The season is here. That season in anticipation of which Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) have been salivating. As happens every year, the government of Rwanda has been pronounced guilty without trial. And the offence is the same as that of last year, just as it will be the offence of next year: human rights abuse. It is déjà-vu. And, for sure, it is ‘à-voir-toujours’.
But what can characters who were born and bred in the world of plenty know about the human rights of a Rwandan? Leave alone the fact of their pronouncing the verdict of guilty without checking out their object of scorn (Rwanda).
Even when they come here, what can they see from the air-conditioned comfort of a hotel room, or from a touristic cruise of a four-wheel drive? Nil, until they remember to live out the daily drudgery of a Rwandan’s life.
A villager like me, what right do I want? I want to till my land in peace and harvest enough to feed my family.
Yet, I am bothered that while I am tilling, red ants may invade my home-stead. I’m bothered because the mother of my kids might get the false wisdom that she can combat them with fire, forgetting that a spark may set our ‘nyakatsi’ (grass-thatched house) on fire. In short, I want my rights to security and to decent habitation.
But I want more. I want my kids to be healthy and grow to adulthood. For that, they need to get a balanced diet and access to health services.
My family should be shown how to plant crops that provide that balanced diet.
I need to be assisted to get a ‘Girinka’ cow that gives me milk to supplement that diet.
A health facility should be put within my reach and I should be enabled to afford the services it provides. Those are my rights.
Still, I want more. I want my children to grow and be equal to any human being on this earth. They must get an education that is equal to the best in the world.
I want free education when I cannot afford it but also want to be empowered to afford it, especially where my government cannot for now, like education after the first 12 years.
I want my children, as adults, to be able to compete in the global employment market and even create employment.
I want clean water and easy access to it. I want good roads on which to travel and transport my goods. I don’t want only decent habitation but habitation that has electricity and even, in the end, running water in the house.
I want technology that my children can use to educate and empower me. Yes, I want fibre-optic connection for all my fellow Rwandans.
I want all these and more and I want to enjoy them in peace and tranquillity together with all my fellow Rwandans and live cordially with each and every compatriot.
And, you know what? I am getting them all and many more that I’m unable to enumerate here. Yet again I want more and I know I’ll get them.
Most importantly, however, I want a government that guards these rights jealously. That is my right and I’m getting it.
I don’t want a government that heeds the advice of some foreign know-alls like HRW and AI who can’t even tell a good neighbour from a bad. I want a government that allows political dissent and freedom of speech, which are nonetheless not aimed at disrupting my rights.
I know where I and my fellow Rwandans have been, for listening to foreign voices that encouraged that.
They say the Gacaca court system had flaws? May be it had. But, if it were not for it, would my compatriots be living together in a near-harmonious way again, as is evident today?
Out of the millions of genocide perpetrators, a measly 58 would have been tried so far, if we are to go by the numbers of the UN classical court system.
It is my right to have programmes that quickly resolve my differences with my compatriots and that bring us together as a reunited family.
They say the law on genocide ideology is vague? Of course it is vague to you, just as that genocide ideology itself is vague to you.
Even as that ideology reached its climax on hate radios and in newspapers, did you know it was playing out? When it burst out and splashed genocide blood on the world, did you see it as genocide? Didn’t you call it “inter-ethnic conflict”?
Yet to Rwandans, victim and perpetrator, the genocide ideology was as crystal-clear as the genocide it begat.
When a Rwandan calls on other Rwandans to go “to work”, which foreign human rights activist can get the double-entente? Depending on the context, hasn’t it ever meant a call to commit genocide?
And the context, repeat context, is the centrepiece premise whose significance these activists are blind to. But for their sharp awareness of the import of the context, Rwandans would not see the clarity of the law on genocide either.
For not understanding the context of all the actions of the Rwandan government, AI and HRW are destined to always be on a collision course with Rwanda. As someone said here, if I were Rwanda, I’d opt for a once-and-for-all divorce with HRW and AI.
But then again, did anybody ask for their hand in marriage, in the first place?