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Patrick Karegeya's Last LetterSubmitted by Jennifer Fierberg, MSW Salem-News.com
Rwanda's political system marginalizes the majority of the population from political participation.
(WASHINGTON, DC) -
Mr. Douglas E. Coe
The Fellowship 1271
Washington Avenue San Leandro,CA 94577
28th December, 2013
Dear Mr. Coe,
Re: Ending the Crisis in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region through Dialogue On behalf of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC)
I am writing to inform you that the current situation in Rwanda is one of those that ought to be of the greatest and urgent concern to those in the international community who have genuine concern about international peace and security in general and in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa in particular. The majority of the people of Rwanda, we believe, share a common perception that policies of the international community have not reflected principled support for the development of democratic and inclusive institutions, respect for the fundamental rights of citizens and accountability of public officials for gross violations of human rights.
I write this letter to share our views on the political situation in Rwanda and on the role that you can play in advancing freedom and promoting long term stability and peace in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region.
The status of governance in Rwanda
The people of Rwanda have for a very long time been exposed to repressive government, leading to recurrent violent conflict. This violence reached its peak with the genocide of 1994. I have no doubt that you are well aware of the deprivation and immense suffering that recurrent conflict has occasioned to millions of Rwandans. I also acknowledge that the Government of Rwanda has, with the assistance of the international community, made significant progress in restoring public order, re-establishing effective state institutions, and rebuilding the country’s economy during the period since 1994. Unfortunately, the reconstruction efforts that Rwanda has undertaken since the genocide are not rooted in democratic values, respect for human rights and broad inclusion. As stated in the Rwanda Briefing document that four former colleagues of Rwandan President Kagame (including myself) published in August 2010, “there is more to Rwanda and Paul Kagame than new buildings, clean streets, and efficient government than President Kagame’s famous friends in high places in Europe and America care to admit.
Rwanda is essentially a hard-line, one-party, secretive police state with a façade of democracy …” The ruling party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), has closed space for political participation. The RPF does not tolerate political opposition or open competition for power. President Kagame does not allow opposition parties to be registered, let alone operate freely. Media outlets that are critical of the government are either shut down by the government or forced to close operations as a result of attacks against their journalists.
The Government of Rwanda has now closed down all the independent media outlets the country once had. Civil society organizations independent of the government operate under draconian restrictions that make the exercise of their role as watchdogs over government impossible. The people of Rwanda have no liberty to discuss, nor decide, how they should be governed. The Rwanda Government is controlled by a small group of Tutsi military officers and civilians from behind the scenes.
The political system marginalizes the majority of the population from political participation.
The Government of Rwanda relies on severe repression to stay in power. The RPF government relies on a wide range of laws, administrative practices and terror to restrict citizens’ enjoyment of political freedoms. Institutions of the state continue to subject real and imagined critics of the government to a wide range of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests and detentions and involuntary disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
The security services, all exclusively controlled by Tutsi military officers, that are responsible for keeping President Kagame in power enjoy absolute impunity for grave human rights abuses. Many members of opposition parties, civil society groups, independent media outlets and individuals suspected of being opponents of the regime have been hunted down, arrested, tortured, imprisoned or killed by agents of the state. Victims of state sponsored terror who have lost their lives over the recent past include Andre Kagwa Rwisereka (Vice-President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda), Jean Leonard Rugambagye (Deputy Editor of Umuvugizi Newspaper) and John Rutayisire.
The Rwanda Government has deployed a very large number of intelligence operatives in countries across Africa, Europe and North America to hunt down and kill opponents of the regime. Many members and leaders of opposition parties including ; Bernard Ntaganda, President of the Social Imberakuli Party; Victoire Ingabire President of the FDU-Inkingi Party ( recently sentenced to 15 years in jail; and, Deo Mushayindi of PPD Imanzi Party, remain in detention and so do some innocent relatives of opposition leaders. The Rwanda Government continues its relentless persecution of government critics. The most recent victims of this persecution include independents journalists and opposition leaders, all of whom have been sentenced to long prison terms, some after trials in absentia that did not meet international standards of fair trial.
The climate of repression that prevails in Rwanda has forced many government officials including two former Prime Ministers, two former Speakers of Parliament, and a host of former Ministers, former Judges, senior government officials, Military officers, journalists and Human rights activists to join hundreds of thousands of their compatriots in exile. As a result of the repression that security services helping President Kagame are responsible for, Rwanda is a country engulfed by fear.
Not since the days of Idi Amin have the security services of a state terrorized a nation to the extent to which Rwanda’s security services have visited fear and terror upon the country’s citizens. The climate of fear and terror that prevails in Rwanda does not permit Rwandan society to freely discuss the very grave problems facing the country and to find solutions to those problems.
President Paul Kagame’s leadership
The grave political crisis that Rwanda is facing is largely a result of President Kagame’s relentless pursuit of absolute power. Rwanda’s first post-genocide government included a range of other political groups that had campaigned for democratic reform during the early 1990s. Rwanda’s experience with broad-based multi-party government came to an end after only a year. Then Vice President Kagame drove the opposition leaders who were part of that government from office on account of their criticism of human rights abuses by members of the Rwandese Patriotic Army. From then on, President Kagame embarked on a mission to emasculate all party and state institutions and to craft a state controlled in every aspect by a single person who wields absolute and unaccountable power. Rwanda is not only a one party state; it is also a state governed by one man. President Paul Kagame exerts absolute control over both the ruling party (RPF) and the government.
All institutions of the state are controlled by the President. The country’s political system lacks checks and balances. The judiciary and the legislature do not have any independence. State institutions, especially law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and security services, serve to protect President Paul Kagame’s political monopoly instead of protecting the fundamental human rights of citizens and executing their constitutional mandates. President Kagame’s absolute control of the entire machinery of the state affords him protection from being held accountable for his many serious crimes, some of which have led to horrendous consequences for innocent civilians both inside and outside Rwanda.
President Kagame is one of Africa’s most ruthless dictators. He is a corrupt leader who lives a lavish lifestyle that is out of step with the abject poverty of the majority of the people of Rwanda. President Kagame has used his time in office to amass personal wealth of unprecedented proportions in the Eastern and Southern African region. The business conglomerate (Crystal Ventures formerly Tri-Star Investments, and the military-led Horizon Group) owned by his political party, which for all practical purposes is his personal property, has extensive corrupt business relations with the state. RPF business entities have priority when government is issuing licenses for the most lucrative sectors of the country’s resources. Business entities owned by the RPF and close family and friends of the President receive the bulk of the government’s procurement contracts.
Domestic and foreign investors seeking business opportunities in Rwanda are often compelled to go into partnership with the RPF as a condition for being allowed to do business in Rwanda.
The RPF finances its various businesses with preferential financial backing from state-owned banks, insurances companies, and the national social security fund. Because they benefit only a small group of people, the business activities of the RPF promote social inequality and undermine national stability. The involvement of the RPF compromises the integrity of very many of its members, including President Kagame, because of the conflict of interest that they are involved in day to day in making official decisions affecting the party’s business interests.
The RPF’s business arm already controls a big part of the country’s economy, about 80% by some credible estimates. One example that demonstrates the depravity of Kagame’s corruption is the case of luxury jets that President Kagame uses for his personal and official trips. The planes, Global Expresses made by Canadian Aircraft manufacturer Bombadier, cost more than US 60 million dollars each.
President Kagame also bears personal responsibility for some extremely serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, that have been committed against innocent civilians in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Kagame will not shrink from committing any crime in order to stay in power. He does not have respect for the sanctity of human life and that is why he is always prepared to resort to murder of political opponents (and Heads of State) to deal with peaceful challenges to his rule.
President Kagame bears responsibility for Rwanda’s failed transition to democracy and the political impasse that his attempts to cling to unaccountable power has given rise to. President Kagame’s manipulation and abuse of institutions of state to harass political opponents and stifle dissenting opinions continues to be condemned by virtually every reputable international human rights organisation, and many major media outlets and prominent scholars and journalists, including some who have previously been supportive of President Kagame.
Potential consequences of the policies of the Rwanda Government Rwanda, as demonstrated, still face many difficult challenges in its experience of nation building in the aftermath of violent conflict. It is generally acknowledged that Rwandan society remains deeply divided along ethnic lines. The country’s transition to democracy has been unsuccessful.
The human rights situation in the country remains a matter of grave concern. Citizens lack access to fundamental human rights. State security agencies commit grave human rights abuses with impunity. The country is peaceful, but many observers are of the view that recurrence of very violent conflict may be inevitable, at least in the medium to long term. President Kagame claims to have made progress in developing Rwanda, and argues that human rights, including rights relating to political participation, are not a priority for the development process. Nevertheless, concerns over the country’s progress in engendering reconciliation and creating a democratic system of government raise questions about the sustainability of Rwanda’s social and economic advances and the potential for renewed conflict.
The situation that prevails raises serious questions about the country’s future. Are the country’s development achievements sustainable? Can Rwanda continue to be peaceful while the government continues to be repressive and the majority of the people consider the government illegitimate? How do we balance individual freedoms and the requirement for a stable community? How should citizens respond when rulers mistake the state to be their personal estate and deprive their subjects of their inalienable rights?
We firmly believe that the violent conflicts that Rwanda has experienced over the past half century are rooted in issues revolving around governance.
The RPF government, we assert, has failed to effectively address the root causes of conflict in Rwandan society. As a result, Rwanda is in a situation of serious crisis. The only path to sustainable peace and development in Rwanda is a system of government that has popular legitimacy, includes all communities of Rwanda and is committed to the respect of fundamental human rights, especially the integrity of the person and the right to political participation. Economic development in post conflict societies that is not rooted in democratic values, respect for human rights, and broad inclusion is not sustainable.
We are convinced that violent conflict is virtually certain to return to Rwanda if the present government does not heed calls for dialogue and agree to a process of peaceful political reform leading to democracy. The results of the substantial development assistance that the international community has extended to Rwanda since the end of the genocide could be very swiftly undone in the event of such conflict, with grave implications for the whole Great Lakes region and international peace and security.
The role of the international community in supporting democratic change and building sustainable peace in Rwanda
President Kagame has exploited the failure of the West to stop or prevent the 1994 genocide to silence critics of his opposition to democratic change and the human rights practices of his security services. The tolerance that the international community has exhibited towards Paul Kagame’s excesses continues to fuel impunity and is an obstacle to lasting peace and sustainable development in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Western indifference to President Kagame’s human rights record and stand on popular political participation is incomprehensible to the majority of Rwandans, and it alienates them. Stability and development do not substitute for liberty and freedom.
In view of the grave consequences that a return to violent conflict in Rwanda would entail, the RNC and its partners hold the view that peace and security in Rwanda should be a matter of international concern.
The people of Rwanda count on Rwanda’s neighbors, and development partners, to support the promotion of respect for human rights and advancement of democracy. We believe, that Rwanda’s development partners, especially those who have close relations with the current government (the United States and the United Kingdom) have a unique role, if not responsibility, to advance the cause of peaceful change in Rwanda by engaging President Kagame on the need for progress in guaranteeing fundamental human rights and for national dialogue to resolve the country’s crisis.
The international community ought to support the seeking of democratic change, inclusive government and respect for human right in Rwanda on account of several reasons, including the following:
a) Empowering the people of Rwanda to realize the full range of their human rights: The people of Rwanda continue to be deprived of the opportunity to enjoy some of the most fundamental human rights, including rights relating to integrity of the person, freedom of expression and political participation. The Kagame regime relies on repression to maintain this status quo. The people of Rwanda are much entitled to be relieved of this tyranny as citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya whom the international community is supporting to make the realization of their human rights a reality.
b) Promoting international peace and security: In the absence of democratic reforms, the policies of the present government of Rwanda are likely to lead to a return to violence in the country. A system of government that deprives citizens of fundamental human rights, especially the right to political participation and the integrity of the person, cannot last indefinitely. Change in Rwanda is inevitable; the issue is whether change will be negotiated and peaceful, or violent and imposed, again, by the victors of a bloody armed conflict. Political change is necessary to avert violent conflict that repressive government in Rwanda has made almost inevitable. A return to violent conflict in Rwanda would further destabilize the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.
c) Humanitarian considerations: Rwanda is on the precipice of a very serious political and humanitarian crisis. A return to violent conflict in Rwanda is likely to take an ethnic dimension. As was demonstrated after 1994, violent conflict in Rwanda has capacity to lead to massive loss of human life, as well as immense suffering for millions, both inside Rwanda and in other countries in the region. The international community needs to act today in order to prevent the suffering and horrendous loss of life that is likely to result from the outbreak of new violence in Rwanda.<
What you can do to help all Rwandans
There are even more important reasons why we, as Christians, are invited to radical inclusion, in truth, that leads to freedom, peace and reconciliation. I have read with a lot of interest the vision and mission of The Fellowship that is inspired from the scriptures: “Once you were not a people, but now are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. “- I Peter 2:10 For a society like ours that has witnessed past and ongoing trauma, with all communities becoming victims and perpetrators, the question of forgiveness and mercy cannot be overemphasized. As brothers and sisters who are otherwise united by one nation and one language, we have sinned against each other.
The alienation from God and from each other has consequently inflicted untold suffering on our society as a whole, and to our neighbors in the region. We can face the future with hope if we talk to each other truthfully and learn to forgive each other. In the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” – Matthew 18:15-17.
Equally inspired by these words of wisdom from the One we serve, our organization is planning to organize an international conference on Rwanda this coming year, around March, 2014. The idea is to invite stakeholders in Rwandan society (Government, Church, Civil Society and Opposition organizations, including those that are armed, etc..) to talk candidly about the state of affairs in our beloved country and how we can build the future together. Understandably, this is a very difficult proposition, given the fact that such a culture of dialogue, give and take is evidently lacking in our society. Yet, we can only imagine the dangerous alternatives to the dialogue and peace. We have informed the United States Government, and the Governments of France, Belgium, Tanzania and South Africa about this idea. While they all note how difficult this will be, they appreciate how timely, important and urgent it is.
Could you help us in this important endeavor to get Rwandans talk to each other? As we look forward to the coming year, we are reminded of the prophetic words of the Prophet Isaiah, echoed many centuries later by our Lord and King, Jesus Christ: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.” -Luke :18-19.
The hands of the millions of Rwandans who enter 2014 afflicted, brokenhearted, captive in fear, and prisoners beckon all of us to action. It is an invitation we cannot ignore.
I wish you and your family a Happy New Year.
Edited and formatted by Jennifer Fierberg
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