Thursday, October 6, 2011

Guest post: Of Mice and Men: Ethnicity and Power in Rwanda

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“While the Rwandan government (GOR) presents itself as a champion of national unity and equal opportunity, de-emphasizing ethnic identity and ostensibly opening positions throughout society to those of skill and merit, political authority in the country does not yet reflect this ideal.” ***American Embassy in Kigali
The government of Rwanda has billed itself as a successful model of unity in a country that was ravaged by divisions between its two main ethnic groups. However, critics and human rights organizations have decried this as a farce, that beyond the facade put forth by the government lies inequality and ethnic tensions.
Hotel Rwanda hero, Paul Rusesabagina, who saved dozens of people from imminent demise during the 1994 genocide, has warned that Rwanda of today risks going through a similar tragedy if measures are not undertaken to address inequality between the Hutu and Tutsi. The Government of Rwanda has responded by labeling him, and other critics, as harboring “genocide ideology” and supporting terrorist groups such as FDLR, which operates in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Rwanda border.
Recent cables released by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks also support the view that Rwanda is ruled exclusively by Tutsi who took power after the genocide in 1994.  A cable from the American Embassy-Kigalito the Department of State dated August 5th, 2008 asserts that the government’s claims of being blind to ethnic affiliations is a ruse. It further claims that Hutu in influential government positions are “twinned” with Tutsi who are “more powerful” and make all the important decisions.
Quoting the cable:
“First Twin: Prime Minister Bernard Makuza: A
Hutu, he ostensibly occupies the second-most powerful
position in the Rwandan government. Affable but ineffectual,
he defers in all matters great and small to President Kagame.
he defers in all matters great and small to President Kagame.
Second Twin: Defense Minister General Marcel Gatsinzi. A
Hutu, he is entirely eclipsed by Chief of Defense Staff James
Kabarebe.
Third Twin: Minister of Internal Security Sheik
Musa Fazil Harerimana (in charge of police and prisons). A
Muslim Hutu, and head of the PDI political party, he defers
to his ministry’s Secretary General Joseph Mutaboba, a Tutsi
and former ambassador to the U.S.
Fourth Twin: Supreme Court President Aloysia Cyanzayire. Although she is
reputedly a competent and hard-working judge, Supreme Court
Vice President Sam Rugege, a Tutsi, is very much the public
face of the court, and appears to hold administrative
authority as well.
Fifth Twin: Long-serving Central Bank
Governor Francois Kanimba, whose Deputy was Tutsi Consolate
Rusagara, influential in economic circles, recently replaced
by equally important regime insider and formerly head of
Tristar (a business entity controlled by the Rwandan
Patriotic Front) Ephrem Twahirwa, also a Tutsi. “
Though many of the names have moved to other positions, all important positions in security, finance, and international relations are also held by Tutsi.
Figures such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and evangelist Rick Warren have promoted Rwanda as a model of African development and national unity. But as this cable clearly indicates, this is far from the truth and is possibly put forth by the Rwandan government in its pursuit of foreign aid and investments.
Investors in that type of toxic environment should by wary, though, they might see their investments lost to tensions the government refuses to address.
Though the government officially named the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as “The Genocide Against Tutsi,” the UN has implied that crimes amounting to genocide were also committed by the Rwandan army against Rwandan Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutu in The Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda petitioned hard against the publishing of the UN report, going as far as threatening to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent in Darfur.
The incident highlighted how sensitive the Rwandan government is to issues involving ethnicity and any role its army, first as a rebel movement then as the national army, might have played in the tragedies of the wars.
The embassy cable also cites incidents of ethnicity being used to keep the Hutu masses subservient through fear, intimidation, and imprisonment.
The government changed its flag, coat of arms, and national anthem to remove ethnic references in them and also distance itself from the regime it replaced.

Edward S. Mutabazi also blogs on his own site, The Baltimore Guardian. This post first was first published here

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