It has been said, “If you do not ask the right questions, every answer seems wrong.” And I would add; when one’s motives are wrong, one’s behaviour towards others, however offensive and shameful, always seems or is assumed to be right to oneself.
There is probably no better way to describe the deliberate onslaught by some human rights organisations and mainstream media against Rwanda especially in the run up to the August 2010 presidential election to the post-election coverage, and recently, the draft UN mapping exercise report on the DR Congo.
The untold story
Even from among Rwanda’s most vocal critics, no one disputes that Rwanda’s intervention in the DR Congo in October 1996 was in accordance with international law regarding the obligation to act in self-defense. In the same vein, the conduct of the Rwandan military in the DRC operation is well known.
It is on record how the Rwandan forces bravely acted to create safe corridors to free approximately 2,000,000 refugees taken hostage by the ex-FAR, militias and genocide perpetrators in refugee camps then turned UN-supported military recruitment, training and arming bases.
The facts about how the Rwandan military successfully repatriated millions of refugees, whilst the fighters in camps used them as human shields, are also indisputable.
Yet, Rwanda’s ‘altruist’ rights advocates and ‘experts’ will not tell the principal elements of the entire story. They will not talk about the failure of the UN Security Council to protect innocent civilians killed in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, the starting of which ended the prospects of a peaceful end to the conflict that had been painstakingly negotiated in Arusha, Tanzania.
They will not talk about how the Rwanda Patriotic Army which at the time singlehandedly fought to stop the genocide, saved lives and arrested hundreds of thousands of killers to await trial, even where they were arrested while in action. They do not want the world to know that there were isolated cases where some Rwandan military officers or men were involved in certain crimes during the war and that these were actually prosecuted and indeed sentenced for those crimes, simply because Rwanda and its armed forces do not condone violence and crime.
They will not mention the complicity of the Security Council in authorising France to intervene in western Rwanda – a mission that to all intents and purposes enabled the genocide perpetrators to flee justice and helped to direct millions of refugees to leave the country.
They will not want to talk about the UN’s failure to meet its international obligations regarding the handling of refugees on borders and their disarmament. They would prefer to conceal the moral and legal failures for which the UN ought to be prosecuted in the first place.
It is those same refugees whom the UN now struggles to mislead the world that the Rwandan army may have committed crimes against including a possible genocide. By ignoring not only the facts but also the context of the whole situation, the United Nations decided to collaborate exclusively with non-state actors especially those who constantly attack Rwanda’s domestic policy.
There is enough evidence to suggest that the authors of the UN mapping exercise report on the DRC may have worked with Amnesty International and other such groups and their trademark practice of using facts selectively in their work on Rwanda is beginning to emerge.
The arbitrary action of the LDGL rights group in forwarding a ‘damning report’ to the UN Human Rights Council without the consent of some of its core member organisations is a case in point, although this is just the tip of the iceberg.
And now the ‘benevolent’ advocates of Rwanda with ‘extensive expertise’ on the country for 2, 4, 7, 10 or so years – depending on how they prefer to expand (or inflate?) and justify their CVs, are weighing in with an assessment of the impact of their ‘good work’ on Rwanda.
They are now suggesting to the world that the legitimacy of the Rwandan government has been undermined. Now, back in high school, this would be typical of what we used to call “dancing to your own tunes,” and it is similar to an even richer phrase in my native language, “kwikirigita ugaseka.”
Questioning legitimacy: ‘experts’ or the electorate?
Regardless of the nature of the facts about each issue raised by the critics whether in good faith or just out of ignorance; in spite of the official position as well as established practice of the government and its institutions, Rwanda’s detractors have sought to highhandedly question the country’s electoral system, it’s constitutional provisions on multiparty politics and some of its official laws particularly the genocide ideology and sectarianism laws.
Since these so-called non-governmental human rights organisations and mainstream media are not always as clever as they probably think they are or would want the selected victims of their attacks and their other audiences to believe, they are now openly, and of course maliciously, questioning the legitimacy of the Rwandan government. Thus, they cannot hide their true motives long enough; they betray their presumed subtlety.
For months they have fought tooth and nail to misrepresent the country and they are now suggesting or rather wishing that Rwanda’s and President Paul Kagame’s legitimacy has somehow been undermined – never mind the fact that his popular approval was overwhelmingly renewed in the general elections less than two months ago.
What kind of short memory could that possibly be? Yet one would have expected that the obligation to link conclusions to credible premises – effect to cause, is the basic principle of literacy in any culture and civilisation.
Even as Rwandans themselves know it would perhaps be good for Hollywood amateurs, the critics believe that the image of their fictional version of realities in and about Rwanda has been painted vividly enough and presented to the unsuspecting world audience, and that that image should now be sold to major western capitals that have important development cooperation with Rwanda.
Well, with no intentions to disappoint the united detractors of Rwanda in their agenda, it is my opinion that President Kagame’s legitimacy as well as that of his government cannot just be wished away. In addition to renewed popular legitimacy, he and his government also enjoy procedural legitimacy due to strict adherence to the rule of law, high level of accountability and reputation for zero tolerance on corruption that has led to a negligible level of corruption of the corrupt according to Transparency International.
Moreover, and perhaps the most important aspect of all, President Paul Kagame and his government enjoy a high degree of substantive legitimacy and credibility. From incredible reconstruction to the steady path of sustainable growth and socio-economic development, his government’s record of delivery on all policy fronts is something for which no expert is needed to explain.
It is an exciting turn that has caught the keen attention of the wider world. It is an approach with innovative approaches of social change in a complex post-genocide setting in which the homogeneity of the nation has been a challenge never before witnessed anywhere in history.
Rwandans are in no competition with anyone and nobody should feel challenged or threatened by their modest and innovative ways of advancing their society. Other than pouring out unwarranted criticism, serious experts ought to give honest criticism and feedback about the country, and serious researchers might soon need to use the Rwandan experience to update some of the development models.
As for the united detractors of Rwanda, it appears that they can only ignore the country’s history and context – past and present, if they are seeking pretexts for pursuing unspecified interests.
The author is a Graduate student of International Development Wageningen University – The Netherlands