Friday, December 9, 2011

Are exiled based political parties Rwanda's salvation?

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It is now clear that Paul Rusebagina and the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) are working closely with each other. What we do not know for certain is what kind of objectives they hope to achieve. In public, they both claim that their mutual interest lies in seeking to promote truth and reconciliation in Rwanda. However, when deeply scrutinized, they seem to have no clear strategy of how to achieve this goal.

While both groups appear to be vehemently opposed to Kagame, who they rightly identify as the key obstacle to reform in Rwanda, it is doubtful that an entire movement can be sustained out of disdain for one man. Assuming that the opposition succeeded in toppling Kagame, what would follow next? This is a question that the Rwandan opposition has been reluctant to address.

A lot of Rwandans I talk to tell me that the opposition's focus should be entirely on how to remove Kagame. They argue that all the other concerns are unnecessary diversions. While such a way of thinking would have been necessary a few decades ago, I do not see how it benefits today's Rwanda. Group think is a key prerequisite for mobilizing large movements; however, it is incapable of ushering the promise for democracy. At least in Rwanda's case, it seems to have failed.

One reason why the opposition might be so fixated on Kagame lies in its composition. To be honest, a lot of leading opposition figures (whether Hutu or Tutsi) are former Kagame's allies. They are people who served in the RPF for a few years before falling out with him. Most of them do not want us to question their past. They tend to put all the blame squarely on Kagame. Listening to them, you get the impression that Kagame is a god-like creature, committing all kinds of atrocities all by himself. Tell it to the birds!

I am willing to accept that Kagame is a shady and seedy character. However, it does not convince me that everyone who falls out of favor with him is an automatic saint. Moreover, it does not seem plausible that Kagame would commit the crimes he stands accused of all by himself. If truth is to be told, Kagame has partners in crime and some of them must now be masquerading in the opposition.

To be clear, while I am fully dedicated to the cause of democracy, I am not a purist either. It is rather impractical to be such, in a country where so many hands have been tainted by the blood of the innocent. However, those who seek to attain redemption must start with a plea for forgiveness. This is why I am a little more sympathetic to Theogene Rudasingwa. He has been quite willing to ask for forgiveness to victims of the RPF. Even for him, despite the fact that he was at the top of the RPF's power structure, he seems unwilling to accept responsibility. Instead, he points the accusatory finger on Kagame.

I am of the opinion that Rwanda's should focus less on Kagame. If we are genuinely interested in change, there are more pressing issues that need our attention. The opposition should be talking about constitutional reforms, military restructuring and how to address questions of justice. A true opposition must distance themselves from the usual elite power plays that have characterized our politics for too long. This involves focusing less on occupying executive seats and more on rebuilding the Rwandan society. Otherwise, politics will continue to be a duel of the privileged while those living in the hills continue to suffer the brunt. 

Kagame is right to point out that democracy in Rwanda will not be advanced from either Europe or the United States. If a non-violent struggle against Kagame is to prevail, it must be grounded in the reality of Rwandans. To put it bluntly, political parties in exile are a joke and unnecessary. They have no basis and I am never going to support one.

At best, if one is living in exile, they can refer to themselves as activists. The idea that one can be a leader of a party while at the same time being a refugee in some foreign country is the epitome of elite entitlement. One does not flee into exile with a party in their pocket. A party must be based in the country where the change is desired if such change is to be effective.

Often the opposition will argue that it is impossible to operate from Rwanda. They will point to the fate of Victoire Ingabire, Deo Mushayidi and Bernard Ntaganda, to mention just a few of the political dissidents currently in jail. The concerns raised are quite reasonable. However, if the politicians and the activists are unwilling to bear the sacrifice, who will? Why should we expect others to suffer on our behalf? When we talk about change, but are unwilling to make it happen, why should people take us seriously? There is a price to pay for any real change in society. It is unrealistic to imagine it otherwise.

It could be that the opposition believes that change will only occur once the United States or some benevolent country in Europe intervenes. I have heard it being said often that, "when the whites decide, everything in Rwanda will change". This is what best explains the behavior of Rwandan political parties. In part, the strategy is influenced by the conspiracies that many in the Diaspora subscribe to. There is this feeling that the destiny of America and that of Kagame are entwined. Moreover, Kagame has exploited such myth to his advantage. When people believe that the entire world [U.S.] is against their cause, there is little efficacy left for action.

My view is that Kagame and his cronies will continue ruling Rwanda until the struggle for reform is taken to the ground. Admittedly, it is risky to do so. The question remains: can the cause for democracy be advanced without the reformers suffering some considerable risk?

1 comment:

Pacifique said...

What you said about the Rwandan for me is very smplistic, Kagame's dictatorship has becords of political assassinations, human right abuses and genocide. I don't know any president in Africa or else where who killed so many people including 2 or 3 presidents, attack on Rwandan refugeees in differents countries and killed millions of them. Kagame is also a big liar to the international community that he saved he caused all miseries on Rwandan. I would argue that diplomatic campany for opposition rwandan parties is the firs priority, the will lead to peacefull change of power in Rwanda as senario number one. The second senario then can be change of Kagame's regime by force; both methods are then conditioned by a good diplomatic efforts by RNC, FDU and others opposition politico parties in Rwanda or outside Rwanda.