In the July/August 2010 issue of the Foreign Policy Magazine, George B.N Ayittey alleged that the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) dominates all levels of power including the security forces; civil service the judiciary, universities and other state corporations.
His publication also named President Kagame among what he calls the “worst of the worst leaders” (dictators). Reading the magazine one wonders whether George Ayittey had any facts to back up his flippant and preposterous labeling of President Kagame.
Since it came to power in 1994, the RPF has never attempted to monopolize political power, the very first government formed immediately after the genocide was an inclusive one.
Apart from including all ethnic groups in the cabinet, RPF also accommodated all political parties that had not participated in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
These included the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Rwanda Socialist Party (PSR), Liberal Party (PL), Democratic Union of the Rwandan People (UDPR), Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), Ideal Democratic Party (PDI) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC).
The Rwandan constitution of 2003 that marked the end of the transition is an inclusive one; the political party holding the majority of seats in the chamber of deputies may not exceed 50% of all members of the cabinet (Article 116). In addition to this, the President, Prime Minister, President of the Senate, Speaker of Parliament must come from different political parties.
The constitution does not only ensure inclusiveness in terms of political parties but also social groups like the women, youth and the disabled. In this sense, the constitution provides that women should occupy at least 30% in all decision making organs. Due to this provision, the Rwandan parliament today has the highest percentage of women parliamentarians in the whole world (56%). The youth and the disabled also have a representative in the parliament.
The security sector which was dominated by Rwandan refugees due to historical factors has transformed over the years and is no longer dominated by the RPF-RPA elements and thus the change of name from Rwandan Patriotic Army to Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF).
The RDF has politicized, re-trained and absorbed officers and men from the ex-FAR (former government forces). For example, over 15,000 ex-FAR have already been integrated in the RDF. Recruits are drawn from all parts of the country and all ethnic groups unlike in the past when recruits were supposed to come from the Northern part of the country.
In the Civil Service, the government has put in place various programs, mechanisms, processes and institutions to make sure that recruitment into government employment is done on merit alone.
The Public Service Commission has been put in place to handle all recruitments into public offices. In the process of recruitment every public institution advertises the available job opportunities through the commission, which is charged with the over-seeing the examination of applicants wanting to join the civil service. In most cases, the exams are prepared by consultants or University lecturers.
The principle in recruiting government employees is that a qualifying candidate should get above 70% in the exams. The same process is employed in the awarding of scholarships to study at home and abroad where selections are based on merit rather than political affiliation.
While George B.N Ayittey alleges that the RPF dominates the education sector as part of the civil service, he seems to be ignorant of the fact that tertiary education is contrary dominated by foreign lecturers and professors some of whom head these institutions. Almost all of the five public universities in Rwanda are headed by foreigners.
Most of the university lecturers in both public and private universities in Rwanda come from foreign countries, mainly India and the neighboring states like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It is important to remember that with the end of the genocide most of the lecturers were either murdered or had fled the country.
Ayittey also alleged that those who challenge the President are accused of being hatemongers or divisionist and arrested. The most pressing issue that the government had to deal with upon assuming office in 1994 was not only the question of accountability for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law which had been committed between 1990 and 1994 but also to ensure that the genocide does not take place again.
It was not enough just to say “never again” to the genocide without taking concrete preventive measures. Avoiding the repeat of the 1994 situation, the Government of Rwanda decided from the very beginning to deal with the issue of accountability for genocide perpetrators within the framework of the rule of law, believing that only the rule of law; would help to heal the bitter divisions within our society and ensure peace, democracy and respect for human rights which the Rwandan people had for so long been deprived of.
It is a fact that divisionists and deniers of the Tutsi genocide do exist mainly among Rwandans and none Rwandans associated with the old genocide regimes and it’s the responsibility of the government to ensure that such elements are legally dealt with to avoid a repeat of a situation similar to that of 1994.
The problem with most developing countries is that politicians tend to look for political power and influence using ethnicity and this has always been at the core of many African conflicts in the past decades. In Rwanda, there are still some politicians who hope that they can use the ethnic identity sentiments to access political power.
This does not mean that Africa does not have good leaders. Indeed Africa has witnessed some of the best leaders in the world; take an example of Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Nkwame Nkhuruma and others who had great love for their people and Africa as whole. President Kagame should be seen in that light, a leader with a big vision for both Rwanda and the continent.
Saying that critics of President Kagame are always accused of divisionism is thus ill intentioned. It is true that some politicians have been accused of genocide ideology, but it is of no surprise a politician can be accused of genocide.
After all, it is politicians who develop ideology and work towards teaching that ideology to their supporters. Should being a critic of the government give politicians a green card to break the law? It is the responsibility of the government to protect its population from any threat, genocide ideology not exceptional of course, the latter being a national security threat.
Let us take an example of INGABIRE Victoire who has been of late cited by the international media as an example to justify that the government is accusing its critics of divisionism. Ingabire’s link to the FDLR is well known and has been cited in a 2009 UN report on FDLR/ex-FAR Interahamwe (Rwandan rebels in DR.Congo).
Her ideology, as evidenced by her speeches both prior and after her arrival in Rwanda in 2010 is reminiscent of genocide denial and sympathy for the perpetrators of genocide. Her intention is to attain political power in Rwanda through mobilization of ethnic divisions by hoodwinking the international community as a democrat fighting “dictatorship” in Rwanda.
Generally, it would be difficult to make a good analysis of the Rwandan situation without basing on where the country is coming from 16 years down the road.
The problem arises that analysts like George B.N Ayittey mislead the world by focusing on isolated incidents and basing on the present without looking back into Rwandan history and in the process they make poor judgement about Rwanda.
There is no way Rwanda would have made both political and socio-economic achievements if the people were under an oppressive regime. Some of these achievements include the following:
The government has put in place an effective health policy which requires every citizen to have subscription to a health insurance. Today, the overall percentage of people insured is 91%. As a result of this policy, Child mortality rate has fallen from 86 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 62 per 1,000 in 2008. Maternal mortality has also dropped from more than 1,071 deaths per 100,000 live births between 1995 and 2000 to 600. Life expectancy has also gone up to 50 years from 42years, ten years ago.
In education sector, the government has done a lot. With the Universal Primary Education, net enrolment rate in primary schools is now at 96%, according to 2009 statistics.
The Number of higher learning institutions has increased from 1 to 20 and University graduates from 2,160 in 1994 to 44,000 in 2009. With such policies, Rwanda has witnessed a real GDP growth throughout the past years.
For example, real GDP growth in Rwanda was 7.95, 11.2% and 5.5% in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively and there is a target of 8% in 2010. Such achievements cannot be realized if the people are oppressed by a dictatorship.
The government of Rwanda is not perfect in all ways, it has some challenges but all governments have challenges. The contestation of the 2000 elections in the US is an example. Also crime is very high in the inner cities of the US. That though can not qualify US leaders to be dictators.
In conclusion therefore, the foreign governments and media should give chance to Rwandans to rebuild their shattered lives after decades of bad leadership and genocide. Let Rwandans decide who their leaders should be. The fate of Rwandans will not be left to self-appointed opposition leaders, supported by their lobbies in western capitals.
Rwandans inside the country have more stake in what is happening, because they live in Rwanda and they appreciate President Kagame’s effort to modernize the country.
George Ayittey and others should come down to Rwanda, and interact with Rwandans before he makes his far-fetched conclusions.