Thursday, September 9, 2010

When Despotic Rwanda becomes Necessary

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A lot is happening in Rwanda that nowadays we do not know what to expect tomorrow. One thing is for sure: Paul Kagame has won another term and will remain president till 2017 (yes, it’s a seven year term).
Meanwhile, the ghosts of Rwandan refugees killed in the Congo continue to haunt Kigali. The “leaked report” has dominated Rwanda’s foreign engagement for the past week. Indeed, Rwanda has been at loggerheads with the UN and has threatened to pull peacekeeping troops out of Darfur, should the report be published. 
It is important to remember that when the Genocide happened, the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUAR) unnervingly pulled its troops out of Rwanda. The consequence were chilling:  a million people butchered in a span of three months. One wonders why a country suffering from such legacy would be so quick to punish the Darfuri victims. It is my view that threatening to leave Darfur only exacerbates Rwanda’s perceived guilt over the massacres in Congo.
Others have raised the question of whether peacekeeping missions are “cushioning African States from scrutiny.” This could well be true, given the conduct of Ugandan and Burundi politics—both governments contribute troops to Somalia and share intolerance to opposition politicians.

Moralists too ask if it is, in truth, ethical for a force accused of (possible) Genocide to participate in peacekeeping missions.

However, we should also wonder why democratic countries have been reluctant to participate in the respective missions. Granted, Africa is not faucet for democracy. Regardless, semi-democratic countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia etc, should have been the first to send their troops to fellow troubled African countries. Don’t they care about Darfur Genocide? Or Africans dying?
The answer is complicated. For one, it is likely that democratic beaurocracy might be the stumbling block. Mwai Kibaki of Kenya would have a hard time convincing his powerful parliament to commit thousands of troops for peacekeeping missions in neighboring Somalia. On the other hand, a rubber stamp parliament would be most convenient; all that the United Nations [read the US] needs to do is to win President Kagame or Museveni's support.
This is the same rationale that led to the founding of the French Foreign Legion. An army of foreigners, “the legion” as it is popularly known, responds to conflicts around the world that would otherwise cause uproar if the French military had been involved. Since these “volunteers” are not citizens of France, the French people need not to know. Conveniently so, this eliminates the baggage of domestic politics from otherwise unpopular military expeditions.
In summary, the fact that Rwanda has a weak civil society and parliament is a blessing to the UN. With powerful democratic institutions it would be near impossible for a small country like Rwanda to contribute that many troops. Democracy kills the spirit for such kind of adventures. And for all its weaknesses, despotism has its advantages.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good Afternoon

Just wanted to show my appreciation for your time and hard work