Saturday, November 23, 2013

After years of silence, US embassy speaks out against election fraud in Rwanda

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In September, I wrote an article about how Rwandans are basically exhausted after a series of false (but compulsory) elections. In Rwanda, we never call them elections anymore. They are selections. However, the selections are cunningly manicured by a predetermined result that ensures a majority of women in parliament--thus manipulating international opinion. In reality, there is no freedom to disagree with the ruling party and the elections are a far cry from normal democratic practices.

For years though, the West has been unwilling to call this charlatanism for what it is. In stead, what in reality counts for massive fraud has been portrayed by some quarters of the western press as revolutionary. The thought of having a parliamentary majority of women has hoodwinked even the most passionate advocates for democracy (some of my western feminist friends have drunk the kool-aid). Unfortunately, like many issues in Kagame's Rwanda, there is always a thin line between fact and fiction.

Luckily, folks are beginning to wake up from the 1994-induced slumber. There is increasing recognition that the terrible genocide in the 1994 should not be used as a reason to further ethnic-based oppression, which may well result into more killings. The gulagization of Rwanda (and to some extent eastern DRC) must be challenged by voices of reason in the region as president Kikwete and others have began to do.

The latest voice of reason is the embassy of the United States in Kigali. They too have been unusually quiet considering the extent of state-orchestrated crimes in Rwanda and beyond. Usually, the US embassy is known to be quite vocal in neighboring states such as Kenya where they have aggressive pushed for democratic reforms. However, in Rwanda, they have played the classic Punk "hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing." While I am quite sure they have applied internal pressure, the general tendency has been to grant the Kigali criminal enterprise the benefit of doubt.

A tough-worded statement by the US embassy posted a few weeks ago, suggests that this might be about to change. The embassy noted that the elections were marked by irregularities, which "undermined the integrity of the vote." The irregularities included the presence of security officials in polling rooms [there presence is to "guide" the population as they vote]. Moreover, the officials did not hesitate to vote for those who were absent.

While this comes a little late, it is nonetheless a gesture of goodwill. For many of us, even the thought of writing about elections in Rwanda feels like a willingness to accept to play by Kigali's grand deception. How can you talk about elections that never were? Talking about "irregularities" gives credence to a process that is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that there was some form of election. It is really an insult to our being, more so coming from a regime that claims to want dignity ("agaciro") for Rwandans. (statement by US embassy here)

Another important write-up was by the Institute of Security Studies who asked the simple question "Does the dominance of women in Rwanda's parliament signify real change?" The report is well done and includes a wealth of information. Moreover, it expresses the same reservation that researchers have raised over the years (also see Susan Thomson, Erin Baines and Stephen Brown):

Politicians’ touting of the parliamentary wins tends to camouflage the contrasting realities for women elsewhere. The wins gained could thus be cast as a smokescreen to obscure the under-representation and unequal participation of women in other areas of leadership.
Moreover, the report adds:

The RPF’s apparent push for its own candidates for election in the seats reserved for women – whether to achieve the required quotas or due to these women’s loyalty to the RPF, rather than their competence – is another matter altogether. This is one of the major criticisms some analysts have levelled against the RPF government, in particular the possible fronting of women for purposes of political expediency and to rubber-stamp the government’s agenda. If this is the case, then these are indeed hollow gains, ones that are incapable of bringing about the comprehensive institutional and systemic transformation required to achieve the country’s gender parity objectives.
The statement above, I believe, captures the essence of this "gender revolution." It is a way of buying more legitimacy from unsuspecting westerners for what is in reality a one-man-dictatorship. However, this sort of posturing and manipulations can only take you so far. Rwandans, researchers and embassies are watching!

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