The full interview is below:
JF: First, can you please clear up the confusion, for me and for others, about the two FDU-INKINGI groups? What are the major differences between the two parties and why did they split?
DL: The issues that led to what you call the confusion and split within FDU-Inkingi stem from the nature of the party itself. FDU is an amalgamation of principally three different political parties; Rwanda Democratic Alliance (ADR-Isangano), Republican Democratic Front (FRD) and Republican Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR). Other Rwandans in their individual capacities contributed to the creation of FDU-Inkingi and even became members.
So, these different political parties and individuals came into FDU with baggage both ideological and philosophical, and personal too. FDU was created on principles of compromise and as such, there was need to set up parameters and strict rules of engagement to guide our approach and modus operandi.
Since the creation of the party in 2006, we had issues of indiscipline and loyalty where some leaders kept working for their old parties at the expense of FDU. This problem was aggravated by the party’s decision to go to Rwanda and participate in the presidential elections of August, 2010. During this period, a lot of opportunism and immature political manoeuvres were betrayed and principles of compromise on which our party was built were overtaken by events.
The last straw was when sometime in early 2011, the then Vice President Eugene Ndahayo sent a delegation comprising principally of three FDU leaders to discuss possibilities of working with RNC in selected areas. These were, Nkiko Nsengimana, Jean Baptiste Mberabahizi and Sixbert Musanganfura. This delegation was charged with exploring what the RNC was proposing, come back and report so that FDU leadership could discuss it internally based on merits and demerits of this possible cooperation and decide whether to go ahead and iron out specifics or judge the process not useful. For unknown reasons, Nkiko and Musanganfura decided to sign a memorandum of understanding, even with clear and expressed instructions not to do so before the supreme party organ gives them a go-ahead.
Following this act of disobedience and dangerous indiscipline, the duo was suspended. Nkiko and Musanganfura convinced elements from RDR, who all along had been undermining FDU from within, to call themselves the new FDU and enter full cooperation with RNC. The rest as they say is history.
JF: What is your current position and duties as part of the FDU?
DL: I am the Commissioner for External Relations. I am charged with the task of selling the FDU brand to the outside world. Together with the General Secretary, I seek and accept friendship from other countries, other countries political parties and organisations. I am the FDU image in the Diplomatic world.
JF: When did you live in Rwanda and when did you leave? For what reason did you leave?
DL: I was born in Uganda. I first stepped foot in Rwanda in May, 1994 as part of a fact-finding mission of the Pan African Movement Secretariat. I went to Rwanda again in August, 1994 as Pan African Movement Liaison Officer and stayed for 2 years. I left 1n July, 1996. For the next four years, I lived in both Kigali and Kampala because my responsibilities as PAM Secretariat involved frequent movements in all the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. Basically, I cannot say I left Rwanda and I cannot for that matter invoke any reasons for leaving. However, since joining opposition politics, out of precautionary measures I chose to stay away not to fall victim to what other opposition figures have gone through.
JF: Were you ever a part of the RPF or and MP in Rwanda and if so what was your role in it?
DL: No, I have never been part of RPF. I was friends with many RPF figures, I still am to some but that is the closest I ever was.
JF: Where does your party stand as far as Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is concerned and her role in your party now? If she were pardoned would her role as president still be active?
DL: We still consider Ms. Ingabire Umuhoza FDU party president. If she was freed, as indeed she should be, she would resume her activities as the substantive party President.
JF: Did the party abandon her and her goals for Rwanda by assigning Eugene to succeed her?
DL: FDU did not abandon Ingabire and will never abandon her as long as we share the same goals and have a common vision. Assigning Eugene Ndahayo as acting President was to enable the party organs to work effectively. It was and remains the Rwandan government objective to cripple FDU-Inkingi as it had become a threat to its stranglehold on power.
Appointing Mr. Ndahayo as acting President was to fill the void in leadership that the Rwandan government created by arresting and imprisoning the party’s president.
Those who accuse the party leadership of abandoning Ingabire are misguided and misinformed. When Mandela was imprisoned by the apartheid regime in South Africa, ANC chose Oliver Tambo to be the party president. This was not an act against Nelson Mandela but one dictated by events. People who commit to opposition politics in hostile environment like in Rwanda or the apartheid South African know what they sign up for. I know it, so does Victoire but most important, we have to know that the party is more important than individual leaders. Whatever the unfortunate circumstances of any leader, the rest have a responsibility of carrying on.
JF: I understand you were due to return with Victoire Ingabire to Rwanda when she left to register the party. What changed those plans and are you able to stay in contact with her in anyway?
DL: Yes, I was one of those that were selected to return to Rwanda to Register the party and participate in the presidential elections. In fact, my role while in Rwanda was to be in charge of the overall process of registering the party to participate in the coming elections. This was decided so that Ingabire could concentrate on her campaign as party candidate and not be bogged down with the Party secretariat’s daily activity. I abandoned the plan of going with her two weeks to departure due to reasons I elaborated in my response to the first question.
There were a lot of uncoordinated moves and inconsistencies within party ranks that did not give me enough assurances that other party leaders were aware of the enormity of the challenges ahead and the seriousness and maturity these challenges demanded. I sensed hot-headedness and lack of strategy necessary to achieve the objective and I came to the conclusion as a result, that it was a futile exercise to go to Rwanda without having complete faith in our preparedness.
JF: Her sentencing is scheduled for early September. What are your thoughts on her trial and possible life sentence she is facing? Do you think President Kagame will show her mercy?
DL: The charges and the whole trial process of Victoire Ingabire are political. Victoire’s only crime she is guilty of is, being a politician and of that, Kagame is as well guilty. The charges and evidence against Victoire are all fabrications only meant to break her spirit and either kill her politically or have her in Kagame’s camp.
One cannot predict what will happen at the sentencing, whenever that is decided to be, since the timing is all calculated to maximise political capital out of it, while at the same time limiting the negative publicity against the regime. We have to remember this is a political trial and the outcome will be decided by the sitting president not the presiding judge.
My heart and solidarity is with Ms. Ingabire and will always be until she wins this round in the political struggle, which she will, for sure.
JF: Is your party affiliated with any other political groups or organizations? Who and why?
DL: FDU-Inkingi is not affiliated with any other Rwandan political groups but, from time to time, we organise activities together such as demonstrations, to maximise the impact. At an international level however, FDU is partner with some political parties with which we share views on the way-forward in as far as international trends are concerned.
JF: What are your thoughts on the current situation in Rwanda today as far as the foreign aid cuts and the UN GoE accusing President Kagame of backing the M23 in the Congo? Where do you side on that issue? And what is your party position on working with neighboring countries?
DL: I do not believe the aid cut to Rwanda by the US and several European countries amount to anything profoundly significant but it is indicative of what is in store for Kagame’s regime if they continue to behave like a bull in a China shop in the Great Lakes Region. It also signifies the end of the honeymoon between Kagame and his western backers. Guilt-tripping the west into silence to RPF excesses here from will not be as effective anymore. I believe Kagame’s mistake in this particular case was to take for granted the support of his backers without wondering what their opinion would be about his support of M23 with its human rights abuse record. The west sensed arrogance on Kagame’s part and they wanted to put him back in his place. I do not think the west would seek the removal of Kagame without having a clear alternative to RPF. At the moment that alternative is not there either internal or external. If RPF became unbearable, the Americans and Europeans and neighbouring countries would have to assemble a credible alternative out of a splintered opposition to occupy the political vacuum that would be left by RPF.
JF: What are your thoughts on the ICGLR as far as Rwanda and Congo are concerned and would Rwanda continue to be a part of this conference should your party be registered in Rwanda?
DL: Usually, regional initiatives such as ICGLR are well intentioned. They seek to find solutions to collective challenges. So yes, an FDU government would as well be a responsible neighbour willing to participate in regional initiatives. The problem with ICGLR is some of its members are the problem it is trying to solve and that is a big contradiction.
JF: What are the major changes your party believes need to be made in Rwanda and for what reasons?
-FDU-Inkingi will form a government that respects human rights under all circumstances. There will be freedom of the press, of expression of dissent without any state threats of reprisal.
-An FDU government will entrust Law and Order to a professional police force and get the army out of law enforcement.
-We will restore equitable justice for all citizens and the exercise of which will be transparent. We will enact laws and bring about constitutional changes that will separate the three arms of government. Under FDU, the judiciary will be completely independent of the executive and its independence will be the cornerstone of our democracy.
-We will transform Rwanda into a responsible and peaceful member of the Great Lakes Region and we will put a complete and definitive stop to Rwandan armed forces being the bogeyman of the region. Eastern DRC has suffered long enough and its people need a break. Under FDU-Inkingi government, Rwanda will never be the source of insecurity for its neighbours.
-Education and Health sectors will be the priorities in our social policy and agriculture will have an increased prominence in our budget allocations. Defence Expenditure will be cut to be in line with real national security threats and the country’s means.
-FDU will adopt a progressive economic policy that will transform the lives of all Rwandans.
JF: In an earlier article you stated, “Genocide is less of a national tragedy than it is a political tool used to ensnare genuine opposition in the Country.” Can you explain this statement further?
DL: Genocide is a national tragedy not an RPF one. It cost Rwanda close to 10% of its population and another roughly 20% run to neighbouring Congo where half of them perished at the hands of RPF army and to wild inhuman conditions. Genocide left both physical and emotional scars to last forever on the Rwandan nation irrespective of ethnicity. Genocide targeted primarily the Tutsi population but many Hutu people died too either through mistaken identity or reprisal killings by RPA soldiers. Also, contrary to the politicians’ narrative, the Rwandan ethnic composition is not linearly stratified. Due to mixed marriages and mobility in trades, there are many Tutsis in Hutu families and as many Hutus in Tutsi families. So at a personal and family level, the Tutsi people as a primary target of genocide, suffered and lost more. But this does not mean that the Hutu did not lose family members as fathers or mothers, sons or daughters or in-laws.
At a political level RPF has continued to justify their gross violations of human rights, muzzling freedoms and creating a police state in the name of preventing a recurrence of genocide. President Kagame and RPF have practically predicated their ‘raison d’etre’’ on fighting genocide as if there was one in October, 1990. RPF, by both omission and commission contributed to the Genocide and massacres after Genocide. Kagame and RPF may have stopped Genocide in July, 1994, but they sure have since spent moral authority through the mass massacres of Kibeho camp for the internally displaced and of Rwandan Refugees in Congo between 1994 and 2000. Furthermore, RPF has sought to brand all political foes as genocidaire and has enacted draconian laws tailored on the crime of genocide by which every crime, real or fabricated, can be punished as a genocide crime.
RPF has systematically created a national psyche which makes every Hutu person feel guilty of genocide and be apologetic while RPF, as a political organ, projects itself as one with a superior morality hence a natural right to rule and one whose morality is beyond reproach. It is at the back drop of this fallacy supported by a monopoly to the means of violence that they have managed to exclude others from political competition.
JF: You recently published a statement of the failings of the RPF, what are the successes of the current ruling regime?
DL: After Genocide started immediately following the assassination of President Habyarimana and even after Genocide ended in July, 1994, there was a genuine fear that the worst was not over. Many thought, and genuinely so, that Rwanda was going the Somalia way where violent chaos would reign and the state would break down. This did not happen. Yes, for a period of time general lawlessness was prevalent but the state did not break down and the RPF government managed to keep law and order in its control and that is not a mean achievement.
The RPF government also avoided a total economic break down. After four years of a destructive civil war and Genocide, it cost the country a big share of its intelligentsia and the business class both sectors responsible for any country’s economic well-being, together with a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of able bodied Rwandans responsible for the growth of the economy. The much anticipated economic collapse did not happen instead, modest growth has been achieved during these past eighteen years of RPF rule. Yes, some could argue that there was massive infusion of foreign capital through donations, grants, relief funds, loans and other forms of assistance and yes that is right but, in itself is not a guarantee against economic collapse. It took management and prioritization to avoid economic calamity. We could debate the economic model that RPF chose to adopt which seems to favour certain sections of the population and not others, but that is a whole different question all together.
JF: In closing, what are your political aspirations in regards to Rwanda and the FDU?
DL: My aspirations are the same as those of FDU-Inkingi. I want to capture political power and form an FDU-Inkingi government. Our party wants to form a government based on; truth and justice, democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law. We want to change Rwanda’s image from a war monger to a peaceful, friendly and trust-worthy member of great lakes region and the wider community of nations.
I want to see the Rwandan people starting to trust again in the political leadership instead of living in constant fear. Justice for me only means that all, high and low, are equal under the law. Justice must be equitable for all regardless of their situation high and low. I aspire for a Rwanda in which the population is sensitized enough to see beyond their ethnic differences and instead develop horizontal class conscience.
We want to adopt a progressive economic model that will uplift all Rwandans from poverty, eradicate all manner of misery and lift the national spirit.