By Dr. Jean-Baptiste Mberabahizi
The very day the « results » of the last sham parliamentary elections were announced, one of my Rwandan Facebook friends asked me to make a short comment over its most astonishing outcome: the incredible, hilarious 64% of women elected MPs, a first in the world.
I didn’t reply to them. I’m sure it didn’t go down well with my friend. But, there are many reasons to that. The most important worth mentioning is that I couldn’t figure out how to put in a few words the significance of such a bizarre outcome. The significance of that outcome doesn’t lie in the process itself whatever astounding it sounded for any uninformed observer. It rather stems from the essence of the regime in place since July 19, 1994. That essence can be summed up in one single English word: FAKE.
Nearly everything in Paul Kagame’s Rwanda is fake. The only true things whose reality one cannot argue about are the Rwandan people and the Rwandan territory. The rest, from the supposed Rwanda’s economic miracle to the so-called multi-party democratic State are absolutely fake.
Fake multi-party system
First thing first. Rwanda’s political system is an autocracy. State institutions, especially the army, police and intelligence agencies , were tailored by, evolve around and report to one person : Paul Kagame, who in turn is a lackey of some external powers, all in the name of « protecting the interests of the Tutsi minority », then in the name of « preventing another genocide ». The moment the now ruling « Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) » captured Kigali which was built around two to three thousand Tutsi refugee soldiers within the Ugandan former rebel army, the National Resistance Movement, it actually ceased to exist.
As for the remnants of the Hutu opposition parties to the former regime who accepted to take part in the RPF–led government, they were systematically first fragmented, then banned or infiltrated and coerced into a fake political coalition dubbed « government of national unity » to dupe the general public and lastly, their leaders were jailed or forced to flee the country. The ‘Mouvement Démocratique Républicain (MDR)’ which was the main opposition party under the previous regime was even banned before the first sham elections in 2003. Since then, small political groups gravitating around Paul Kagame’s army are artificially maintained as alibis to fake a multi-party system. The electorate lives in a state of permanent military surveillance. The independent press has ceased to exist and the civil society consists of a network of detachments of the ruling RPF in which spies are the pillars of their leadership. In such circumstances, elections are meaningless and institutions mere window-dressing details.
Fake liberation movement
The RPF pretends to be « a liberation movement » to the extent it even instituted a « Liberation Day » celebrated with pump every year the 4th of July, the day it seized Kigali in 1994. Nothing could be further from the reality. Elisabeth King (2009) in « From data problems to data points : challenges and opportunities of research in post genocide Rwanda » recalls that Belgian journalist « Colette Braeckman refers to Paul Kagame’s Rwanda as a Potemkin village », a place where everything you see is meant to dupe you. We cannot put it better. The RPF was crafted from the second generation of the defeated Tutsi feudalists whose rule was ended by a peasant revolution that drove them out of the country to neighboring Burundi, Zaïre (now DRC), Uganda and Tanzania in the early 1960s. In the context of Rwanda’s history, the RPF is a pure product of a protracted counter-revolution.
To comprehend it, one has to imagine South Africa’s Democratic Alliance party back to power after a civil war, with Black flag bearers like Lindiwe Mazibuko, which is not politically impossible after all, at least in theory and in the long run. Don’t get me wrong though. Unlike South Africa’s White racists, Tutsi feudalists are well Africans. I fought and would do fight again all those who tried to wipe them off the surface of the country by « sending them back to Abyssinia by the shortest path». I combat equally Tutsi extremists who claim to be descendents of Jews to the extent that East African journalists like Charles Onyango-Obbo advocate and justify plans to curve out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an Israel-like promised land, the «Vulcania Republic » to guarantee their security in their own nation. No surprise then that in Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, any discussion of this reality amounts to « genocide ideology » or « divisionnism ». Ironically, Hutu revolutionaries of the 1950s are branded « genocidaires » by the now ruling Tutsi reactionaries who poise as « revolutionaries » and call themselves « liberators ».
Today’s Rwanda has kept its republican form of government inherited from the Hutu petty-bourgeois revolutionaries of the 1950s. To complicate things, last ruling king Kigeli Ndahindurwa lives a miserable life of deprivation, loneliness and racial discrimination in the United States of America where he shares the huddles of African refugee life together with descendents of those who deposed him some day in January 1961. The ruling autocrat cultivates an unfeigned hostility towards monarchists to the extent that he kills them at will any time he detects the slightest sign of defiance. Make no mistake. Paul Kagame’s « Republic of Rwanda » has absolutely everything a republic is supposed to have : there’s a parliament, a judiciary and an executive branch of government and a « National Electoral Commission », holds at regular intervals of five years and seven years respectively, « parliamentary and presidential elections ». He didn’t have much of a choice. He took power in a post Cold War world in which it would have been suicidal to openly refute multi-party politics. But the only concession he made was on the form, not on the content. All of these deceptive tactics rely on one thing : marketing techniques. That option bears with it a very serious weakness. Its success or failure depends on absolute control over the regime’s image. It makes it a question of life or death.
Nearly everything is fake
Gen. Paul Kagame’s apologists Patricia Crisafuli and Andrea Redmond call him a CEO and Rwanda a ficticious company in their book « Rwanda, Inc. ». They are correct in that he takes the general public for a mere market and his well packaged lies for branded goods. Everybody knows that in that world of publicity, branding is everything. His product catalogue is endless, thanks to overly contracted and remunerated foreign PR firms. Two myths and falsehoods are worth mentioning. First, « he stood alone as the whole world was looking on and stopped the genocide in 1994 » as his recent admirer far-right American rabbi Shmuley Boteach lures the Jewish community both in Israel and in the diaspora into believing. Not only he never stopped it as such, he rather triggered it by shooting down his predecessor’s presidential jet, killing two presidents and their aides at a go, opposed and thwarted all attempts to enable the then United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda force stop the killers. The naked truth is that he was leading a force that had and still has no chance of winning any democratic election in Rwanda, a reactionary class that believed and still feels it has no option but to seize and keep power by the barrel of the gun. Moreover, the presence of battalions of troops from Ethiopia and Uganda could have been detected and their involvement exposed. This could have made it clear to the world that the conflict was henceforth an international conflict requiring an international response. This perspective could have been catastrophic for them. It’s a matter of fact that external forces were allowed when the game was over in July 1994 and the genocide completed, once Kigali had fallen.
Second over-branded packaged product, « under his visionary leadership on top of accomplishing an economic miracle », « with 64% of seats won by women, Rwanda maintains number one spot worldwide ». It’s true in terms of absolute numbers. But this is the appearance. The reality is that none of Rwanda’s MPs is elected. Rwandans are forced to vote. Voters don’t know who they vote for. They select the abridged name of a party out of a list of acronyms listed on one single ballot. The electoral system is a closed list proportional representation in a country where there’s no real political party and the electorate live in a state of permanent fear.
Victim of zealous propagandists
Sometimes, zealous branding agencies overdo it. That’s what happened with the last electoral farce. Official statistics affirm that women constitute 52% the total population (Year 2012). Girls were 51% in primary schools, 50% in secondary education and 44% in higher education institutions. Why then allocate 64% of the seats to women in parliament? If anything, two wrongs don’t make a right.
The cause of this ridiculous situation lies in the fact that the autocrat was longing for a new brand after realizing that the usual « genocide guilt » asset was being eroded and tarnished by his own responsibility in its occurrence, by the counter-genocide he directed against Hutus in the DRC, the majority of whom were fellow citizens and for having directly or indirectly caused the death of six millions Congolese through direct invasions or proxy wars. He needed a new product. His strategists had to put their heads together and come up with a new brand. They found this one: « Rwanda, a world champion in gender equality ». With the opposite result that we all know.
Where do we go from here?
Rwandans know all this. Rwanda cannot carry on with such lies. Where do we go from there then? What is needed now is to organize and destroy brick by brick, stone by stone, this fake history, fake State and fake economy and build on their ashes a truly united, democratic, non sexist and peaceful Rwanda. We will do so bearing in mind that revolution is a process. It sometimes suffers setbacks and regressions before reversing back and propelling the nation towards higher levels of individual and collective well-being and prosperity. The price may well be high. UDF-Inkingi must put the bar very high so as to meet the expectations of our diverse, proud, industrious and disciplined people.
Dr Jean Baptiste Mberabahizi is Secretary General and Spokesperson of the Rwandan political party of the opposition – UDF-Inkingi.