As the saying goes, when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. The feud between Kayumba Nyamwasa et al. and Paul Kagame is likely to have a far from pleasant end. The peasants might once again be entangled into a conflict they little understand and as a result, forced to pay a heavy price.
The wrangle between the two heavyweights seems to have reached a point of no return. What is now left is a dog-eats-dog strategy, or an equivalent of the Darwinian survival for the fittest. This was the message directly implied when Kayumba was shot last year in the streets of Johannesburg. Kayumba and his family believe that the government is still trying to kill them. For Mr. Kagame, actions speak louder than words!
But is Kayumba hitting back as well? This is hard to tell. At the moment, there is no clear evidence that this might be the case, although the Rwandan government has accused him of forming terror zones within the country. Knowing that Kayumba was the chief of the Rwandan army for many years, and is still said to be very popular among the ranks of the military, everything is possible. Moreover, some claim that he enjoys very strong ties with the Ugandan government. The thought of him mobilizing a fighting force, no doubt exaggerated at the moment, is not a complete impossibility.
As of yesterday, the government of Rwanda claims to have arrested five dissidents, including a colonel in the Rwandan army. They are accused of planning sabotage attacks against Rwanda under Kayumba’s authority. Of course, such accusations need to be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, these are the exact same charges that are always leveled on political dissidents in Rwanda. If so, it might be the case of a boy crying wolf.
As expected, Kayumba’s vehemently denied any links to the arrested individuals. Because this is the first time that an insider of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) is wrestling with the regime, it might be hard to tell where the truth lies.
We know that an investigative report released by the United Nations earlier this month refuted any links between Kayumba et al and other fighting groups based in the DRC such as FDLR and RUD Urunana. We also know that it is in Kagame’s best interest to portray Kayumba as a military trouble maker who is threatening Tutsi hegemony by collaborating with Hutu extremists. In Kagame’s threatening words, he is “excrement” that must be eliminated from the body.
As I said in my post earlier, these are troubling times in Rwanda. The “warrior refugees” that once won the praise of Philip Gourevtitch now have guns pointed at each other. They threaten the stability of a country they fought for and some of them have already been exiled again. It is not a pretty sight.
To be honest, Kayumba’s opposition to Kagame bears more hope for democracy than an event in Rwanda’s recent history. Kayumba has challenged Kagame’s totalitarian control in a way that leaves the man humbled. He often likes to say that, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. By extension, Kayumba, at least in rhetoric, wants the RPF to undergo a process of reformation; which will allow for competitive politics.
Part of Kayumba’s problem with the RPF party is that Kagame has personalized it. He has built a personality cult akin to that of the late Juvenal Habyarimana. As such, Kayumba and other RPF compatriots feel their vision betrayed. They are longing for change.
It needs to be emphasized that the RPF, under Paul Kagame, has been a major stumbling block to democratic reform. They have established complete control over the military, the church and the civil society. They are like the despot king who must die in order for democracy to arise. We also need to be aware that Kayumba et al. were the yesterday’s champions of this corrupted system. But human being can learn from their mistakes. And there are few untainted hands in Rwanda.
I may not be a fan of Kayumba et al., but I think they deserve a chance. After all, they are Rwandans as well and their love for the country is evident. So far, they have been busy trying to spearhead for reconciliation among the Diaspora of Hutus and Tutsis. They efforts seem to be wielding success. In particular, Theogene Rudasingwa, the group’s most vocal member, has shown the willingness to acknowledge the crimes committed by the RPF against Hutu civilians. This is a BIG and unprecedented step—one that needs to be celebrated. By any indications, Rudasingwa looks like a reformed man who is hungry for peace and reconciliation. Rwanda desperately needs more of his kind.
I view the confrontations as a necessary step for Rwanda’s rebirth. It is completely disheartening to think that the peasants will once again bear the brunt. However, can there be gain without pain? Are the peasants better off under a cruel dictatorship? I welcome comments from my readers.