Friday, May 11, 2012

Uniting the Rwandan Opposition: Father Habimana and Gen. Nyamwasa (part one)

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Away from home, exiled Rwandans have not abandoned politics.  They have remained defiant, vocal and critical much to the annoyance of the ruling regime. In fact, while Kagame has almost managed to keep a tight lid on internal dissidents, he faces mounting protests on every international trip he makes. 
 The voices of Rwandans abroad produce nothing but a nightmare for the autocratic regime. Not surprisingly, Kagame has tried to send death squads abroad, as the British intelligence recently unveiled, to “silence” the opposition. This time, he was caught pants down. 

Kagame, the self-proclaimed liberator of Tutsis (in Rwanda and in the DRC) has consistently been ranked by Reporters without Borders among the top five “press predators” for the past three consecutive years.  He tolerates zero opposing views, while denying the existence of any opposition. Typical of dictator’s rhetoric, he uses the claim that everyone loves him.

As I write this post, BBC reports that a young man, Mutabazi Sadiki, has self-immolated in Gisenyi out of frustration with the regime’s policies. He was a local peanut vendor. The government has reacted by blaming it on drugs. Does this remind you of another deranged dictator?

Cables from the US embassy in Kigali reveal that the police state in Rwanda is precariously unsustainable.  As it is right now, Rwanda is a melting volcano waiting to erupt.  As such Rwandans must think outside the box and create an effective opposition that will clear this impasse. Given the deep divisions among Rwandans, this will take a lot of patience, compromise and accommodation. 

This campaign has already begun. Victoire Ingabire’s FDU, a mostly Hutu led political party, has formed an alliance with RNC, made up of Tutsi dissidents.  The alliance is still budding and faces the almost insurmountable challenge of removing the Rwandan dictator. However, this alliance represents the future of Rwanda. 

That said, there are legitimate concerns raised by supporters of both sides. Rudasingwa, Tutsi, and former secretary of Kagame’s cabinet, argues that the Hutu opposition must be willing to accept and condemn the past government’s role in the 1994 genocide.  On the other hand, FDU supporters would like the RPF (Rudasingwa was also the party’s Secretary General), to be held accountable. This has been Ingabire’s consistent message, landing her jail time where she faces a possible life sentence. 

At the same time, any viable coalition must be built on some form of consensus. And the consensus that "Kagame is the main obstacle" while crucial, is in my view not enough. While the RNC’s demand is much easier to honor (after all most Hutus who participated in 1994 genocide have faced prosecution) it is much harder to speak of RPF crimes. 

I think one main problem is how the Rwandan story has been framed. The RPF has painted itself as a group of holy worriers driving out the genocidaire demons. Because they are in power, this mainstream view has gone unchallenged.  However, there are countless of reports that point to the contrary. 

On their part, the RNC has tried to cast the entire blame on Kagame. For everything wrong, “Kagame is to blame”. This is hardly plausible and points to the shallowness of their commitment to genuine reconciliation. 

However, the RNC is hardly monolithic in their views. Rudasingwa, has openly apologized for RPF’s past crimes.  He supports individual accountability for alleged RPF where possible and necessary.

But by far the most heated debate on this matter has been between Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and father Thomas Nahimana, a Rwandan priest who is also the founder of the leading Kinyarwanda blog Le Prophete. The next part of this blog will discuss their view points and how to reconcile them.

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