If you are an activist for democracy in Rwanda, today is a sad day. Provisional results show that Paul Kagame has won by 92.9%. The United States through the State Department spokesman indicated that the US, is content with the electoral results. With the approval of the World’s lone super power, Mr. Kagame will be president of Rwanda for another 7 years. However, given that the elections have been marred by fundamental breaches of democratic principles, it is irritating and shocking that some sections of the international media are not yet sure whether Rwanda is progressing or regressing.
Paul Kagame has cultivated a certain image that is almost impossible to criticize. In a way, this image is responsible for corrupting democracy. Many of the Anglophone journalists and writers, who first came to Rwanda, did so under the protégé of the RPF. Kagame was always (and is still) media/PR conscious. He knew from the beginning that he would never win the battle without the latter’s help. Journalists were ushered to strategic locations where the worst crimes had been committed, and they were fed with a simplified and protected version of the Rwandan history—which glorified the Tutsi army while demonizing their opponents.
In this story, the Hutu majority are wanton killers who (with no context) turned against their innocent Tutsi neighbors and butchered them for 100 days. The RPF is the army that fought to stop these killings. 16 years later, this story is still widely mimicked, and is used to justify Kagame’s despotism and to feign off any criticism.
It is important to note that serious questions have been raised on the story’s accuracy. Counteracting the story remains the highest crime in Rwanda. For instance, it is illegal to question the story of President Habyarimana’s assassination, to claim (despite the overwhelming evidence) that the RPF was involved in serious crimes against humanity. Needless to say, it is in Kagame’s interest and that of the RPF elites that this story is protected and given credence.
It is therefore no wonder that the greatest enemy to the RPF establishment is anyone who dares refute or question the story.
Over the years, several courageous individuals and human rights organizations have made an attempt. Allison Des Forge, the pioneer American scholar on the Rwanda Genocide was the first to reevaluate the story. Several years after the Genocide, “Des Forges made herself unpopular in Rwanda by insisting that the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front forces, which defeated the genocidal regime, should also be held to account for their crimes”. This includes thousands of civilians murdered during and just after the genocide. Consequently, on September 4, 2008, she was barred from entering into Rwanda.
Others who have since attempted have been met with fierce reactions from the RPF power base. Just to mention a few, former interior minister Seth Sendashonga was assassinated on the streets of Nairobi in May 1998. He had information linking the RPF to war crimes. Paul Rusesabagina, the real life Hotel Rwanda hero, has on several occasions been branded a genocide denier for insisting that Paul Kagame should be held accountable for criminal acts. Former US ambassador to Burundi, Robert Krueger (who has not shied from criticizing Kagame) has faced similar attacks.
There is a new and quite intriguing development. Of recent, well known members of the Tutsi elites who have fallen out with Mr. Paul Kagame have also raised their objection to the conventional story. They categorically reject the story that portray Gen. Paul Kagame as a dove, insisting that Kagame is guilty of serious crimes of assassination; murder and kidnapping were committed by Paul Kagame. The most vocal members of this group are Patrick Karegeye (former director of intelligence) and Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa (former head of the Rwandan army). Just a few days after the pair gave an interview to BBC Kinyarwanda service, Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa was shot near his Johannesburg home.
For democracy to flicker in Rwanda, the RPF will have to be seen through a different, truthful and thoughtful lens. The current and official version of Rwanda’s history only justifies Kagame’s dictatorship. It therefore needs to be reassessed, and its merits discussed. Pro-democracy activist should look into Rwanda’s history for a solution of this dangerous dreadlock. Exposing Kagame’s past and current crimes will help put an end to tyranny. Failure to do so is to condemn many to another silent genocide of cruel terror.