week, Irish media gave a little coverage to the elections
in Rwanda. In Ireland, little is known about the social
and political dynamics of this small African country,
apart from the fact that the population is divided
between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups and that the
Hutus launched a genocide against the Tutsis in 1994.
Thanks to the intervention of the military forces
of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (Front Patriotique Rwandais,
FPR), the dictatorial Hutu regime of Habyarimana was
ousted from power and Paul Kagame, the leader of the
FPR, became the country's new leader.
in power, the FPR deviated significantly from its
original 1987 programme. Its original programme was
a progressive nationalist one. It was hostile to imperialism,
stood for reconciliation and equality between the
different ethnic groups. But after 1994, the FPR did
little to win the support of Hutus. Kagame also set
out to neutralise any Tutsi opponents and potential
dissent. Originally, there were many different tendencies
within the FPR. There were Monarchists, Republicans
and even Marxists like Théogène Rudasingwa.
Kagame crushed all his potential rivals. Fred Rwigema,
his military chief of staff was killed in dubious
circumstances. Other important leaders, such as Chris
Bunyenyezi and Peter Bayingana, were also crushed.
This process had started as early as 1990.
went hand in hand with the growing monopolisation
of power by a new elite composed of politicians and
people of military backgrounds. Rwanda is one of the
poorest countries in Africa, and the ruling clique
used three strategies to accumulate power and wealth.
The first strategy is through its control of the state
apparatus. The second is by becoming the willing servant
of the IMF and World Bank who will in return give
them international legitimacy and financial loans
and aid. The third is through war: Rwanda is heavily
involved in the current war in the Congo. Kagame's
excuse is that his troops need to protect the country
from the Interahamwe militias, who carried out the
genocide in 1994. However, fighting has almost ceased
in the Gisenyi et Ruhengeri districts, the power base
of the Interahamwe. The real reason is that Rwanda
is able to plunder the riches of Eastern Congo, diamond
fields in particular.
differences of income between the elites and the rest
of the population has created tensions and dissent
within the Tutsi group and has resulted in the resentment
of poor Hutu peasants. Jean Pierre Mugabe is the editor
of the influential "Le Tribun du Peuple"
newspaper. In March 1999, he was forced to flee Rwanda
for his critique of the new elite, and in exile wrote
an open letter to Kagame. "While most people
can't find anything to eat and lack elementary health
care, the ruling clique is accumulating wealth upon
wealth. Injustice is now generalised to all sections
of the population, be they Hutus, Tutsis or Twas,
without even mentioning those who survived the 1994
genocide. The "unity" that you are promoting
is that between elites, Hutu as well as Tutsi, united
in their common interest to monopolise the wealth
of this country." Many who originally supported
the FPR in its struggle against the regime of Habyarimana
are now its declared opponents because of its ethnicist
sectarianism, nepotism, corruption and submission
to foreign powers.
FPR assured the people of Rwanda as well as the international
community that the elections on August 25th would
be fully democratic. However those elections were
everything but democratic. Independently of subsequent
confirmation of this fact by external observers, the
government introduced in July 2003 a law forbidding
any political parties it believes to have a "divisionist"
ethnic agenda. In practice, all potential opponents
have been accused of being "divisionists".
For example, Pasteur Bizimungu, a progressive Hutu
that had joined the FPR in 1990 before becoming the
president of Rwanda in June 1994 until 2000 was imprisoned
for setting up his own party, the Parti pour le Renouveau
Democratique-Ubuyanja. Another case is the Movement
Democratique Rwandais (MDR), a party of Hutu democrats,
recently dissolved for "divisionism". Its
leader, Faustin Twagiramungu, was prime minister for
13 months before being forced into exile.
consequences of Kagame having been "democratically
elected" for the next seven years with 97 percent
of the vote will be disastrous for both Rwanda and
the Congo. Because of the authoritarian and nepotic
nature of Kagame's power, there are little chances
for ordinary people of Rwanda, whatever their ethnic
origin, to have a better life. Kagame has stated that
he will intensify the war in Congo. Congo will never
know lasting peace as long as Kagame remains in power.
He will pursue the strategy of balkanisation of the
Congo. But fortunately, this is opposed by the Banyamulenge,
Masunzu, Maï-Maï Nakabaka, Dunia, Alunda
ethnic groups, who have forged an alliance against
Kagame's interference. The US would like to see more
stability in the Congo, but is unlikely to pressure
Kagame to withdraw his troops from the country, as
the Bush administration is divided as what the way
forward is. In the meantime, ordinary people will
have to put up with more deaths, diseases and suffering.
Note: Those interested to have more information
on the situation in the Congo and Rwanda should visit
the following website created by people who share
the political vision of Patrice Lumumba and Pierre
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