By David Himbara
President Paul Kagame’s grand scheme to crown himself king of Rwanda is based on three deceptions. 1) Making his power-grab appear to be the result of popular demand by the Rwandan people. 2) Branding himself an economic miracle-maker that transformed a subsistence peasant economy into “the Singapore of Africa” in just 21 years. 3) Showcasing himself head of corruption-free government. Each of these notions is, of course, utterly false.
To succeed in his scheme, Kagame desperately needs legitimacy from the outside world. Despite his aggressive rhetoric about ending dependency on foreign assistance, Kagame is addicted to aid, and therefore needs massive donations that amount to over $1 billion annually. Without these aid infusions he would be a totally naked emperor. His economics is in shambles. This is how the World Bank currently describes Rwanda’s economy: “the private sector, which is still largely informal, will have to play a bigger role in ensuring economic growth. Poor infrastructure and lack of access to electricity are some of the major constraints to private investment…While Rwanda has been effectively using aid for development, the country remains vulnerable to fluctuations in aid flows.” http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/rwanda/overview
And that is where we Rwandans who are taxpayers in donor countries come in. While our compatriots inside the country are being mercilessly frog-matched by the totalitarian repressive police-state to sign petitions designed to crown Kagame, we living outside have significant but unutilised powers. If we overseas Rwandans can organize ourselves, we can easily deny Kagame the external legitimacy he so badly craves for.
For our objectives and strategy to succeed, we are calling upon two categories of Rwandans who live in the U.S., UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and South Africa to get involved. 1) In the first category are those that have overcome fear of the regime and openly oppose its violence and atrocities. Regretabbly, Rwandans in this category are shockingly few. This is due to relentless intimidation by the Kigali regime that reach all corners of the globe. Yet these kinds of determined compatriots are the ones who must build the backbone for implementing the proposed strategy. 2) The second category of overseas Rwandans are individuals who wish to support the cause, but would rather do it secretly. This latter group can, however, still play extremely important roles behind the scenes including lobbying and resources mobilisation.
To succeed in this effort, we need a simple, smart, targeted, impactful and achievable strategy to fight back against the crowning of King Paul. Rwandans inside Rwanda live under terror. But those outside the country need courage to pursue innovative approaches to stall power-grab. The 1962 Referendum removed kings in Rwanda. We can’t remain bystanders and watch the forthcoming referendum crown a new king. Crucially, elements of the strategy proposed here are already working.
We however need greater clarity of purpose to achieve desired outcomes based on at least four key ingredients:
EVIDENCE. To win over decision-makers in countries where we live and pay taxes, we must educate ourselves in order to nullify Kagame propaganda. The Rwanda regime has managed to create the impression in donor countries that it transformed Rwanda. For Rwandan human rights and political activists outside outside the country, we must gather and share real evidence using credible data to show that Rwanda as “Singapore of Africa” is a big lie. And real good data is readily available. The World Bank has comprehensive global data of all types. The latest data indicate that per capita income in Rwanda is $638. This makes Rwanda one the poorest country in the world. Rwanda is the poorest in East Africa except for Burundi. By comparison, per capita income in Uganda is $657, Tanzania $912, and Kenya $1,245. Rwanda is even poorer than Haiti, whose per capita is $819. Uhttp://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD
Measured by the Internationally-recognised method, as opposed to Rwanda’s fake statistics, Rwanda remains an extremely poor country. Rwandans earning less than $1.25 a day constitute 63%. If we use $2 a day, 82% Rwandans are poor. http://wdi.worldbank.org/table/2.8
Meanwhile, illustrating the totalitarian nature of the Kagame regime is easy enough, if we look at imprisonment of opponents, disappearance and assassinations in and outside Rwanda. The most credible sources of this information include the U.S. and UK governments’ annual human rights reports. Look at the 2013 US State Department’s Rwanda Human Rights Report, for example.http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/220359.pdf
As for the big lie that Kagame runs a corruption-administration, we should counter with the most obvious evidence. 1) His moral bankruptcy is illustrated by his lifestyle of $100 million luxurious executive jets, $20,000 a day hotel rooms while most teachers in Rwanda earn less than $2 a day. 2) Crystal Ventures Ltd (CVL) that is addicted to government contracts whereby Kagame the president in an ugly conflict of interest with Kagame the chairman of the ruling party that owns CVL.
Gathering this evidence is not an end in itself, however. We must translate evidence into actions.
ACTION: Rwandan human rights and political activists must discouraged sloganeering and endless debates in order to engage in real action. In US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, and South Africa, we can do the following:
1. Organise ourselves in credible and recognized associations with objectives, milestones and well-respected entities listened to by governments and think tank.
2. Develop a real professional identify as a non-profit organization, with genuine and value-adding presence in the marketplace of ideas.
3. Operate as a think tank, as opposed to talking shop, able to articulate the Rwandan situation in national media and on your own website.
4. Ensure that each activist mobilises his/her member of congress, or parliament and educates them on the nature of the Rwanda regime and its atrocities.
5. Don’t forget that in UK, Canada and Australia even prime ministers and cabinet ministers are members of parliament and easily reached in constituency offices, and are obliged to listen to us as taxpayers.
6. Win over your constituency’s representatives; convince them that you are a taxpayer unwilling to fund a bad regime.
7. Find out if your congressman/woman or your member of parliament is a member of important decision-making committees that play oversight roles over government budget. These committees are powerful, and hold governments accountable.
8. Persuade your representative to be part of parliamentary action to categorise Rwanda for what it is – a totalitarian state unworthy of receiving millions of taxpayers money.
9. Devote real commitment for concrete action in which we network and share information for executing further actions.
If we get enough parliamentarians on our side we can influence governmental policy toward Rwanda. Western governments are already disgusted by Rwanda’s sponsorship of violence in the region, including DRC, and now in Burundi.
KNOWLEDGE – Rwandan human rights and political activists must graduate from slogans, ubusive language or advocacy of violence. Instead build nonpartisan groups driven by accurate information and knowledge to educate both ourselves and governments of countries where we live and pay taxes. Use evidence and knowledge in your approach. Don’t adopt the same methods of the Rwandan regime such as character assassination and other forms of crude behaviour. Our major belief in embarking on smart advocacy is complete avoidance of sensational rhetoric or violence. Be inspired by civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King who championed this approach. King’s non-violent movement was inspired by the teachings of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. Both men faced impossible tasks but they defeated evil using knowledge, intellect, dedication and kindness.
IMPACT: There is the famous phrase that goes like this: “If you can’t count, you don’t count.” In other words, if we don’t measure the impact of what we do in our struggle against the Rwandan totalitarian state, we are wasting time. Rwandans in US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and South Africa must organise around measurable impact. We can measure by assessing the following:
1. How many of us have created legal nonpartisan associations that successfully lobby governments and what are the outcomes;
2. How many of us are friends with our congressman/woman or parliamentarian, senator, and visit them regularly in their constituency offices which is of course located where we live;
3. How of us have working relationships with leading members of parliament or Congress. Remember that in UK, Canada and Australia, even prime ministers and ministers are members of parliament, and are easily accessible in their home constituency offices.
4. How many of us are educating their Congress or parliament generally;
5. How many of our members have engaged and addressed parliamentary committees in charge of development aid;
6. How many of our associations work closely with parliamentary committees on human rights and educated them on the situation in Rwanda and the Great Lakes.
7. How many of our associations publish in national media and have a credible website.
We measure only results of concrete deeds and actions – and the possibilities are immense.
Rwanda is a totalitarian state that has silenced a nation. But we living outside the country have an obligation to fight tyranny. Kagame needs legitimacy from outside Rwanda. His so-called economic miracle which he uses to popularise himself abroad is based on foreign aid. Even Rwanda’s role in global peace-keeping operations would collapse without the US logistical support, transportation and training for Rwandan soldiers. Outside Rwanda, in other words, Kagame is on shaky grounds. Already, very few leaders and senior government officials in countries where we live don’t want to be seen with him. That is why the Rwandan ruler rents his own crowd known as “Rwanda Day.”
Rwandan compatriots must now stand up and deny Kagame free lunch from our taxes. We can fight back with the tools we have. There can be no doubt that evidence-based action begets impact. You Rwandan compatriots reading this article, are you ready for real, clean, and determined action with measurable impact?