Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Libya Paul Kagame lacks the moral authority

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There are many reasons why foreign intervention is necessary in Libya. For the past four decades, Moammar Kaddafi has run the desert nation like one big private prison. His shameless promiscuity for power has destroyed all forms of civil society and has left behind an orphaned nation. In Libya today, there are no independent journalists and basically, media outside the confines of state control is impermissible. Similarly, political parties are entirely in existent. The fact that Kaddafi can choose to unleash nihilistic violence at his pleasure and that he fears not to kill millions if he deems it necessary to maintain his power means that the world cannot afford to look the other way.

Among the advocates of foreign intervention emerged an unlikely voice, Paul Kagame. In his essay titled “Rwandans know why Gaddafi must be stopped”, he expresses his support for the implementation of a "No Fly Zone" in Libya. He writes, “My country is still haunted by memories of the international community looking away No country knows better than my own the costs of the international community failing to intervene to prevent a state killing its own people.” Kagame is right to point out that Africans in general and specifically Rwandans, have suffered extreme pain with no help from the international community. But that is where his claim to truth ends. Kagame is too complicit in perpetuating the pain and misery of Africans that he lacks the moral authority to judge Gaddafi—his comrade in crime.

In fact, the similarities between Kaddafi and Kagame are unquestionably striking. After being exposed by various United Nation reports which have for years accused him of playing a leading role in destabilizing the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); along with his failure to promote human rights in his country, his essay is nothing more than a mockery of history. Could he be taking us for fools lacking in memory?

Who can forget that the war in the DRC, in which his forces played a macabre role, has resulted in the deaths of more than five million people. UN reports accuse Kagame of Killing tens of thousands of his own people who had sought there. His rebel force is blamed for exterminating Rwandans in the thousands during the 1994 genocide. Although time may eventually prove us wrong, at this moment, it is doubtful that Kaddafi has come close to killing that many people.

Like Kaddafi, Kagame allows no freedom of press. Both are listed by Reporters without Borders as “Predators of Press.” Their 2010 Press Index ranks Rwanda tenth from the bottom. Libya fairs only slightly better. On Libya, the report notes that, “His [Kaddafi’s] personality cult is visible everywhere in the streets and in the official media. The story is not very different in Rwanda where according to the report, “[President Kagame] refers to journalists as “mercenaries” and “bums”. Less than a month ago, two female reporters were handed heavy sentences for crimes ranging from insulting the president to opposing government policies. Many, the author included, believe that the judiciary in Rwanda is just another cruel weapon at the oppressor’s disposal. In short, both "leaders" have effectively undermined free thought and do not hesitate to employ state powers in order to curtail press freedom.

Kagame and Kaddafi share a common history of international terrorism and meddling into the affairs of foreign states. Kagame’s adventure into the Congo, his support for fellow terrorists such as Laurent Nkunda, Bosco Ntaganda and the Hema militias are painfully well established. Similarly, Gaddafi has unreservedly supported terrorists in virtually every continent. He has interference in the internal affairs of foreign states is so acute that we are only beginning to comprehend its destabilizing legacy. We know for a fact that he supported the Ugandan tyrant, Iddi Amin as well as his successor and now president for life, Yoweri Museveni.

In Rwanda under the Kagame’s regime, the civil society has been severely restricted. Prominent opposition leaders charged with thought crimes are rotting in jail. There seems to be zero prospect for their freedom!

One of them, Victoria Ingabire, also a mother of three has been in solitary confinement since March last year. Visits to her cell are furiously restricted. Amid fears of torture, it is doubtful that she will ever be released.

Libya, well until the rebels decided enough was enough, operated much like a Soviet Gulag. Political prisoners were often assassinated or even executed without trial. Perhaps Rwanda is not as bad, but there is reason to worry for the future. Consider the murder of the green party vice president prior to last year’s presidential elections. Besides, haven't we traveled this road before?

It is impossible to exhaust all the unsettling similarities between these two sinister dictators. Kagame’s rebuke of Kaddafi needs not to be taken any more seriously than Kaddafi’s rebuke of Al Qaeda. Yes, Kagame is right that Kaddafi’s terrorism should not be tolerated. Kaddafi is also right that Al Qaeda needs to be defeated. However, both men are merely seeking to divert attention from their own failures and to cover up the fundamental flaws in their respective forms of governance.

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