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Amid exciting fun-fare and about a dozen African Heads of State, President Paul Kagame took his Oath of Office, received the National Instruments and inspected the Parade – all of which part of an elaborate inaugural function, as he started his seven-year term. RNA picks up on the moments from start to end of inauguration ceremonies which started in the morning of September 06, 2010.
Rwanda’s FDU-Inkingi Party leader, peace and social justice activist Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza , spoke to Ann Garrison for Womens’ International News Gathering Service (WINGS)  in July 2010, near the close of Rwanda’s 2010 presidential election year, which was really an election stage play complete with election observers from the U.S. and the U.K. Incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame was “re-elected” on Aug. 9, receiving 93 percent of the vote, an implausible victory in any pluralist democracy, though 3 percent less than the 96 percent he received in Rwanda’s 2003 presidential election.
On Aug. 13, President Barack Obama’s National Security Council issued a statement  expressing concern about disturbing events leading up to the polls, including human rights abuse, suppression of the press and the exclusion of the opposition. NSC spokesman Mike Hammer wrote: “Democracy is about more than holding elections. A democracy reflects the will of the people, where minority voices are heard and respected, where opposition candidates run on the issues without threat or intimidation, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are protected.”
The statement, notably, did not congratulate President Paul Kagame on his re-election.
political opponents still missing, in prison, or, like Victoire Ingabire, still indicted under Rwanda’s repressive laws against speech crime
no response to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and opposition calls for investigation of recent political assassinations
suppression of the press;
extreme rural poverty and increasing inequality between the majority rural population and a privileged urban elite;
mono-cropping that exhausts the soil and leaves Rwandans hungry for the sake of agricultural exports enriching the elite;
biofuels crops planted on scarce Rwandan agricultural land by a California-based multinational, despite widespread hunger;
natural gas extraction in Lake Kivu, endangering the populations on both the Rwanda and Congo sides of the lake;
refugees in Rwanda’s neighbors, DR Congo and Uganda, who are cause and excuse for military incursion by the Rwandan Defense Force.
On Aug. 17, less than one week after Rwanda’s dubious poll results, the Rwandan government issued new security directives in the city of Kigali, requiring that everyone entering a hotel be searched, that hotels be equipped with detectors in one week, that all bars be equipped with power generators to keep lights on in the event of a blackout and that no one drive through the streets with tinted car window glass. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and the FDU issued a statement, saying that the atmosphere remains tense and called on the international community to “stay with Rwanda.”
Listen to the broadcast
WINGS host Frieda Werden: Rwanda’s Aug. 9, 2010, presidential election had a foregone conclusion: another term for Paul Kagame, the U.S.-backed Tutsi general who led the takeover of 1994. One of Kagame’s most prominent opponents is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who chairs the United Democratic Forces. She speaks with Ann Garrison in today’s edition of WINGS. [musical interlude]
Welcome to WINGS, a series of news and current affairs programs by and about women around the world, produced and distributed by the Womens’ International News Gathering Service.
Ann Garrison: In January this year, 2010, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza returned to her native Rwanda, an East African nation of 10 million people. She had been in Europe for 16 years, where she earned degrees in business and commercial law, worked for an international accounting firm, married and had three children, and became the exile leader of the Unified Democratic Forces, a coalition of Rwandan political parties.
She returned to contest Rwanda’s 2010 presidential election, to run against incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Many observers believe that she would have been the leading candidate had she been able to officially enter the race. Instead, she was arrested and forbidden to leave Kigali City to speak to the majority of Rwandans, 90 percent of whom are rural subsistence farmers suffering extreme poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, high infant mortality and low life expectancy.
Three months after her return, in a speech commemorating the victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, President Paul Kagame referred to her as a political hooligan but refused to speak her name:
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (recorded on April 7, 2010): “Some people want to encourage political hooliganism. Some people just come from nowhere, useless people. I see every time in the pictures, you know, some lady, who had her deputy, a genocide criminal, her deputy, talking about, you know, “You know there is Rwanda genocide, but there is another” – so that is politics. And the world says “the opposition leader!” Well, I know those who say it and who support that. They know it is wrong, but it is an expression of contempt these people have for Rwandans and for Africans, that they think Africans deserve to be led by these hooligans. And that’s – to that we say no, a big no. And if anybody wants a fight there, we will give them a fight.”
Ann: Kagame has indeed, since that statement, given Victoire and all his other serious political opponents a big fight, though few would call it a fair one. On June 24, Rwandan police surrounded the house Victoire had been renting in Kigali and threw up roadblocks to prevent her exit or entry. On the same day, police arrested another presidential candidate, Bernard Ntaganda, several of Ntaganda’s party members disappeared, and police arrested dozens of opposition party members who were attempting to protest their exclusion from the presidential election, which was, by then, only six weeks away. Also on the same day, Umuvugizi journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage was gunned down in front of his home in Kigali after he reported that Rwandan President Paul Kagame had ordered the assassination attempt on an exiled Rwandan general in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Reports of arrest, torture and even assassination of opposition politicians and press critical of Kagame have continued since.
On July 11, Victoire Ingabire spoke to WINGS from Kigali, despite the state’s warning that she might be arrested again if she continues to speak to the press. She speaks Dutch, French and her native Kinyarwanda language and, in recent months, she has learned English so as to speak to citizens of the U.S. and the U.K., the powers that have been dominant in the region since the Rwanda genocide.
Ann: Welcome, Victoire, and thank you for agreeing to speak to WINGS, despite the danger that it puts you in.
Victoire: You are welcome and thank you for your interest for the plight of Rwanda people.
Ann: Can you describe the state of your party, the FDU-Inkingi Party, and the opposition parties today? How many remain under arrest? How many have been freed? How many are missing?
Victoire: So far, only two members of opposition arrested on 24 June remain in detention. You know that Bernard Ntaganda, the founder and president of PS Imberakuri [political party] is still in jail. And Alice Muhirwa, who is the treasurer of FDU-Inkingi, you know that she is now still recovering from torture meted against her by police during her detention. And Mr. Luswanga Toba, the secretary of Mr. Ntaganda, who disappeared on 20 June – even till today, we don’t know where he is.
And there are also seven members of PS Imberakuri – we don’t know where they are. And people complained to the court about torture and showed the scars and the other evidence of torture. But the ruling of the judge eluded this issue. It is a kind of blank check to the police to go on torturing people. And I was also shocked to hear that the police tried to corner them into giving false evidence against Bernard Ntaganda and myself.
Ann: Are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International present?
Victoire: The office of Amnesty International is based in Kampala; they are not every day in Rwanda. And you know that the government of Kagame refused the visa to the person of Human Rights. We don’t have any permanent office for Human Rights or Amnesty International.
Ann: I spoke to Frank Habineza, chair of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and the African Greens Federation, who said that there are now highly armed military foot patrols with their fingers on the triggers at almost all small roads and paths in the city of Kigali and at road blocks in some places. Is that what you see happening? And if so, how are you encouraging Rwandans to respond?
Victoire: Yes, there is a heavy deployment of security personnel. I encourage Rwandese people to fight for their rights but not to respond to the provocation because it would be playing the game of the regime.
Ann: They want to provoke the population into responding violently so that they can respond violently themselves?
Victoire: Of course. This is why I ask the Rwandese people, “Don’t respond to the provocation.”
Ann: And how would you like the rest of the world to be responding to this now? How would you like the so-called international community to respond?
Victoire: You know, I have called the international community, especially the countries backing the current regime, to realize that they are not doing a service to the people of Rwanda by supporting an uncompromising regime. It is in nobody’s interest to keep on the current standoff.
Ann: Now with regard to your own arrest, indictment and trial. You’re accused of disputing the official history of the Rwanda genocide, which is that extremist Hutus planned genocide against the Tutsis and then killed a million Tutsis within 100 days in 1994, though the phrase is often “Tutsis and moderate Hutus.” How do you understand the Rwanda genocide of 1994 and what would you most like the world to understand about it?
Victoire: First, you have to know that my party and I have never denied the genocide by the U.N. understanding because the Resolution 955 from U.N. says that in Rwanda was genocide against the Rwandan people. And that was, like you say, there was genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus. We don’t have to forget that. Yes, there was genocide and all people involved should be brought to the court.
But before, during and after the genocide, other Rwanda’s people were killed. Hutus and Tutsis were killed. Is this denying genocide? I don’t feel so. We have to remember that before and after the genocide against the Tutsis, there was also crime against humanity.
Ann: One thing seems especially important to understand here: You were saying that the massacres did not end at the end of the famous hundred days, that the killing continued after that, and both Hutus and Tutsis were killed. Is that right?
Victoire: Of course, of course. The killing was not stopped after 100 days from April to July. After this period, there were many killings. And RPF took the power in July 1994, and after they took power, the killing was going ahead until 1997, when they killed the people in the Congo.
Ann: And you say these were both Hutus and Tutsis who were perceived to be enemies of the government?
Victoire: Yes, of course, there were Hutus and Tutsis, because RPF, when they came in the country, they considered the Tutsis in Rwanda as the enemy who accepted to collaborate with the Hutu government. The RPF, they killed also Tutsis; they did not kill only Hutus, but they killed also Tutsis, like the extremist Hutus killed the Hutus and killed the Tutsis.
Ann: So they killed the Tutsis who had been left behind when they left for Uganda.
Victoire: Yes, yes. For the RPF, the Tutsis who stayed in the country, who worked together with the Hutu government – they saw them as the collaborators of this Hutuist regime. And, they considered – most of them were considered as the enemy.
Ann: OK, now with regard to your trial, you found another lawyer, a Rwandan lawyer, Theogene Muhayeyezu. Then he was arrested; now he’s been released. This is all after Minnesota Law Professor Peter Erlinder came to defend you; he was arrested, he was released and then he was unable to defend you because he is accused himself. Is Theogene Muhayeyezu going to be able to defend you despite having been arrested himself?
Victoire: Yes, the government is trying by all means to isolate me and make sure that I don’t have any lawyers. By so doing, the government hopes to overcome the weakness of the case.
Ann: So is he going to be able to defend you?
Victoire: Yes, yes, because the judge finds that there was one police who saw him and said, “You have to arrest this man because he is the lawyer of Victoire.” He was arrested only because he was my lawyer. And now he is freed, so he can go ahead with his job as my lawyer.
Ann: Are there current dates scheduled for your trial?
Victoire: Not at all. The chief prosecutor said on BBC that he’s still waiting for information from foreign countries. If he was not ready, was not it to bar me from contesting the presidential election?
Ann: Have any of the international legal and human rights organizations that protested Professor Erlinder’s arrest protested your arrest for the same alleged speech crime?
Victoire: Yes, yes, they did. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and some individuals did. So did defense lawyers also from the ICTR; they did also.
Ann: Few educated Rwandans with internet access seem to doubt that you were arrested so that the Kagame regime could exclude you from the election, by saying that you cannot contest so long as you are on trial. Do you think that the majority of Rwandans, who are rural subsistence farmers, perceive that this is not a real election?
Victoire: Of course. Although my party has not yet been registered, I have sympathies all over the country. Rural farmers you are talking about are not duped about the coming election.
They are not happy about their dire situation; they are not happy about the way the government handles the refugees issue because the victims are members of their family or neighbors; they are not happy to be denied their rights; they are not happy about administrative harassing, arrest, detention and gacaca. [Rwanda’s gacaca courts are described as an experimental form of community justice to prosecute prisoners accused of genocide and war crimes. – ed.] They want change the same way urban Rwandans do.
Ann: How do you think they will react to the coming election? Do you think that they will go ahead and vote for the only real candidate? Do you think they will try not to vote? Do you think they’ll be forced to vote? What do you think will happen to them on Aug. 9?
Victoire: Of course we know that will be the problem, but we’ll campaign to ask the population, “Don’t vote because you don’t have choice.” Why they will spend time to go to the vote? Of course they fear intimidation.
Ann: And do you think there are likely to be reprisals against those who don’t vote?
Victoire: We know that the government, the military or the police will use violence against them but, as I say, we have to fight for our rights. There is no reason to vote if you don’t have the choice.
Ann: And what about the election observers who were supposed to come? The EU decided not to send election observers. They gave 5.3 million euro to this National Electoral Commission, even though there’s no real election pending. And now the U.S. and the U.K., actually the Commonwealth, are planning to send observers. Do you want them to come?
Victoire: My question is why they will come, if they know. Everybody knows that Kagame will be elected; he will be the next president for next seven years. Everybody knows it. Why U.K. and U.S. will send the observers if they know that there will be not really the free election in Rwanda. Why they send money? What they do, they [do] not help Rwandese people. This is why I ask them, “Don’t come,” because there is no election in Rwanda. And I don’t see why people would spend time, money and coming here for masquerade election.
Ann: Well, this is a very extreme situation, but I know you haven’t had much chance to talk about your issues because you keep being forced to talk about ethnicity and the history of the genocide. Let’s step back from the current danger and talk about your vision for Rwanda.
In a recent study, Dr. Ann Ansoms of the University of Antwerp reported that 90 percent of Rwandans are rural subsistence farmers who speak only their native Kinyarwanda language and that the majority live in poverty and that the poverty has increased since the 1994 Rwanda genocide, despite all the claims about Rwanda being a development miracle. She reports export mono-crops produced on land concentrated in a few hands, Kagame virtually abandoning the rural population to build a shimmering modern city, Kigali, and educate a privileged technical elite.
The Rusesabagina Foundation says, quote, that “one third of Rwanda’s population suffers from malnutrition, that life expectancy is only 44 years, and that wealth and power is all concentrated in the cities, leaving 92 percent of the poor in underrepresented rural areas.” Does that sound like an accurate picture of Rwanda to you and what do you think needs to be done?
Victoire: The most urgent action is to review agriculture policy and enhance forest management. The rural population in Rwanda has been neglected for the last 16 years and, instead of the Singapore model of development, which gives the lion’s share to an urban privileged elite, I would invest in agriculture, I would invest in rural roads and health network, I would review the land management and I would give priority to the subsistence food crop, rather than cash crops which benefit mostly to traders from urban areas.
Ann: OK, we’ve touched on this a number of times, that the vast majority of Rwandans eat what they’re able to grow on their land. But this is so fundamental to what most Rwandans experience that I’m going to ask you to make it very simple.
Victoire: For example, ask people to cultivate only maize – if you ask them to cultivate only maize for export – but what they will eat? This is why I will give priority to enough food for my people.
Ann: And what about this jatropha biofuels planting project? This was undertaken, I know, by Eco-Fuel Global, a multinational corporation headquartered just across San Francisco Bay from where I’m speaking to you, in Walnut Creek. And before returning to Rwanda, you and your party published a very critical essay about the government’s decision to engage with Eco-Fuel Global to plant fuel crops for export, despite widespread hunger and a shortage of land for food crops.
Victoire: Yes, this is an example of the lack of vision by the current regime. How you can complain about food shortage and give land for biofuel plants? And now the people there, they fight against this project. Everybody knows that in many countries in Africa, like Mozambique, these projects have been turned down, but they are welcome in Rwanda. I cannot understand it.
Ann: Biofuels planting has been turned down in Mozambique?
Victoire: Turned down in Mozambique, in Burkina Faso, in many countries in Africa.
Ann: What about the natural gas in Lake Kivu? There’s said to be $20 billion worth of natural gas in Lake Kivu, but the lake is very dangerously C02 dense. If it’s drilled carelessly, it could explode C02 and asphyxiate people on either side.
Victoire: Yes, we know that it’s dangerous to exploit the gas in Lake Kivu, but we know also that there are some companies outside who can exploit this gas without danger. This is why we say, the project we have now, we have to stop it and look if we can find a company who can exploit this gas without danger to the population who live in the area of Kivu.
Ann: As i understand it, there is a plan for drawing off the C02 so that the natural gas can be drilled, but the Kagame regime has said they’re not responsible for that; they don’t have to bother.
Victoire: This shows that the government of Kagame doesn’t have any responsibility about the people. Of course Rwanda needs money, but if we have a project where we can get money, but it is dangerous for your people, you have to choose. And the government of Kagame chose the money.
It is the duty to protect people before you find money. If you have money but your people are killed, what you will do with this money?
Ann: Lake Kivu often seems like a metaphor for Rwanda, because the C02 is so dangerously dense that it needs to be drawn off before there’s a lethal explosion, perhaps like the political tension in Rwanda needs to be released by reconciliation?
Victoire: Reconciliation. Mmm-hmm, go ahead.
Ann: You have a plan for a truth and reconciliation commission, don’t you?
Victoire: Yes, of course. I take the example of South Africa, where there is a commission about truth and reconciliation and this commission helped people not to revenge, but to talk about what happened, who was involved, what really happened and how together we can go ahead. And that’s what we need in Rwanda.
But we have to let the people be free to talk about what they saw, what happened with them, to talk with the killers, to accept, to give forgiveness. But you cannot push people to give forgiveness, and you cannot push the people, [telling them] don’t talk about the crime committed by the neighbor against the family that they lose.
Ann: One of your supporters in the United States told me that an important part of the healing process is that Hutus need to be able to mourn and bury their dead, which they can’t do publicly because the official version of the genocide doesn’t allow them to acknowledge their loss.
Victoire: Yes, there are many people in Rwanda who see Hutus as killers. For them, Hutus, they are killers. But that is not true. Everybody knows that not all Hutus were involved in the killing of the Tutsis. We cannot take this picture that the Hutus, they are killers, and the Tutsis, they are victims. That is not true.
There are extremists by both ethnic groups. There are extremists in the Tutsis group. There are extremists in the Hutus group; they were involved in the killing of the people. And these extremists have to be brought to the court. And some members of RPF killed people, and that is the problem that the Kagame regime cannot resolve.
Ann: OK, let’s talk about politics and the press for a moment. The independent Kinyarwanda language newspapers Umuseso and Umuvugizi have both been shut down. The editors have fled to Uganda and now the editor and staff of Umurabyo have been arrested and imprisoned. On June 24, Umuvugizi journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage was gunned down in the streets of Kigali outside his home.
This leaves only the state controlled media outlets and perhaps the Rwanda News Agency, which seems to be under a lot of state pressure. The police were calling you in for interrogation several times a week before they finally arrested you and forbade you to leave the city of Kigali. So, without independent press and without freedom to travel, have you had any way to make contact with the rural population who are the majority of Rwandans?
Victoire: Yes, we know the agenda of the government is to sever links between me and the population. Despite government harassment, the party had managed to gather the number of signatures we need. I was ready to register my political party. People all over the country know my fight for change and want to hear more from me, but I have been denied any contact via public or private media. But the Rwanda people should know that so long as I breathe, I will keep on my combat.
Ann: I’ve heard that Rwanda has quite an oral tradition, that even if there isn’t any published media that the word travels from village to village.
Victoire: Of course. They can hear the radio. There are different Rwandese radios in the country, but we use BBC and Voice of America because we cannot use the public or private radios. But the majority of Rwandese people, they cannot read. You tell your story to your neighbor and your neighbor tells the story to the other, and in two days the whole country is informed about it. It is why, if I don’t have access to the media but we have representation in different areas in the country and we give them the information, in two days, the whole country knows the information we need to give to the population.
Ann: So they know who you are; they know what has been happening.
Victoire: Of course. They don’t need media to know who I am. Everybody knows who I am. Now all Rwandans in the country and outside, they know who is Victoire. And this is why the regime of Kagame does everything to prevent that I participate in the election, because they know that if I will participate, they will lose the election. Kagame will lose the election.
Ann: How would you change Rwanda’s relationship to its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 6 million war dead have been reported since 1996, largely consequent to Rwanda and Uganda’s invasions beginning in that year?
Victoire: The stumbling block is the refugees issue. For the last 16 years or so, the current regime has attempted to settle this refugee problem through military invasion. It is this problem which poisoned the relation between Rwanda and Congo – DRC – and Uganda. And we have to resolve this problem, not militarily, but through dialogue.
Ann: My internet telephonic connection with Victoire began to crack and became almost unintelligible at this point and I wasn’t able to reconnect and sustain a stable connection, but I had asked her whether there was anything else she’d like to say.
Victoire: [Ann reading:] I want to be a leader of all Rwandans seeking political change which can help us overcome ethnic division and embrace a new vision where people are judged on the basis of what they contribute to the welfare of their country and not which party, racial or ethnic group they belong to.
I dream of a Rwanda where people gather around ideas and not ethnicity, a country respected for its value and not its military might.
Ann: Rwanda is indeed the most formidable African military power in East and Central Africa, and the other opposition parties, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and the Parti Social Imberakuri, have joined Victoire in calling for a shift away from military expense and adventure.
After my conversation with her, on July 11, the vice president of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda was found beheaded with a machete left near the body in southern Rwanda, and International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda defense lawyer Jwani Mwaikusa was gunned down in Dar es Salaam, where he lived and taught at the law school at the University of Dar es Salaam.
On July 24, Victoire reported that Rwandan police entered the courtyard of the house that she and her party staff had been renting in Kigali and beat and arrested two of her FDU-Inkingi Party members. She vowed to continue her struggle even after incumbent President Paul Kagame declared victory in what much of the world perceived as an election masquerade, complete with election observers from the U.S. and the Commonwealth.
For Women’s International News Gathering Service, this has been Ann Garrison interviewing Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.
By Linda Slattery and Ann Talbot
26 August 2010
Tensions began to emerge between President Paul Kagame and his Western backers in the course of the recent elections. Media reports criticised the exclusion of opposition parties from the poll and physical attacks on Kagame’s opponents.
Kagame has received extraordinarily high levels of aid from the West since he came to power in 1994 and has previously been virtually immune from criticism in the press. The shift in attitude can best be traced to the welcome that Kagame has extended to China’s growing investment in Africa. A warning is being delivered to Kagame’s regime that the tolerance he has enjoyed to date will not continue if he aligns himself with interests hostile to those of the United States and other Western powers.
Writing in the Financial Times on August 19, Kagame acknowledged the changing attitude that emerged in the course of the election and defended his brand of politics, claiming that it was essential if Rwanda was to be stable:
“Some in the media and the international community seem uninterested in fact-checking, and simply invented stories that play to damaging historic prejudices. It is a shame that some so casually disregard the views of the majority of Rwandans and prefer to elevate the dangerous opinions of fly-by-night individuals, which in turn threaten to reverse our hard-earned stability”.
Rwanda has become the gateway through which the strategic mineral resources of the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo reach the international market. A United Nations Panel of Experts found that Rwanda was responsible for the illegal trafficking of gold, coltan and cassiterite from areas of the DRC controlled by Rwandan-backed militias. All these minerals are vital for mobile phones and other modern electronic devices.
In the year 2000 alone, the Rwandan army is thought to have made $250 million out of this trade. Despite the evidence that the civilian population of the Congo has been abused, the US has made no criticism of Rwanda’s role in the DRC. The Congo Conflict Minerals Act passed by Congress in 2009 with the ostensible aim of putting an end to the looting makes no mention of Rwanda.
Following Kagame’s re-election, however, the National Security Council (NSC) failed to congratulate him on his victory and issued a press statement expressing concern about “disturbing events” that had preceded the election. “We remain concerned, however, about a series of disturbing events prior to the election, including the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights researcher, the barring of two opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists”, it declared.
“Democracy is about more than holding elections”, said Mike Hammer, spokesman for the NSC. “A democracy reflects the will of the people, where minority voices are heard and respected, where opposition candidates run on the issues without threat or intimidation, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are protected”.
Kagame’s response came in the Financial Times. He rejected the US criticism of his election and insisted that he was pursuing a form of government suited to Rwandan cultural traditions.
“For decades, one-size-fits-all development and democratic prescriptions have been imposed on Africa, with unsatisfactory, sometimes tragic, results”, he wrote. “Yet to break from the cycle of underdevelopment we must seek innovative, home-grown solutions. Rwanda is one of the countries that have chosen to apply unconventional mechanisms to solve daunting challenges. And it is working”.
Hinting at Rwanda’s importance for the export of minerals, Kagame said that those who accepted his methods would reap the economic benefits. He knows that he has the support of the major mining companies and can look to China as an alternative source of aid. In January 2009 Kagame signed a new trade deal with China, and a new Chinese embassy was opened in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
Speaking to the German business paper Handelsblatt, Kagame praised the role of China in bringing investment in infrastructure to Africa. He recognised the potential for playing off one potential investor or donor against another. “There are new players, developing countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia”, he said. “That opens new possibilities for new relationships. Suddenly, the Americans and Europeans discover that they don’t want to be left out”.
At the China-Africa summit Kagame pointed out that trade between Rwanda and China had quadrupled over the previous four years.
Kagame has been sharply critical of the new US Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, which contains a clause obliging companies to demonstrate that their minerals have not come from the DRC. Major electronics companies such as IBM, Motorola, Hewlett Packard, Intel and Apple will be hit by this provision. Kagame may hope to bypass this legislation by turning to the Asian market and Asian electronic companies.
Kagame supposedly won 93 percent of the votes in the election on August 9. International observers reported no overt sign of violence or voter intimidation, but all the opposition candidates were former allies of Kagame. Three potential candidates were barred from standing. Leading oppositionist Andre Kagwa Rwisereka of the Democratic Green Party was found dead shortly before the election. The party is linked to Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who is in intensive care in South Africa after being shot. Nyamwasa fled to South Africa earlier this year after accusing Kagame of using an anti-corruption campaign to frame his political opponents.
Reporters have been subject to intimidation. Jean Leonard Rugambage was gunned down in Kigali after his paper Umuvugizi was closed by the government. Its editor Jean Bosco Gasasira had already fled to Uganda.
In June, American lawyer Peter Erlinder, who is representing defendants at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on trial for their alleged part in the genocide, was arrested. He was accused of denying the 1994 genocide on the basis of remarks he made at the tribunal, although the defence lawyers are supposed to be protected by diplomatic immunity. Other lawyers at the ICTR responded to Erlinder’s arrest by asking for postponements until their safety could be guaranteed.
These are the “disturbing events” that have caused concern in Washington. But they are hardly new.
In 1995 the journalist Manesse Mugabo disappeared in Kigali, followed in 1996 by the first post-genocide Minister of the Interior Seth Sendashshonga and businessman Augustin Bugirimfura, who was shot dead in Nairobi. In 1998 journalist Emmanuel Munyemanzi disappeared from Kigali, and Theoneste Lizinde, MP and government intelligence chief before the genocide, was assassinated in Nairobi. In the year 2000, first post-genocide President Pasteur Bizimungu’s adviser, Asiel Kabera, was shot dead in Kigali. In 2003 top judge Augustin Cyiza and magistrate Eliezar Runyaruka disappeared from Kigali, as did opposition MP Leonard Hitiman.
The US has been prepared to turn a blind eye to Kagame’s record of repression until now because it has been useful to American interests. TheFinancial Times Africa editor William Wallis acknowledged the impact that the presence of China has had on Western influence in Rwanda. But he also blamed the West for the lack of democracy in Rwanda.
“With one hand the US”, Wallis wrote, “the [European Union] and other donors encourage and finance elections. With the other, they routinely accept the outcome regardless of how dubious the manner in which it is achieved”.
The process of formally democratic elections merely added a semblance of legitimacy to “a contemporary form of one-party rule, in which incumbents use patronage, oppression and control of electoral machinery to maintain power”.
Rwanda will receive an estimated $208 million in aid from the US this year. This includes the cost of military aid—the Rwanda army is US trained. Britain contributes £46 million, or $73 million, in humanitarian aid. Unusually for a country that does not have a history as a British colony, Rwanda joined the British Commonwealth this year. Membership will allow Rwanda to play a more prominent role in East Africa, where most of the large states are former British colonies and give its political and business elite access to the English-language education that is vital for the global market.
Kagame has been advised by ex-President Bill Clinton, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and has developed close relations with Bill Gates. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon even appointed Kagame to co-chair a committee of “superheroes to defeat poverty” to help push for progress in achieving the UN’s Millennium Development goals. Activists from the British Conservative Party regularly visit Rwanda to take part in aid projects. The country has been held up as a role model for other African countries to follow.
Despite the massive influx of aid into Rwanda, more than half of its 9.7 million population live on about 43 cents a day. Malnutrition is endemic. Almost half its children are malnourished, according to the World Food Programme. Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world and ranks 167 out of 182 countries on the UN Human Development Index.
Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen recently answered questions (Google translated) in Parliament concerning Rwanda’s election. (These answers were published online in Dutch on July 30, 2010.)
The rush transcript shows that the Dutch government refutes claims by the Rwandan opposition parties of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Frank Habineza and Bernard Ntaganda that the process so far has been rigged and since July the Dutch government is apparently co-presiding over the Rwandan National Electoral Commission.
The translated answer by Maxime Verhagen which specifically refutes an important claim by the Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties states:
“The claim of the PCC that the independence of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) would only be guaranteed through the participation of opposition is not shared by me. The PCC ‘falls over’ the fact that the chairman of the NEC is a member of the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s army and party]. Neutrality, however, is effectively monitored by the co-chair, a donor (The Netherlands). The Netherlands since July 2010 as acting co-chairman of the NEC is co-responsible for setting the agenda and for bringing specific topics to the table. The NEC is directly involved in the process for the adjustment of the electoral law and also responsible for the electoral process. The NEC shall also ensure fairness of the campaign, for example, by checking that the media focus on the current four candidates is distributed evenly. The registration of the presidential candidates was also done at the NEC.”
On Frank Habineza, Maxime Verhagen states that the Rwandan Green Party (my translation) “wanted to participate without fulfilling all conditions, which is participating without holding a founding meeting. This is considered contrary to the Rwandan Constitution.”
That statement totally ignores the fact that the Rwandan government has made it impossible, through Kafkaesque measures, for the Green Party to hold such a meeting.
The fact that the Dutch government is now a member of the Rwandan NEC merits serious discussion. Has anyone in the world ever seen a foreign government be part of a National Electoral Commission?
To learn how Kagame rigged the 2003 elections, read here.
H. Vincent Harris lives in Belgium, where he explores the impact of migrants on democratic development both at home and abroad at Colored Opinions, where the initial version of this story first appeared.
Gasasira, in hiding in a safe house somewhere in Kampala, said he has recently got credible information and signals that suggest that Rwandan President Paul Kagame is determined to hunt him down and eliminate him.
The acting editor of Umuvugizi, Jean-Leonard Rugambage, was shot dead in front of his home in Kigali on June 24.
Gasasira said Kagame has been sending his intelligence agents to Kampala, partly to try and persuade Gasasira to return to Rwanda and partly to kill him. He says the latest method being considered by Kagame’s agents is to have him poisoned.
World news media in recent months has been dominated by reports of state-inspired assassinations and attempted assassinations of prominent Rwandans, including Rugambage, the former army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, André Kagwa Rwisereka, the vice chairman of the opposition Democratic Green Party, and Denis Ntare, a former chief of staff of the Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.
The latest spate of assassinations and attempts in President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda have come as a surprise to western and African commentators only because amid all the positive media reporting on Rwanda since 1994, they scarcely asked questions about many such incidents spread over two decades since 1990.
Kagame’s trail of murder and genocide
The article on the Wikipedia online encyclopedia on Kagame leaves out many key details on him, thus leaving the reader with an incomplete picture of one of the most prominent guerrilla leaders in Africa over the last 25 years.
The Uganda Record will attempt to render a more complete picture.
Paul Rutagambwa Kagame was born on Oct. 23, 1957 in Ruhango, Rwanda to Deogratius and Asteria Rutagambwa.
He is reportedly from the Abaganza clan of the Tutsi, although other sources say he is from the Abega clan. Kagame’s home area is said by some sources to be Gitarama, while his wife, Jeanette Nyiramongi Kagame, is from Gikongoro.
In 1962, the Rutagambwa family, along with thousands of other Tutsi refugees, fled Rwanda following an aborted Tutsi uprising against the mainly Hutu independence government of Rwanda. They were re-located to the Gahunge refugee camp in the then Toro district of western Uganda.
Kagame attended Rwengoro Primary School in Kamwenge in the then Toro district of western Uganda. Kagame speaks fluent Rutooro, the language of the Batooro tribe.
After his primary school education, he was moved to the Nakivaale refugee camp in Ankole, in western Uganda. Kagame also enrolled in the leading secondary school in Ankole at the time, Ntare School.
While the date he joined Ntare is unclear, it can be assumed to have been about 1970 or 1971.
Most of Kagame’s publicly-known life story jumps from his Ntare School days to his joining Yoweri Museveni’s Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) guerrilla group in 1979.
Much of the period from about 1975 to 1979 is left as a blank space. It is one of several passages in Kagame’s life that he keeps out of the public domain. For example, the Kagame life story as it is publicly known stresses Ntare School but is silent on his period as a student at Old Kampala Secondary School.
In the mid 1990s, a Ugandan journalist who attempted to write a biography on Kagame had all his materials and photographs seized by Rwandan intelligence agents on behalf of the then Vice President Kagame.
In or about 1976, Kagame joined the Uganda Police force, something he has been careful to keep out of the public’s knowledge. Information gathered from a source on Dec. 13, 2008 states that in that period, Kagame lived in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu along with many other Tutsis.
The source believes they were working as spies on behalf of Museveni’s FRONASA. Considering how many FRONASA men had been infiltrated into Idi Amin’s State Research Bureau national intelligence agency in the 1970s and Kagame’s penchant for intelligence and other covert work, the Uganda Record can only speculate whether Kagame as a Uganda Police officer might have doubled as a State Research Bureau operative as well.
In Feb. 1979, when the Tanzania-Uganda war reached Mbarara town in western Uganda, Kagame joined FRONASA, or openly joined FRONASA. What Kagame did under FRONASA between 1979 and 1980 or where he was based or deployed is also not clear or public.
He emerges again in the records as one of the « original 27 » or « original 36 » or « original 41 » men that Museveni says he invaded the Kabamba Infantry Training School with on Feb. 6, 1981 as a new guerrilla force known as the Popular Resistance Army (PRA).
During that Feb. 6, 1981 attack, three PRA guerrillas Hannington Mugabi, Jack Muchunguzi, and Paul Kagame received slight injuries.
After the PRA merged with the Uganda Freedom Fighters of the former President Yusufu Lule on June 9, 1981 to form the National Resistance Army (NRA), Kagame was appointed to head the NRA tribunal in Luwero Triangle.
This tribunal executed captured soldiers of the UNLA government army and tried and executed NRA guerrillas suspected of being agents of the UPC government of Milton Obote. Rather than use bullets for the firing squad, the NRA used small, blunt hoes called « Akafuni » to bludgeon their victims in the head.
Kagame’s ruthlessness earned him the nickname « Pilato » among his fellow NRA guerrillas.
When the NRA cut off western Uganda in Aug. 1985 following the military coup that overthrew the Obote government, Kagame was transferred to the NRA’s new headquarters in Fort Portal town.
In Aug. 1985, the NRA hijacked a Uganda Airlines Fokker Friendship F-27 aircraft after it landed at the airfield as Kasese town, about 74km west of Fort Portal. It was Kagame whom the NRA charged with handling the hijack.
Coordinating the hijack from Entebbe International Airport had been NRA guerrillas Winnie Byanyima and Lt. Fred Mwesigye who was a secret NRA guerrilla but working as a UNLA intelligence officer based in Entebbe.
In this same period in 1985, the NRA set up a roadblock at the Katunguru bridge area along the Kasese-Mbarara road in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda.
The UNLA sent a contingent of soldiers to reinforce Kasese town. These UNLA troops then traveled in trailers to the area.
The troops were ambushed and surrounded by the NRA at the Katunguru roadblock. The NRA officer, Paul Kagame, ordered the trailers to be locked up with all the UNLA soldiers inside.
Several days later, a major stench came out of the trailers and when it was opened, the decomposing bodies of the UNLA soldiers lay on the floors.
Kagame at the NRA’s Military Intelligence Directorate
After the NRA seized state power in 1986, Kagame was deployed at the Military Intelligence headquarters at Basiima House as an intelligence officer.
He rose in office to become the head of administration in the Directorate of Military Intelligence. He shared an office cubicle with another NRA intelligence officer, Aronda Nyakirima. Contrary to a widely-held belief, Kagame has never been the director of Military Intelligence in Uganda but only the head of administration in Military Intelligence.
As director of administration in the NRA’s Military Intelligence, an NRA intelligence officer, Lt. Kenneth Kanyogonya, recalls an incident in which he, Kanyogonya, investigated an NRA officer called Alex who had brought into Uganda a machine that printed fake bank notes.
Kanyogonya had Alex arrested and he reported the case to Kagame. That afternoon, Kagame ordered the release of Alex and sharply rebuked Kanyogonya, ordering him to leave matters alone that were none of his business.
Lt. Kanyogonya, today a Kampala businessman, says he marvels when he reads and hears the many reports that portray Paul Kagame as « incorruptible. »
In 1990, the army sent Kagame to the United States’ military college at Fort Leavenworth for advanced military instruction.
Intrigue and murder within the RPF
Late in Oct. 1990, more than three weeks into the invasion of Rwanda by a Tutsi-led guerrilla force, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), a mutiny or infighting of some form took place.
The overall commander of the RPA invaders, Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema, was shot dead in the back of his head, reportedly by a clique in the RPA led by Maj. Dr. Peter Bayingana, Maj. Chris Bunyenyezi and Maj. Frank Munyaneza.
Hundreds of RPA guerrillas were massacred by their fellow RPA guerrillas and their bodies thrown into the Akagera River. It was the first report of bodies floating down the Akagera River.
After Rwigyema’s death, Maj. Gen. Salim Saleh, the former army commander and younger brother to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, personally took Kagame to the RPA headquarters inside Rwanda whereupon Kagame took charge of the shattered force and reorganised it.
In its early days, the RPF — the political and administrative wing of the RPA — tried to allay fears of Rwanda’s Hutu majority that the RPF was a Tutsi force bent on seizing power and installing a Tutsi-only regime.
A number of Hutu, including a Col. Alexis Kanyarengwe were recruited and given prominent positions in the RPF. Kanyarengwe, a former Rwandan army officer who had fallen out with and been jailed by President Juvenal Habyarimana, was named the RPF’s Chairman.
However, on May 17, 1991, John Shyirambere Barahinyura, head of Information and Research, RPF and a Hutu, resigned from the RPF « after finding out that RPF has no other intentions for Rwanda other than being in power. »
In his statement of resignation, Barahinyura said: « Nobody can take orders from Kanyarengwe without first asking Paul Kagame. »
On Jan. 29, 1991, a Kampala newsletter, The Shariat, reported that Kagame had been injured in fighting in Rwanda or in some kind of assassination attempt.
« Lt. Col. Paul Kagame the man who succeeded the late Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema as the overall Commander of R.PA is missing. According to reliable sources, Lt. Col. Paul Kagame was seriously injured and was quietly taken to a military hospital abroad. But it is not known whether Lt. Col. Paul Kagame was shot by fellow R.P.A soldiers or by the enemy (Rwandese government soldiers). After the incident Lt. Col. Kanyarengwe was immediately appointed overall commander of R.P.A and Chairman R.P.F, » The Shariat reported.
On July 28, 1991, the deputy commander of the RPA at the time of its invasion of Rwanda on Oct. 1, 1990, Lt. Col. Adam Wasswa, died in a car accident at Lyantonde town in south-central Uganda where he and Kagame were in the same Toyota Landcruiser traveling for an RPF High Command meeting inside Rwanda. A one Captain Kairangwa also died in the accident.
Adam Wasswa’s family lived in Mbarara and he had been recruited into FRONASA in 1979 by Yoweri Museveni. Wasswa was a Rwandan Tutsi royal and was close to and supported the ambitions of the ousted Rwandan King Kigeli V.
The Citizen newspaper of Kampala commented on Jan. 3, 1991: « The Rwandese Patriotic Front which stormed Rwanda on October 1, 1990…are said to be tied up in a historical power struggle. Reports reaching The Citizen say that RPF is divided on three ethnic groupings within the Tutsi tribe. It is alleged that among the Tutsi there are three different groups each with its own objectives.
« The groups are referred to as Abega, Abanyiginya and the commoners. It is further alleged that Abanyiginya are the true Kings of Rwanda…Reports further say that after the death of the top three commanders, Major Paul Kagame who is said to be from the Abega group took over leadership, which is said to be unacceptable to the Abanyiginya led by Kigeli the last king of Rwanda and Major Adam Wasswa. It is alleged that [the] King Kigeli group has played a very significant role disorganising the RPF, distorting the whole cause to a mere power struggle…On [the] Uganda side,it is reported that from Kamwezi through Kishuro hills down Kahondo valleys [valley] insecurity is on the increase. »
A strong rumour had persisted among Rwanda’s Tutsi ever since Adam Wasswa’s death that he was, in fact, killed by Kagame and he did not die in a car accident. However there are no independent details to confirm or refute this belief.
Rose Kabuye’s revelations about the RPF’s methods and beliefs
In 1993, for reasons not clear, Kagame ordered the arrest and jailing of Lt. Rose Kabuye, one of the most prominent female RPF guerrillas. She spent a year in the RPF jail.
Kabuye had left Uganda as a Lieutenant in the NRA at the time of the Oct. 1, 1990 invasion. She was one of the RPF officers involved in the preparations and discussions that became the Arusha II peace talks in 1993 in Arusha, Tanzania.
One part of the RPF prison was called the « university », for those prisoners condemned to die. Kabuye was in the prison designated for senior RPF officers.
Kabuye, during her detention, told her guards that during the Arusha peace talks with Habyarimana’s government she personally pushed for the RPF to be given the Ministry of Internal Affairs even if it did not get any other ministry.
The RPF felt that the Interior ministry controlled all the vital grassroots local government institutions they needed to reach the common people.
She handled logistical and administrative work in Mbarara for the RPA during the first weeks of the October 1990 invasion.
Kabuye, while in prison, said that one of the strategic plans of the exiled Tutsis after 1959 was to select beautiful girls to marry rich Ugandans. Then once they got children, the Tutsi women would discreetly poison their Ugandan husbands and inherit the money and property.
Some of the money was to be used to educate the young refugees in camps in Uganda. That is why, said Kabuye to her guards, most beautiful Tutsi women in Uganda are almost all widows.
RPF takeover and Paul Kagame’s reign of terror
The RPF guerrillas took power in Kigali in July 1994 in an assault on the capital led by Col. William Bagire and the field operation commanded by Lt. Col. Stephen Ndugute. Ndugute had been a Marine in the 1970s Uganda Army of President Idi Amin.
Kagame was named Vice President and Chairman of the RPA High Command. Dr. Emmanuel Ndahiro, who today is director of Rwandan state security, the National Security Service, was the spokesman of Maj. Gen. Kagame.
In the parts of Rwanda that the RPF rebels controlled in 1992 to 1993, massacres of Hutu civilians were widely known but little reported in the major western news media. A man called Rubulika Kayongo was the Mayor of Kyaruhogo; he and a Colonel Twahirwa Dodo coordinated these killings with hoes in the area. Kagame selected them to coordinate the massacres because of their ruthlessness.
Massacres of Hutu and seizure of their land continued after the RPF took power. At an army barracks at Karangazi, Hutus killed were concealed in a pit in the barracks covered by wooden boards. The barracks is located in the middle of a wooded and forested area.
As vice president and Minister of Defence, Kagame used to visit the Karangazi army barracks and he knew about the massacre of the Hutu there.
According to Maj. Furuma Alphonse, a former officer of RPF, in an open letter to President Kagame, « From the time Arusha Peace Agreement was being negotiated up to as late as 1996, you [Kagame] carried out a deliberate policy of using all means possible to reduce the Hutu population in the Umutara, Kibungo and Bugesera regions ».
These Hutu areas were deliberately resettled by Tutsi returnees from Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi respectively. Families of many top RPF leaders are among those who were resettled here.
In 1995, Sixbert Musangamfura, a former director of Rwanda’s intelligence services, issued a statement to the press in Nairobi, Kenya saying he had information on the killings of 312,726 Hutu who were then buried in over 300 graves.
Theoneste Majoro Lizinde, a Hutu who joined the RPA about a year before they took power, became the Commandant of the RPA’s General Headquarters. It was he who actually planned the RPA war in detail in its final phase.
After the RPF formed a government, he was part of the army but later fled to Nairobi after falling out with the government.
A sergeant called Jean Pierre of the RPA’s Directorate of Military Intelligence was dispatched by the Director of the RPA’s Military Intelligence, Lt. Col. Jackson Rwahama, to search for Lizinde in Nairobi.
Jean Pierre was a Rwandan Tutsi who had grown up in Mushiha in Burundi. Lizinde was then gunned down in Nairobi by Jean Pierre and other Kagame’s agents.
A Hutu and former Interior Minister under the RPF, Seth Sedashonga, at that time in exile in Nairobi and who also was to be gunned down on Kagame’s orders, told the British newspaper the Sunday Express whom he thought could have killed Lizinde.
« There is no doubt who sent the assassins. A Rwandan diplomat was arrested nearby, carrying a pistol. So why should Protector Kagame want to kill his former colleagues in the rebel movement and in government ? « Because I and Sixbert know too much. We know there is a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. We know they are attempting social engineering on a vast, murderous scale. Why? First, to instill terror. Then to even up the population figures. Look at the Rwandan equation: how can a minority tribe of 1+ million govern a country dominated by a tribe of enemies who outnumber them three to one ? » He pauses, and looks back at their lists that litter the table and patio. They want to make it Hutus 50 per cent, Tutsi 50 per cent. But to do that they will have to kill a lot of Hutus. » (Sunday Express, April 21, 1996)
Sixbert Musangamfura added: « When I was in charge of civilian intelligence I started to make a list. I had a network of informers, and soon saw that something bad was going on. By the time I left in August 1995, we had the confirmed names, dates and methods of killing of 100,000 people. But the killing still went on after I fled, and we are investigating the fates of another 200,000 people. » (Sunday Express, April 21, 1996)
In one of its March 1999 editions, the French newspaper Libération described the disappearance of Collège St André in Kigali. Libération disclosed that more than 100,000 Hutu had been burnt in crematorium created by the RPF in Mutara. SOS Rwanda-Burundi was the first to compile a list of criminals of the RPF.
There have been many more reports of Kagame’s atrocities going back into the 1980s and 1990s, including the Kibeho Hutu refugee camp in 1995 to the gunning down or disappearance without a trace of many Tutsi RPF army officers, to the gunning down of journalists and the recent attempt to murder Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa.
8,000 Hutus were massacred by the RPF in the Kibeho camp in southwest of Rwanda in April 1995. The Shariat newspaper, reporting on the gruesome massacre of Hutus in 1995, said:
« Before RPF attacked Rwanda, there was no time in the history of that country when any government ever surrounded defenceless civilians there and bombed dead 8,000 of them as RPF recently did at Kibeho camp in south western Rwanda… »
This is the RPF’s Rwanda, the « Singapore of Africa ».
August 4, 2010
Imagine in the first place Rwanda without people like Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Bernard Ntaganda, Frank Habineza and others in prison who took the courage of rising above the generalized fear that characterizes our political landscape. Their contribution to the current unfolding political reality remains praiseworthy. But again why the approach used by the international community to the regime of General Than Shwe, the leader of the State Peace and Development Council in Myanmar, cannot be used to General Paul Kagame of the RPF in Rwanda ? Why the courage President Barack Obama has shown urging the Congress to take Action on Sudan and Burma cannot be replicated to our current soul-shaking situation?
On the election: the formula
The former president Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire, used to say in Lingala that “OLINGA OLINGA TE OZA MEMBRE NA MPLA” (meaning that either you like or not you are a member of MPLA (The then ruling party)). The same slogan looks to have been adopted here hence there are no political parties unless those that toe the ruling party’s line will ever operate from Rwanda. I have been traveling around and following political programs of different political parties. However, what I have seen risk to leave Rwandese in a political orphanage. It is a process void of clear political programs and highly malicious in character. Now imagine all candidates were in government serving in different capacity, Vice President of the lower chamber in the case of Ntawukuriryayo of PSD, Higiro of PL occupies a post of vice president in the higher chamber as well as Mukabaramba of PPC who is a senator. So what is the intention and motivation behind these presidents of briefcase parties? As I told this has been a formula crafted by this group so as to avoid a shameful electoral process, and a political humiliation that may results from a one horse race. To them as shown above (their posts) what they have is enough hence it is a taboo for them even to talk of RPF’s failures publicly during these dubious campaigns. As I told you they mischievously want to show the international community that the exercise was highly contested. Their supporters see this formula but it is hard except Victoire Ingabire (of FDU-INKINGI) and her comrades to neither publicly criticize nor discuss this. Allow me to tell you this: wait until elections end you will see the earlier arrangement made before starting their campaigns. You will see how posts will be shared. But again if you can come, spend as many days as you want here, you will not find any poster of those spoilers anywhere. All have been reserved for the ruling party’s candidate. Tell me how a genuine and legitimate candidate accepts to burn his money under this Prof. Karangwa- led dubious and treacherous National Independent Electoral Commission???? Who can contest in an environment where there is no independent voice? I strongly believe that for the national interest, security and sovereignty of our country this commission needs to be disbanded. History tells us that the most successful politicians are those who have been able to work with their opponents. Surely we want tolerant and truth-driven leaders. Can we continue watching while people are being killed because of their political ideas?
On electoral campaigns
Since the start of the campaigns it has looked as the most well performing party remains the ruling party: But people ask why? There are different answers to give on this question. It is not to start by un-salutary descriptions of the party or a kind of writing uncharitable comments rather I would like to cast a fair and constructive comment. Yes the party has done fairly in different sectors but whatever is said we must take into account the timeframe and measure what has been achieved against it (16 years of silence!!!!!). Additionally, this government has been the top recipient/beneficial of external funds for all Africa, Asian and Latin American countries. That is the reason why we see buildings under construction, but it’s hard to know the owners. It has been supported financial and militarily by the most powerful countries such as UK and US.
However we still doubt the sustainability of the prosperity of a country threatened by the perilous mixture of truths and lies. In fact the ruling party has successfully shown that our survival “we” Rwandese depends on its wishes. Under RPF’s rule the political patronage and clientelism has become a necessary evil for it to reign. Carry out a simple investigation on who prints these T-Shirt? The RPF has designed evil strategies to the extent that peoples’ lives revolve around the party. Through different dubious earnings and forced contributions it has managed to build big enterprises such as “Inyange industries” among others. Now government meetings must be accompanied by Inyange products, such as water, and other soft drinks. By buying these products know who you are sponsoring.
Rwanda is a highly decentralized country but once again extremely centralized. The ruling party keeps a tight lip on decentralized entities so as to ensure that these RPF extended parties (PL, PSD, PPC etc.) remain at national level. This is vividly supported by the fact that at all levels, the ruling party is the only one represented. All District Mayors are RPF members and 97% of them are demobilized, former Rwanda Defense Forces members. These are people soon after the end of war were rewarded, but most importantly instructed to represent the ruling party in their respective Districts. Normally in our case you find that someone comes from other province to head a local entity such as a cell. In such a situation what is needed is not only heading the entity but to militantly represent the ruling party in such area. Even though the ruling party has been using government resources (though it is hard to differentiate what belongs to RPF and what belongs to the State) such as using government’s cars and buses (these were donated by the government of Japan) these mayors and villages heads have been working around the clock to ensure that people attend in their thousands. This has also been made possible because the party has been telling cars owner that those who attend must get fuel for free. Apart from having the curiosity (people) of seeing who is their president (normally the president do not usually travel up country), village heads (these are chairman of the party and influential people at grassroots level) have been telling people that on top of transport they will get T-shirts!!! To a peasant who buys a T-Shirt once a year this is a single occasion s/he can not afford to miss. Indeed people attend because they do not want to be seen as rebels to the party which is capable of closing all. Those in business centers must close, and failure to do so attracts higher penalties which may include indefinite closure, high taxes etc. Mayors must mobilize people because in case of failure no excuse. So imagine all 30 districts and 418 sectors as well as thousands of villages being headed by RPF members who must unstintingly sing the same jingle.
The other factor is that people knows their regime, a regime that kills, thus for example those in the North (the currently highly populated region) know well what happened to them during the period of 1996-1998. These people were thought an unforgettable lesson and they do not want to be seen as unyielding to this machiavellian regime. They know that coming in their thousand makes him (Kagame) happier. Lastly all are possible because there are no clear and legitimate contestants. And people comply because they know whoever comes with different views is put on death row. I remember when I was in rural area people said “A woman we were supposed to vote for has been imprisoned (referring to Victoire Ingabire of FDU-INKINGI).
People’s views on this electoral project
When you approach the ordinary people, it is when you realize that in reality the ruling party has no committed supporters. People do not see why they have to highly contribute their hard earn money whereas there is no clear challenger. Those contributors like at National Public Prosecution Authority officers headed by Martin Ngoga (the National Prosecutor) who contributed 30 000 RWF (US 60) each to primary school teachers they are all mourning. And these are people who contributed less. Others contributed millions of Rwandan Francs so as to guarantee their businesses a longer life span. People do not see the reason of inviting musicians like the Congolese Kofi Olomide while there are no beds for patients in the hospitals. You can go and verify what is happening at CHUK (the main Hospital in Rwanda in Kigali City) talk secretly to nurses and see how in urgency people are dying on concrete floor without even blankets. We are told that basic education is free, but go and ask people whenever you want; they will tell you that now, it is the time they are paying through the nose. Look at schools, no textbooks no teachers and look at meager salary of the teachers and look at the staggering amount the party is dishing out in unaccountable way. All in all Rwandese due to different circumstances they went through they know how to deceive their leaders. They show you that you are second to none. But when time arrives it is hard to understand. That is our political culture, of being docile in front of a killer. However I strongly believe that if political tolerance does not become our daily wish, the regime continues with these mischievous and certainly false shows, and the international community remains silent, this crowd which is falsely singing “vote for Kagame” might be the same crowd testifying against him on his way down.
Why people are expected to vote massively?
We usually know that people surely will come and vote in their thousands. But why? This is because people know that having this voting card means a lot to them. You can’t be denied administrative services, jobs and at a higher extreme, it can replace the National Identification Card. Having this card means that you are a true citizen who cherish dearly the principles of the ruling party. And those who do not have such a card are normally considered as having genocide ideology, divisionists, and member of the FDLR whose destination must be 1930 (the oldest and main national prison located in capital city Kigali) after Martin Ngoga has made a photocopy of Me Bernard Ntaganda’s charges. But why here in Rwanda all charges crafted against our politicians are the same? I need your answer.
What if another seven year term is of firmly keeping the lid on dissent? The pot will continue boiling. You and I we can change the tide, so join those who do not mince their words when denouncing the evil. Why do we have to seat down while our innocent brothers and sisters are being rotten in prisons? Get UP!!!!! Why is the UK Department for International Development (DFID) still sponsoring the regime’s instruments such as the High Media Council?? Freedom Now!!!!!
MANY THANKS TO YOU VICTOIRE INGABIRE UMUHOZA, BERNARD NTAGANDA AND FRANK HABINEZA FOR YOUR ACTIONS!!!!!! !!!!
Kigali, le 03 mai 2010
Rwandaises, Rwandais, Amis du Rwanda
Cela fait environ 4 mois que je suis de retour dans mon pays natal après 16 ans d’exil. A plusieurs milliers de kilomètres, les cris de douleur et la misère de mon peuple m’interpellaient. Aussitôt arrivée au pays je suis inlassablement lynchée et diabolisée par une campagne de haine entretenue par le régime, la machine de l’Etat et une presse partisane. Le harcèlement et l’intimidation cèdent le pas à d’interminables interrogatoires dans les locaux de la police d’Etat. La raison principale consiste à me priver de mes droits politiques, à tisser un dossier criminel en vue de dérailler le processus d’enregistrement de mon parti politique FDU INKINGI et enfin de m’empêcher de me présenter aux élections présidentielles.
- La captivité.
Comme vous le savez, le 21 avril 2010, les autorités rwandaises ont pris la décision injuste de m’emprisonner. J’ai passé la nuit en prison, en même temps mon domicile a été fouillé de fond en comble : nos 2 ordinateurs, 1 ordinateur d’un visiteur, des téléphones portables de toutes personnes qui étaient dans la maison, un caméra électronique, des cartes SIM, des flash disques, des logiciels, des CDs, des emblèmes et banderoles de mon parti, mes cartes de visites, des contrats de location, mon passeport, mon permit de conduire de l’UE et tout autre document écrit ont été emportés par la police. Le lendemain de mon arrestation, avec l’aide de mon avocat, bien que contestant le fond de l’affaire et les conditions de ma liberté, j’ai demandé et obtenu une liberté provisoire. J’ai donc été placée sous contrôle judiciaire et je n’ai aucun droit de quitter le pays ou la ville de Kigali et je suis obligée de me présenter devant le Procureur deux fois par mois. Au regard de tous les harcèlements, les persécutions et les limitations à ma liberté de mouvement que je subis depuis mon retour au pays, mes conditions de vie au Rwanda n’ont pas changé; ce qui est nouveau c’est le fait que cette fois-ci, ma semi-liberté revêt un caractère officiel car j’ai une décision formelle des obstacles qui m’ont été imposées depuis le début. Je suis en captivité.
Je sais que beaucoup d’entre vous attendent avec impatience d’entendre de vive voix notre message pour la liberté. Vous savez sans doute que dans le but de bloquer nos activités politiques et d’annihiler toutes velléités démocratiques, le gouvernement a décidé de m’enchaîner mais c’est peine perdue parce que ma détermination reste intacte.
Même si dans toute dictature, toute personne qui milite pacifiquement pour la démocratie est toujours prête à être emprisonnée, c’est toujours tragique d’être privé de sa liberté. Je profite de cette occasion pour remercier toutes les personnes qui se sont mobilisées pour obtenir ma libération, fût-elle conditionnelle, au premier rang desquels mes camarades des FDU-Inkingi qui m’ont trouvé les moyens et soutiens pour ma défense lors du procès, lequel a abouti à ma libération provisoire. Mes remerciements vont aussi à la population rwandaise qui est venue nombreuse assister au procès et me témoigner ainsi de son soutien dans le combat pour la démocratie.
A tous, je vous adresse ce message pour vous renouveler toute ma gratitude pour votre soutient et vos prières, pour vous donner des nouvelles de ma captivité et de mon procès et enfin pour vous encourager dans la recherche d’une solution démocratique.
- Mon procès est un procès éminemment politique
Rwandaises, Rwandais, Amis du Rwanda,
Ce procès qu’on veut m’intenter est un prétexte, un faux procès car, même mes accusateurs savent pertinemment que le dossier est vide et que je suis innocente. Puisque je suis leur adversaire politique, ils ont recouru à une presse partisane qu’ils contrôlent et aux autorités administratives acquises à leur cause pour me traîner dans la boue. Ils en sont arrivés à m’attaquer physiquement dans les locaux de l’Administration du secteur de Kinyinya. Constatant que toutes ces menaces n’atteignaient pas mon moral et que je continuais de m’approcher de la population pour écouter ses réels problèmes, ils ont cette fois-ci eu l’idée lumineuse de recourir à leur « forteresse de lois », établie et interprétée à leur guise. Ils ont alors commencé à me convoquer chaque semaine, si bien que tout mon emploi du temps s’était réduit aux allers-retours entre mon domicile et les bureaux de la police criminelle (C.I.D.), ce, depuis le mois de février jusqu’au jour de mon emprisonnement le 21avril 2010. C’est ironiquement criminel de s’opposer politiquement à ce régime.
En réalité, pourquoi me persécutent-ils? De quoi m’accusent-ils?
Les chefs d’accusation en mon encontre sont les suivants:
- le divisionnisme
- la propagation de l‘idéologie du génocide
- la collaboration avec les rebelles des FDLR
- Nous sommes un parti d’opposition
Comme vous le savez je dirige une formation d’opposition. Sur la plupart des problèmes qui concernent le peuple rwandais, nous avons une perception différente des problèmes, leur analyse, leur solution. Nous n’accepterons jamais de nous ranger derrière le parti-état FPR. Nous savons que pour le régime le fait de ne pas avoir la même vision que le FPR est assimilé au divisionnisme. La Constitution de notre pays, que le régime du FPR a mis en place lui-même, reconnait le pluralisme politique. Cela veut dire qu’elle reconnait le droit aux citoyens et aux autres formations d’avoir des idées politiques différentes de celles du parti au pouvoir. Nous n’avons pas peur de dire au monde entier que les Rwandais sont sous le joug de la peur et de l’obscurantisme, que la famine est criante dans les campagnes rwandaises et que les chiques, signe attestant de la grande misère dans notre pays, qui avaient disparu dans beaucoup de régions du pays, ont réaparu.
Nous sommes contre les décisions qui obligent les paysans à détruire leurs bananeraies de manière totalitaire alors que c’est leur source principale de revenus, en tous cas pour la plupart d’entre eux. Nous dénonçons publiquement la gestion du système de santé, car, il y a un manque criant de médicaments dans le monde rural. Les rares médicaments disponibles coûtent trop cher et les malades doivent les acheter de leur propre poche, sans remboursement, alors que tout Rwandais adhère obligatoirement à une mutuelle.
La réforme scolaire et l’anglicisation se heurtent au manque d’infrastructures de base, à l’inadéquation de la formation des enseignants et à l’absence de matériel scolaire en Anglais. Comment un enseignant peut-il dispenser des cours dans une langue qu’il ne parle pas et sans matériel pédagogique ? C’est vraiment triste pour la qualité de l’enseignement au Rwanda. Dans les écoles les professeurs d’histoires sont totalement confus : les versions contradictoires de l’histoire nationale imposées par le régime sont en contradiction avec les faits historiques.
Nous sommes contre le fait que les Tribunaux Gacaca, qui dans la tradition rwandaise, étaient chargés de trancher des contentieux interindividuels et sociaux, jugent des affaires qui demandent des connaissances en matière pénale que les juges de ces tribunaux ne possèdent pas. Cela s’avère d’autant plus grave qu’il s’agit des crimes aussi graves que le génocide. Nous sommes aussi opposés au fait que les accusés de ces tribunaux ne disposent d’aucun droit à être assistés par un avocat.
Un éminent chercheur, expert près le Tribunal Pénal International pour le Rwanda, sis à Arusha, le Pr. André Guichaoua, qui vient de sortir un opus intitulé ‘‘Rwanda, de la guerre au génocide‘‘, a analysé les procès jugés par les Tribunaux Gacaca; il est arrivé à la conclusion que toute personne agée d’au moins 14 ans et qui vivait au Rwanda en 1994, a comparu comme accusé devant lesdits tribunaux populaires.
Nous ne sommes pas non plus d’accord avec le régime sur le sort réservé à nos frères du Congo, tués depuis 1996 et dont le nombre de morts dépasse 5 millions si l’on en croit les rapports d’experts onusiens et indépendants. Ce sont entre autres tous ces désacords avec le régime en place qui nous valent les accusations de divisionnisme.
- Certaines déclarations du Président Kagame montrent un manque de réserve de la part d’un chef d‘Etat
Le pouvoir suspend des journaux indépendants, crée des divisions dans les partis politiques qui ne lui sont pas inféodés, empêche les autres de tenir leurs assemblées constituantes, emprisonne des opposants politiques comme Déo Mushayidi et des officiers supérieurs. Et l’on voudrait que l’on se taise pour éviter d’etre taxé de divisionniste. Lorsque nous revendiquons le droit d’expression, la liberté tout court, le Président répond qu’il s’en fout, que ses opposants n’ont aucune valeur, que ce sont des hooligans et des criminels. Il a aussi venté les mérites patriotiques de tirer sur des gens au Congo.
Même si le Président de la République se plait à m’insulter sur la voie publique, moi je le respecte comme chef de l’Etat. Je suis une mère et je ne peux répliquer à ce genre d’attaques mais entendre ces mots de la bouche du chef de l’Etat m’a trop peinée. J’ai été accablée d’entendre un tel discours prononcé dans la période de commémoration du génocide des Tutsis et, aussi, devant les deux Chambres du Parlement réunies. Par respect pour tous les rescapés du génocide, je n’ai pas voulu réagir. Devrions-nous encore être accusés de divisionnisme puisque nous dénonçons un tel langage de la part du chef de l’Etat ou de son gouvernement? Non.
- La question ethnique ne devrait pas rester tabou
Le problème ethnique est devenu tabou, personne n’ose en parler ouvertement. Dire que le peuple rwandais est composé de trois ethnies n’est pas un délit et ne constitue pas de problème en soi. Le problème est d’être discriminé à cause de son appartenance ethnique tutsi, hutu ou twa. Comment oser affirmer qu’il n’existe pas d’ethnies au Rwanda quand il est de notoriété publique que le génocide et les massacres qui se sont déroulés au Rwanda, l’ont été sur base ethnique? Nous affirmons bel et bien qu’un génocide a visé les Tutsi, ils ont été pouchassés et tués parcequ’ils étaient Tutsi. Nous voulons mettre en place une vraie politique visant à examiner sans complaisance ce problème afin de prévenir qu’un tel drame ne se reproduise dans l’avenir et que nul ne soit discriminé du fait de son origine ethnique. La vie de tout un chacun est sacrée, elle doit être préservée et protegée par la loi et par les institutions. Nous affirmons cela et l’on nous accuse, ma formation politique et moi, de divisionnisme.
- Propagation de l‘idéologie génocidaire
- Nous reconnaissons le génocide
- Propagation de l‘idéologie génocidaire
Ma formation politique, FDU-Inkingi, fondée en 2006 et moi-même, reconnaissons qu’en 1994 il y a eu au Rwanda un génocide contre les Tutsi. Nous reconnaissons aussi qu’avant, pendant et après 1994, il y a eu au Rwanda des crimes contre l’humanité ayant visé les autres composantes de la population rwandaise. Ce sont des faits établis auxquels certains d’entre nous ont assisté et qui ont été reconnus par l’Organisation des Nations Unies dans sa Résolution 955/1994. Nous affirmons aussi sans ambages que toute personne ayant une responsabilité dans ces crimes doit répondre de ses actes devant la justice. Pour le régime actuel, ce langage constitue une négation et une idéologie du génocide.
- Notre vision de la réconciliation
Nous voulons la réconciliation du peuple rwandais, et nous savons qu’aucune réconciliation ne sera possible aussi longtemps que la souffrance de toutes les victimes ne sera pas reconnue. Nous encourageons les Rwandais à discuter sans tabou de la tragédie. Ils devront s’asseoir ensemble pour jeter une base solide pour une solution durable. La justice doit être équitable et non sélective.
- Destruction du symbole de la démocratie
- Dans la nuit du premier mai 2010, le régime a ordonné la profanation du symbole de la démocratie et l’exhumation des restes de M. Dominique Mbonyumutwa, le premier président de la République Rwandaise. C’est un signal fort contre les libertés et valeurs démocratiques au Rwanda. Ces manipulations de l’histoire nationale pour des intérêts du régime constituent une rupture entre l’Etat et la société.
2.3. Collaboration avec les FDLR
Souvenez-vous de mon discours du 16 janvier 2010 à l’aéroport de Kanombe, à mon arrivée sur le sol rwandais après 16 ans d’exil.
Je vous ai dit ceci: « Je suis une fille, une mère qui rentre dans mon pays, je rentre pour mener un combat pacifique, je rentre pour qu’ensemble nous nous libérions du joug de la peur, de la pauvreté. Dans nos différences de points de vue, de projets et de convictions, je viens construire avec vous notre pays. Je ne suis pas accompagnée par une armée, car, je viens auprès de vous, mes parents, mes frères, mes petites et grandes soeurs. Personne ne peut barrer la route à un enfant qui rentre chez lui. (…) Nous n’avons pas besoin d’une autre guerre. Beaucoup de sang a été versé. Trop c’est trop…»
Que devrais-je avoir ajouté à ce discours pour convaincre les autorités rwandaises de ma bonne foi ? Les rebelles, je n’en ai pas besoin. Pendant 16 ans, les FDLR et le régime se sont côtoyés. Ceci doit s’arrêter. Nous voulons la paix. Nous condamnons avec la dernière énergie cette politique qui a décimé environ 5 millions de congolais depuis 1996. Finir définitivement la question des FDLR c’est aussi en partie, rechercher une solution dans l’est de la RDC.
Les gens qui ont guerroyé n’ont pas gagné la paix. Pourquoi devrions-nous nous inspirer d’un échec?
Ils vont faire défiler des dizaines et des centaines d’ex FDLR pour m’accuser de collaboration ou d’autres choses qu’ils décideront. Notre réponse va rester la même. La guerre n’est pas une solution. A quoi peut-on arriver avec des soi-disant colonels pareils ? Pour quoi les ont-ils enfermés dans des établissements militaires sans procès depuis 2009, quelques mois avant mon retour au pays, pour les utiliser aujourd’hui contre moi ?
La décision de venir faire la politique au Rwanda de manière pacifique contre un régime dictatorial a été prise après mûres réflexions. Nous avons longuement examiné tous les scenarii pour résoudre les problèmes politiques du Rwanda, en avons aussi mesuré les conséquences de chaque approche. Nous avons choisi la voie pacifique afin d’éviter une nouvelle effusion de sang et pour préserver la recomposition encore possible du tissu social rwandais.
Les FDLR sont des Rwandais. Ils ont besoin de garanties pour rentrer sans armes dans leur pays. Ceux qui sont impliqués dans les crimes de génocide et autres crimes contre l’humanité vont s’expliquer devant une justice équitable. Les autres méritent une réinsertion socioprofessionnelle. Mais si vous emprisonnez une personne soupçonnée de parler aux membres de la rébellion comment allez-vous les convaincre de rentrer dans la paix, et de ne pas moisir en prison ?
Nous sommes en désaccord total avec la politique actuelle du gouvernement de “débaucher” quelques dirigeants des FDLR, tout en privilégiant l’usage de la force contre tous les autres,
Je prends l’engagement solennel que si le peuple plaçait sa confiance en moi et m’élisait pour présider à la destinée de ce pays, mon gouvernement va entamer des négociations directes avec les FDLR. Ils ne disposent pas d’autre pays que le Rwanda sur cette planète.
- La vision des FDU-Inkingi concernant le problème de l’armée nationale
“Je ne suis pas accompagnée d’une armée, je viens vers vous”. Ce principe est fondamental et j’y reste attachée. Notre armée est capable. Aussi longtemps que l’armée ne sera pas au service d’un individu mais au service de la Nation avec comme mission constitutionnelle de sauvegarder la souveraineté de la nation, d’assurer la sécurité de tous les Rwandais, de protéger et de respecter les institutions issues d’une consultation démocratique transparente, de promouvoir la paix au niveau régional. Je reconnais cette armée. Il s’agit d’une véritable armée nationale.
L’armée veut une gestion professionnelle de la carrière des militaires qui la compose. Elle ne voudrait pas être prise en otage par un individu. Je voudrais rassurer ceux qui, parmi les Forces de Défence Rwandaises et parmi la Police Nationale, n’avaient pas encore pris connaissance de notre vision de l’armée nationale.
Rwandaises, Rwandais, Amis du Rwanda,
Je prie les représentants des pays amis du Rwanda ainsi que la communauté internationale de nous appuyer dans notre effort de construire un Etat de droit, respectueux des libertés fondamentales de la personne humaine. Il n’est en effet pas de développement durable sans liberté et toute vision de la stabilité politique par la dictature est la négation même de la stabilité. Des signes encourageants de développement resteront fragiles si le pays est géré par une dictature d’un homme. Des encenseurs du régime lui ont trouvé des avantages en rapport avec une croissance économique sans précédent et l’amélioration des conditions de vie. Ces affirmations ignorent la misère de la masse rurale. La majorité de la population rwandaise croule dans une pauvreté totale.
Il n’y aura jamais de véritable solution, jamais de développement viable si celui-ci n’a pas de fondation solide qu’est la démocratie, l’état de droit et une politique de réconciliation nationale sérieuse. Ceux qui ont pensé que c’était possible ont vu les limites de cette approche.
Je termine en demandant au Président de la République, le Général Paul Kagame, d’accepter le recouvrement de ma liberté totale afin que je m’attele à la mission à l’origine de mon retour d’exil, à savoir, faire de la politique. Je dois organiser le congrès constitutif de mon parti, le faire enregistrer afin qu’il soit agréé pour mener librement ses activités politiques. Je lui demande de permettre le déroulement d’élections transparentes afin que le peuple choisisse librement son prochain président.
Que dieu vous bénisse tous.
Mme Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Présidente des FDU-Inkingi
(Kigali, Rwanda) Accusée d’idéologie génocidaire et d’association avec des groupes terroristes, l’opposante rwandaise Victoire Ingabire devra faire face à la justice. La Presse a rencontré cette rivale du président Paul Kagame la semaine dernière à Kigali.
Il y a des jours où Victoire Ingabire se demande si elle n’a pas perdu la tête. L’automne dernier, elle menait encore une vie confortable à Amsterdam, avec son mari et leurs trois enfants.
Puis elle est rentrée dans son pays natal, le Rwanda, pour faire campagne contre le président Paul Kagame à l’élection d’août prochain.
Le jour même de son arrivée, en janvier, Victoire Ingabire a déposé une gerbe de fleurs au centre commémoratif du génocide, à Kigali. Et elle y a tenu des propos qui, aux yeux du régime rwandais, tiennent de la pure provocation.
Car si elle a condamné le génocide des Tutsis, cette minorité qui a été systématiquement massacrée entre avril et juillet 1994, Victoire Ingabire a aussi rappelé qu’ils n’avaient pas été les seules victimes de ces 100 jours de fureur. Et que de nombreux Hutus ont subi des crimes contre l’humanité qui doivent être reconnus et punis.
Depuis le génocide, le gouvernement de Kigali a pour politique d’occulter les divisions ethniques entre Rwandais. Au nom de la réconciliation, la simple mention de mots tels que «Hutu» ou «Tutsi» suscite des regards réprobateurs. «Chut!» vous ordonnent vos interlocuteurs en jetant un coup d’oeil inquiet autour d’eux.
En faisant allusion aux exactions que le Front patriotique rwandais du général Kagame a fait subir aux Hutus, à l’époque du génocide, «Victoire Ingabire a appuyé sur un bouton rouge», résume un diplomate étranger.
Cette Hutu de 43 ans, qui avait quitté le Rwanda peu avant le génocide, vient donc d’être inculpée des pires crimes: association avec un groupe terroriste, idéologie génocidaire, négationnisme, «divisionnisme ethnique.» Elle risque 25 ans de prison.
Une double vérité
Victoire Ingabire a été libérée sous caution la semaine dernière, en attendant son procès. Elle m’a reçue le lendemain de sa libération, dans la spacieuse maison où elle vit à Kigali.
«Il faut regarder la vérité en face», a-t-elle plaidé. Et cette vérité, selon elle, c’est que les divisions entre les Hutus et les Tutsis persistent au Rwanda. Et que les Hutus se sentent exclus des lieux de décision, ce qui ne présage rien de bon pour l’avenir.
«Car le grand problème, au Rwanda, ce ne sont pas les ethnies, mais le partage du pouvoir», souligne l’opposante rwandaise. C’est un partage de pouvoir inéquitable qui a généré le cycle de violence qui explose de façon récurrente depuis que le pays a accédé à l’indépendance, en 1961. Et c’est ce cycle de violence qu’elle souhaite rompre. Sinon, avertit-elle, on risque une nouvelle explosion.
Dans les années qui ont suivi le génocide, les souffrances des Hutus étaient un sujet trop sensible pour pouvoir être discuté sur la place publique, admet Victoire Ingabire. Les Tutsis qui avaient vu leurs voisins prendre les armes pour les exterminer pouvaient difficilement faire preuve d’une telle empathie.
«Je les comprends», dit Victoire Ingabire, qui a perdu deux proches pendant le génocide, dont son propre frère, qui a été confondu avec un Tutsi.
Mais avec le temps, croit-elle, le régime Kagame aurait dû adopter une réforme constitutionnelle de manière à mieux inclure les deux groupes. En omettant cette réforme, le président Kagame «a refusé de tirer les leçons de l’histoire.»
Seize années ont passé depuis le génocide. «C’est assez. On ne peut plus avancer avec une seule vérité», plaide Victoire Ingabire.
Élégante avec sa robe rose perle et son veston taupe, elle raconte qu’avant son retour d’exil, des amis l’avaient avertie qu’elle aurait la police rwandaise à ses trousses. Elle ne les avait pas crus.
Un jour où elle accordait une entrevue à CNN, elle s’est rendu compte qu’elle était surveillée. Depuis, elle ne rencontre plus les journalistes que chez elle. Dans sa rue, des «gardes de sécurité» semblent veiller sur les maisons de ses voisins. Mais elle se doute bien qu’ils sont là pour l’observer.
Les accusations qui pèsent sur Victoire Ingabire ne servent-elles pas d’abord et avant tout à museler l’opposition? Pas du tout, proteste la ministre des Affaires étrangères du Rwanda, Louise Mushikiwabo.
Celle-ci reproche à Victoire Ingabire d’avoir déjà qualifié la tragédie de 1994 de «double génocide» – ce qui équivaut à minimiser la tentative d’extermination des Tutsis.
«Le génocide n’est pas un jouet et Victoire Ingabire n’est pas une démocrate, c’est une démagogue», tranche la ministre.
Mais des organisations de défense des droits, comme Human Rights Watch, jugent que le combat contre l’idéologie génocidaire sert aujourd’hui de prétexte pour faire taire toute voix critique, à la veille du scrutin présidentiel.
«Victoire Ingabire est bien téméraire», note Pascal Nyilibakwe, qui dirige la Ligue de défense des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs. Celui-ci croit qu’en déployant les grands moyens, le régime veut surtout garder son opposante à l’écart du scrutin.
Victoire Ingabire n’est pas la seule à subir les foudres du gouvernement. Un autre opposant, Bernard Ntaganda, dont le parti a fait alliance avec l’Union des forces démocratiques rwandaises de Mme Ingabire, s’attend à être arrêté d’un jour à l’autre. Le Sénat a réclamé qu’il soit traduit devant la justice.
Deux journaux indépendants viennent aussi d’être suspendus. Et la représentante de Human Rights Watch a dû plier bagage, son visa n’ayant pas été renouvelé.
Victoire Ingabire, elle, avoue que depuis son inculpation, il lui arrive de douter de sa décision de rentrer au pays. «Parfois, je me demande si je ne suis pas folle. Mais je ne veux pas abandonner. Le Rwanda doit se libérer de son histoire.»