Rwanda’s experience : Lessons for Zimbabwe’s transition

Two events of political importance yesterday; Rwanda’s second national parliamentary elections and the historic signing of Zimbabwe’s power sharing deal. I am somehow involved in both.

Two events of political importance yesterday; Rwanda’s second national parliamentary elections and the historic signing of Zimbabwe’s power sharing deal. I am somehow involved in both.

As an exiled Zimbabwean now working in Kigali and having been involved as a liberator in the long and tortuous road to Zimbabwe’s freedom.

The world yesterday witnessed the power sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and Movement for Democratic Change’s, (MDC), Prime-minister Morgan Tsvangirai; with the third party being the smaller faction of the MDC, led by professor Arthur Mutambara.

As I write many of us are awestruck, we are not sure if this is it. Is the deal that will make me call MDC party President Tsvangirai, Mr Prime-minister, when I next meet him – for real? Too good to be true! When all hope was gone. For exiles we watch with caution.

When freedom seemed so far away, when home for the more than three million of us exiles had found a new definition. We are home as I write. In eight years millions fled the country, many have since married (other nationalities even), found stable jobs professional Zimbabweans are doing wonders in all fields world-wide, children are in school.

And so in interacting with fellow exiles, our immediate concern is what the next step is. My moment of tears was when Prime-minister Tsvangirai spoke of the painful compromise: “The agreement we signed today is the product of painful compromise. It does not provide an instant cure. The road ahead will be long. Patience is a virture.”

And yes again many of us in exile and at home have been victims of the Mugabe regimes tyranny, many are victims recorded from the early days of the MDC formation in 2000, to victims of the recent wave of political violence. Our cadres who after the March elections braved the crocodiles in the Limpompo in search for safety.

Do we not know the story of the Kauzani brothers? Many to whom a deal means nothing if it rewards the perpetrators of the violence visited upon them and their families over the years.

Today the surviving brother Ishael, sits with others, widow Mrs Tandare (Gift Tandare assassinated March 11 2007), Susan Matsunga, Remember Moyo, Sox Chikohwero, need I mention more? We are many.

The silence with which our scars, our trauma have been treated in these talks worries us. Putting a bigger burden on the MDC leadership under Tsvangirai’s, to deliver justice to us. Mugabe’s speech makes me even more skeptical that he is ready to reform at all.

In fact the moment of joy almost turned sad, bursting that momentary bubble just by his failure to call Tsvangirai Prime minister. That is why I said the two events Rwanda’s elections and the recent events in Zimbabwe for me carry an importance.

Rwanda’s story of patience and leadership stamina resonates quite well with what we are about to go through. The framework for Rwanda differed though because it was not based on impunity for perpetrators of justice rather it was based on healing and juctice; thus the establishment of the Arusha based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the local traditional Gacaca courts.

Issues absent in the Zimbabwe transitional discourse to do with national integration and reconciliation, internal displacement and  justice. While the speeches by the three men often struck a raw nerve I could not avoid a hollow feeling that the road ahead is not going to be an easy one, for Zimbabwe’s democrats.  

Rwanda holds her second national parliamentary elections after the 1994 genocide. The political consensus and the peace and transparency under which these elections have been held is indicative of a stable political environment. Coming out of what they came out Rwandans have refused the path of mediocrity and failure.

Just witnessing the record high numbers of international observers from all major institutions; COMESA, E.U, Commonwealth and thousands of local ones, tells you the country has come of age.

A challenge for Zimbabwe’s leadership as the conduct of elections remains controversial. And so yes taking the call by Prime-minister Tsvangirai again: “Safety must be restored to our community, our state institutions must serve the people. Our lives begin now. Let us not be divided by our past, but be united by hope for the future.”

All this takes a leadership that says no to cronyism, patronage, and the rot that has been at the helm of economic and political governance.

I spoke to Zimbabwean human rights activist, lawyer Brian kagoro last night. I said to him my Rwandan inspiration is in a leadership that puts a past behind and decides to craft a new future and they do it.

It takes that leadership tenacity, to overcome the trappings of power, the temptations of a good life at the expense of a suffering citizenry. It takes more than just words on paper.

Mugabe showed us he is does not belong to this generations leadership, his memories of Nyerere, Khama (snr), and the liberation struggle only make me say to him, sir work on a smooth exist. The ball is now in the MDC Tsvangirai court to deliver for Zimbabweans. Our scars were not in vain.


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