By: Jennifer Fierberg, MSW
In the small country of Rwanda buried deep in the heart of Africa continues to make loud noises despite their assumed desire to keep things quiet and inconspicuous. Within this small country lies a government that oppresses its own people through intimidation, lack of open political space and fear to speak honestly and openly about the government in personal circles as well as in the press.
In the larger city of Kigali, the Capitol of Rwanda, there is much development and financial progress since the 1994 genocide but according to the State Department website (www.state.gov) the annual income of a Rwandan household is $510. Yet, in a recent visit to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York President Paul Kagame is confirmed to have stayed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in their Presidential Suite costing $16,000 per night. In comparison, President Barak Obama spent $10,000 per night and British Prime Minister Cameron’s $2,000 per night hotel bills for the same event during the same week. Rwanda is reported to receive $372.9 million dollars per year in foreign aid from the US, UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany (Source: United Nations). While much of this aid goes to structural development and sustainable solutions it still begs the question of why is President Kagame spending millions on airplanes, hotels, travel and personal expenses while his people struggle to survive each day. Has the effectiveness of the millions of dollars of aid to Rwanda ever been evaluated for its use and program success? President Paul Kagame owns two personal airplanes costing over $50 million USD each. With the publicizing of his travel costs, of which there are many, and a state budget that is made of up 80% in foreign aid his spending and use of aid must be accounted for by an outside and non-sectarian group.
During President Kagames world travels over the last two months his first stop was a much publicized visit to France. France and Rwanda have had strained relations since 1994 when the airplane transporting the late President of Rwanda Juvenal Habyarimana plane was blown out of the sky killing him instantly along with the President of Burundi Cyprien Ntaryamira, various government officials and the French flight crew at the helm of the plane. On the surface this visit was for normal diplomatic relations yet scratching the surface one will discover that a French judge has been pursuing President Kagame for the murder of the French flight crew for the last five years yet President Kagame has denied responsibility for the crime on a number of occasions. This visit was clearly a mission to make friends with France and put the past behind them while avoiding his personal responsibility to answer the questions about his actions on that fateful day.
While none of this information is new to those who follow Rwandan politics the reasons for political secrecy continue to build.
On October 1, 2011 Dr Theogene Rudasingwa took to his Facebook page and wrote out a powerful and telling confession about the assassination of the late President of Rwanda Juvenal Habyarimana. Dr. Rudasingwa’s confession explains in detail how this decision was made and who was involved. It specified that President Paul Kagame sent the orders to have the plane shot down (http://www.salem-news.com/articles/october012011/rudasingwa-confession-jf.php) This confession made worldwide attention and insiders in Kigali stated that it shook the political circles to their core. This shake down was so severe that the government decided to cause a series of distractions to weaken this explosive information.
Government of Rwanda Re-Reshuffle
Earlier this summer the Rwandan Government reshuffled many members for different personal and political reasons. Three weeks ago there were senate elections when the results were announced the blogosphere erupted with statements that those “elected” has been predetermined to take their seats. Under a dictatorial regime there are no surprises in politics.
While the voter turnout may be accurate, and there is no real reason to believe it is not, the outcome, as with most all election in Rwanda, are predetermined by the top offices. The people of Rwanda certainly came out to vote because they are hungry for democracy, but the question will remain; were their voices heard and did their votes count?
In a continued effort to distract the events of Dr. Rudasingwas candid details about the assassinations that sparked the planned genocide in 1994 the Government of Rwanda decided to name a new Prime Minister, Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi former member of the PSD (Social Democratic Party) which is affiliated with the current ruling party in Rwanda, Rwanda’s Patriotic Front (RPF). A prominent Rwandan political analyst who preferred to remain anonymous stated that this appointment is a façade. The source stated, “It is unconstitutional for President Paul Kagame to nominate a person from his own political party, and yet this person was nominated and voted in by his party members.” He further stated that President Paul Kagame also acted unconstitutionally by nominating an MP and deputy Speaker of Parliament.
The game of politics in Rwanda is a very strategic and undercover operation. Nothing is done without future planning, as in all political circles worldwide, but Rwanda takes the “dictatorial regime” to a different level. The role of the Prime Minister is the second in command should the President step down from his duties. Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa responded to these new developments in the Rwandan Government by stating that “it is futile since it replaces one powerless Hutu Prime Minister for another powerless one which is a sign of a continued and deepening crisis.”
President Paul Kagame, as reported in the government owned and operated Rwandan state newspaper The New Times, as saying that he called upon the new government to work with commitment and one goal serving the Rwandan people. He stated, “We are the most scrutinized nation, government, people in this world. We always have to prove ourselves. In fact, instead of being disheartened, we should be strengthened by that,” Kagame said. “We will always do the best we can because we are doing it for ourselves.”
The New Times went on to say that Dr. Habumuremyi thanked the President for appointing him Prime Minister and said that he is ready to take on the challenge. “I am ready to play my part to accelerate national development and the socio-economic welfare of its citizens,” he said.
In a shocking decision, to the fear of many Rwandans In exile who have fled due to war, unjust incrimination and fear of unfair detention woke up on Friday October7, 2011 to discover that they are now facing being forced to return to Rwanda within the next year. An anonymous political specialist on Rwanda stated that the UNHCR was heavily lobbied for the cessation clause, second only to Uganda. The Rwandan Government had much influence on this decision as another distraction from the truth spoken earlier this week.
An estimated two million people have fled across the borders of Rwanda into other countries. UNHCR says about 114,000 Rwandans live in 40 different countries with refugee status, most of them in the Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The cracks in the Rwandan government continue to grow larger. An oppositional group to the RPF recently wrote, “The renewal of our nation will require a new approach to governance and the management of conflict. The new Rwanda that we seek to build must be grounded in freedom as its foundation. The strategies that we shall apply to resolve the crisis that Rwanda faces must be anchored in values, and must aim to address the root causes of conflict in our society and to restore dignity to all our people.”
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. MLK Jr.