Rwanda: Opposition gains momentum as two major parties endorse collaboration
The tiny east African nation’s political landscape and international brand will never be the same after two prominent opposition parties; the newly formed Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and The United Democratic Forces, agreed to work together for a peaceful change in Rwanda, reports
Formed only six weeks ago in Maryland, US; RNC is the brain child of exiled former senior government and military personalities, including Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, Col. Patrick Karegeya, Major Dr Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerald Gahima.
Other faces behind the most prominent opposition group are Gervais Condo, Jerome Nayigiziki, Jonathan Musonera, Dr Emanuel Hakizimana, Joseph Ngarambe and Jean Paul Turayishimye.
Far from barking voices in western capitals that have been the face of Rwandan opposition, the country’s political terrain changed sharply in the run up to the August 2010 Presidential polls, with the emergence of local opposition parties; The PS Imberakuri, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and later The UDF Inkingi.
But using coercive instruments of the state, President Kagame not only managed to bar the three parties from contesting against him but also threw the party leaders; Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza of the UDF Inkingi and Bernard Ntaganda of the PS Imberakuri, behind the bars.
But as hopes for democratic hopes initiated by these parties slowly dissipated, other stronger opposition groups are emerging; and are seemingly joining hands against a common enemy.
Following a meeting that was held in Brussels on 19 December 2010 , representatives of the Support Committee of FDU-Inkingi held a retreat with representatives of the RNC in Switzerland from 21 to 25 January 2011. According to a communiqué accessed by The Newsline, the purpose of the retreat was to hold consultations on the nature of the critical problems that confront the Rwanda nation today and exchanging ideas as to how the two organizations can harness their collective resources to find appropriate solution to these problems.
The retreat was attended by FDU’s first Vice president, Nkiko Nsengimana; Second Vice Chair Dr JB Mberabahizi, RNC’s Interim coordination Committee advisor Gervais Condo and Gerald Gahima; among others.
Among others, the two organizations re-concretized that the people of Rwanda deserve a democratic state, governed in accordance with the principles of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, respect of the inherent dignity of every citizen, equality and non-discrimination and promotion of reconciliation, solidarity and mutual respect amongst all Rwandans. They regretfully noted that successive governments that have ruled Rwanda since the 1959 Revolution have proclaimed, in their official documents and statements their commitment to the above principles and values, but the changes they brought about only resulted in change of the outward form, rather than the nature or character, of government.
The two opposition groups further observed that the current system of Rwanda’s government is characterised by dictatorship, discrimination and marginalisation, deception and deplorable conduct such as destruction of citizens property, illegal expropriation of private property, arbitrary arrests and detentions, depriving children of poor citizens of access to university education and forceful implementation of ill-conceived educational reforms without any public consultation.
Agreeing in totality that Rwanda is headed for a catastrophic tragedy unless the system of political governance in Rwanda changes; the two organisations outlined strategies that would avert the catastrophe, namely; fighting genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights; establish a genuinely democratic system of government, based on plurality of political parties; establishing a system of independent and impartial administration of justice, eradicating impunity once and for all; preparing a national dialogue bringing together Rwandans of all backgrounds and political persuasions to discuss a peaceful future of Rwanda.
Other strategies include building a nation in which discrimination and marginalisation of any kind have no place, assuring every citizen access to equal opportunity; promoting gender equality; resolving the chronic problem of Rwandan refugees; promoting genuine reconciliation amongst Rwandan of all backgrounds and to repair the psychological wounds that the conflict Rwanda has experienced have left.
Among others, the two parties agreed to support political change in Rwanda by peaceful means; establish a common coordination mechanism to facilitate their collaboration in mobilising the people of Rwanda for democratic change and sensitise other organisations that are struggling for peaceful democratic change to join them in working together to promote that objective.
The participants reiterated their appreciation of the courage and sacrifice of incarcerated UDF leader, Victoire Ingabire, in the struggle for democracy in Rwanda, and demanded that President Kagame release her from detention without pre-conditions. The participants equally demanded that all other political prisoners, including Bernard Ntaganda, President of PS-Imberakuri; Déo Mushayidi (President, PDP Imanzi); Dr. Théoneste Niyitegeka and Charles Ntakirutinka.
The participants in the meeting deplore the manner in which the government continues to use judicial institutions to eliminate political dissent, criticism, and opposition, The participants, in particular, condemned the parody of justice conducted by the Rwanda Military High Court that led to its judgement of 14 January 2011 against General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Dr. Théogène Rudasingwa, Colonel Karegeya Patrick and Dr. Gerald Gahima, whose objective is to persecute and defame the said individuals on account of their political views.
Take charge of your destiny
Calling on foreign governments and international organizations to more strongly support democratic change in Rwanda, the participants in the meetings encouraged all Rwandans to rise, to overcome fear and understand that the struggle to liberate their motherland is their responsibility. Whether the Rwandans and the international community have the power and willingness to heed the call is another subject, and so is whether ‘peaceful change’ in Rwanda is really realistic or idealistic.