The flogged also have rights

In the past wrong doers of all sorts were punished by flogging. Even today, it is still a form of punishment in some countries. Sometimes the person being flogged was not always guilty of the alleged offence. Or the offence may have been simply because he dared say or do anything contrary to powerful interests.

In the past wrong doers of all sorts were punished by flogging. Even today, it is still a form of punishment in some countries. Sometimes the person being flogged was not always guilty of the alleged offence. Or the offence may have been simply because he dared say or do anything contrary to powerful interests.

So the person who flogged, or ordered that it be done was not necessarily always right. It was sufficient that he had the power to flog.

That was before the advent of human rights activists who fought to outlaw flogging, arguing that it injured the dignity of the human person. I don’t remember hearing much about the physical pain it caused.

There were other people who opposed flogging for different reasons. Some frowned upon it as a form of perversion by which people derived pleasure from inflicting pain on others.

Others viewd it as a twisted expression of power and superiority through humiliating other people.

Other, and more effective, methods of flogging were also invented. And so old-style flogging disappeared – well, sort of.

Flogging has returned – in an insidious and sinister way. Its reasons have not changed. Now whole populations and entire countries are collectively flogged without let-up.

The beauty of modern flogging is that those who wield the whip do not have to be physically present to inflict the indignity and pain. They do it the modern way – by remote control. That is how it has been perfected.

In the reinvented flogging regime, freedom of the media and human rights are the twin rods with which “errant” countries and individuals (according to the self-ordained modern day enforcers of public morality) are regularly flogged.

Rwanda, in particular, has had its fair share of flogging by the twin rods. The frequency and intensity of attacks on Rwanda have increased in the last few months.

The accusers(wielders of the rod) are not having it all their own way, however. President Paul Kagame has taken them on and robustly defended his country’s record.

He is a formidable adversary as his interviwers – the bullies and the caustic, the clever and the uninformed - have found out. He can also wield a rod of his own – the rod of reason and argument and facts, and use it to tremendous effect.

Just over a week ago, Christianne Amanpour, chief international correspondent for CNN, interviewed the president and asked him about allegations of human rights violations in Rwanda.  She referred to reports by human rights organisations.

The president was forthright in his answer. Yes, such reports exist, he admitted. Then he hastened to dismiss them as no more than the reflection of the wishful thinking of a few disgraced individuals whose word cannot be taken seriously.

Those reports that are, for inexplicable reasons, taken as authoritative comments on the state of human rights in Rwanda are based on other reports by two kinds of people: anti-government elements and self-exiled individuals or fugitives from justice.

Then the inevitable question: what do you expect from such sources – full-hearted endorsement of goverment’s actions, or a warm embrace of all its plans? Surely not. It is so obvious everyone should be able to see that.

Behind this clarification that should silence critics of every colour lie two damning indictments against the purveyors of the reports and those who believe them and use them as whipping rods.

First, given the character of the sources for the reports, where is their credibility and that of those who believe in yarns spun by a hateful imagination, or tales informed by selfishness that often ends in the sale of the soul for a few crumbs from the tables of the rights groups?

Second, what about the other Rwandans, 11 million plus, who go about their businesses happily, but whose opinion does not merit the attention of the rights crusaders? Don’t they matter, as the president asked?

Answer these charges, you self-defined defenders of people’s rights!

In the interview with Amanpour, the president could not hide his exasperation with questions about how Rwanda does its business. And he had every right to be. He made a forthright reminder that Rwanda is a sovereign state.

Said he, “it’s our leaders, it’s our choices, it’s our democracy, it’s our processes. And for one person, a journalist or human rights activist to think that we sit there and dictate what Rwandans should do, I don’t think I agree with that.” Should anyone say more?

And really, what is the basis for the accusations? It is the alleged denial of political space to the so-called opposition political parties and muzzling the media.

Who are these parties? There is P S Imberakuri. This one has so much space that they do not know what to do with it, except fight among themselves.

The party has been faction-riven from inception. It cannot exercise democracy even in its own house. Its leadership is intolerant of dissent. It has no existence outside its headquarters.

Then there is F DU-Inkingi which does not even exist yet, except in the mind and calculations of its founder, Victoire Ingabire.

Next comes the Green Party, described by The Economist as “feisty”. Really? Except, of course, if they meant the second meaning of the word. I would have no quarrel with that. The majority of Rwandans have never heard of the party!

All these owe their existence to their foreign constituencies and propagandists disguised as defenders of human rights.

I  have been intrigued by the “I” in the parties’ names. Is it an imitation of RPF-Inkotanyi? If it is it is a poor one and shows a lack of imagination.

I will return to the issue of the media next week.
For the moment it is clear that those who still think that they can turn the clock back and return to flogging as an instrument of power and control must realise that it can cut both ways.

The victims of flogging have their own, morally effective, whipping rods and they are not shy to use them.