Kagame is no newbie to the art of manufacturing crises. Grenades tend to rain in Kigali conveniently around election season, elections which he Stalinistically "wins". His is a strange world in which difficult questions of human rights abuses are almost always immediately flagged off by a repeated reference to the 1994 genocide, never mind his own involvement in the killings. Riding on a moral high horse, he accepts no criticism and takes no responsibility.
However, while Rwandans have gotten used to his rude attitude, he seems to be taking it to a new level. For diplomatic etiquette seldom allows a leader to bad mouth another. A fragile regime like Kagame's need all the friends it can get/buy as it waits its inevitable collapse. In retrospect, it was of extreme foul taste for Kagame to hurl insults at Kikwete, as he did recently during a forum in Kigali.
Perhaps Kagame thought, having muttered the words in Kinyarwanda (as he usually does all insults), the cat would not get out of the bag. However, that would be too naive for the self-styled "Machiavelli." He knows too better. So what exactly was his intention?
I have several theories, but I have to admit that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get inside Kagame's head. Part of me wonders if this is the beginning of a downward spiral that will end his brutal regime? Already, it seems obvious that Rwanda is facing a heavy flow of public relation nightmares that even their massive PR machine seems unprepared if incapable to handle.
There is reason to believe Kagame is using his imaginary war with Kikwete to buy time and divert attention from his well documented support for atrocities in the DRC. Otherwise, how would one understand the level of attacks directed against the person of Kikwete by the likes of Andrew Mwenda, a well known Kigali-journalist-for-hire?
Any reasonable person would conclude that Kikwete's words urging Rwanda to talk with her enemies wouldn't invite such well coordinated attacks. Even for me as a Rwandan, the bitter and constant cheap attempts at retaliation (against Kikwete) are difficult to comprehend. There must be something else going on. After all, even the US has began initiating talks with Talibans. And, yes, Germany was not abolished as a country after the evils the Nazis committed against Jews. The solution lies in dialogue and more dialogue.
Other than Rwanda, I have a hard time identifying a country where the idea that an entire group (which also happens to be the majority) shouldn't be involved in politics because of past crimes is deemed acceptable. Whites South Africans continue to contest political positions despite the crimes of apartheid--the obvious fact is that individuals sanctioned apartheid not the whites per say. You really cannot create a free society when the majority (Hutu in this case) is forced into silence/ fear. Kagame fools himself into thinking he can.
Hence, Kikwete's words were not only reasonable but also pragmatic. Granted, his main concern was not the internal situation in Rwanda. The idea was proposed as a solution to the "negative" forces that roam the DRC. For close to two decades now, Rwanda has battled Hutu rebel groups but has not succeeded to destroy them. We also know that members of these rebel groups are young people who have been born in exile or were too young to have participated in the genocide.
A political solution to the Rwanda-Congo crises has never been so urgently needed. Many lobby groups continue to call for an inter-Rwandan dialogue that would put Rwandans together for the purpose of reflecting on the past and discussing a way forward. We need a truth and reconciliation commission that would independently look into our complex history and offer suggestions for the now fragile future.
As for Kagame, he does not seem interested in a future of Rwanda that is more inclusive. That is probably not on the list of the things that he fought for. By their erratic nature, former warlords seem to have a hard time adjusting to a normal lifestyle, one which aims to minimize conflicts. The bush mentality of the warlords seem to be so difficult to expunge.
On his part, Kikwete must remain strong and unshaken if he truly cares about the region. The wisdom that calls for greater reconciliation and less killings resonates very dearly with Rwandans who have had to go through nearly two decades of murderous chaos. But it is also in Kikwete's interest. After all, Tanzania will be one of the most affected countries should Rwanda go through another civil war, which unfortunately seems more possible than ever.
As this New York Times op-ed eloquently requests, the world must learn to listen less to the cry wolf in Kigali. It is time for the West to have a rational and non-individualized policy with Rwanda. Listening to Kiwete is a crucial step.