of living together harmoniously and sustainably.

The critic made in this note does not mean that resolving the problem of persistent instability would not improve the miserable conditions that millions of individuals experience as a consequence of constant wars in the region, on the other hand. Though there would probably be some relative and temporary peace, the underlying argument opposing the proposal in its current form is that any outcome of such dialogue, because of its nature, would only postpone the eventual explosion of an open conflict between the two Rwandan ethnic rivals. Again the failure of the Arusha negotiations and the Rwandan and regional recent history are there as a telling evidence.

5.    The proposal of Kikwete risks of bringing around the table of negotiations mainly people who are accused of genocides, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Since its inception in November 1994, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [ICTR] has only investigated and judged Hutus’ responsibilities in the Rwandan genocide. Tutsis who are responsible of similar atrocities if not more, committed both in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been ruling Rwanda since July 1994.

If the proposal of president Kikwete was to go ahead without being challenged in its current form by genuinely concerned parties, it risks of perpetuating impunity for the perpetrators of crimes committed against millions of Rwandans and Congolese, this since October 1990. Accepting Kikwete’s proposal as suggested would be like formally agreeing to forget about justice for the victims of atrocities of which consequences continue to affect every life in the region.

What is sustainable?

1.    Addressing the historical ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi through reparative and restorative justice

The Rwandan society has suffered and continues to suffer from its past and recent history. Anyone who does not see that, and genuinely concerned with the country’s situation, must have decided to be blind about that reality.

An inter-Rwandan dialogue highly inclusive will be the only platform to address historical issues between Hutu and Tutsi. If such dialogue could be part of the proposal of talks that president Kikwete advocates for, that would redress the initial critic that this note has highlighted.

2.    Avoiding the mistakes of the negotiations of Arusha held in 1992/1993

What transpired from the discussions held in Arusha at the time of the Rwandan civil war from October 1990 to July 1994 was that the dominant forces, namely the Tutsi led Rwandan Patriotic Front, relying on its military support and external lobby group, was not interested in democracy in Rwanda. The political picture that the country has shown since July 1994 when the RPF took power tells the whole story.

Any negotiations that would not put at the core of its discussions genuine interests of the people they pretend to care about will get undoubtedly negative consequences on them.

To care more about the Rwandan people who usually pay a heavy price when negotiations are not genuinely held demands at least four prerequisites

  1. To have a range of civil societies’ representatives sitting at the negotiation table and voicing loudly people’s concerns [from inside and outside of the country]
  2. To discuss the processes of how to get into political, national security, judiciary and legislative leadership of the country
  3. To strictly avoid decisions on who will have political, national security, judiciary and legislative roles during the transitional period if such period was agreed upon
  4. To leave political decisions on who will lead Rwanda in those different areas to democratically elected representatives; while such step is not there yet, an agreed temporary structure to be stripped of political immediate future would be put in place with a specific mandate.

3.    Demilitarizing Uganda Burundi and Rwanda

The African continent has experienced troubled periods, particularly starting from its colonial period, passing through its independence era, throughout decades of military coup that followed. There have been many rebellions fighting against sitting governments, some genuine, others not.

However, what the Great Lakes region has experienced is unprecedented.  None of previous political instability had reached a similar level of cruelty and taken so many lives.

What a regional hegemonic elite aligned on Tutsi ethnic lines in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo has achieved in terms of massacres of civilian populations and other sinister strategies to implant its power in those countries calls for radical and innovative approaches to address the ongoing consequences of  its actions.

With a death toll close to more than 8 millions in all these countries, if the international community and particularly African countries effectively cared for Africans, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi should be dealt with the same way as were Germany and Japan after World War II.

Further to their significant responsibilities in the war and the damages the latter had causes to other countries; Germany and Japan were forced into demilitarization. Similarly, the mentioned three countries of the Great Lakes region should be internationally forced into not developing offensive armies susceptible of attacking neighbours.

To replace armies in these countries, there would be police forces for law enforcement and internal security. To protect the country against foreign invasions, there would be agreements of military defence with selected friendly nations and pacts of military protection with regional groupings and foreign partners.

4.    Establishing two separate Hutu and Tutsi states in the Great Lakes region

Post-Hitler Germany was split into two separate states: East and West Germany. South Sudan has recently separated from Sudan. Israel was created by US and Britain under the auspices of the UN. Eritrea separated from Ethiopia. There are other historic examples where people traditionally living together as different communities had to get separated for political reasons despite the logistical, political, economical and humanitarian consequences for such decisions.

Burundi and Rwanda have for long had relatively similar demographics of Hutus and Tutsis, in the proportion of 14% Tutsi and 85% Hutu in each country. Of course, there are slight variations here and there from playing with these figures further to political interests and officially adopted policies.

In Burundi, over decades, there have been many genocides mainly against hutu by the ruling tutsi which have not come out in the general public, particularly because the victims did not have an effective communication channel capable of advocating for their cause, contrary to the Rwandan genocide where the Tutsi victims had meticulously planned the communication strategy years even before it occurs. That begs even some suspicion in their role in creating the conditions of its occurrence, knowing well how it was going to be using afterwards.

In order to avoid historically persistent antagonisms between Hutu and Tutsi in Burundi or Rwanda, where events in one country generally impact on the other, as this was the case for example when the first Hutu Burundian president Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated in October 1993, creating two separate states: Rwanda for Hutu and Burundi for Tutsi would be the ideal solution. And to take into account the numerical factor of the two groups, Burundi could be stripped of a significant portion of its northern part and allocated to Hutus who would populate also current Rwanda. History, Politics and Geography specialists could help in such exercise.

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