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'The Road to Rwanda', John V. Karuranga, President, Rwanda Peoples PartyJennifer Fierberg, MSW Salem-News.com
“I am confident, that we too, as Rwandan can make it so as to build a solid foundation for a better future and lasting legacy for our children.” - John V. Karuranga
(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Recently the Rwanda People’s Party sent a request for peace talks to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The letter was published in over 370 publications from Alaska to Zimbabwe including news reports, radio broadcasts and print publications and online new outlets.
In an interview conducted by this writer with Mr. John Karuranga, President of the Rwanda People’s Party, he was asked why he has requested peace talks with Kagame again; Mr. Karuranga stated simply, “to avoid bloodshed in our home country.” He beleives that if peace talks do not take place very soon the country could plunge into armed conflict as the poor grow more desperate for resources and the citizens of the country are hungry for political freedoms.
Mr. Karuranga stated, “Today, Rwanda is a ticking time bomb that could explode like a volcano. This is only the tip of the iceberg. In an appeal to President Kagame the RPP states that, “none of us wants our country to return to the heinous eras of the previous regimes.” I assure you, that our party the RPP will vigorously continue to fight for the defense of oppressed people, the poor, orphans and street children and the most vulnerable whose voices cannot be heard because they can’t speak for themselves, said John Karuranga.
In a quote to The London Evening Post, RPP President John Karuranga said: “We want to put an end to civil war, whether inside Rwanda or outside it, principally in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We want a new democratic Rwanda that accommodates rather than threatens its citizens, many of whom are scattered around in the Diaspora.”
“Our fundamental difference with President Kagame is about the political direction in which our country is heading to. I am neither after his head nor the heads of his colleagues, this is not personal, it is about Rwanda. I don’t have such powers nor intend to acquire authorities to maim, injure and /or take someone’s live. We want them to stay at home and to become a part of the new Rwanda we all want.” He further stated, “We recognize President Kagame and his colleagues are Rwandan, they don’t deserve to die and or be forced into exile. They have the rights like any Rwandan would have, to participate in just fair Rwandan political, social and economic development. We want them to be a part of a new Rwanda, a Rwanda that is at peace with itself and the rest of the humanity. “That’s my wishes to all Rwandans.”
The following biographical information was obtained in an interview with Mr. Karuranga and this writer from the UK where he resides. He openly spoke about his personal life, his political career and the vision he has for a new Rwanda under a peaceful leadership change.
John Mary-Vianney Karuranga alia Sharif Ahmada Bin Said was born in 1955 in Ruhango, Gitarama, Rwanda. At the age of 4 he and his family fled to Burundi (Ibuye and Mutaho), then Tanzania (Nyarutiti) and finally to Masaka, Uganda in 1962 due to an ongoing persecution of Tutsi in his home country. He has one half-sister and lost his mother and son in the 1994 genocide along with 186 of his relatives. He has never lived with his half-sister because they were separated by wars. The father of Mr. Karuranga passed away on 18/09/1979 at Villa Maria Hospital in Uganda due to long-term illness. He still dreams that one day his father’s remains will be taken back to his home country for decent burials together with that of his mother.
Mr. Karuranga returned to Rwanda on three separate occasions. Upon arrival at his home village he was given 24 hours to leave Rwanda. In August 2008, he travelled to Rwanda to see where his mother had been butchered, but the RPF officials refused him the capacity to give her a decent burial.
Mr. Karuranga has been married for over 34 years and has 6 children ranging from ages 19 to 33 years of age. Although they have various dual nationalities but he, along with his wife and children, all live under refugee status in Europe. “What we have is a change of travel documents but we our spirit, hope, dreams and aspirations remain at home in Rwanda.”
When asked how he perceives his life as a refugee Mr. Karuranga stated that, “being a refugee makes one feel quite marginalized and worthless, you feel more worthless than toilet paper.” He further explained that living with the trademark ‘refugee’ often makes one bear the mark of inferiority and everyday living is a struggle. Refugees struggle to get education, jobs, housing, medical care and often to overcome this carried stigma on a daily basis. It is a scar and permanent trauma someone has to bear it for life, like a victim of rape. There is neither medication for that nor psychological counseling available to a refugee as than allowing him to return to his home country. He stated, “There is no respect for a refugee.” He went on to explain that children suffer the most under the refugee status because they have no extended family to visit or learn from and that they do not understand the culture their ancestors grew up with. Despite all these struggles Mr. Karuranga reported that his family and children are very proud of their home country and to call themselves Rwandan.
Mr. Karuranga explained to this writer his extensive work history and the struggles he faced in obtaining the most basic of jobs in order to provide support for his family. There were many instances of non-payment for services provided followed by threats by the management of the Sveska Lantmannen in Sweden, to his life if he continues to pursue payment that was rightfully due to services his rendered to this Swedish state owned company. He stated that he tried to hire a lawyer but he too pulled out without giving any reason. “These are benefits of being a refugee.”
He had a strong desire to attend college in order to obtain a degree but faced an uphill battle as a refugee in obtaining financial support from Sweden. He tried to appeal for grants and donations from corporations, charities and notable people in order to simply obtain 1,300 pounds a year to pay for schooling. He was turned down by Governor George William Bush (former President George Bush, Jr.), Mandela Foundation, Oprah Winfrey and other organizations. He was eventually forced to obtain a loan at an astronomically inflated interest rate and completed his B.A. in Finance in the UK. He also holds a diploma in Business Administration as well as a one in Fabrication Engineering.
Mr. Karuranga has been in local and international politics for over 28 years. He worked under Museveni (then UPM president at that time) of the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) as publicity secretary and strategist in 1980 -81.
In March 1983 he challenged the President of the republic of Uganda, late Milton Obote and the later former president of Rwanda Habyarimana, for their conspiracy to force Rwandan refugees back to Rwanda were their lives would be in danger. In the process more than 4500 Rwandan refugees where assembled and killed upon arrival in Rwanda. “That’s when I started the struggle to liberate my country,” Mr. Karuranga.
On Tuesday April 29, 1986, the Rwanda National Liberation Movement (RNLM) was launched in Kampala, Uganda under Mr. Karuranga’s leadership (Focus Vol 2 No 75, Tuesday 29, 1986). The RNLM objective was to work with the Rwandan and international communities in order to support the party’s ideas for the peaceful negotiated political settlement and unconditional return of all Rwandan refugees. However, their efforts were frustrated by the Kigali regime, when the late Habyarimana appealed to the Uganda government to naturalize Rwandese refugees in Uganda saying that Rwanda was incapable of guaranteeing additional population (Focus Vol 3 No. 7 Friday, August 29, 1986).
In 1986 he was imprisoned at Lubiri Military Barracks and Luzira Maximum Prison in Uganda at the prompting and conspiracy of Mr. Kagame. His imprisonment was due to the accusation of mobilizing troops to attack Rwanda. He stated to this writer that, “(my imprisonment) shouldn’t be seen as sadness but as a wakeup call aimed at strengthening our determination and ability to continue our struggle for democracy. I can assure you that the 8 months I spent in prison made me a stronger person and I am proud for having played my role for the people of Rwanda.”
He met the Rwanda government delegation that was headed by Mr. Augustine Nduwayezu, at the White Horse Inn, Kabale, Uganda in October 1986 from the dates of 18th to the 21st in order to request peace talks with the government officials. At that time the Rwandan government dismissed their call for a peaceful resolution of the Rwandan crisis.
The RNLM, in 1987, from its camp in Vaxjo, Sweden, he made a final appeal to encourage a peaceful resolution to the Rwandan crisis (Focus Vol 4 No 35, 14 Sept 1987). Mr. Karuranga stated, “But again the late Habyarimana missed the golden chance to make peace even though our mediator had the support of the international community, including the late president Mobutu of the former Zaire.”
After the 1994 genocide, the RNLM continued to demand for democracy and protection of Rwandan refugees both inside Rwanda and in the DRC in particular after the Kibeho, Mudende and Kanama massacres. The RNLM, in their endeavor to protect the rights of the most vulnerable (Rwanda refugees) demanded that the international community disarm the RPF so as to create a peaceful environment both in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo through the RNLM letter to the UN Secretary General dated August 23, 1994.The party believes that if the United Nations had acted swiftly on their request, that these actions would have saved millions of Rwandans from the current political limbo in which Rwanda is immersed in (The Exposure September 1994 pg. 10, The Exposure, April 1995, pg. 14 and 15, New Vision 19th July 1995, and Rwanda Times 5, August 1995).
Political Vision for Rwanda
The world has observed the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt and throughout the Middle East with deep interest and, as well, the RPP has also been quite dedicated to these situations and outcomes. The people have stood up in demand for their rights and for an end to dictatorial regimes. Mr. Karuranga stated that, “The people of Rwanda will also stand up in spontaneous action tomorrow, not because we want bloodshed in our country but because we want peace and democracy in our country.” The RPP strives to have a Rwanda where everyone is known as Rwandan and is protected by a national constitution not through separate and unequal ethnic groups that continue to paralyze the country politically, socially and culturally. This environment creates a continued feeling of mistrust of one’s neighbor, friends and even family members. The ethnic divisions cannot continue to widen or the country could collapse into another armed conflict. The RPP seeks to abolish the use of ethnicities in politics in order to keep power.
Mr. Karuraga stated,” Every Rwandan should be able to see themselves in government regardless of ethnicity.” Further, the RPP sees the largest polarizing problem within Rwanda as empowering the poor. The RPP refers to by Rwandan and the international community as a “party of the poor.” “Rwanda needs an environment that empowers the poor to work together and created a space where individuals can work for themselves,” John Karuranga stated. He further spoke of his experiences meeting the current leader of Uganda, President Museveni on several occasions while he was the UPM Publicity Secretary in Masaka District. He stated that President Museveni is one of his hero’s because of his ability to see a good idea based on their quality no matter who they have come from. His politics are not based on sectarian and divisions but on quality leadership based on the vision and prosperity of Uganda as nation and one people with common goals said Mr. Karuranga.
Mr. Karuranga said that political leaders such as Nelson Mandela serve as political role models and that he looks to Mandela for his vision of South African people and his ability to negotiate the South African Political Settlement in a 10 minute conversation that a three decades civil war had failed to achieve. Karuranga further stated that President Obama of the USA is another political hero of his due to the fact that President Obama has made history by being voted into office based on his vision for America and was elected on the platform of his ability to share his vision for change with the people of America.
Mr. Karuranga further stated that President Obama of the USA is another political hero of his due to the fact that President Obama has made history by being voted into office based on his vision for America and was elected on the platform of his ability to share his vision for change with the people of America. He also said that admires the words of wisdom President Obama spoke during the funeral of a-9 year victim, Christina-Taylor Green in Tucson, Arizona, whose life was cut notoriously short. He stated that, “at a time when we are far too eager to lay blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” Mr. Obama’s message of hope and unity to the American people at times of despair, confusion and panic, had also contained an abundance of which is relevant to the future direction of Rwanda. Said Mr. Karuranga. I am also encouraged by the global campaigns led by the US Ex-President, Mr. Bill Clintion, to wipe the tears of the most disadvantaged people. His efforts goes to the heart of the RPP’s vision.
"My determination was also strengthened by the British Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Mr. Nick Clegg - Lib-Tory government. The two extraordinary leaders are divided by their individuals’ party politics but united and brought together by same cause to “FIX THE BROKEN BRITAIN” regardless their party political differences," said Mr. Karuranga. The coalition is working well despites facing the day-to-day different challenges. This is a kind of spirit we need in Rwanda if we are to overcome the political challenges that has ruined our country for the past 52 years. Mr. Karuranga stressed that for Mr. Kagame to agree to these peace talks it should not be perceived as a sign of weakness rather than a sign of a strength that will produce amazing outcomes for the people of Rwanda. It requires heroism and courageous men of our times to make peace.
As you know no man can stand alone without a shadow of another man. I would therefore, wish to use the opportunity once again, on behalf of the most oppressed people, the poor, widows, orphans and street children and the most vulnerable whose voices cannot be heard because they can’t speak for themselves, to call upon the international community in particular, the UK, US, Belgium, Germany governments and the rest of the international community as well as individuals, to support the RPP’s proposal for peace talks that is aimed to a new hope of breathing space and fresh start of a new life as a proud Rwandan.”In closing Mr. Karuranga wanted to stress that, “I am confident, that we too, as Rwandan can make it so as to build a solid foundation for a better future and lasting legacy for our children.”
Jennifer Fierberg is a social worker in the US working on peace and justice issues in Africa with an emphasis on the crisis in Rwanda and throughout the central region of Africa. Her articles have been published on many humanitarian sites that are also focused on changing the world through social, political and personal action.
Jennifer has extensive background working with victims of trauma and domestic violence, justice matters as well as individual and family therapy. Passionate and focused on bringing the many humanitarian issues that plague the African Continent to the awareness of the developed world in order to incite change. She is a correspondent, Assistant Editor, and Volunteer Coordinator for NGO News Africa through the volunteer project of the UN. Jennifer is also the media co-coordinator and senior funding executive for The Africa Global Village (www.africaglobalvillage.com) Jennifer comes to www.Salem-News.com with a great deal of experience and passion for working to stop human right violation in Africa.
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