Friday, April 23, 2010

The Arrest of Victoire Ingabire Inspire the Birth of non-Violent Movement in Rwanda

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Victoire Ingabire, who is an aspiring presidential candidate in Rwanda’s upcoming elections, was arrested yesterday on charges of collaborating with a terrorist organization (presumably, the FDLR) and genocide denial and ideology. Her conditional release today, though indicative of the increasing media pressure against President Kagame, does not spell an end to the government’s repressive treatment of any and all opposition. (For references, please see and It is easy to see Ingabire’s arrest and other such events as being crippling to any non-violent, political resistance against Kagame. To counter such hopeless conclusions, I offer this blog entry as a defense of non-violent resistance in Rwanda and as an appeal to all not to abandon the ideas that (1) non-violence can succeed and (2) violence will never succeed. What I see in a regime like Kagame's is the ultimate failure that violence produces -- not only must he rule by fear, which must be cultivated by the constant use of force, but he himself must live in fear. Resentment will only grow amongst a continually repressed population, and eventually such a population will reach its breaking point. The question all should ask is not whether this building resentment will explode, but when and in what form. History tells us that violence is likely. Indeed, when a dam breaks, is it not inevitable that everyone – the guilty as well as the innocent - will be swept away? What will restrain a repressed people from taking revenge? Rwandans have seen one dictatorship (under Habyarimana) violently replaced with another (under Kagame). Will not a new order, born in blood, resemble the old? And, will not any regime, which uses exploitation, imprisonment and assassination as means of control, ultimately fail in the face of humanity’s unwillingness to sit idly forever. The challenge we face as Rwanda’s government tempts the people’s breaking point is how to channel an explosion of resentment and anger towards a non-violent (yet by no means passive) movement. Recognizing that an opposing military effort would only lead to a bloodbath and, if successful, a tainted, though far-from-certain, ‘victory,’ is necessary for a non-violent movement to harness the population’s energy. And, with the latest actions taken against Victoire Ingabire, it must also be recognized that the official political route leads to nowhere. Indeed, how can one win elections which are organized (read: staged) by a dictator and approved (read: ignored) by international observers? The existence of opposition parties, as it were, has demonstrated clearly the extremes to which the regime will go – this alone, however, is not enough to draw the attention of the world to the regime’s criminal nature. Non-violent resistance – though by no means an easy approach – requires the willingness of people to openly confront ruthless soldiers armed with government weapons and biased journalists armed with government pens. Protests may begin with a few and, if even marginally successful, their example might inspire more to stand firm while refusing to strike back. Some media sources will take notice, and they may be kicked out of the country. Protesters will be beaten, thrown into prison, and maybe even killed, but the movement builds with such repression. Insane? Absolutely. To receive a blow while refusing to return one is indeed counterintuitive and, as some mistakenly suggest, against human nature. Yet, underlying the hope of non-violent resistance is this realization: that violence, while brutalizing the victim, dehumanizes the perpetrator. The victim, by refusing to revenge and instead choosing forgiveness, allows the perpetrator the opportunity to forsake violence and, thus, regain a lost humanity.

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