For 11 years the former Prime Minister Pierre Celestine Rwigema was living in Uncle Sam’s land, having fled this country in the year 2000.
Just like 1994, the year 2000 is significant in the history of this country given the dramatic political events that unfolded. At the time, Rwanda’s political landscape was still fragile. State machinery was beginning to have a sense of direction and life was steadily taking shape.
But amidst this, was also a stream of defections in almost all spheres of governance led by some at the top of the leadership ladder. With no tea or coffee on our export menu, the substitution was a self-exportation of sitting Ministers, Speakers, Prime Ministers or Deputies and to crown it all, came the vote of no confidence in the then President.
Commentators, political pundits and those in the race of defection, pointed to a dark cloud hanging over the nation of Rwanda. To them, the RPF led government was remaining with a matter of days for its demise and running away was another way of weakening it.
Things were not made better given the remnant extremist forces that kept infiltrating from the DRC and causing significant incidences of instability adding to the general hostile neighborhood at the time.
The external drum-beat had one rhythm; Rwanda is increasingly becoming intolerant and a den for political persecution and summary killings.
Fast forward, we begin to see a shift in the hearts and minds of some individuals that left at the time they were most needed.
Incidentally, this started a long time ago. It started with former Premier Faustin Twagiramungu who made all sorts of venomous accusations when left and continues to-date. When the 2003 Presidential polls came, this old man, obsessed with western capitals, returned with no hindrance to stand.
He enjoyed all the privileges accorded to Presidential candidates including 24hr security, free vehicles and equal access to public media.
After a miserable loss, the airport gates were still open. And one would ask; if persecution is the prescription of this government, why was Twagiramungu confident of returning to campaign and later left to head back scot-free?
There’s former Agriculture Minister Patrick Habamenshi, a one-time first rising star within the RPF. He fled, was in bed with Rwanda’s detractors but when his father passed on, he returned to bury him and later re-exported himself into exile.
The list is long and includes FDLR combatants, some now occupying very senior government positions. It includes the likes of Maj. Ntashamaje who returned recently and includes the late Lt. Abdul Ruzibiza who died after retracting his fabrications on the Habyariamana story and confessing his desire to return home and make a formal apology to the Rwandan people.
And now today, the talk is about the return of former Premier Pierre Celestin Rwigema. Upon his return he said “---anyone following Rwanda’s revolution would wish to be part of it---seeing what has been in Rwanda, President Kagame’s efforts deserve our support and am ready to support him.”
Very few people in this world can be as bold as Rwigema. How many among us can own up to our mistakes and have the heart of extending an olive branch? Like Shakespeare once said, brevity is the soul of wit and so has Rwigema shown us. He’s decision should not be read as a sign of desperation but rather a valiant attribute that many of us lack.
The biggest lesson we also learn is a confirmation of how bankrupt these theories on Rwanda and political persecution chorused by many in the west have become. If this country is indeed marred by political intolerance and brutalism, why would such a man return?
Wouldn’t Rwigema be a case for Ndera if he woke up to return to a police state or a country where political killings are a daily menu like some cynics have tried to convince the world?
The other lesson we pick from the return of Rwigema et al, is the beginning of the harvest of fruits of political tolerance that Rwanda has been sowing since 1994. Founded on the pillars of power sharing, consensus building and inclusiveness, this tolerance has won many hearts and is building confidence in even some earlier sworn enemies of this government.
In other words, because government has stuck to these principles and has implemented them to the letter, it wouldn’t be senile to conclude that the majority, especially within the opposing circles are only waking up to appreciate these values and the dividends they offer.
What many of us also need to understand is that any nation emerging out of a liberation struggle like Rwanda, will certainly reach a moment when some of its own fall off the cliff.
For various reasons including selfish interests or ideological differences or corrupt tendencies, the environment of nation building becomes difficult to keep everyone under one roof.
In other words, Nation building phase is a litmus test for integrity, accountability, dignity and commitment to the cause.
Those who cannot live to these expectations end up in an abyss. Few like Rwigema are able to pull themselves out of this ditch.