Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama Bin Laden's death and politics in Rwanda

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Osama Bin Laden is dead. I won’t be celebrating his death. However, if his death is to bear any meaning, it must be accompanied with some change in the way nations deal with terrorists. Perhaps Bin Laden’s death will open room for the potential of negotiations even with the Taliban.

Of course, negotiations will only be possible if both parties to the conflict agree. It might depend on whether the remaining chain of command of the Taliban is willing to pursue the same extremist ideology that has ultimately led to the death of their leader. Ultimately, violence leads to more violence and that is the sad state of war.

In Rwanda, the government newspaper made every effort to connect Bin Laden’s death with local politics. It seemed to be wrongly understood as a triumph for Kagame's divisive rhetoric. Opponents of Kagame’s regime were reminded of the fate that awaits them if they continue to persist. Even President Obama didn't go this far. He used the occasion, not to advocate for hate or threats but to call for more dialogue between Muslims and the United States.

The list of “criminals” that deserve brutal death; according to the Rwandan daily, include four former high ranking members of the Tutsi regime who have, in recent times, dissented against Kagame’s regime. The regime did not hesitate to identify them by name. Another one is Deo Mushyayidi, a Tutsi survivor, currently serving a life sentence in a Rwandan prison. Also mentioned is the Rwandan opposition icon, Madame Ingabire Victoire.

Aside from the FDLR which represents an armed opposition, it is most troubling that the government of Rwanda seems unable to distinguish between unarmed opposition with terrorist groups. It just goes to show that the regime is not ready to open up political space. While opposition leaders can be tolerated, terrorists deserve to be shoveled in prisons or like Osama, to be assassinated. So far, Kagame has tried this script with considerable success. However, this is a sad and cynical mentality that risks undoing the progress that Kagame has attained in the last 17 years. It just can’t be that anyone who opposes him is a terrorist. He needs to change his script and learn something from Obama.

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