It is baffling how Prof. Susan Thomson, claiming to have been researching on state-society relations in Rwanda since 1996 could unhesitatingly predict that “without ‘meaningful change’, the country could be headed for another round of mass political violence!”
Prof. Susan’s article “Rwanda’s sham election” posted on BayView on July 25, 2010 doesn’t in any way show how she arrived at such a conclusion.
From the start, Ms Susan talks of “Ethnic Hutu who killed at least 500,000 ethnic Tutsi”. Although genocide is not about numbers, one wonders why an informed researcher on Rwanda eagerly sticks to a stereotyped figure while she must be well aware that there have been more than one million documented Tutsi killed. Refer to (Ministry of Local Government census report of 2001, National Institute of Statistics 2007, 2008 AERG report)
But Ms Susan’s statements throughout the article try to portray a bleak situation in Rwanda in such a manner that she could reach her preconceived conclusion that “RPF politics could return the country to the abyss of 1994”, even if she acknowledges that it emerged victorious and gained credit for ending the 1994 genocide.
“Over the last 16 years, the RPF has centralized power into a one-man dictatorship. A tiny English-speaking Tutsi elite, most of whom grew up as refugees in neighboring Uganda, surrounds the dictator, Paul Kagame, Ms Thomson states.
I would like to inform Ms Susan and others with the same line of thinking of a few facts, which i hope will provide a clear perspective different from what is provided by anonymous individuals. RPF liberation struggle attracted Rwandan refugees from various countries where they had taken refuge; they came from Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania, Kenya and elsewhere in Europe and Americas.
For the liberation struggle to have originated from Uganda is just due to historical reasons, whereby some Rwandans fought alongside Ugandans in their past liberation struggles.
The Rwandan constitution provides for power sharing, and the real framework for political activities. In its Article 2 states that “All the power derives from the people. No group of people or individual can vest in themselves the exercise of power”. Article 58 stipulates that “The President of the Republic and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies shall belong to different political organizations”.
Article 56 provides that “Without prejudice to the independence of each political organization and their collaboration, political organizations officially recognized in Rwanda shall organize themselves in a consultative forum.
The forum is mainly responsible for facilitating exchange of ideas by political organizations on major issues facing the country; consolidating national unity; advising on national policy; acting as mediators in conflicts arising between political organizations; assisting in resolving internal conflicts within a political organization upon request by that political organization.
The forum’s decisions shall always be taken by the consensus of the constituent organizations. In such a context, it would rather be difficult, even if one wanted to, to establish a “one-man dictatorship” as Ms Thomson alleges.
She continues that “The politics of exclusion that marked the pre-genocide years remains intact despite the official policy of ethnic unity. The Hutu community, making up some 85 per cent of the population, is largely excluded from most positions of power…”
Although i will not accept to be dragged into such backward ethnic politics and discuss the colonial-time percentages between Hutu and Tutsi, Ms Susan should know that, the above mentioned constitutional provisions are inspired by the will to create broad-based institutions (in government and parliament), not only considering the Hutu-Tutsi-Twa fabricated ethnic distinctions, but also the women, the youth, the disabled etc…
In a research carried out by the Rwanda Senate in 2007, it was revealed that, although genocide ideology was still prevalent in Rwanda, the national army and the Unity and reconciliation commission were highly saluted by the people of Rwanda for pioneering the cause of unity and reconciliation. The quest for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans has been going on for years and the achievements so far are impressive, but ill intended people continue to view Rwandans through ethnic lenses.
As Minister Louise Mushikiwabo highlighted at THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES on July 20, “by and large, Rwanda is a country where a lot of people are proud to be and a lot of people feel that for the first time in their history, they have a sense of belonging, where most people feel that the country has responded to their aspirations as normal citizens, especially in light of the life of the refugee that so many Rwandans have lived, the system of discrimination that has marked Rwanda since independence and a certain level of isolation that Rwanda has had from the independence from Belgium all the way to the mid-’90s.
The incidents Ms Susan as well as other media reports refer to, “arrests of journalists and opposition politicians, the closing of independent local newspapers, an assassination attempt against exiled Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, the murder of journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, and the murder of Andre Kagwa Rwisereka…” when bundled up in this way, it is true they give an impression of insecurity, but what should be noted is that all these cases are being investigated one by one. The two news papers editors of suspended Umuseso and Umuvugizi run away to evade justice as they have different cases in the Rwandan courts to answer.
Umuseso’s editor Charles Kabonero tried several times to acquire visas to US and Canada but his application was rejected because he lied to immigration officers, alleging persecution in Rwanda, when he was actually running away from justice. Regarding the case of Umurabyo Editor, Would Ms Susan want the Rwandan laws to be compromised where for example someone insults the president of the republic comparing him with Hitler (Umurabyo issue 29 page 4)
To remind our dear readers, as much as the Rwanda government is determined to respect press freedom, but there are also laws in place to be taken into account. According to the new list released by Media High Council on 28 July 2010 so far 18 radios, one TV and 22 news papers are the accepted media organs in Rwanda after fulfilling all the requirements as required by the media law. Among other things, all media organisations were required to submit several documents including an operating business licence and CVs of senior staff.
The practice was launched with the coming into force of the new media law in August 2009.
Ms Susan Thomson to sustain that “The government requires rural farmers to grow coffee and tea instead of the crops needed to feed their families. A new land policy has decreased peasant holdings to less than a half-acre.
This means that few families are able to grow enough to subsist, let alone take any excess to market” clearly this is a biased research, because the Rwanda National Bank 2010 quarterly report on the crops production provides a different perspective from her research.
Indeed, the report reveals that “Rwanda’s national food crop output climbed by 6.2 percent in the fist three months of 2010 from the same period last year, making the country more food secure.
The report says that overall production in cereals increased by 25.15 percent, mainly occasioned by the growth in maize and wheat production.
The total production of roots and tubers experienced better performances with17.39 percent rise mainly attributed to Irish potatoes, and cassava whose production increased by 25.84 percent and 20 percent respectively,” the report said.
The recent high output in agriculture has led to the fall in food prices and has also been central to the low inflationary pressures. The agriculture sector, which directly or indirectly employs more than 80 percent of the households in Rwanda, grew by 10.4 percent last year compared to 8.7 percent in the previous year.”
Rwandans have a clear view of what is good for them and hereafter are some of their comments to TNT of July 27, 2010: “I will vote for Kagame for his effective leadership.
He has constructed houses for us; I personally got a free house from Kagame’s leadership. I am sure he has to win the elections because he has laid a firm foundation for his campaign and he has proved that he delivers. John Rushigajiki, 51, potter.
Kagame has protected us from wars and hunger, he has given us cows, he built schools and our children are now attending schools. I am really very appreciative and there is nothing more I can ask other than consolidating what we have achieved so far. I will have to vote for him! Angelina Mukagatare, 60, farmer.
He has brought development, I have witnessed people prosper. I am an old woman, and all I am asking from fellow Rwandans is to keep him in power. He is an honest and patriotic man. He is a leader who treats his people equally with no discrimination.
I have always prayed for him and will always do. He has not disappointed me and he has not betrayed his country and his people. He is the only man who deserves to lead this country. Teresa Nyirabitari, 71, retired
He brought hospitals, schools and infrastructure in our area, all residents are now benefiting from Mutuelle de Sante (Universal Medical Insurance) and he has modernised the agricultural systems. We would only request him to construct for us the Ngororero-Rusebeya –Mungoti road and I am sure we don’t need to request him because he will do it. Augustin Turaturanye, 41, Casual Labourer.
So Ms Susan Thomson, what do you say about this?