By Pacific Habimana
Rwandan political and judicial recent news lead us to attempt a better understanding of the political situation of the political opposition group RNC, headed by former senior officials of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front).
Leadership and its past in the RPF
The RNC core leaders include former high officials of the current regime in Kigali; some of them are prosecuted for crimes allegedly committed under their responsibility. This is the case of General Nyamwasa, who is under the scope of arrest warrants of three countries (chronologically France, Spain and Rwanda).
Nyamwasa is prosecuted in France for the April 1994 plane crash that killed two Heads of State, Burundian and Rwandan, their fellows and the French crew. He is one of the nine personalities of the Rwandan regime against whom French justice issued arrest warrants in 2006. He also appears on the list of forty Rwandan officers suspected by Spain over the deaths of Spanish nationals. Similarly, Dr. Théogène Rudasingwa (former Secretary General of the RPF, former Paul Kagame’s Chief of staff and currently Coordinator of the RNC), used to be the most popular general in the army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Both generals claim to have information concerning President Paul Kagame’s involvement in the attack that killed his predecessor and say they are ‘ready’ to transmit it to justice.
Barriers to justice: the Nyamwasa and South Africa case
General Kayumba Nyamwasa, former Defense Chief of Staff, has been, since the day of his exile in South Africa, an element of diplomatic discord, legal or national security since Rwanda would attempt on his life in 2010 during the period of the Football World Cup.
As RFI revealed on Friday, October 18, for a year and a half, French authorities unsuccessfully asks South Africa to extradite the General for his alleged participation in the attack against former Rwandan President’s plane. Mr. Meilhac, Habyarimana family’s lawyer, told Jambonews that “the procedure is being hindered by several kinds of barriers.” According to him “there are at least three arrest warrants against him; secondly, we cannot consider him as a simple witness for the judges to go in the South Africa to hear him because he is personally accused. Finally, there are also political and diplomatic issues that can explained the willingness of the South Africa to remain “neutral” in its relations with the applicant countries and their respective interests. In addition to these specific difficulties, we have to remember that even among countries that have traditional cooperation in judicial matters, extradition requests take long procedural time,” Mr. Meilhac pointed out.
Mr.Meilhac questions their reliability, the credit to be given to the testimonies of these former RPF’s leaders. Nyamwasa in particular regarding the attack that triggered the 1994 genocide. He would have been himself at the heart of this crime and would have interest to blacken some truths.
Still according to Habyarimana family’s lawyer, regarding the possible arrival in France of Nyamwasa is now a question of relations between two States where judges do not have much room for maneuver.
The opposition movement and rehabilitation in the same opposition
Men, once pillars of the RPF system, including a former Chief of Staff and former intelligence chief, a former General Secretary, a former attorney general and a former chief of foreign intelligence ended their collaboration with General Paul Kagame and were “forced” to exile. Finding a political disorder and the absence of a strong political opposition in the Rwandan diaspora, they took advantage of their personalities and the positions they occupied to impose themselves as leaders who can be the alternative to Paul Kagame.
However, they struggle to be accepted as trusted leaders in terms of their long history within the RPF organization, which they do not question practices, preferring to put its wrong doings on the account of one man without ever raising substantive issues regarding the collective movement’s aims, manners and many crimes committed when they were still in high responsibilities. These crimes include the killing of civilians in areas occupied by the RPF during the 1990-1994 war, those of Kibeho in 1995, massacres of refugees in the Cathedral of Byumba, those of Rwandese refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo or those committed in the Northern Rwanda in 1997-98 against civilians taken hostage in the crossfire.
The influence of the past on the present
If RNC’s top head is experiencing difficulties to emerge as popular leaders, this is also the case for most people who have been involved in Rwandan politics in the past. This also explains the absence of an experienced political class that would be an alternative to the RPF. Indeed, nearly all senior Rwandan politicians were involved, to some extend / or due political parties to which they were affiliated, in the descent into hell of Rwanda.
On September the 30th, 2013 Dr Rudasingwa complained at a conference held in Brussels that, on the one hand, the opposition’s audience constantly asks RNC leaders accounts of their past in the RPF – although they are denouncing crimes that RPF has done and apologized for their responsibilities in that. On the other hand, however, he observed that to former officials in the reigns of Juvenal Habyarimana‘s MRND and Kayibanda’s MDR, the public does not do the same. At the same time, do note that leaders of those regimes are no longer interested in politics wanting to lead the opposition. This is explained by the fact that most of those who had political responsibilities in the 94 genocide are brought to justice or have been convicted, others took their pensions. For those who are still active in political parties, most of them are also still facing their political past.
Promised revelations only in front of judges
These former Rwandan strong man’s fellows say they know a lot about the crimes of a person, Paul Kagame, and promise to deliver their revelations only to justice. Yet, the citizens for whom they spend their time explaining that they have to resist the dictatorship needs to know the truth about their past in the RPF. Why then give priority to the judges to find facts, which, if proven true, would highly be historical?
Although Théogène Rudasingwa now seems to want a different path in order to know the truth about the 1994 attack, namely to be submitted with Paul Kagame to a lie detector (polygraph) under international supervision, it rather seems to be an impractical approach.
The stake: the choice between the opposition and the RPF
The real dilemma for RNC leaders is the one consisting to choose for their side between RPF and the opposition. On one side there is the RPF that they have built and served with dedication, on the other side there is the opposition denouncing the RPF regime and its crimes, not only those of one man. This is also the reason why the public has trouble trusting people who want to lead them but do not say or think quite the same thing as them. For most of opposition voices in fact, the RPF is a criminal organization while for RNC leaders, Kagame hijacked the RPF, diverted its good intentions and its well doing ways.
It is therefore to this question that these officials should clearly answer: their relationship with the RPF and the perception they have of it.