Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rwanda: " An epitaph to a broken dream to exorcise this silent scream "

Reuters reports

Rwanda's foreign adventures test West's patience

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2013

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwandan President Paul Kagame may dress in the sharp suits of a company CEO, but his language can be more like a drill sergeant when he grills his cabinet on its performance.

"When you speak I find myself becoming impatient, almost to the point of being annoyed," the former military intelligence commander publicly berated a minister last month at an annual meeting of top officials on modernising the tiny African state.

Western nations offer only modest remonstrations over what they see as democratic shortcomings in Rwanda, thankful for the oasis of order that has replaced the genocide they failed to prevent 20 years ago this month.

But they quietly express concern that Kagame's assertive style at home is being translated into brazen meddling in a volatile region and threatening a potential model for Africa.

That concern is increasing. However it is not only western nations increasingly African nations are also getting frustrated with Kagame.

In 2012, a U.N. report accused Kagame's government of backing a rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, prompting the West to halt some aid; economic growth took a hit.

I wouldn't put the reduction in western aid as a causing of the slowdown in economic growth. Throughout 2013 Rwandas ability to raid the economic resources of neighboring eastern DR Congo was effectively halted. 

" In fact, the relative prosperity of the minority Tutsi political and business elite, is built on the bones of 6 million dead Congolese and the natural resources looted from their country. Rwanda’s so-called “New Economic Model” is simply pillaging and massacre, theft and murder on a huge scale, in concert with multinational corporations and under the protection of the United States."

Now Rwanda is blamed for sending hit squads to assassinate opponents in South Africa, killing one of two alleged targets.

What is interesting is just how unprofessional the Rwandan action was. Kagame made no real effort to deny the accusations, that in effect is confidence verging on insanity.  

" One of the four suspects is a senior official in the Rwandan armed forces, Lt Col Francis Gakwerere. His name was on a list of seven people claimed in a blog run by Rwandan dissidents to belong to a hit squad sent to South Africa to eliminate Karegeya. Police in South Africa suspect the former spymaster was strangled. A bloodied towel and curtain cord were found in a safe in the hotel room. Opponents of the Rwandan government say he was murdered at the behest of Rwandan President Paul Kagame."

"It seems to me that they are getting less risk averse," said one senior Western diplomat, who asked not to be named so he could speak more openly. "The risk they run is sowing the seed for rupture with the international community."

Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa gives an interesting regional perspective:

" South African involvement was particularly on show during the 2011 elections, which took place just weeks after a Kabila granted the South African government a contract for Inga III . Zuma was then one of the first presidents to congratulate Kabila for his victory, despite rampant irregularities. Then, when Uganda began facilitating peace talks with the M23 as chair of the ICGLR, South Africa and Angola (which has also just signed a lucrative offshore oil deal with Kinshasa), worried about Uganda and Rwanda's influence in the ICGLR, offered to send troops to Kinshasa's aid through SADC. Kabila reportedly believes that the brigade will help bring an end to the nettlesome M23 rebellion."

Which the brigade did. Uganda has recognised it would seem that the tide is out and the world is now ( I guess better late than never ) serious about defending the territorial integrity of the DR Congo. The reality Kigali can't comprehend is that its interfering in the Congo is over and it would seem Tanzania, Mali, Angola and South Africa have chosen sides and they are with the DR Congo. Ironically the Republic of Congo seems to have inexplicably gone with Rwanda a quick look at a map might have you shaking your heads on that decision.
Rwanda, which insists the government that has reformed the still aid-dependent economy is democratically accountable, vigorously denies both accusations of foreign meddling.

Well it used to vigorously deny meddling but I suspect that Kigali has recognised that the world just doesn't believe its denials anymore. I would guess that perhaps signals some vague connection with reality and that might be a reason to hope Kigali adopts a new position on international relations.
Public comments from Kagame and other officials have done little to change Western views of Rwanda's complicity, but criticism has remained muted, and more so with the anniversary of the genocide that Kagame is credited with ending.

"There is an upswing of international guilt about 1994," the diplomat said. "There is pressure. I don't think it is increasing and this year there is a dip."

There is guilt and there should be but, and it is not a small but, that guilt should not prevent us seeing the the bigger picture and that is that 6 million people have died in the DR Congo since 1994 and the lions share of responsibility for that genocide can be laid at Rwanda's door.

After exiled former spy chief Patrick Karegeya was found dead in a Johannesburg hotel in January, Kagame said "traitors" should expect consequences. A Rwandan website quoted Defence Minister James Kabarebe saying: "When you choose to be a dog, you die like one."

As I said above they can't even be bothered lying about it now, one has to hope that the geopolitical realities Rwanda now faces are not being handled by the M23 former Chief of Staff James Kabarebe.
In March, armed men broke into the Johannesburg home of former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, another exiled critic. Nyamwasa, who survived an attempt on his life in South Africa in 2010, was not in his house at the time.

Diplomats and analysts said the killing and attempted assassination in short succession showed Kagame feared exiled opponents were trying to unseat him using links inside Rwanda.

"His number one threat is potential military dissidents in his own party," said central Africa expert Jason Stearns.

Jason Stearns is worth listening to. The problem with Rwanda is that it is a military organisation in charge of a state and history tells us if you have that around the wrong way which Rwanda does, the results are never good in the long term.
South Africa, a regional superpower, expelled three Rwandan diplomats over the attacks. Kigali, which said South Africa had produced no evidence, reciprocated by throwing out six.

The U.S. special envoy to the region, Russ Feingold, said in a brief statement he was "very concerned about the tension", but was unavailable for further comment when asked by Reuters.

Russ Feingold has been a total disappointment.

Rwanda lives in an unstable neighbourhood, next to war-ravaged east Congo and politically troubled Burundi, which endured decades of ethnic massacres into the 1990s. Nearby are South Sudan and the Central African Republic, both mired in conflict.

Rwanda has created much of the instability in the " war ravaged Congo " by successive military invasions. As noted above the Rwandan economic miracle requires the eastern DR Congo to be unstable so Rwanda can nick anything of value. It doesn't wash as an excuse for the Kagame regime.
Behind closed doors Western feathers have been ruffled. Diplomats, who have described Rwanda's foreign policy as "reckless", worry Kigali could target opponents in exile in Europe or elsewhere, action that would draw tougher sanction.

"On the security side, there are more and more countries warning them off," said another diplomat, He said the private U.S. message was: "Don't do anything like this in the States."

I suspect Rwandan passport holders will face a lot more scrutiny going forward. I blogged yesterday about this issue amongst other things.
Critics of Western policy say such warnings are too little, too late. Rwanda is assertive abroad because the West has not reined in the president's authoritarian ways at home, they say.

"There hasn't been much reaction to things that happened inside Rwanda," said Filip Reyntjens, a Rwanda expert and professor at the University of Antwerp, who says he has been banned from travelling to Kigali. "That emboldened the regime."

That can change very quickly. It should start with expulsion from the Commonwealth, that inconveniences a few athletes but it might also focus a few minds.

Rwanda dismisses such criticisms. Shyaka Anastase, head of the Rwandan Governance Board, a state agency that licences political parties and assesses everything from civil liberties to corruption, said Rwanda's system was based on consensus.

Yes, well it is an interesting interpretation of consensus. I very much doubt Rwanda's only credible opposition leader Victoire Ingabire who is rotting in a Rwandan gaol agrees with the consensus.
That helped Kagame win re-election in 2010 with 93 percent of the vote, he said, while Western critics were too conditioned by their politics where parties often win just 40 percent.

93% if you aren't laughing you should be. That is a North Korea statistic and whilst Rwanda is not quite yet at that level of batshit crazy it is well down the road.
"We feel there is a lot of unfairness," he told Reuters, adding Rwanda's system was healing ethnic, religious and regional rifts which fuelled the ethnic slaughter in 1994 of 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis but also moderates from the Hutu majority.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo denied a Rwandan role in the South Africa cases but, via Twitter, said Pretoria harboured "dissidents responsible for terrorist attacks in Rwanda".

Louise Mushikiwabo AKA Rwanda's liar in chief.  

Rwandan officials have in the past blamed sporadic grenade attacks, often fatal, in the capital and elsewhere on exiled and other opponents. One former presidential bodyguard, who lived in Uganda, is now on trial in Kigali over involvement in such assaults. Exile opposition deny any role in such attacks.

They have and in fairness this would seem to be true. The genocidal fools of the FDLR the remnants of the former regime do occasionally promise gullible kids future jobs in the next Rwandan incarnation, not to mention US $20 to go and throw a grenade in a market place in Rwanda. Quite how that justifies 6 million deaths in the DR Congo escapes me.   

" One of the suspects who manned the recent grenade attack at Nyabugogo Taxi Park in Kigali, has said that he and his colleagues were sent on a mission by their boss, Colonel Enoch Bizimana alias ‘Matovu’ who commands a section of FDLR rebel in the DR Congo.
The 23 year old suspect, identified as Jean de Dieu Ntakirutimana, who left Rwanda at the age of 4 years, says that he joined and deserted FDLR forces and was later on contacted by the Colonel, through a third party, to conduct the attacks for a price.

When asked for further comment on the South Africa attacks, the president's office again denied any role and said Rwanda "cannot be expected to mourn the death of someone actively involved in carrying out violence against innocent citizens".

It added that talk of "extrajudicial assassinations on foreign soil is both outlandish and false".

A return if not welcome to form.

Even as diplomats express private frustrations, public Western criticism is muted, tempered by genocide guilt and Rwanda's role as an example for Africa on the efficient use of the West's aid.

And even more efficient theft of the mineral resources of the eastern DR Congo.
Achievements are plain to see. Residents describe jumping over corpses in the capital in 1994 but now few, if any, African cities can rival the order and tidiness of Kigali, where small groups of women trim grass verges on the sides of new roads.

And there are six million more corpses in the Congo, A very high price for trimmed grass verges.
Rwanda is pitching to be a regional financial hub, an idea unimaginable a few years ago, while the World Bank assesses the tiny nation of 11 million people as the easiest place to do business in continental Africa. Ranked No. 32 globally, it is above some European nations such as its former colonial power Belgium.

It still relies heavily on aid for two-fifths of government spending. When aid flows stopped in 2012, growth in 2013 tumbled sharply to 4.6 percent, down from the 7 to 8 percent it had averaged in previous years, even though aid resumed in 2013.

As I said above aid had nothing to do with the economic slowdown.

Britain's overseas aid department DFID, one of Rwanda's top benefactors, talks of "impressive and fast-improving public financial management system" but notes political restrictions.

To burnish Rwanda's political credentials, Anastase's governance board now produces a scorecard on issues from rule of law to transparency - ticking boxes that win allies in the West. Rwanda, says one diplomat, is "obsessed with indicators".

It might be time to add a few more coffins sorry boxes. Six million in fact.
Swayed in part by visible development, the West also worries about upsetting the fragile balance maintained by Kagame - president since 2003 and power behind the throne since his Rwandan Patriotic Army marched into Kigali in 1994 to halt the killings that mainly targeted Kagame's own Tutsi group.

The west should be more worried by the the truth. I get the feeling it is now and Kagame has no idea what that will mean.
The government wants to bury the idea of ethnic loyalties, saying everyone is "Rwandese". But tensions sometimes emerge including during the "I Am Rwandan" campaign that began last year and which urged Hutus to apologise for the killings.

If you believe that well .... the whole point of this article is that nobody believes a word Rwanda has to say on anything.
"It encourages people to feel guilty because of their ethnicity," said a middle-aged Hutu, asking not to be named and commenting on the voluntary countrywide meetings. "But what can you do? We still go along (with the idea)."

Hutus accept their group is to blame for the genocide, but grumble that Hutus who were also massacred are often ignored.

Such concerns give Western nations pause. "The worry at the back of Western minds is you end up with an ethnic bloodbath," said the senior diplomat. "That is why people in the West are prepared to put up with the political situation as it is."

And when the untenable situation that is the current status quo erupts and you have another ethnic bloodbath are we any further forward ?
Some politicians now talk of changing the constitution to allow Kagame stand for a third term in 2017. The West murmurs disapproval, while opponents in Rwanda struggle to be heard.

"We do not have a personal problem with the president but we would not wish that the constitution is changed," said Frank Habineza, head of the Democratic Green Party, which registered last year and is the only party not aligned with the government.

"Kagame is not naturally a democrat," said a regional Western diplomat. "We just wish he was embracing a little bit more of the concepts of democracy."

Yes well look to the Russian solution.

" 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."


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