Image via WikipediaSEVEN SIGNS THAT SIGNAL THE DECLINE AND FALL OF PAUL KAGAME’S REIGM
Among some Rwandans and non-Rwandans, there is a perception that Kagame’s regime is strong and that it will last for a long time. President Kagame himself, while visiting Brussels, Belgium, recently announced that nobody would remove him power by political or armed means. Yet, when Rwandans search their own history and the rise and fall Rwanda’s rulers, there are common signs and symptoms that signal the decline and eventual fall of Kagame’s regime:
1. Kagame’s regime has lost the war of ideas. Many people now wonder what motivates Paul Kagame, the leader who among others presided over RPF’s rise and capture of state power. What does he think about? What does he say? The Rwandese Patriotic Front that he led and still leads once had a powerful vision for the future: ending the problem of refugees once and for all; ending state-inspired killings and providing security for all people and their property; ensuring the protection of the fundamental rights of all Rwandan citizens; promoting democratic governance; and nurturing healing and reconciliation among Rwandans, among others. When you listen to Kagame’s speeches these days, he increasingly sounds more reactionary than progressive. His speeches are more punctuated with insults than forward-looking ideas based on current and very serious problems and challenges of Rwandans. For him and the party (RPF) he has converted into a tool to consolidate his personal power, ideas have been replaced by deception, insults, terror at home and abroad, jailing political opponents and extra-judicial killings. Kagame calls his former comrades-in-arms worthless cards ( ibigarasha), excreta ( umwanda), street boys ( mayibobo), etc. He gloats over killing Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We killed them…”, he said. To charges that he is the principal suspect in the attempted assassination of his former colleague and Chief of Staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces, Lt.Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, Kagame retorts with glee and concealed disappointment, “ it could not be us..if it was, we could not have missed him”. Such are the “ideas” of His Excellency Kagame, with very little creativity and imagination about the future, and beholden to the past.
2. In practice, Kagame’s regime has lost the war for modernizing Rwanda. The day that Kagame used RPF and the security organs to rig the 2003 and 2010 general elections, to close political space and prevent independent media and civil society to operate, was the day that the regime lost a position among modernizers in history. Modernization in our age, among other things, is based on the recognition of the fundamental rights of the people, the idea of freedom, participation of citizens as engines and beneficiaries of progress, the rule of law and institutions, and democratic governance, all of which are largely absent in today’s Rwanda. Kagame and the remnants of RPF say they have 100% support from the population, that Rwanda is on a fast trajectory to development, and that thanks to this “ exemplary performance”, aid continues to flow into Rwanda from friendly governments. Kigali’s streets are clean. Your Excellency Kagame, Rwanda is not just Kigali. While cleaning the streets of Kigali is needed it is not a sufficient mark of modernizing Rwanda. Rwanda is like a painted graveyard, concealing the remains of too many of our dead, in every family and on each of the thousand hills. What Rwandans need is a leader who can be courageous enough to take the lead in cleaning his or her heart, so that he or she can inspire all of us Rwandans to clean our hearts, and create a common future of peace and prosperity for everyone.
3. Kagame’s regime uses killings and terror as the main weapon of survival. Under normal conditions, regimes always try to use persuasion to get consent of the governed instead of using overtly coercive means to ensure the submission of the citizens. Under pressure, Kagame’s regime has dropped all pretence. Rwanda is engulfed in pervasive fear. Rwandans talk in whispers. Some Rwandans abroad believe the long ears and arms of “big brother” Kagame have an extensive reach into their private conversations. Many Rwandans ( and interested foreigners) know the triumvirate that manages Kagame’s killing machine: Messrs Emmanuel Ndahiro, Dan Munyuza and Jack Nziza. Under them, a whole industry of deception, slander, kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, harassment and monetary inducement within and outside Rwanda has been taken to another new level. Rwanda’s diplomatic missions abroad have shed all pretensions of representing the interest of all Rwandans. Progressively they have become bastions of hatching evil schemes against Rwandan refugees in general, and Kagame’s real or perceived opponents in particular. Rwandans now fear handshakes and sharing meals because they fear “Kagame’s poisons”. Rwandans abroad fear Kagame’s deadly security agents deployed to lure, intimidate, kidnap or assassinate. Kagame’s envoys crisscross Europe and America, using food, alcohol, money, and promise of jobs to some Rwandans. Like the Biblical Esau who traded off his rights for a plate of food from his brother Jacob, these citizens cannot yet see the danger lurking in these schemes. For Kagame’s security, you are damned if you become an accomplice, and damned if they approach you and fail to recruit you in their dirty schemes. The best thing to do is to be as far away from them as possible. Regimes that resort to such excessively brutal means as a main vehicle to maintain themselves are close to their end. All that is required is a push from enlightened and active citizens and the regime’s claim to power and authority will evaporate.
4. Kagame’s regime relies on deceptions and denials to survive. In their final days of decline and eventual fall, dictatorial regimes rely on deception and denials as a matter of policy and strategy. Adolf Hitler’s propaganda machinery often repeated the claim that if a lie is told over and over again, sooner than later people will come to believe it as truth. Kagame uses his security organs (informal and formal), RPF and government institutions as whole new industry that fabricates and recycles shameful lies, slander, deceptions and denials. Opponents are charged with corruption, genocide, throwing grenades, terrorism, genocidal ideology, divisionism, or association with FDRL. In a division of labor whose buck stops at President Kagame himself, this criminal dispensation is run by the triumvirate: Emmanuel Ndahiro, Dan Munyuza and Jack Nziza. Under this pecking order are initially intelligent and educated hirelings: Pan Butamire, Rwagatare, Joseph Bideri, Richard Rutatina, Jilles Rutaremara, Tom Ndahiro, young minds like Ntayomba and Sibo, and Kagame’s money-man, Manasse Nshuti. Every evil regime has its henchmen and sycophants. When otherwise decent and intelligent minds are driven( or even forced?) to become henchmen and sycophants, as they become louder than a whole nation’s minds (that have been silenced), a regime’s days are numbered.
5. Kagame’s regime is obsessively fearful. It is not only ordinary Rwandans who are fearful. President Kagame is paranoid. A fearful Kagame looks at every Rwandan as an enemy. He trusts no one. For many of us who have worked closely with him, the first lesson you learn is that you work within this environment that closely resembles Stalin’s court in the Soviet era. Many have been unfortunate to be his victims ( Hutu, Tutsi and Twa) simply because Kagame believes that the many enemies he easily makes will come back to hurt him too. With the mind-set of a serial killer, whose last victim creates the context for the next, he and his hirelings seem not to satisfy their appetite for more victims. With the mindset of a losing gambler, who never stops to consider the costs, and spends all his fortunes and yet loses, the regime is recklessly racing in the wrong direction, spending Rwanda’s fortunes in a lost cause. So the cycle of fear continues, and costly measures have to be undertaken. These days Kagame travels with dogs to sniff bombs everywhere he goes. He has a special army (Republican Guard) within the Rwanda Defence Forces, with privileges and resources over and above others, to protect him and his family. His planes have been fitted with anti-missile capabilities as a safeguard against possible missile attacks. Kagame fears Presidents of neighboring countries, just as they fear him as much. In the laws of the jungle that have thus far defined the politics of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, the winner has to fear other real or imaginary contenders to power. Neighbors are feared just in case they are safe havens for such contenders. Recently a Rwandan asked me whether Kagame would accept remaining in power if it had to come with the death of three million Rwandan people. I told him that I have come to know Kagame the man as somebody with no love for Rwandan people. His obsession is for power, at any price. His secret answer would be simple: ‘let them die, they reproduce at a very fast rate, and they will replenish the dead in record time, even if this means temporarily freezing the policy on vasectomies’. Fear among Rwandans, obsessive fear from a ruler, that is the challenge. Rwanda does not need a fearful ruler. Nor does it need a fearful people. Rwanda’s heroes are not those that kill innocent Rwandans, nor only those who win the wars with bullets and bayonets. Rwanda’s heroes will be those that will help Rwandans to conquer fear, bring peace, heal and reconcile, respect the value and dignity of citizens, inspire freedom and democracy, build the rule of law and institutions, and works toward shared and sustainable prosperity.
6. Kagame’s regime is plundering the nation for Kagame. In a speech last year, Kagame stated that he does not wish to die a pauper like the late President Kayibanda. No Rwandan would like to die a pauper.. However, what is scandalous is Kagame’s misuse and plunder of RPF’s and the Government’s ( including poor people’s taxes and aid money) resources. President Kagame does not account for this wealth that he has now hidden in Europe, America and elsewhere. One day the truth will come out as to where this wealth has been hidden. Unfortunately, wealth stolen by dictators and hidden in European and American banks often ends up benefitting others, and not the poor that such dictators plunder. From Nigeria ( Abacha), Tunisia ( Ben Ali), Egypt (Mubarak), to Libya ( Quadaffi), it is a long list of offenders that President Kagame seems determined to join. Rwandans, beware!
7. Kagame’s regime increasingly shows its true colors to the international community..
Until recently, Kagame behaved like a Hollywood movie star in a script that he has written and a movie in which he is the sole actor. He must be surprised and frustrated that his fortunes have been on a decline. Once a darling of the western media, he now spares no effort in castigating them for taking a critical look at him, despite million of dollars he spends on lobbyists trying to spin his otherwise ugly story. On a visit to Belgium a couple of months ago, leaders in that country refused to meet him, responding to the outcry from Rwandans regarding human rights abuses and poor governance in Rwanda. When the DRC Mapping Report came out in October 2010, it was preceded by Kagame’s attempt to coerce the international community not to release the report. Kagame threatened to withdraw Rwandan troops from Darfur. This time the international community was firm and the report was released. A few days ago Kagame threw a tantrum ( through his Foreign Minister) complaining about France’s new Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe. Apparently it seems a French Judge is about to release a report on the plane crash that killed the late President Habyarimana, the President of Burundi , the entire crew and entourage in April 1994. These days when Kagame visits the USA he prefers stealth methods, unlike in previous times when he was announced and celebrated like a prince. Yes, his planes and the hotels he stays in are princely. In Harvard he attended class while the famous Prof. Porter taught ( apparently on the subject of competitiveness, a word that Kagame prefers dropped from his vocabulary). Otherwise his other item on his expensive itinerary that might have cost Rwandan taxpayers almost one million US dollars was a speech in Denver, Colorado. By stealth he came, in stealth he went. While aid still flows to Rwanda, many governments and international institutions are now grappling with medium to long term policy implications that stem from Kagame’s human rights and governance record.
In a recent unflattering article, Stephen Kinzer, one of Kagame’s most fervent admirers and biographer, more or less asked him:, “How do you want to be remembered, Mr, President”. Your Excellency Kagame, you may wish to take time off your busy schedule and have a moment of reflection on Kinzer’s question ( since you do not respect the opinions of Rwandans) that is the most important for you, your family, and the 11 million Rwandans.
By: Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
10 March 2011