Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch

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Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Eleneus Akanga: Rwanda: Heavy hand of guided democracy

Eleneus Akanga: Rwanda: Heavy hand of guided democracy

By Eleneus Akanga


He has been hailed by the West as an outstanding leader and has amassed testimonials from fans around the world for his economic policies and for getting his country back on track following the horrendous genocide 16 years ago. But as Rwanda prepares for its second presidential election since the genocide, former hero President Paul Kagame seems to be turning into a permanent dictator, sustained by massive foreign aid: He registered as a candidate June 22, with no credible opposition for the Aug. 9 election, in a week when two of his critics faced assassins.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told Congress in May that Rwanda had recently “suspended two newspapers, revoked the work permit and denied the visa of a Human Rights Watch researcher, and arrested (and subsequently released on bail) opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who has been linked to the [Hutu rebel army] FDLR. Despite multiple attempts, two political parties — the Green Party and FDU Inkingi — have still been unable to register.”

Aspiring politician Ingabire is no “opposition leader” but she does seem to be another victim of Kagame’s heavy-handed version of civil peace — no obstacle to nearly $1 billion of foreign aid every year, making up a fifth of the country’s entire income. And a quarter of that total aid goes directly to the government. U.S. largess shot up from $50 million in 2004 to $117.38 million in 2008.

Rwandan Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa was wounded by a lone gunman in Johannesburg on June 19, in what his wife was quick to brand “an assassination attempt on my husband’s life by Kagame.” Last month, the former Army chief of staff, recently ambassador to India, fled to South Africa. He branded Kagame an unaccountable dictator and the government accused him of corruption and linked him to grenade attacks that rocked Kigali a few months ago.

Journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage was killed in Rwanda June 24. The exiled editor of his paper Umuvugizi, Jean Bosco Gasasira, told the Voice of America that Rugambage had been investigating the Nyamwasa attack, adding: “I’m 100 percent sure it was the Office of National Security Services that shot him dead.”

Rwanda has become increasingly intolerant of criticism, imprisoning and charging opposition politicians under the vague “genocide ideology” law, insisting that this is necessary to prevent a repeat of 1994 when about 800,000 Tutsis, with some moderate Hutus, were massacred in the space of 100 days.

In May, Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire, a Hutu and a newcomer to politics who returned from living in the Netherlands to contest the August poll, was arrested under the genocide-ideology law accused of “divisionism” and working with enemies of the state, the remnants of the Hutu army called the Force Démocratique pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR). She is yet to be charged but her political life has been left in disarray. With little time left for registering as a presidential candidate, her FDU-Inkingi party is yet to be registered.

Another aspiring politician, former government aide Frank Habineza, has also been refused registration for his Democratic Green Party of Rwanda. The government insists that his party will be registered as soon as it meets what is required of it by law, to have held more than four general meetings of party members before being registered. The truth is very hard to determine.

After a long refusal to commit himself, President Kagame became on June 24 the first person to register his candidacy, with two others from small parties closely linked to his own. Ironically, on the same day, police cracked down heavily on a group of more than 500 opposition supporters who were peacefully demonstrating against restrictions on opposition parties, and demanding the unconditional release of Ms. Ingabire, so she could run. Habineza was arrested the same day while protesting outside the U.S. Embassy. Registration for candidates closed yesterday.

Today, the nation is not threatened by another genocide but by the side effects of the one it suffered 16 years ago. By trying to maintain a tight grip, Kagame has centralized power in the presidency instead of bringing more Rwandans into the political process. As Carson told Congress: “long-term stability is best promoted by democratic governance and respect for human rights.”

Eleneus Akanga, a Rwandan journalist, was editor of the banned Weekly Post. He was dismissed from the pro-government New Times for reporting attacks on journalists and now lives in political asylum in Britain.

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