Monday, January 27, 2014

Rwanda: " But to stand up and fight I know we have six million reasons "

The Washington Post opines

Another Rwandan dissident assassinated

By Lara SantoroPublished: January 25

Patrick Karegeya’s murder did not come as a surprise. The former Rwandan spymaster, whose network of spooks at one point spanned half a continent, had fallen foul of President Paul Kagame in 2007 and went on to help found the opposition, headquartered in South Africa. But as human rights organizations keep noting, the survival rate among Rwanda’s dissidents is not high .

Kagame will not tolerate any opposition. Victoire Ingabire is in effect the leader of the opposition currently she is serving 15 years in gaol, in her situation she made the ill advised move of returning to Rwanda to contest the  the presidential elections in 2010, she was barred from running then gaoled for 8 years increased to 15 on appeal.

The country that many in the West associate with brave recovery from genocide in the 1990s has, in the years since, turned into an autocratic state with zero tolerance for dissent. Filip Reynt­jens, a leading academic authority on Rwanda, says the central African country is no longer “a state with an army but an army with a state.” It’s a depressing transformation, although true plurality was unlikely to blossom in that country, with a 15 percent ethnic minority effectively in charge.

".....but an army with a state.” Says it all really. The problem is that Kagame knows no restraint. His crime of killing opposition politicians pales into relative insignificance when his crimes against the people of the Eastern DR Congo are considered. Six million dead and climbing. 

What did come as a surprise was the way Karegeya was murdered. His strangled body was found in a Johannesburg hotel room Jan. 1. The killers didn’t even bother to tidy up: They left the rope and a bloodied towel behind, as well as a “do not disturb” sign on the door. “It’s Kagame’s impunity,”Theogene Rudasingwa, a former Rwandan ambassador to the United States and one of the leaders of the Rwandan opposition in exile, said in an interview. “He doesn’t care anymore, no one has ever held him accountable, so why should he care?”

That is starting to change. The eyes of the world are starting to watch Rwanda. The Eastern DR Congo is slowly being turned around and should Rwanda intervene either directly or indirectly via proxies such as M23 it is going to become increasingly difficult to ignore from the perspective of the west. Already America has been forced to cut aid and impose sanctions.

Kagame has denied involvement in the murder, but at a recent prayer meeting in the Rwandan capital he said, “You cannot expect to betray your country and get away with it.” Aside from a brief statement by the South African police mentioning strangulation, the circumstances of Karegeya’s death remain mysterious. What is clear, however, is that no one had greater interest in seeing Karegeya dead than Kagame. Experts on the region say that Karegeya’s job description under Kagame included eliminating enemies — potential and actual — which left Karegeya with a lot of sensitive information. “It was pretty clear to everyone what Karegeya’s job was,” professor Brian Endless of Loyola University said in an interview just after the murder. “Even he wasn’t terribly shy about it. He took care of dissidents, in however distasteful a fashion was required.”

Kagame has become delusional, his inability separate his administration from the the nation state that is Rwanda. He assures all that he will not alter the constitution to extend his tenure as Rwanda's President but the reality is that he has created a situation where he will be forced to remain in office. Expect an African version of the Putin / Medvedev  tandemocracy . There is very little available in the way of attractive retirement options available for autocratic dictators after they lose power. Ask Gaddafi.    

When someone was deemed a problem outside Rwanda — be it in Kenya, Congo or other countries — it was Karegeya’s job to get rid of them. (Internally, the job fell to Jack Nziza, whom Rudasingwa called “the most feared man in Rwanda”).

What is strange is that Karegeya must have been aware that he was in Kagame's sights yet he dispensed with his South African security detail. 

" It was reported in the South African press that Karegeya had agreed to dispense with his South African security detail in 2012. The government of South Africa had provided the protection since Karegeya’s arrival in South Africa in 2007. The decision to provide protection was reportedly influenced by assassination attempts against former army chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa, another Rwandan exile in South Africa. "

Whatever “problems” Karegeya allegedly eliminated at Kagame’s behest is unknown, but Endless and others have estimated that the number is in the double digits and includes former interior minister Seth Sendashonga, who was gunned down in traffic in Nairobi in 1998.

Such information is public knowledge in Rwanda. When Nziza walks into a room, Rudasingwa told me, people start to shake. The murder of Karegeya does more than silence a potential squealer. It sends a message to the Rwandan opposition and to ordinary citizens: If someone as powerful, rich, competent and cunning as Karegeya can be dispatched, what can be done to the average citizen? Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch attest that the levels of fear in Rwanda are pathologically high: Too many people have vanished and later turned up dead. Karegeya’s death is certain to make the situation worse.

By the same token there is a growing awareness in the West about the realities of Kagame's regime. The European Parliament has made its opinion on the Victoire Ingabire situation fairly clear.

Despite a clear pattern of stifled dissent during his tenure, Kagame is about to receive his latest installment of U.S. bilateral aid. Overall foreign aid to Rwanda — estimated to be about $800 million a year — is roughly 40 percent of its government expenditure, keeping the country afloat. Karegeya’s murder ought to open a debate on whether Rwanda should receive any aid at all.

Cutting aid is problematic and probably would have the effect of increasing the levels of oppression in Rwanda whilst not hurting the country's political elite in any real way, it also puts the most vulnerable Rwandans at risk. Targeted sanctions aimed at the Rwandan civilian and military leadership would make a lot more sense.

Hat Tip: Charly Kasereka 

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