Written by Michel MUSHIMIYIMANA
Rwanda’s recent constitutional change through the engineered referendum by the ruling party, Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), has strongly reverberated Rwandans and the international community in general. Surely, for most of the Rwandans, especially young ones, this amendment has become a nightmare as it allows the incumbent authoritarian ruler; President Paul Kagame nicknamed “The Monster” to run for life and this means a long lasting repression, persecution and injustice for Rwandans. Since 1994 when the RPF took power after a 4-years-war which shed so much blood of lives of Rwandans, headed by this man, it has been a killing machine and tragedy-maker in Rwanda as well as in the region.
Rwanda is ruled by a military feared man due to his brutal murder of anyone who tries to contest him, he is a self-claimed only capable leader of Rwanda but worst of all he is democracy / freedom-strangler and virulent oppressor of any emerging leader he fears can overtake his power in the future.
Without taking into account of the number of lives of leaders he has taken in Rwanda since his seizure of the RPF since 1990s, over the last 6 years starting from 2010; all emerging leaders mostly the young ones have been assassinated, completely disappeared, jailed and some who were lucky enough to survive were forced to exile but still hunted down.
Let us have a momentary glimpse of some of those leaders:
- In 2010, Madam Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza; an opposition figure, the President of Union Democratic Forces (UDF) Inkingi was jailed for 15 years because of challenging the RPF regime on democracy, freedom, rule of law, true reconciliation and equal rights practices among Rwandans as well as trying to contest President Paul Kagame during 2010 Presidential election.
- In February 2010, Deo Mushayidi the leader of PDP – Imanzi was kidnapped by RPF regime agents outside of Rwanda, in Burundi and was taken to Rwandan jail where he is languishing after life sentence because of abjuring the RPF regime dictatorship and calling for a change in order to allow true reconciliation, freedom and democracy in Rwanda.
- In 2010, Me Bernard Ntaganda, the founding President of Social Party Imberakuri (PS – Imberakuri) was imprisoned for 4 years after he challenged this regime on sharing opportunities and power among Rwandans. He also tried to contest President Paul Kagame during 2010 Presidential election but was imprisoned before the election.
- In June 2010, the exiled whistleblower, former chief of army and ambassador to India, General Kayumba Nyamwasa was shot in his stomach by President Kagame assassins in South Africa but luckily survived. Since then up to date, he survived more than 4 assassination attempts.
- In June 2010, Jean Leonard Lugambage, Umuvugizi newspaper investigator has been shot dead outside his home after he was suspected investigating the hand of President Kagame Paul in assassination of opposition members.
- In July 2010, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, an opposition politician, Deputy President of Democratic Green Party was found beheaded in Butare because of criticizing President Kagame’s regime.
- In November 30, 2011 inyenyerinews.com journalist and RNC member was shot dead by President Kagame death squad in the Ugandan capital Kampala and later President Kagame Paul rejoiced of his death by saying he deserved it.
- In July 2013, Gustave Makonene, an anti-corruption activist, the coordinator of Transparency International Rwanda’s legal advice in Rubavu was found murdered on the shore of Lake Kivu in Rubavu. He has been assassinated by the Rwandan police.
- In October 30, 2013 Joel Mutabazi, a former presidential bodyguard who was under UNHCR and Ugandan government protection was kidnapped by Rwandan regime death squad and was returned to Rwanda where he was later sentenced to life imprisonment. Some students linked to his case including the ones petitioned the government on 17th September 2013 protesting on discriminatory police instituted by the RPF regime were sentenced from 3 months to 25 years.
- On March 2014, Jean Baptise Icyitonderwa, the social party PS – Imberakuri Secretary General in charge of mobilization and, the co-organizer and chief delegate of 17th September 2013 petitioners was sentenced to 6 years for the only crime of presenting a petition calling the government of Rwanda to cease its discriminatory police “UBUDEHE” which was marginalizing poor and to highest extent targeting the Hutu students who had got government scholarship. He is now languishing in prison.
- In April 2014, Kizito Mihigo, the renown Rwandan singer and founder of KMP (Kizito Mihigo for Peace foundation), a journalist and KMP panelist Cassier Ntamuhanga and their co-accused, Jean Paul Dukuzumuremyi and Niyibizi Agnes were arrested after this singer has released a rhetoric song during the so-called commemoration of genocide against Tutsi and this song was highlighting other Rwandan people (Hutu) massacred by RPF to be remembered though it hadn’t been called genocide. This song also criticized the destructive policy “NDI UMUNYARWANDA” which enforces apartheid against Hutu and extreme hatred of Tutsis against Hutus by deliberately calling all Hutus genocidal to kneel in front of Tutsis and demand them forgiveness even for generations and generations to come. For trumped up charges, in February 20165 they were sentenced to 10, 25, 30 years of imprisonment respectively and the latter (Agnes) was acquitted for justice show off.
- In April 2014, Gerard NIYOMUGABO a journalist and a panelist in most of KIZITO Mihigo televised debates about peace and reconciliation through his KMP has completely disappeared after he was kidnapped by the Rwandan agents.
- In July 2015, Alexis Bakunzibake the President of PS-Imberakuri (a faction which allied FDLR) has been kidnapped by President Kagame’s DMI agents in Kenya along with his comrade Robert Kayembe, the last information by his party said that they were harshly tortured to disclose some information about their prominent members and allies which later resulted in the kidnap of Kaki Suleiman Orange in September 2015; the secretary in charge of mobilization of that party who was working in Kenya too. Their party called the RPF regime to disclose their whereabouts if they are still alive or disclose their bodies if they have been killed so that they can be buried with honor they deserve as human beings but until now the regime has done nothing about their call. Rwandan operatives abroad such as those in Uganda have kidnapped many members of this party.
- On New Year’s Eve 2014, Patrick Karegeya was found strangled in a hotel room in South Africa after meeting with those whom he thought were friends. Col. Karegeya put up a strong fight but what over powered by the numerous perpetrators. No one has been arrested or charged in his case to date.
These are just a small example of the cases recorded over the last six years of horrific mass murders where thousands of Rwandans were killed, dumped in the rivers and burnt in the forests of Rwanda.
To find excuses to kill or imprison these Rwandans; journalists, human rights activists, opposition politicians and free thinker, the RPF regime concocts criminalities, insecurity and terrorism cases such as bombing Rwandans in the towns, attacking villagers with hoes, hammers and machetes. Further, they kidnap divisive people and hide them in safe houses where they are subjected to extreme torture, then link them to the concocted cases and force them to confess to the trumped up charges and if they refuse they kill you. Hence, the massive amounts of forced disappearances.
Rwanda is run under a veiled reign of terror and its leader believes in victimization and the sacrifice of Rwandans as the way of his dictatorship to last longer. That is why during the saga of changing constitution allowing this monster to cling to power for life, Rwandans knew if they did not go and line up to vote “YES” for it, he would rig the votes, scam the figures and later victimize them as usual. What happens in Rwanda is very scary and only Rwandans really know how it stings.
So, now President Kagame Paul has decided to cling to power for life because he believes he has been a good leader to rule Rwanda after changing the constitution which he had vowed not to change ,“Our constitution is clear on term limits. I have no intention, and no desire to disrespect the constitution” said in September 2011 when asked by New African’s Magazine if he would step down at the end of this 7-years mandate which was the last term in office as it was provided by the constitution before it was changed in December 2015.
True to his character, he has now changed the constitution and he announced that he would remain in power for life. This is how all dictators who self-claim to be the only leaders capable to rule do because they have failed to reproduce other leaders who can succeed them; instead they suffocate, strangle, imprison and torment them for fear to leave power. That is what President Kagame Paul has been doing for all leaders whose views are/were different from his.
President Paul Kagame and his clique must know that Rwanda does not need a self –claimed strong leader but the leaders, because you become strong leader by reproducing leader’s great than you. So, for the sake of Rwanda’s future, Kagame must step down in 2017, release all leaders he imprisoned and call all those he exiled and let them compete fairly, he will see how a country with diversity of leaders flourish in all domains.
Edited by: Jennifer Fierberg
About the Author: Michel MUSHIMIYIMANA is the exiled Rwandan Human Rights Activist / Politician; he is the Executive Director and Founder of Rwanda Youth for Leadership and Change Initiative (RY4LCI). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via website www.impinduka.com