Last week, I wrote in praise of Mr. Theogene Rudasingwa confession that Rwandan president Paul Kagame bears responsibility for the 1994 assassination of his predecessor. I believed, like many Rwandans do, that Rudasingwa's claim would offer the starting point for a genuine reconciliation. Just like the plane's shooting sparked the 1994 genocide, I thought, identifying those who did it would help jump-start the much-needed dialogue. What escaped my mind though, is that Rudasingwa is first and foremost a political operative. As such, the main interest of politicians is attaining and maintaining power. While I believe that Rudasingwa is telling the truth, I am now convinced that the claims alone will not do much. Rudasingwa simply restated what we already knew or suspected to be true. He should have gone an extra mile.
Susan Thomson essay, "The empirical Record on Habyarimana's death", got me thinking. Juvenal Habyarimana's death is not just a historical act, it is a highly political one. Hate or like Kagame, it is unconvincing to claim that he planned an event of such magnitude by himself. He would have to be more than a genius to do that. By pinning everything that is wrong in Rwanda on Kagame, Rudasingwa is personalizing and simplifying issues. We need more on the social, political and economic contexts that legitimized the assassination, at least in the ranks of RPF operatives, as a viable option. Granted, Rudasingwa and his comrades have been very careful not to antagonize the RPF. But if the only problem Rudasingwa sees in Rwanda is Kagame, then his vision is very limited .
For the record, I do not buy the idea that getting rid of Kagame will usher the end of historical injustices in Rwanda. In many ways, I think, we are doomed to failure if this is what we believe in. This has been my biggest contention with members of the Rwandan opposition. Fighting Kagame is noble, but we need to formulate a platform that transcends this. We must go beyond our obsession with this man. Yes, he is, at the moment, the biggest obstacle to democratic reform. However, we can learn one or two things from history. During the 1990s, politics had an unhealthy obsession with Habyarimana. Once he got removed, it became business as usual only with different actors. The same challenges remained unresolved.
In reorienting our consciousness, we need to move beyond thinking of our country in terms of personalities and political position. This will require a new breed of thinkers and actors. We have to face and be willing to tackle the bigger and more important questions such as how to build stronger institutions ; how to address historical injustices or how to end the military-political complex. Historically, there are many places in the world where freedom fighters wrongly thought that everything would fall into place after the ousting of a dictator. I happened to be visiting Kenya when President Daniel Moi had retired from politics. The euphoric mood in Kenya assumed this to be the end of history. Yote yawezekana bila Moi ("All is possible without Moi"), they chanted. Yet, the vestiges of Moi's dictatorship continue to linger. There is nothing implicit in historical shifts that makes things better. If anything, history is bound to repeat itself.
Perhaps I am being too harsh on a man who has gone to great extremes to redeem himself. What he has said will inadvertently earn him enemies among his Tutsi kins. Many have and will continue to call him a sell-out. I also know for a fact that Rudasingwa is doing rounds in the diaspora, preaching reconciliation. This is commendable, and if he continues in that trajectory, history will judge him kindly. People who have accomplished great things in life, were not necessarily perfect. But they acknowledged their mistakes and moved forward. Such a sense of humility has always been lacking in Rwanda's politics. Nonetheless, I do think a facebook message is hardly enough to heal our wounded land.
Maybe it is true, as Rudasingwa says, that more information will be divulged in a court of law. I hope I am not the only one troubled by this sort of thinking. Should not the information be of more importance to Rwandans than to French or Spanish courts? To borrow from Ms. Thomson, "The RNC and other political actors [need to] flesh out the big parts of the puzzle that is missing". They are first and foremost, accountable to Rwandans. And Rwandans want to know the truth--in and outside the courts. Part of the shift in thinking that I am advocating for should be the realization that it is Rwandans first. When we do things just to please the West, the benefit for Rwandans becomes very minimal.