Can political freedom in Rwanda help to pacify the eastern Congo ?Rene C Mugenzi | Category: News, Top news
Rwanda is back in the spotlight over accusations of stirring conflicts in the Congo but in order to understand the leadership it is important to analyse the current political landscape inside Rwanda. This will help us to identify the best solution that would end conflicts in the Eastern region of Congo.
Closed political space
One of the best to examine Rwanda’s political space is to rely on the experience of one of Rwanda’s opposition figures; Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Her extraordinary courage has defied friends and detractors as well as her foes in power. Her friends had warned Ms. Ingabire from challenging President Kagame while detractors said that she had reached a deal with President Kagame to legitimise elections. The regime is said to have taken her intention to contest 2010 presidential elections as a bluff.
The harsh treatment meted by President Kagame’s government and her resilience have not only made her the most popular opposition leader in Rwandan politics but has also exposed the credentials of the regime as a progressive democratic system. Support groups have sprung up in Europe, US, Canada and Africa. On the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the International Women’s Day, an award named “Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza for Democracy and Peace” was inaugurated on March 12, 2011 in Montreal, Canada by the International Network of Women for Democracy and Peace (IWNDP). The Interim Committee of her Political Party FDU in Rwanda has continued to speak out. They do this under threats, intimidation and arrests of members.
She has also been called the Rwandan Aung San Suu Kyi.
On the other hand, the government’s reactions have proven right the report by the Centre of Strategic and International Studies CSIS (2011) that the Rwandan regime has shown its inability “to manage political competition and popular demands without resorting to violence or coercion”
The fate of Ms. Ingabire was clear from the day (16 January 2010) following her arrival in Rwanda. A Rwandan semi-official newspaper, The New Times, immediately accused her of being “genocide denier” and asked for “the law to take its course”. Senior government officials took turn to pressure the judiciary to act.
Sheikh Mussa Fazil Harerimana – Minister of Internal Security also joined The New Times allegations and accused Ms. Ingabire of “revisionism and genocide denial” in an article, on 20 January 2010.
In a briefing to the press in February 2010, President Paul Kagame accused Ms. Ingabire of breaking the law by speaking publicly before her party was registered and called on the judicial system to deal with her. In an interview given to the Ugandan newspaper Monitor the President declared that she (Ms. Ingabire) “has to be “where she belongs,” implying she deserved to be in prison. “Now the outsiders who want so badly Ingabire to be an opposition leader here or later on be our President, well, they may wait for a while”, he continued.
On the 16th anniversary of the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, President Paul Kagame accused the opposition –targeting Ms. Ingabire in particular he said is “political hooliganism”. “Foreigners are imposing ‘hooligans’ like Ingabire on Rwanda.”
Louise Mushikiwabo –Minister of Foreign Affairs, reaffirmed the position of Rwandan government when she was interviewed by Kezio-Musoke, a reporter for East African Newspaper, she stated: “there is no place for people like Ingabire in Rwanda. Not now and not in many years.” But Ms. Ingabire continued to criticise the government in the media despite the fact that she had been arrested in connection with a terrorism investigation and bailed out.
Martin Ngoga -General Prosecutor of Rwanda, pointed out that: “the Prosecution is more specifically concerned with continued posting of declarations and the newspaper interviews she has been doing. The case against her is not one of robbery in which restraining physical movement would be enough to contain further damage. It is a case of destructive and divisive ideology whose damage does not require physical proximity of the offender”, he is quoted in speaking to The New Times newspaper.
When Ms. Ingabire was rearrested and detained, her American lawyer Prof. Peter Erlinder, was also arrested and detained over genocide denial charges. He was freed 3 weeks later following external international pressure.
Victoire does not enjoy the same privilege because she is Rwandan. The prosecution has demanded a life sentence accusing her of being a genocide denier and threatening state security. The verdict of the judge was expected on the 29th June 2012 but it has been postponed to the 7th September 2012.
“Shall I die or live, be detained or released what we have achieved will not go back. This movement is stronger than me. Reminding me in captivity or silencing my voice can only postpone the revolution. It cannot stop the movement” Victoire stated during her trial in Kigali.
Kigali maximum prison is also hosting two other prominent opposition politicians Bernard Ntaganda and Deogratias Mushayindi. Alongside them are the last voices of free media in Rwanda, journalists Ms. Agnesi Uwimana Nkusi and Sayidati Mukakibibi charged with endangering national security, genocide denial, defamation of the President, and divisionism.
East-Congo possible Solution
Clearly the political freedom, free media and rule of law in Rwanda are still as far as the moon.
The biggest test for the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) is whether they are prepared to pressure the Rwandan regime so that Rwanda could end political repression and install political freedom and democracy. This is believed to be the best solution because it is highly unlikely that a democratic state, in which the rule of law is observed can stir illegal conflicts to any country. This solution would undoubtedly bring sustainable peace and would cost much less than the cost of current UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, which has not achieved its objectives in terms of peacekeeping and protecting the population.
Furthermore, Rwandan armed groups based in DRC, that have demanded restoration of democracy and the rule of Law in Rwanda as a prerequisite of return home, they would not have reasons not to go back home once Rwanda becomes a democratic state, in which the rule of law is respected.
Therefore, looking for a sustainable solution to end the conflict in Congo, looking in Rwanda might lead to an effective and sustainable solution.
by RENE CLAUDEL MUGENZI