|Genocide Survivor Gatebuke Claude|
The NSC statement made clear the White House view that today’s Rwanda is not a democracy and then went further to dismiss the “development first, democracy later” argument often used to excuse Mr. Kagame’s iron-fisted rule. “Rwanda’s stability and growing prosperity, however, will be difficult to sustain in the absence of broad political debate and open political participation,” Hammer said.
While welcoming Friday’s NSC statement, the advocacy coalition is demanding much tougher action against the Kagame government. Several members specified the tougher policies they want to see in Obama’s policy toward Rwanda.
Claude Gatebuke, a Rwandan genocide survivor and a leader in the coalition, linked American aid to improved democratization in Rwanda. He said the group wants President Obama to immediately terminate all military assistance and cooperation and also to freeze the $240 million that the U.S. is scheduled to soon give Mr. Kagame.
“American aid to Rwanda must be nonmilitary. And that nonmilitary American taxpayer money should be unfrozen if, and only if, Mr. Kagame meets two conditions,” Gatebuke said.
He outlined the first condition as “immediately widening Rwanda’s democratic space, which includes completely freeing all political opponents, critics and the media; scrapping repressive laws; and engaging in good faith discussions with all stakeholders about the way forward in Rwanda.”
Pascal Kalinganire of the Organization for Peace, Justice and Development in Rwanda speaks to the press at the National Press Club Aug. 3. Other speakers at the front table are Peter Erlinder, law professor and attorney who was jailed when he traveled to Rwanda to represent presidential challenger Victoire Ingabiré Umuhoza, Rwandan Genocide survivor and human rights activist Claude Gatebuke and Emira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies. – Photo: Kambale Musavuli
Jacques Bahati of Africa Faith and Justice Network questions Washington’s cozy relations with President Kagame: “It is both mind-boggling and inexplicable how much the Congress and the Obama administration have coddled the dictatorship in Kigali. Real American interests in Africa are hurt by this embarrassing relationship.”
Experts in Washington say past actions by the coalition on behalf of the Rwandan people have seen results. They point to two taken earlier this year.
On April 30, group members organized demonstrations against President Kagame during his Oklahoma Christian University visit. Some reports claimed that the president was forced to use a side entrance.
Some of the Africa advocates who organized the Aug. 3 press conference at the National Press Club gathered afterward with James Kimonyo, Rwandan ambassador to the U.S., far right. From left are Emira Woods, Claude Gatebuke, Nii Akuetteh, Peter Erlinder and Pascal Kalinganire. – Photo: Kambale Musavuli
Still some coalition members remain skeptical. They question if the NSC criticism means President Obama is finally moving to add substance to his 2009 Ghana speech, when he pledged to support strong institutions in Africa, not strong men.
Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo, is among the unconvinced. He notes: “There is no better litmus test for President Obama keeping his word than how he responds to the quintessential strongman of Central Africa, Paul Kagame. Will the president continue the carte blanche support for Paul Kagame despite his own 2009 rhetoric in Ghana? Or will Mr. Obama engineer a bold shift from a half century of U.S. support for strongmen, dictators and despots to assisting and encouraging non-violent, pro-democratic forces and strong institutions?”
Contact Kitty Kurth of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation at (312) 617-7288 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (312) 617-7288 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, Friends of the Congo at (202) 584-6512 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 584-6512 end_of_the_skype_highlighting and Africa Faith and Justice Network at (202) 884-9780 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 884-9780 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email@example.com for more information.