Onyango – Obbo got it all wrong on Rwanda

In his article, « There is something rotten in the state of Rwanda », The East African, April 26 – May 2, 2010, Charles Onyango Obbo portrays a rather bleak picture of Rwanda, and it is evident that his opinion is far removed from the reality in the country.

In his article, « There is something rotten in the state of Rwanda », The East African, April 26 – May 2, 2010, Charles Onyango Obbo portrays a rather bleak picture of Rwanda, and it is evident that his opinion is far removed from the reality in the country.

Mr. Obbo argues that Rwanda being “easily Africa’s most efficient state”, the kind of sporadic grenade explosions that have gone off in Kigali point to something unsettling that should not be happening in such a well organized system.

However, the critical point that the author misses here, is that if it wasn’t for that “efficiency” he refers to, given that Rwanda was written off sixteen years ago as a failed state, it would by now be experiencing much more than the occasional grenade explosions, which incidentally have been contained.

I am sure Mr. Obbo is conversant with certain Western cities where gun fights and explosions are matter of routine. Countries with massive budgets and the most sophisticated security systems in the world have regularly been victims of more deadly attacks than the grenades in Kigali. Rwanda went to hell and back sixteen years ago and the fact that it is now one of the safest places is the world is something to celebrate.

The government has long had an uncompromising policy against corruption and strict adherence to the rule of law – and that translates into a state where no one is above the law.

Today, there are former senior government officials including ministers, members of parliament as well as ex-heads of state companies serving a range of prison terms for corruption-related crimes.

When Theoneste Mutsindashyaka and Prof. Munyanganizi Bikoro, former Minister of State for Education and former Minister of State in charge of Mining, respectively, were arrested prosecuted and handed jail terms, the Rwandan public accustomed to the zero tolerance policy with regard to corruption did not find anything out of the ordinary.

Bringing generals to account for their crimes, therefore, be it on corruption charges or indeed immoral behavior, should not be treated as a sign that something is terribly wrong with the state of Rwanda. Indeed, Charles Onyango-Obbo in his February 10th, 2010 article, in The Daily Nation, Rwanda Rebel Hero Vs South Africa’s Polygamist-in-Chief, complements President Paul Kagame for allegedly reigning in purported philandering government ministers.

He writes that “a close political ally of President Paul Kagame was having an affair with a senior female political official…. Kagame summoned the female official.…He admonished the woman.

The cheating minister and official were both demoted.  In Rwanda there is less a need by RPF to prove its masculinity, because it showed it on the field-against a Goliathic opponent.

That is why Kagame who emerged from the bush as a heroic leader can punish philandering ministers, while Zuma feels a need to be Africa’s polygamist-in-Chief”. 

Though, I must say, Mr. Obbo’s article was based on a false story out of Rwanda’s tabloids, one would wonder why he thinks this time things are getting out of control, because a general has been charged on the basis of his immoral conduct.

The two Kinyarwanda language newspapers that were suspended had evidently crossed the line and for anyone who spoke the language, the publications were dangerously going the RTLM – Kangura way.

There are many people, Rwandan and foreign, who continue to regret the fact that RTLM continued to broadcast genocidal programs without anyone putting it to an end.

Some of the foreign powers, who had the means to jam the station and chose not to, have publicly regretted their inaction and declared that they would never repeat the same mistake. One thing the Rwandan people have learnt is to never sit back and wait to express their regret when it is too late.

Rwanda, and indeed the broader international community, has been calling on countries hosting FDLR leaders to arrest and have them prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

Indeed some European countries have complied and have arrested top FDLR leaders, including Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni, FDLR President and Vice President respectively. The two are currently in prison in Germany, awaiting trial.

Victoire Ingabire, was in November last year, listed among the Rwandan politicians actively working with FDLR, by a United Nations Panel of Experts. Rwanda’s Prosecutor General has submitted incontrovertible evidence in court showing Ms Ingabire’s financial support and membership to the FDLR.

The question is; what moral authority would the Government of Rwanda have to exert pressure on foreign governments to arrest FDLR leaders and their members, if it had not arrested Victoire Ingabire, one of the prominent leaders of the outfit?

Why should Germany keep Murwanashyaka and Musoni in prison, if the country – Rwanda in this case - calling for their arrest and prosecution, cannot apprehend prominent suspects on its own territory?

Failure to arrest Ingabire would not only constitute double standards, on the part of the government of Rwanda, but would also serve to undermine its own case against the FDLR and its leaders.

With regard to the charges of hate and Genocide denial levelled against Victoire Ingabire, nothing demonstrates the duplicity and double standards on the part of the West than, this particular aspect of her case.

As it turns out, there are about 15 European countries with laws against hate and Genocide denial on their statute books. Indeed in Holland, a country that has hosted Ms Ingabire for the last decade or so, and which seems to exhibiting more than casual interest in her case, courts treat denial of the Holocaust as a form of spreading hatred, and it is punishable by prison term.

Mr. Onyango Obbo points out that Ingabire was charged for “allegedly using the ethnic baiting tactics that led to the 1994 slaughter”. If she had made similar remarks in relation to the Holocaust, Holland would be bound by law to arrest and prosecute her.

Ms. Ingabire was granted bail by Rwandan courts, one day after the charges were read to her. Whether she is guilty as charged or not, will be decided by the courts.

However, it becomes problematic when governments like the Netherlands which have similar laws pertaining to hate and Genocide denial start questioning Rwanda’s decision to apply the law.

As for the efficiency the government of Rwanda doesn’t have to convince anyone, the story of the last sixteen years tells it all.


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